I worked on a data pipeline that was a mountain of PHP scripts bolted together with Bash and it was such a breeze to maintain. Using Symfony ensures that every command is well documented and consistent in design and use.
Something I never appreciated about PHP until recently is that character encoding is so much more robust in PHP than other languages. We were forced to replace our pipeline with Python because of a combination of "Eww, PHP" from new management and "data scientists use Python." Character encoding was a huge, unexpected annoyance.
This is not what I expected -- my limited past experiences with anything outside of Latin-1 using PHP have been perplexing and not smooth (and I generally like PHP well enough). Can you elaborate on what features or approach can make things robust?
Tragically, Perl developed its "unreadable" reputation because it was the language du jour of the system admin/hacking world. The first time most people experienced Perl was by finding some crufty old script that glued a bunch of shell tools together haphazardly. Few developers today have actually seen what good, production Perl can look like.
No disrespect to the wonderful system admins of years past, but those guys were a different breed. They weren't programmers. But Perl still let them get their job done. Their unmaintainable messes caused a great deal of harm to Perl.
CPAN is great, but its hard sometimes when I just want to install something easy. It was the first great shared library and it shows its age a bit. Last time I ran it, it was compiling C code for some strange reason. We have trouble setting up shared perl environments, something we don'e have with python.
Biology has a lot of Perl code still, but it seems to moving to python.
Terrible code exists in many languages.