I've been contributing to the Clojure community lately. My experience working with hash-maps as the primary data structure has been entirely liberating.
ActiveRecord, for example, makes it super easy to tangle a bunch of objects up. If we had a big bag of functions, they could operate on in-memory hashes, or they could operate on database rows, or they could operate on the result of an API call. It would be so much simpler to reuse code between our main Rails API and our Sinatra service. And we could one-for-one translate functions for non-Ruby services. Instead of requiring a crazy tangled ness of polymorphism and mutable state.
> Every non-trivial program is going to have to define abstract datatypes
Absolutely true. However, Clojure has taught me that you really aught to only define a very small number of those. It's been said that it's much better to have 100 functions which operate on 1 data structures, than to have 10 functions that operate on 10. Clojure's get-in function for example: (get-in some-hash [:some :key :path]) is glorious compared to Ruby's some_hash[:some][:key][:path] because you don't need to go monkey patch in a get_path method. And even if you did monkey patch that in, it won't work for the some_object.some.key.path case, unless you got fancy with object.send and yet another monkey patch.
Look at some of the substantial pieces of Clojure code out there. They may only define a small handful of data structures, but most of those are even defined with defrecord, which produces a hash-like object, which all those 100s of functions work on. The rest are tiny primitives that compose in powerful an interesting ways.
> I'm not sure how embedding and dispatching on a type tag in a hash is any better than using the more explicit support for dynamic dispatch you find in typical OO languages
Because you may want differing dispatch & single-dispatch inheritance doesn't let you change your mind as easily. Those dynamic dispatches in Ruby/Python whatever are simply hash lookups anyway. You'll get the same performance either way. Look at the output of the ClojureScript compiler for example. Most code paths dispatch on :op, but you could just as easily dispatch on some bit of metadata, maybe the [:meta :dynamic] key path to have a function that runs differently on static vars than dynamic ones. People are also working on advanced predicate dispatch systems.
> The real problem with most OO is that it mashes a lot of interdependent, mutable state together.
That's a real problem. But it's not the real one :-)
For example, the entire Apple CoreFoundation API is exposed as operations on opaque C structs. Cocoa uses that abstraction to wrap them in a very nice, high level API. If the actual layout of those structs was exposed I can guarantee you people would start writing code that used that information directly and Apple's hands would be tied when they wanted to improve their implementations.
Where I agree with Rich is that we should work to minimize mutable state.
A strong theme in many of Rich's talks is that we should prefer "simple" over "easy", as the former will benefit you more in the long run even if it's harder in the short term.
You also seem to be confusing encapsulation with abstraction. Working with data structures directly does not mean you need to operate at a low level.
In what sense can you have encapsulation when your entire data structure is exposed to every function that touches it?
But encapsulation doesn't solve that problem, except in very minor cases. Is it worth complecting the architecture of our software for the development equivalent of a bandaid?
> In what sense can you have encapsulation when your entire data structure is exposed to every function that touches it?
I'm not saying you should have encapsulation... Did you mean to say "abstraction"?
The WIN32 API has largely remained unchanged over the last 15 years while changing dramatically under the hood in its implementation. With the recent possible exception of Apple's recent bull run this is so far the most lucrative API in the history of the world. And it's made possible by the fact that all the key API elements are exposed only as opaque handles.
I could go on and on with examples like these that are about as far away from a minor bandaid as you can get.
There's also a difference between building good software and building profitable or even popular software. Sometimes bad design can even help maintain a product's market lead, as if a design is complex, it's hard for competition to make compatible products.
You're also still confusing abstraction and encapsulation. An API can be an abstraction over a lower-level system without being an example of encapsulation.
These documents are very complex. Just take a look at a twitter timeline JSON response. Having a getter and setter for every field in that document would get ridiculous.
The problem with JSON is it is so easy to change that it takes self discipline to enforce your own social contract. We all know that when faced with deadlines some developers get a little fast and loose to meet that deadline.
The form of the response, be it JSON or something else, is the thing that should not change. And you are right that even with a documented content type keeping the promise is hard.
REST = Representational state transfer. While a URI is a unique identifier, it uniquely identifies a representation of internal state. The structure of the representation under a version should stay constant or else you void your social contract with consumers of your service.
Yes, but the version should be stated in the Content-Type header, not in the URI of the resource. URI identifies the resource and Content-Type identifies the representation.
Ultimately, if someone uses something that is part of a transient namespace, they are responsible if it breaks at a later time. You should not handcuff everyone to save stupid people from themselves; stupid people will always find a way to shoot themselves in the foot.
There's always ClojureScript :)