I think my biggest issue is that the language is so syntactically flexible (verbose?) that I simply have no idea what is a language construct and what isn't.
For instance the code is littered with stuff that looks like:
val something = some_obj open_!;
Is open_! just a method (literally some_obj.open_!) or is "_!" some sort of language construct, because underscores are special sometimes, like with unary_ for instance (or not.. it really just depends).
At first glance the 'almost any method can behave like an operator' stuff is really cool, although as I learned about alarm bells where ringing all over the place. In the hands of even an actually competent programmer it's going to be abused well beyond the utility you get out of it.
It took 30 seconds of looking at existing code to find obvious examples of it. Why is it so evil to clearly denote a method as being an actual method?
Then there is the whole "is this functional or not" madness. It reminds of PERL in that respect. You can accomplish the same tasks in a bunch of different ways.
I guess I'm not terribly impressed. It actually makes me long for the simplicity of C. If you want static typing Scala (and readability adverse type inference system) seems like a really bad choice. At least at the point I'm at about a week into this stuff.
At the end of the day give me the beauty of C, the explicitness of Python, or a much more complete functional language like Clojure. I don't want a hybrid of all of those that seems to create a whole new set of weaknesses and big-time issues. It really seems like the language designer merely looked at Java and tried to create an interoperable language that was as "un-java-like" as possible.
So I must say that any difficulty you may have understanding what Scala is trying to be is due to no fault of Scala itself. It's very simple, really (well, to be precise, there are different tiers of simplicity in Scala, but I can assure you that each tier is quite simple once you've mastered all the design decisions, and category theory, that fully, consistently and self-sufficiently define the simplicity of the respective tier).
You know, back when Java was getting huge and I was still in grad school, Java was supposed to cure everything that was wrong with C++.
In the same grad school -- an old timer professor (so old, he actually wrote the very first commercial implementation of Merge Sort -- on paper punch tape, no less) looked at some C++ that used templates and commented, "C++ must be the new Cobol."
The C++ code I like is minimalist. The languages I like the best are minimalist. It's just my personal taste, but I don't see the point of making things more complicated than they have to be.
I would sell it that way to non-technical executives but not to anyone else.
I worked with someone who's a personal friend of Odersky and he's confident that Scala won't turn into C++. He described him as "way more scrupulous than Stroustrup".
Also, you note that "many people prefer static typing", but then you suggest Clojure...
Many prefer static typing, and many don't. BTW, Clojure is indeed dynamically typed, but it has a "type philosophy" that keeps things nice and orderly, namely no encapsulation and uniform data access.
Basically I don't think that Scala's complexity should burn us on type safety in general. I think Go and Dart, for example, are an overreaction to the complexities of type systems like those of Scala (no generics and null pointers in the former, and unsound covariant generics and null pointers in the latter). There is room for a statically typed language that brings the benefits of type safety that make programming easier without the complexities that make programming harder; the fact that we haven't found that sweet spot yet doesn't mean that we should just throw up our hands. I'm not convinced that the sweet spot is either unsound or requires casts.
Yes, I would agree with this.
Java was designed as a reaction to the complexity of C++. Scala was, in turn, designed as a reaction to the simplistic nature of Java. It sounds like you prefer minimalism, and in that sense Java is a better choice for you. That's what it was designed for: simplicity.
You might want to try Go. One of the great things about Go is that is almost completely devoid of 'magic', and what it says is what it does, and what does what it says.
The syntax is much simpler than C's, and it lacks the (very good at obfuscating) preprocessor.
Once you read the spec (is short and sweet) is very easy to know what a piece of code does by just looking at it.
At the same time Go code is not verbose and manages to be very concise.
I think a lot of this is addressed in the "Programming in Scala" book.
As for language comparisons
1. C is simple/readable
It is way better than C in terms of readability. All
constructs in C are simple, but it takes a lot of C code to accomplish simple things. Also, how readable is
while(<star>d++ = <star>s++);
2. Python is explicit
The advantage of Scala here is static typing and performance and much better IDE support. Python code typically looks cleaner than Scala code, but I have been told that closures in Python are less than perfect. Python OTOH has no build time issues.
3. Clojure is more functional
Clojure is not more or less functional than Scala. There are varying definitions of "functional"-ness. However, the gold standard of a functional programming language is widely recognized as Haskell. Scala is far closer to Haskell than Clojure in this respect. Again the significant difference between Clojure and Scala is static typing, not functional-ness.
I wonder if there are varying definitions of "object-oriented"-ness.
Also, I hear clojure is a true scotsman while scala is not.
(CLOS is the Common Lisp Object System. If Smalltalk is more OO than C++, and I think most people see it that way, then CLOS is ... sideways OO than Smalltalk. It's not quite on the same spectrum, but it is still OO.)
I dislike operators and all the unspoken, must-be-remembered complexity they impose with regard to associativity and order. I actually think the S-expression syntax of Lisps is a lot better.
A lot of these "weird" decisions were made in the interest of backward compatibility (in the ideological sense, not character-for-character) with Java. If Odersky hadn't supported these infix operators, which have a lot of weird-seeming rules about first characters and what it means when it ends with a ':', the language wouldn't be nearly as palatable.
ETA: It really seems like the language designer merely looked at Java and tried to create an interoperable language that was as "un-java-like" as possible.
I think Scala was designed to use the good parts of Java while throwing out the cruft. It's designed to be a "meeting point" between Java, Erlang, and Haskell.
Clojure, I feel, has disowned its Java heritage more than Scala has.
Plus, a DSL building language. I actually think that the features Scala introduced to enable DSLs were the harbingers of the Scala insanity. Why did the designers of a high-performance statically-typed language think that it would be a good idea to support DSLs?
On Greenspun: why are large Java programs hard to read? The language itself is simple. The problem is that most Java (or C++) programs devolve into shitty DSLs after about 2000 LoC.