Perhaps another way of framing this is to ask the question: are you optimizing for the best case or the worst case? This ultimately is a form of risk management. And I'm not talking in the algorithmic sense, meaning complexity expressed as the asymptotically worst case. I'm talking about people, software and ecosystems.
Let me illustrate this idea with Java.
- C++ has operator overloads. Java does not? Why? Because people might abuse them. That's optimizing for the worst case (ie bad or inexperienced programmers). Properly used, operator overloading can lead to extremely readable code;
- Java has checked exceptions and uses them liberally (pun intended). C#, as one example, only has unchecked exceptions. Why? Philosophically the Java language designers (and many of its users) feel that this forces callers to deal with exceptions. Pragmatically (IMHO) it does not and leads to more cases of exceptions being simply swallowed. But again this is optimizing for the worst case ie programmers who should deal with a particular error condition but won't;
- Java has no multiple inheritance. Same story: it can be abused ("it is known"). But also mixins can be a powerful metaphor.
- Rinse and repeat for duck typing, extension methods, etc.
Putting Python two steps from Ruby strikes me as an interesting choice. I'd say the difference is at most one.
I also see a lot of Python code that isn't really Python. It's Java expressed in Python syntax rather than idiomatic Python and that is kind of sad.
Which isn't to say that any of this is necessarily bad (or good). It's just a (software) political viewpoint you need to be comfortable with (or at least can tolerate) or (to quote the South Park meme) "You're gonna have a bad time".
One of the comments linked Worse is Better , which is worth a read too.
Unless firmly censured, I expect to see Yegge's ridiculous viral meme of "liberal vs. conservative" spread and repeated by inexperienced developers indefinitely.
If I had any respect for Yegge, I entirely lost it here. The question of how to write software should be founded in careful consideration of specific problem domains, experience and research, and studied approaches. It should not be founded in some gross politicized and emotional argument.
Yegge is not just wrong, his reframing of engineering decision making is dangerous, and his ridiculous and viral engineering-as-politics meme makes people dumber for having simply read it. I'm disgusted with it, as well as any debate that seriously approaches his irrational appeal to emotion.
Yegge should be ashamed.
> I expect to see Yegge's ridiculous viral meme of "liberal vs. conservative" spread and repeated by inexperienced developers indefinitely.
It's worse than that. Just look at this thread. I'd say most HNers aren't inexperienced developers, and yet they seem to be taking Yegge's sophistry seriously.
And I don't think his post necessarily "makes people dumber" for having read it. That's only the case if people accept it without a modicum of critical sense. And if so that's their own damn fault.
So I agree that that post is of very low quality. But still, I admire Yegge. His genius here is to frame the discussion so that it disarms the natural geek propensity to read technical discussions with a critical sense.
Bullshit. To the latter half, I mean, not the former. HN sees posts of more or less this type (the "make an essentially meaningless metaphor and see how far we can push it" type) quite often, plays with it for at most a couple weeks, and then forgets it ever happens. The "taking [it] seriously" you see here is likely to be that case again: HNers like playing around with basically any classification that anyone presents (cf. the math/corn post where even I felt compelled to throw in a quick comment) and then moving on to the next classification system someone presents. It doesn't mean they're going to now make all of their life decisions based on the classification of the week; it's just a bit of harmless fun.
Now, it's true that sometimes this does spread and gets to really silly levels but I see no reason to suspect that this is going to be in that camp rather than the "harmless fun" area.
From reading his other essays, it's obvious the guy has a broader perspective on programming than most software developers.
I believe it's experienced developers who will spread this because it takes experience in many different languages and paradigms to really understand what Steve described. I have different coding styles for Lisp, Haskell, D, Ruby and CoffeeScript for instance.
The foundations of software development are generally not well understood. Otherwise the vast majority of software out there would be more robust by a few orders of magnitude.
Steve at least offers a classification for the different styles found in programming communities today. He may not be right on spot, but at least it's a start.
The idea of applying two-axis classification to software development would laughable if it wasn't so dangerous in its attractiveness as an oversimplified tribal mental model.
> Steve at least offers a classification for the different styles found in programming communities today. He may not be right on spot, but at least it's a start.
No. It's not a start. It's a dangerous, dangerous viral meme that threatens to replace rational dialog with ridiculous emotionally-driven opinionated politicized tribalism, and I can't help but wonder if that's his intent.
It's a play out of cable news' playbook, and I for one don't want an environment for engineering discourse modeled on American politics.
I couldn't think less of Yegge as an engineer and a thinker than I do now.
What he describes doesn't introduces anything new to current behaviours, American Politics are already everywhere. While it's a gross overestimation to place whole languages in buckets just like that, it doesn't mean things have to fall in one bucket only.
For the Mars Rover, you want mission critical batshit conservative programming practices. The JPL coding standards do the job perfectly for that. On the other end of the spectrum, you've got Joe's webpage.
I completely agree with you about the bad image of american politics and the incomplete one dimensional line view. However, I do believe software development practices can be classified, it just needs to be in a tree or a graph instead.
In order to stop the current meaningless fights over using/doing something or not, lines have to be drawn somewhere. People don't know what these lines are and the industry is plagued with projects having to live with the wrong decisions.
He clearly mentions it's not like american politics and I agree on that. It can be useful to actually educate the industry on what exists so they use the right tool for the right job, which currently only rarely happens.
It doesn't encourage "good enough" practices, it promotes knowing when to use what. He got the idea right, he only omitted to mention that these line can split multiple dimensions.
Why not choose less loaded terms like formal/expressive like art uses?
When interviewing and considering joining a team, envisioning a spectrum like this allows you to ask questions to see where a potential employer tends to fall on this spectrum, and thus determine whether it seems like a good fit for how you prefer to work and what you want to do.
And no, this is certainly not the only axis along which one can plot software development, and I doubt Mr. Yegge's goal was to propose that it was. At most it is an axis, and the goal would be for it to be a useful one when leveraged in the right context.
Can people take interesting ideas and horribly abuse them? Well, obviously. One might even argue that an idea that can't be abused by someone so inclined must not be very interesting at all.
Yeah, he really saved us there. Up until now we had no way of classifying different styles of programming...
I'm wondering how many other people read his essay and immediately thought of this:
For instance, look at all the debates on static typing versus dynamic typing. If you break it down, it boils down to aesthetics and fuzzy feeling. It really does.
Interestingly, as I've aged, I've realized that our tools don't matter. All code turns into shit. At the end of the day thou, once you pick your tools, then it's the technologists job to ship products. How we ship products doesn't matter. All that matters is that we ship.
Do customers care if the technologists were "conservative" or "liberal"? They don't.
It boils down to cost vs benefit, actual studies, and mathematical axioms, not aesthetics or feelings.
> How we ship products doesn't matter. All that matters is that we ship.
Engineering tools affect both how you ship, what you can ship, and when you can ship it. The choice isn't arbitrary, and choosing involves careful reasoned thought, informed by real experience -- not flippant arbitrary choices backed by feel-good platitudes that all approaches the same.
Its not quite that simple. Well performed studies that are actually relevant to a particular project are _difficult_ to come by. By well performed, I mean free of biases and misattributions and relevant to your particular use case. For example, most of the links in the answers here (http://programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/10032/dynamic...), a question specifically requesting studies them don't have any significant empirical data. Further, if you dig deeper its also clear that studies often contradict each other. Further, lets say you try to do a cost-benefit analysis. How? Try to estimate how many hours a particular technique will save you and you run into the same problem people have been trying to deal with for years. Estimating the time it takes to do a project is _hard_. Add to that how rapidly things are changing in this space and how dependent the structure of code is on the application of that code, and its clear that we really don't have objective metrics for this kind of thing.
>Engineering tools affect both how you ship, what you can ship, and when you can ship it. The choice isn't arbitrary, and choosing involves careful reasoned thought, informed by real experience
This is far more revealing of how these decisions are actually made. Your experience and thought process may very well be arbitrary when contrasted with real data. It might as well be aesthetics and fuzzy feeling.
Most people with any programming talent can learn to write software idiomatically in different styles if they try; making out there are different teams you have to support just makes that more difficult, and for no good reason.
But the worst part about this is it is a pretty useless discussion despite the claims that this is some revolutionary culmination of a series of wildly over blog posts.
I mean his reframing is "dangerous"? Seriously? Who is in "danger"? And in danger of what? Having a contradictory viewpoint?
Danger of breaking down rational discourse and forward progress by reframing the debate in terms that leave no room for rational discourse. He's not discussing cost/benefits or reasoned analysis; he takes those as a given and attempts to recast engineering discussion as a political left vs right, with all the emotional baggage that comes with it.
It's dangerous because ideas have the power to transform minds, and irrational ideas that appeal to emotion and preconceptions are very powerful.
You obviously disagree with his viewpoint/conclusion. Cool. So do I, somewhat, for very different reasons. Calling it "dangerous" just adds a lot of hyperbole that doesn't need to be there.
(Personally, I think I would have been happier if he'd used different words to say the same thing.)
There aren't just two 'sides', and the qualities proposed by Yegge can not be ascribed to just two sides. Different words would have made the post less insidious, but no less disingenious and intellectually stunted.
Basically, you can write off intelligent discourse for the next few months, but this too shall pass.
This has to be the worst post by Yegge in terms of the negative impact it can have on software engineers and engineering.
He took a technical topic and labelled his belief system as "liberal" and the others as conservative. When some one proposes a technical approach he doesn't like, he can simply call him a "conservative-not that there is anything wrong with that".
Yegge is an average programmer at best. He wasn't able to maintain a simple 2D game and very easily blamed Java for it. It was a clear case of PEBKAC. It is absurd and unsurprising at the same time, that the simple act of blogging can some how elevate a programmer to expert status.
Yegge clearly has no idea what he is talking about. I am currently working with Scala which is apparently Hardcore conservative. Look at his characteristics of liberal languages.
1. Eval. - scala has a REPL, so u can do an eval if you wish.
2. Metaprogramming - scala macros
3. Dynamic scoping - No
4. all-errors-are-warnings - Meaningless bullet point, all languages encounter statements that it cannot meaningfully interpret. This statement just shows you Yegge's massive PL understanding deficit.
5. Reflection and dynamic invocation. RTTI - Scala has these.
6. The C preprocessor - Nope
7. Lisp macros - scala macros.
8. Domain-specific languages (for the most part). Optional parameters. Extensible syntax. Downcasting. Auto-casting. reinterpret_cast. Automatic stringification. Automatic type conversions across dissimilar types.
- all yes for scala. Infact, you can provide your own casts for any 2 types and import/export casts as you wish.
9. Nil/null as an overloaded semantic value (empty list, empty string, value-not-present) - Yes and No, Option[T] is generic. If you want to know if any container(including strings) is empty, you say container.isEmpty(). But not container == null.
10. Debuggers. Yes Scala has debuggers. At this point one has to ask - what is this guy smoking. If your language has a debugger it is a liberal language? WTF??
11. Bit fields - No
12. Implicit conversion operators (e.g. Scala's implicits). Sixty-pass compilers. Whole-namespace imports. Thread-local variables. Value dispatch. Arity-based function overloading. Mixed-type collections.
Yes, yes, yes for scala.
13. API compatibility modes. Advice and AOP. Convention in preference to explicit configuration.
These are fairly vague properties and you could say yes/no.
I recently converted a "liberal" perl project into "conservative" scala and the code size fell by an order of magnitude, but apparently I live in alternate universe where "conservative" languages are somehow more succinct.
This guy is just suffering from verbal diarrhoea and he gets way too much attention for his uninformed commentary. I haven't seen a more bogus classification in ages, it is quite amazing how he politicized a purely technical topic.
It is fairly clear what his issue is
1. He likes dynamically typed languages. You have to type less and lower error checking is tolerated by the community.
2. He is uncomfortable with more advanced PL concepts, cannot decipher compiler error messages when working languages like Haskell. He would much rather let the program run and crash with a run time stack, where he can jump in and examine the value or operation that caused the failure. The Haskell compiler error message makes him feel stupid and he does not like it. This also probably explains why he wants to dump clojure into conservative territory, too much of STM and Parallel Haskellish stuff going on.
3. He is not a big fan of java/C++.
There is nothing peculiar about the set of biases he has, in fact it is fairly typical. People who favor Java/C++ simply need high performance code that would need to be maintained/refactored for a long time. It is not a religious choice but a pragmatic decision in the face of constraints. I have never seen "conservatives" write build scripts in C++ or "liberals" write OS kernels in Ruby.
All the attributes he has described simply cannot produce the ordering of languages that he has conjured. In the only barely technical portion of the post he has contradicted himself soundly, but it doesn't matter because no one is paying any attention to that.
They still have PHP and Rails (respectively) up front. This is "we like to roll out new user-facing features regularly" liberalism.
The "software liberal" companies he lists - Facebook and Amazon - both make heavy use of C++ (a "moderate-conservative" language to Yegge) and Amazon also uses Java heavily (another "moderate conservative" language.
As usual with Amazon, though, this is an area where it makes more sense to talk in terms of individual teams than the company as a whole. Some teams build almost everything in Ruby and are open to new languages. Others are pure Java shops. Other than Infosec approval, it's really up to teams to decide for themselves.
The risk is that programmers might start using symbols in a way that is not obvious, but what is obvious is highly contextual. I'd prefer it not be the language designer who decides which operators are obvious enough to be allowed in my context.
Steve claims that Clojure folks come from the Haskell/ML world when the survey lists the "former primary language" of survey takers to be 1% Haskell, 0% SML, 0% Ocaml. Whereas they actually come from Java, Python and Ruby mostly.
The Clojure "replacement" in the survey is all over the map with Common Lisp, Erlang, Haskell, Java, Python, Ruby, Scala and Scheme all performing well. The liberal/conservative thing is a false dichotomy and Clojure community is probably living proof of that.
I'm trying to think of an apt analogy for this post that doesn't involve vomit or defecation, but it's hard. From the introduction proclaiming how readers will be stunned by how clearly and resoundingly true the revelation revealed within will be, to the literary diarrhea it's followed by... it's like a little kid proudly telling his parents he finally used the toilet properly only for them to find he completely missed the bowl. Yeah, I failed.
If the political spectrum is deeply flawed, as he said, then why even try to hack it onto something completely unrelated, made of individual technical points where each programmer may have a different approach?
I don't know, I like a lot of his past posts, but I don't dig this one. I don't think it provides any useful insight whatsoever.
Why hack on it? Because it's what hackers do. Steve only pushes it further and hacks the philosophy of it. I love his essays as food for thought, and I respect him for publishing his in-process thoughts about the matter to let the idea out.
To me, this post was quite entertaining and broadened my perspective a little bit again. The only downside, as is the case with most of his other essays, is that it definitively wasn't long enough.
In particular, I like typing as machine readable documentation, that makes IDEs simpler and more accurate in code navigation and refactoring. Dart in particular shows this false dichotomy really well, but having a type system for human and machine readable docs, making the IDE experience far more pleasant, but which can be turned on or off. Unsound, untyped, programs can still run. Yes, dynamic languages can have nice IDEs too (Smalltalk), but they are harder to engineer.
In terms of optimization, typing is a must for many types of hard real time programming. You can bet that the Mars Curiosity rover isn't using a garbage collected dynamic language. Nor are the inner rendering loops of most mobile games or console games. (Lua is another story when it comes to actual game logic)
I don't think that Tim Sweeney or John Carmack are prematurely optimizing when they decide to write a game engine(rendering) in C++, because experience has taught them that it is highly unlikely they'll be able to optimize a dynamic language implementation later to a satisfactory level.
I think many people use a mix of languages depending on the context. I certainly wouldn't write a web service in C++, nor would I write a 3D game in BASIC. I wouldn't use anything but Perl to masage text files, and I'd use R for data analysis.
IMHO, that's one the OP's main arguments, that for example there is a whole class of (liberal?!) people to which IDEs don't matter at all, so that someone (a conservative?!) arguing "hey, this static typing thingie makes IDEs more easy to use" doesn't matter. So it makes sense to at least know on which side of the fence each of us sits, so that we won't argue as much :)
(just to be clear, I'm trying to use the concepts "liberal" and "conservative" as they're defined in the article)
You can bet that the Mars Curiosity rover isn't
using a garbage collected dynamic language
I don't think that Tim Sweeney or John Carmack
are prematurely optimizing ...
It's much cheaper to validate your idea that way and in the process you might end up with a hit like Angry Birds, which runs in the browser just fine.
Well, this is where the rant misses the mark, I think. Whether some programming thing is Liberal or Conservative really depends on the context, how much is at stake and where you're currently pushing the envelope.
The code for the Mars Rover has to be ridiculously safe and conservative, since it cost billions, is deployed in a harsh environment and if it crashes you've lost the lot.
If you're hacking and validating some startup idea, then something that's bloated and poorly tested is fine, since it's likely to be wrong at first, and speed of development is more important than safety.
Both of these are safe choices, and they're the choices that you'd make, but they're at opposite ends of the spectrum... but you're the same developer.
He has 9 points for each side, but my take is that they're all true.
As I mentioned, Carmack and Sweeney make engines, the artist interface is UnrealScript, or Lua, etc. But that's besides the point: performance matters. Carmack isn't trying to build yet another Box2D casual game (the Iphone Angry Birds uses a C implementation of Box2D, and Lua for game logic)
For someone like John Carmack, they are trying to push the state of the art, and starting off implementing say, idTech 7 in Python would yield unrealistic data if you're trying to see how feasible a given new rendering technique works on the large scale.
C is a typed language, there's no getting around it. It is in fact, a manifestly typed language, the types aren't optional. The fact that you can freely cast your way out of any situation doesn't really make it a dynamic language, anymore than Java reflection or bytecode rewriting makes Java a dynamic language.
The basic fact remains, the Mars rover is a highly performance critical piece of software with hard real time requirements, and it's simply not going to be written in a language that doesn't allow precise control over numeric types and memory allocation behavior. It's really those guarantees that many people associate with strongly typed systems programming languages, not the compile time checking.
Game programmers are very liberal, they want to escape straight jackets, and get deterministic and low level control over everything, often breaking the rules of the system. And in this regard, dynamic languages often taken away some freedom -- the freedom to control memory, stack, and cache behavior. They are conservative in a way.
C is statically and weakly typed language. That doesn't make it dynamic in the same sense as python or ruby, but it does make it a heck of a lot less safe, a heck of a lot more flexible, and thus a lot more liberal.
To make it clearer: By the standards of the article, C is quite liberal indeed. C++ is significantly more conservative.
The company behind IntelliJ already makes IDEs for Ruby, Python and JS:
Python: Pycharm http://www.jetbrains.com/pycharm/
Ruby: RubyMine http://www.jetbrains.com/ruby/
JS: Webstorm http://www.jetbrains.com/webstorm/
In general, when I fall on the liberal side of an argument, I think it is for the reasons he gives (no fear, resist ossification). But when I fall on the conservative side (which happens just as often) it is not because of fear, but because I think that mathematically rigorous abstractions (pure functions, persistent data structures, etc) offer a more powerful way to approach the problem.
I think my attitude toward bugs (which he suggests is the defining issue) is more nuanced than this spectrum allows. Bugs are inevitable, and it's not the end of the world when you have a bug. We need debuggers. But I think that over time, if we are doing anything right, we should be growing a stable core of our codebase that is increasingly flexible and bug-free. I guess maybe this could be considered a centrist view. It is certainly neither liberal nor conservative.
Someone in the thread mentioned pragmatism vs. idealism. I think this is a much more useful distinction. I would definitely consider myself an idealist. But the pragmatic-ideal axis doesn't map to the conservative-liberal axis at all.
Unfortunately, your business is not Aunt Marge. You need to be able to make the tough calls and say that, no, banning the color yellow is not a viable policy. Software engineering and programming languages are both seriously-studied disciplines, and all too often, the evidence comes down conclusively in favor of one position.
To pick an easy target, in many languages like Java and C++, null can be passed in place of (almost) any type. But
1) Empirical studies show that values intended to be non-nullable are more common...
2) ...which means that many method definitions are cluttered with is-null checks (to cut down the exponentially-increased state space)...
3) ...and it's just as easy to provide a feature to turn it on when it's wanted (option types/Maybe monad)...
4) ...which many companies hack into C++/Java anyway (various annotations and preprocessors)
This is a pretty solid case. Liberals win -- it's less code. Conservatives win -- there are fewer bugs. Sometimes things really are that one-sided.
And for Yegge to imply that more serious Clojure devs like Christophe are macro averse because they are afraid they might not understand someone else's macro code shows his complete lack of familiarity with Christophe's macro skills and other work of the community.
Taking potshots at things you don't understand and people you don't know (while leaving out the link so others could verify) smells like a FOX-news rhetorical approach to me. Ditto political labeling (though in the programming community the negative tag is "conservative", whilst in politics it is "liberal"). Tag the thing you don't like with the negative label, then rationalize, and spew misinformation. "Clojure's community came pre-populated with highly conservative programmers from the pure-functional world: basically Haskell/ML types": surveys say... nope.
He even ignores the bulk of his own criteria in his labeling exercise. Clojure has almost none of the things on his "Conservative Stuff" list except STM (huh, is GC conservative too?) and almost all of the things on his "Liberal Stuff" list. None of his 1-8 conservative points apply to Clojure (and I see nothing wrong with conservative about speed - Common Lisp has always pursued it, and its pursuit always involves risk), and all of his 9 liberal points apply to Clojure.
Clojure devs are liberals that want their programs to work.
If Yegge doesn't like Clojure, fine. But to rationalize like this is weak.
A bit of historical context from the last time this came up:
> I am unconvinced that reader macros are needed in Clojure at this time. They greatly reduce the readability of code that uses them (by people who otherwise know Clojure), encourage incompatible custom mini-languages and dialects (vs namespace-partitioned macros), and complicate loading and evaluation.
FWIW, this is the same argument that comes up often, from many different members of the community. The namespacing argument is commonly included and sounds technical, but is also trivially solvable; as in, was already solved in a comment during the primary-cited discussion of reader macros on the #clojure IRC channel, but was then dismissed due to the real reason: that reader macros make your code less understandable to other people who know Clojure (the exact same form of argument Steve is talking about, one layer removed).
From a German point of view both liberals and conservatives are right wing. And his article is totally missing any left wing politics. He is missing the green, the socialists, the communists, and the anarchists point of view here.
And making it one dimensional also does not fit: What about Christian socialists, what about conservative greens, what about anarcho-capitalists, or national socialists?
e.g. I would classify myself (when it comes to programming) as anarcho-capitalist: I'm using the language that best fits the problem, without bias. And I'm earning most of my money with free software.
I also can not agree with how he positioned some languages, e.g. Perl might look liberal at first, but the CPAN community is more conservative when it comes to constraining regression test or documentation than the Ruby or Python people. Also ASM might look liberal at first, but if you ever worked in a closed shop, you know that ASM/370 coders have a really conservative approach to create software.
"A measurement of length of a piece of writing, particularly when indicating a length excessive for the genre. A Yegge is approximately 4000 words or 25 kilobytes.
Named for well known programmer and technical blogger Steve Yegge, whose blog up to about 2009 was notorious for entries of approximately 1 or 2 Yegges in length, vastly exceeding the typical length of blog entries in the genre."
Political talk and thinking is poisoned by the ideas of "left" and "right" even though those phrases haven't had a connection to reality since the French First Republic.
It'll probably be fine. Politics is in many respects a zero-sum game, and polarises participants into two camps. Software isn't like that.
For example of what's pretty close to a Yegge rant of the 1980's, see Edsger Dijkstra, "On the cruelty of really teaching computing science" . It seems to be bemoaning similar debates in the software field, though from a very "conservative" perspective, since Dijkstra prefers that a formal proof should be required with every program, and one should completely avoid anthropomorphism in discussing software design.
Another thought that's crossed my mind: one of the reasons for the evolution of these approaches to politics and risk over the years has to do with the scale of impact. Liberally messing around with a social and economic systems can lead to widespread human disaster: China's Great Leap Forward comes to mind. How the software is used and how reliable it needs to be is an engineering tradeoff with regards to cost & time. This is often why you tend to see much more liberal approaches to software in smaller companies - the scale of impact is much smaller (in terms of customer base, and investment) when you cock up.
Now, it's clear that larger companies, particularly many IT shops, could learn a thing or two about being "progressive conservatives", as they've "conserved" for far too long and are caught in the trap of special interests (i.e. traditional vendors dependent on their cash). Fear of dynamic languages, open source, or cloud services, or non-waterfall development is mostly a reactionary ideology grounded with some kernels of truth - static typing DOES help codebases scale (but you shouldn't be proud of a large codebase), you can't just pick ANY open source library as some are DOA, or ANY cloud as some are unreliable, and tinkering with your delivery methodology can reduce your performance greatly due to confusion, plus there's plenty of cargo-cult agile consultants waiting to rope you in. So, you need to think these things through. But that's not an excuse for avoidance. Perhaps that means I'm a software moderate.
With Clojure you keep one feet on the ground (the Java ecosystem) and the other feet is in the unknown dark water.
One may find many aspects of a contract annoying yet still prefer a world where contracts are widespread to a world without contracts.
In a sufficiently complex ecosystem contracts make some things easier and some things more difficult. But contrary to Yegge's assertion, it may be that some organizations have a contract that if something breaks, then one of the parties involved does a rewrite/redeploy. This is not a replacement for a contract, as Yegge implies, simply a different contract.
One contract might be: "All code must be unit tested". Another might be "If you don't write unit tests and your code works, that's great, but if it fails then prepare to pull an all-nighter if necessary."
My guess is that most developers, if asked which kind of methodology was appropriate, would generally pick a methodology that was appropriate for the level of risk involved. If the code is going to manipulate a robot arm holding a knife as it jabs quickly toward the programmer's body, few programmers are going to think that the bugfix/redeploy approach makes sense. But when it's a social site then everyone starts to feel more like a cowboy.
I think it is an insult to the professionalism of programmers everywhere to assume that risk decisions are a function of internal constitution rather than a rational risk assessment.
The type of tools they use and like are circumstantial. It's more of a empiricists vs. authority thing.
Anyway I'm not sure were to put myself on this axis. My behavior changes depending on other variables(what consequences would bug have/how many times code is going to be executed etc).
FE: critical part of commercial software (like money calculation) would be written in a way that would try to make it obvious that there are no errors, in language with type checking with unit tests and if possible even with mathematical proof of correctness. With code review and QA thrown at it afterwards. To sum up very conservative(and costly) approach.
On the other hand my holiday photos got completely different treatment. Short python script, that would batch their HDR process in a way specific for their content and with a lot of dependencies to my current desktop setup, without any unit tests(script thrown up few temporary files making it easy for manual debug, had backup of my photos in case script ate them). The only conservative thing that I could think of in this setup was that I made it concurrent to use 4 cores because it was only one line change and 4time speed up in lengthy process was worth it.
Can someone suggest were on liberal-conservative axis am I?
If it's a library that someone else will use, I try to play as conservatively as possible, and I fully expect that despite my best efforts those developers will uncover lots of bugs regardless.
If it's a mission critical application, I'll also be conservative. The more pain there is in fixing things later, the more careful I'll be up front.
When I'm writing a game, I'll play it more fast-and-loose. So long as any glitches don't crash it or open an exploit or ruin the user experience, it's usually an acceptable trade-off.
When I'm writing stuff for myself, I go crazy, trying out all new fads and methodologies just for the hell of it. This way, I learn new things and get enough experience with them to mark them as conservative-safe and liberal-safe.
My only sticking point is this: If someone competent cannot follow your code, you haven't documented things properly.
A programmer who does not understand the tradeoffs of liberalism vs conservatism as Yegge defines them is not a good engineer. At best they might be talented at doing things a very specific way, sort of like a designer whose stuff all looks the same and is often inappropriate for the job at hand. Such a person is more an artist than a designer, and I'd make the same distinction for someone who writes log-processing code in Haskell or codes software for a spaceship in Ruby.
A bit annoying that the post text only takes up about 33% of my available screen real estate, even on the "view single post" URL: http://cl.ly/image/1p1B2o3D262g
When you post something you choose the set of circles you want to share the post with. One of the choices is 'public'.
There isn't really a default for this. When you open the sharebox, the set of circles is pre-populated based on who you've shared with recently.
Update: Safari's reader, however, worked just fine, and it looks fabulous.
So this is the project that Yegge mentioned would turn "all code [...] into Wikipedia." Man, my ongoing project is more similar to it than I thought.
I find it curious that he would even bother to mention (IV) though. (IV) falls right out if you start from the correct data representation, which I would have assumed from (A). I wonder if he's still listing dependencies explicitly.
And because of that you can find yourself in an endless argument with someone.
Why he dressed it up in political satire (allegory?) I don't know, seemed to me to make his point less forcefully.
Is there a reason nobody speaks publicly about Apple's engineering culture? We hear a lot about the culture at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon. But I've never met an Apple engineer. And I've never read any detailed accounts by an insider.
Does anybody have any good resources? Or is there a very restrictive confidentiality policy?
Day to day in my world was a lot of C, Objective-C and C++, with Python for rapid prototyping and glue code; Java formed the backbone of the store infrastructure, but there was plenty of other stuff going on. Fairly standard architecture (huge Oracle DB, loads of web servers). Teams tended to be undermanned, so there was constant tension between getting stuff done and standardization; much of the time, the wrong balance was struck, meaning that people couldn't easily switch roles, but still had a lot of bureaucratic scutwork to manage. Things were improving when I left, and I imagine that they have continued to do so.
That said, I'd characterize Apple is liberal. They put immense pressure on engineers to ship software as soon as possible to "get the new shiny out".
In my estimation, if the answer here is unclear, then this metaphor breaks hard.
If that happens, I predict a fucking hellhole and I can only imagine myself leaving the industry at once.
This means that promising projects like Clojure CLR have no chance of taking off the ground, unlike say Ruby vs Jruby vs Ruby EE vs Rubinius.
Conservative: the existing system must not break!
Progressive: we must add new features!
Political terminology in the United States is MASSIVELY warped by entities who spend literally millions of dollars in an effort to connotatively redefine words. When you (re)define words like "conservative" or "liberal" you risk alienating people who have been conditioned to have an emotional response to either definition. If you define a term in a way that seems pejorative to your reader, the reader will weight every subsequent statement against the rigor they think you brought (or did not bring) to those definitions. Your essay will entirely fail to persuade if it rests on (perceived) faulty definitions.
When writing to a largely US audience, no attempt at honest communication will be aided by the application of political labels.
Here's a test: can the essay be rewritten without that political terminology? Reader "nirvana" used the terms "cowboy" and "architect" to describe his two axes. ( http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4367328 ) I very much prefer those terms. Yes, they're also connotative and subjective, but as analogies they map much better onto the subject being discussed.
Scheme, Erlang and company are more like communism: extremely liberal applications of extremely liberal beliefs. So much so that people tend to view them as "good in idea, but flawed in practice".
Python and Ruby are more like traditional liberalism. They bring in new ideas, but not in excess.
Scala and Clojure seem remarkably centrist. They both bring in good ideas from both the liberal and conservative camps.
Lastly, C is "old guard" conservatism, C++ is a Bush-style "compassionate conservatism" that tries to please everyone while being labeled "conservative", Java is a neo-con, and C# might be compared to the Tea Party.
I think there are way too many variables for a linear scale to provide meaningful comparison.
Put another way, it's the political liberals who came up with OSHA (I hope--I'm somewhat ignorant of the actual history :P). A liberal or conservative outlook is not characterized by some particular processes or tools--it's characterized in an entirely relative way. The conservative approach is in choosing the familiar over the novel and in avoiding change. The familiar could be safer--Java vs Python--or it could be less safe--Java vs Haskell. I've talked to some ardent Java adherents, and they have lucid cases for not going over to Python or Ruby or Clojure or what have you. But--critically--these cases are virtually identical to their cases against going over to Haskell or Scala. There are differences in details, of course, but it's a difference in degree rather than kind.
Another even more extreme example is TDD. In particular, the arguments people have against adopting TDD are essentially exactly the same as I've seen from TDD supporters against using formal methods. Once again, some details differ, but the core idea seems to remain: some people are inherently wary of change.
It's also interesting to note how Yegge categorizes certain concepts in multiple "buckets". Either he's just being inconsistent (which is plausible) or he's making a deeper point: it's not about the particular concept, it's about the philosophy behind it. If he wasn't making that point, I've made it for him :).
That is, anything called "something calculus" is conservative, but lambdas (e.g. lambda calculus) aren't. Type-based functions overloading (like type classes, I guess) is conservative, but Scala implicits are liberal.
In my view, the languages that are the most conservative (at least in my part of the world) are Java and Python. Why? Simple: they are the default language for almost everyone I know. You're at an enterprisey company? You're probably using Java. You're at a startup? You're probably using Python. You're using C or Scheme or Haskell or Erlang? You're crazy. (I should note that I don't know very many people in systems or embedded programming, so my view is obviously rather biased.)
All this rambling (I certainly see why Yegge always writes long posts) has left me with a fairly concise conclusion. Namely, mapping programmer attitudes to a spectrum vaguely inspired by politics is a reasonable idea. Sure, the reality is that there is no total ordering so a one-dimensional representation is fundamentally lacking. However, it's good enough to give some insight.
But I would not map technologies there based on the technologies' innate traits. Rather, I would map them there based on the thinking behind the people who use them. This is similar to how--if you don't know the background--it's hard to guess which political party supports which regulation. Gun control is the opposite of liberal, but it's exclusively heralded by liberals; deregulation seems liberal but, of course, isn't. Yet, on other issues, people on either end of the spectrum behave as expected!
This is why I think languages like Java and Python are fairly conservative. Not because they try to offer some sort of safety but because they are safe choices. This is also why I would probably place C# as significantly more "liberal" than Java--it may be the most "conservative" .NET language, but it is far less afraid of embracing new ideas than Java. So that end is simple: at least for enterprisey companies and startups, it's populated with Python and Java. But what about the other end? I think this is where the languages that most people consider too crazy to use go. Haskell, Scheme, Erlang and so on. Only very brave--very liberal--companies are going to use Haskell or Scheme in actual production. Too many weird features. Even the sentence "Scheme in production" just sounds weird.
So it's not a matter of wanting handrails (Haskell) or not even wearing a helmet (Scheme); rather, it's a matter of being willing to choose something more advanced over something more understood.
I would probably place C# as significantly more
"liberal" than Java
Java as a language is more conservative, definitely, but the Java ecosystem is definitely more liberal. As proof, compare Java's open-source community with .NET. Or compare the maturity of alternative JVM languages (e.g. Scala, Clojure, JRuby), with the alternatives running on top of .NET ; or compare the web frameworks available for each.
This is the reason why, when faced with a choice, a "liberal" developer will most likely pick Java over C#, even if C# as a language is more liberal.
Only very brave--very liberal--companies are going to
use Haskell or Scheme in actual production
I'm pretty sure that many people wanted to use Haskell or Scheme in production, but then they'd shoot themselves in the foot, because the available libraries and tools for a language are far, far more important than the language itself. That's why Perl was so successful in the first place, because Perl hackers were getting shit done, then contributing to CPAN, which allowed other hackers to get their own shit done, and so on.
On the other hand I'm seeing lots of startups trying out and even using Clojure and Scala in production, at least for parts of the project. That's because these languages have all the Java libraries at their disposal, even if the languages themselves are still immature.
Don't mistake pragmatism for conservatism. That would be a mistake.
>>Or compare the maturity of alternative JVM languages
I will not list Scala, Clojure and IronRuby, but IronPython is very mature.
F# in my opinion is more mature than Scala.
Nixon also tried to get Universal Health Care for all low-income and employed Americans, but it was blocked by Senator Edward Kennedy and other Democrats. Maybe politics is just the art of getting the state to delegate property rights, even intellectual property, rather than itself productive pursuit.
I postulate that discussions in political spectrum are no more a valuable expenditure of time and resources than painting styles being be a point of reference for programmers.
In summary this topic is an "Unknown or expired link" to me.
Emotions are not intentional, nor do they lead to rational behavior. (by definition). The translation of an emotion into a point-of-view depends purely on the context: it can swing any direction.
A conservative might be against war, because he/she is afraid it will make the world dislike the US more, and hurt his/her security more.
A progressive might be in favor of war, because he/she is afraid that without it, the world is worse off, and the potential for a better world is lost.
And from that perspective, I do consider the stated 'political' dimension a potentially relevant categorization of programmers' mentality.
But without knowing their background, there is no way to predict how they actually feel about specific approaches.
Political parties evolve over time, sometimes quite drastically, as the political makeup of the country as a whole shifts and changes.
OSHA, like the EPA, was started under/by Nixon.
Assembly language: Batshit liberal.
Perl, Ruby, PHP, shell-script: Extremist liberal.
Python, Common Lisp, Smalltalk/Squeak: Liberal.
C, Objective-C, Scheme: Moderate-liberal.
C++, Java, C#, D, Go: Moderate-conservative.
Clojure, Erlang, Pascal: Conservative.
Scala, Ada, OCaml, Eiffel: Hardcore conservative.
Haskell, SML: Extremist conservative
Woud be nice to overlap James Iry's chart with it...
 from http://james-iry.blogspot.com/2010/05/types-la-chart.html
Twitter and Tumblr using Scala are "Hardcore conservative", while guys writing assembler for IBM mainframes are "Batshit liberal" ?
I would venture to say that anyone writing assembler would almost have to be completely conservative to make it work.
Something like Python could be written in conservative fashion (like the article alludes to with Google's style of python) or could be liberal in it's more idiomatic form.
(Dynamic Languages are Static Languages by Robert Harper): http://existentialtype.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/dynamic-lang...
With HN discussion here:
Also some classification of technology as conservative or liberal depends upon the competing technology it is running against. I was a bit surprised to see Python classified as liberal - but it makes sense when comparing it to Java. If it is being compared with Ruby it is very conservative ("do things one way").
There are some non technological risks that influence technology decisions. Visual Basic may be "Hardcore Liberal" from a language perspective, but it is pretty conservative politically (backed by Microsoft, lots of available experienced programmers).
Steve as usual has interesting insights. I am not sure that this is a paradigm that completely fits - but it does provide a perspective for understanding fundamental beliefs that can lead to disagreements in software projects.
His conservative definition is seems to be "everything that is wrong with the world" or something.
Also, this older rant reads to me as Yegge saying that this "conservative guy" was responsible for Google's success:
"I've been debating whether to say this, since it'll smack vaguely of obsequiousness, but I've realized that one of the Google seed engineers (exactly one) is almost singlehandedly responsible for the amazing quality of Google's engineering culture. And I mean both in the sense of having established it, and also in the sense of keeping the wheel spinning. I won't name the person, and for the record he almost certainly loathes me, for reasons that are my own damn fault. But I'd hire him in a heartbeat: more evidence, I think, that the Done, and Gets Things Smart folks aren't necessarily your friends. They're just people you're lucky enough to have worked with.
At first it's entirely non-obvious who's responsible for Google's culture of engineering discipline: the design docs, audited code reviews, early design reviews, readability reviews, resisting introduction of new languages, unit testing and code coverage, profiling and performance testing, etc. You know. The whole gamut of processes and tools that quality engineering organizations use to ensure that code is open, readable, documented, and generally non-shoddy work.
But if you keep an eye on the emails that go out to Google's engineering staff, over time a pattern emerges: there's one superheroic dude who's keeping us all in line."
urban - accepts a certain amount of chaos for the benefits of reducing redundancy, wants to centralize code, reuse via shared centralized code
rural - wants to be isolated, wants to "see" everything, wants to have control over everything, reuse via cut-and-paste
Nevertheless, I don't know which was worse, the claim about what political conservatism/liberal is or the software one. I guess the software doesn't matter because he's just making it up anyway, but still. Before anyone thinks too highly of this piece, I recommend people study some actual philosophy and humanities.
At it's very core this is just an elaborate (not in a good way) dressing up of the static vs dynamic typing discussion; hardly a revolutionary insight. I also don't see how this is "risk" based debate. But in any event, this is just hard to take.
 safety meaning certainty of correctness, and speed meaning speed of development (as opposed to execution)
I think the issue he captures has been well known for a while. It is structured versus unstructured. Neither is better in an absolute sense, but one method can be better than another in a given situation. This is beyond just software, but business approaches in general. Startups are generally liberal/unstructured, Dow Jones firms are generally conservative/structured.
I did find it interesting that he considers himself a liberal (both in software and politics), then then goes on to create a "type system" categorization for programmers (and programming languages) to be placed into.
Then again my actually political views tend to span the liberal/conservative spectrum so I suppose this is not surprising.
Haskell is more liberal than ruby (functional programming)
C is more liberal than Haskell (weak typing)
Also, I am apparently a radically conservative programmer, but my political views in real life tend toward radical liberalism. I think any correlation says more about age than it does about politics.
Not according to the article, which is what my comment was in response to.
> I think any correlation says more about age than it does about politics.
Quite possible, I'm 26.
I see. Yes, Haskell meets all the criteria for a conservative language, emphasizing safety, and verifiability, and automated testing. However, purely anecdotally, I can't think of a single person I've worked for that uses C++ approving of Haskell because it is so radically different. But perhaps this doesn't matter.
Didn't we know that already?
I would like to believe that the political bit was just a well timed hook to get people to read his blog. He understands that the right incendiary rant will bring readers. If it is sincere, though, it shows a disturbing level of crankiness.
Liberal <---------------------|-----------------------+---------------------------------------------> Conservative
Or as a totally unscientific number: -24
priestc, your account was hellbanned 26 days ago: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4245644
If you like dynamic typing and can write good, legible code in a language like Python or Lisp, do it. If you like static typing, knock yourself out. If you want to use an IDE, go for it. If you want to use emacs, do it. Hell, if you like object-oriented programming, try it out. I think 95% of "object-oriented" programming (as currently practiced) is junk, but the other 5% is legitimately valuable. If you have the taste to pick from that 5%, go ahead.
What you shouldn't have the right to do is impose complexity on other people. Use whatever environment you like, but if your code depends on your environment, that's bad. If people can't get work done because they're cleaning up your messes, that's bad. Be as liberal and as kinky as you want in your own sandbox, but don't impose your wacky, untested DSL on everyone else.
That said, I like statically typed languages. ML is the only language I've encountered where reading average-case code is enjoyable. (Scala's a great language, but average-case code is ugly due to the Java influence. There's a fair amount of spaghetti code written in it due to the cultural legacy of the SpaghettiFactoryFactory Java culture. I can't speak for Haskell because I haven't seen enough.) I think that's neat and very rare in the programming world. How much code is enjoyable to read? 1 percent, maybe? In Ocaml, that number is a lot higher. Probably around 50%. 50 percent of Java code isn't even legible. Being able to actually read other peoples' code is nice, and it's one thing I miss about working in Ocaml.
I'm probably more in line with the hard-line conservative camp in terms of my view of complexity: avoid it unless you need it. The Unix philosophy works. Religious X-oriented programming doesn't. Big Code leads to fail. Small-program methodology's little programs (Unix philosophy) are written to solve problems: do one thing and do it well. Ambitious projects should be structured and respected as systems, not all-or-nothing, massive single-program megaliths with no clear communication policy among modules. Small-program development works. Big Software is written to get promotions. That produces the next generation's legacy horrors. Also, structuring your company around 17-day "iterations" is stupid. Et cetera.
I also tend to think that a lot of the features that scare typical software conservatives are genuinely worthwhile. Macros in Lisp are important and can be very beneficial-- if used conservatively. Cleverness for its own sake is bad, but there are times when macros are very useful. Document what you're doing, and make sure it's tasteful and makes sense before you let anyone else depend on the work, but go ahead and do it. I wouldn't have learned what not to do with macros had I not made a few mistakes when I first encountered them.
So, with a mix of opinions from the "conservative" and "liberal" camps, I can't say where I fall. I like macros (when used by disciplined people) but I also like static typing. Both turn out to be very useful tools. Consequently, I find that I like a lot of different languages and insist not on a specific one, but on small-program methodology so that people can use the right tool for the job.
I'm conservative because I dislike complexity (I think "software liberals" are OK with complexity as long as it's under the hood-- most metaprogramming involves extremely complex solutions that, when they work and the abstractions don't leak, although this is rare, allow clean interfaces-- whereas I'm not comfortable making that distinction) but I (a) understand that liberalism is essential to driving innovation, and (b) can't classify myself as a conservative because management is inherently conservative and is, in software, almost never the solution to the problem. Usually, it is the problem. Most companies fall to shit not because they have some difficult code-- every codebase has some crap in it-- but because management mandates that they use the bad code (often for political reasons, like the original architect being a crony of the manager) as-is instead of taking the time to understand or replace it. I'd like to see how Valve evolves over the next 5 years, because I think management in software is usually a source of undesirable complexity, rather than the safeguard against complexity that it thinks it is being. If Valve can give us a determination either way on whether software can work without managers in the first place, that'd be incredibly useful information.
Not surprisingly, software politics also has a lot of individual inconsistencies and hypocrisy. Corporatism (in politics, not software) is neither socialism nor capitalism but a system designed to give the best of both worlds to a well-connected elite and the worst of both to everyone else. (Consider air travel as a microcosm: Soviet experience and service quality and comfort, mean-spirited and capricious-- but very capitalistic-- pricing.) I think the same exists in software politics and the typical managerial conservatism. People and organizations can identify in name with liberalism or conservatism, but tend to pick and choose as suits them. (For an example of this inconsistency: Google, a bastion of software conservatism, allowed GCL to exist.) What makes 90 percent of software jobs so fucking miserable isn't those rock star, "undisciplined" Rails liberals or stodgy gray-haired conservatives. Rather, it's a corporatist "crony capitalism" state where people who win managerial blessing get liberalism (i.e. the autonomy to do whatever they want and freely impose complexity downstream) while the rest of the drones get stonewalled with a supposedly stiff-lipped conservatism (e.g. "you can't [fix that codebase | use that language | pursue that side project] because we can't afford the risk") that is presented as principled, although the drones see managerial favorites getting through that wall on a daily basis, so they aren't fooled.
I agree with this.
At the end of the day, all I want is software that is both modular and portable. Unfortunately, in this day and age, that itself is controversial enough that some people consider it an extreme viewpoint.
This is why the Unix philosophy is so powerful - each individual tool is a black box, so it can be ignored for convenience, but each tool is also so small in its scope that it can be removed when rechaining without worry.
Unfortunately, Windows remains POSIX non-compliant, but for any -nix, not only should most projects port directly, but rechaining for equivalently-functional tools should be trivial. If it's not, that signals a problem with project organization. (Example: I include a Makefile even in pure Python projects, because nobody should have to figure out whether I used nosetests or another library until and unless they want to switch it out).
If everyone followed this mindset, I don't think any 'political spectrum' would need to exist. So you prefer statically typed languages and heavy use of IDEs? Doesn't matter - your Scala program written using IntelliJ still takes in input through a unix pipe and passes it to my Python or C program seamlessly. Why should I know or care how the tools work if I don't want to modify them?
My choice of tools should be viewed as the implementation, not the interface. If my tools preclude your project, that's a sign that your project isn't abstracting well.
This is only one small part of the larger argument, but it's the part I notice the most, and I think it abstracts well to the larger issue.
What conservatives consider good, legible code is very different from what liberals do. From the article:
This manifesto, I believe I'll be pulling quotes out of it, for years to come.
Except a lot of conservatism as defined here is all about complexity in terms of 'big design up front' methodology and, really, having a big methodology in the first place, along with having a lot of testing and static analysis tools.
Ada is a conservative language. C is extremely, red-diaper liberal.
A lot of this is about risk assessment. Business people and engineers don't agree on how to define and measure risk. Business people think Java is the low-risk choice, because the risks are hidden. Engineers know that these over-ambitious, 20-person Java projects are actually a lot riskier. Putting 20 people on a 5-person project doesn't make it less risky, but more. Business types fundamentally don't get this. They have no idea what is wrong with Big Code methodologies, because they don't experience the externalized costs (of long-term maintenance and diminished morale). They get promoted and move on to the next (usually bigger) project.
Familiarity comes into the mix, too. Lisp is rejected because it's foreign and weird and macros can create a lot of undesirable complexity, but SpaghettiVisitorFactory patterns in so-called "best practices" Java are just as bad. They're a lowbrow spin on the same theme: obfuscation through indirection. There's a lot of indirection and abstraction that is done prematurely because it's the "smart" thing to do, but reflexively doing the "smart" thing is pretty stupid because often the "dumb" thing is more elegant and easier to use. That's called cargo cult programming, which seems to be business as usual in typical Java codebases.
Like in actual politics the emotion and the response, do not always match up rationally. That's why its called an emotion.
For example, preventive wars do not make one safer. But they sure make you feel like you are safer. Going out there, dealing with potential threats.
Likewise, Java can be very dynamically typed (depending on your perspective), yet feel 'conservative' (stick with what we know). Haskell is very statically typed, yet feel 'progressive' (explore new grounds).
Emotion is not an intentional thing, therefor its application is never rational.
To get back to real politics. If a person is both sane, yet fearfull of his or her security, they would not want a bigger military machiene, they would want a bigger worldwide PR machiene.
I tend to put the two extremes differently though: a liberal fears being wrong, a conservative fears being right. Which is why progressives go out of their way to be right, and conservatives go out of their way to be wrong. (jk)
People who like try different languages are likely to find both Ruby and Haskell interesting -- because they are. And both are interestingly different from the sort of mainstream traditionalist programming embodied by Java, C++, and Pascal.
But if you were doing a new project start on an important project, the gap between the reasons that would lead you to build it using hardcore Ruby metaprogramming with hefty dollops of dynamic dispatch and the reasons that would lead you to build it in Haskell with carefully defined type systems, monadic programming, and purely functional implementation that would allow you to reason more easily about what's going on -- that gap is vast. Which one appeals to you more given a real world problem to solve where the solution matters to you -- that says a lot about you.
Business people are concerned with continuity, engineers are concerned with completion.
Putting more people on a project reduces the risk of losing key people, and staffing is really the only tool at business peoples' disposal to protect (the perception) of continuity.
Engineers consider the risk to be related to the project actually being complete: if that be functionally complete or shippablly complete, etc. Actually spending time working on the project efficiently is how engineers want to manage that risk.
What's interesting is that there has been a shift over the years to where "programming" has come ot have a strong ideological bias to only one type.
The types I noticed then I call Cowboys and Architects. These are just terms I'm using for convenience, not meant as pejoratives.
Cowboys are now more common:
Some programmers write a bunch of sloppy code without bothering to ever design anything. Their methedology for making a product seems to be akin to bashing to the code into the shape it needs to be eventually. This group of people tend to advocate policies that assume everyone else is writing crappy code as well- unit tests, agile, etc. For instance, agile rejects design and assumes you can't know what the right shape for the code is going to be more than a week in advance and that all code is maleable without repercussions.
Architects are now rare:
Other programmers will sit for a week and think without writing any code. When they do, they sit down and over the course of an hour (or however long it takes to type it) will write out the code for the complete system or module. It will be bug-free with the exception of typos. Once the typos are fixed (Generally by getting the compiler to accept the code) the programmer can move on to implementing the next bit of functionality. Sometimes there are errors in the code working with other code, generally integration errors, but not errors in the thinking of the programmer. These programmers only accept that Agile makes sense because the business side of things can't make up its mind, so they architect core systems that are flexible to support multiple business needs, but don't need to be rewritten or bashed around, because they did it right the first time.
I'm of the latter type, and I have tested this objectively, by producing a 10,000 line iOS App like this, which has been in use for several years by tens of thousands of people with no crashes or other defects (a few minor conceptual bugs- mismatch between the features and the expectations of the business, which were fixed)... and not a single unit test. It compiled, it worked, and almost all the development time was spent on the UI. It has had major releases (eg: going from being iPad only to a universal app, etc.)
It has built in reporting for exceptions, and all of the reported exceptions are the result of things other than my code (eg: there are several situations where iOS will crash an app if it needs to or due to problems with pre-release versions of iOS, and those are what generate the exceptions.) No customer reported bugs either. (though they do have requests for things working slightly differently and new features, no programming errors reported by customers.)
The industry is so dominated by a culture of "all code is crap" that I think many people think that all programmers are cowboys and even Steve here is delineating types of Cowboys, and nobody believes architects exist.
Can you imagine someone saying "unit tests are a waste of time, they just double the amount of work with no benefit.". It produces a litany of excuses for why this isn't true. ("You need them if other people work on your code!", "maybe for a team of one", "you're assuming you'll never forget a design decision", etc.) I know this message will get responses along those lines-- its because Cowboyism has become an ideology. Yegge is right - programmers are ideological.
I'm not a savant and I'm not rare. Architects like me were about %50 of the programmers out there when I started out. I think the mainstreaming of "hacking" has produced a lot of people who are taught to be cowboys and a culture that encourages cowboyism.
I'd love a series of technical blog posts about the iOS app. What artifacts did you create during the design phase? How many Modules/Features did you split the process in to (or did you do it all in one go)?
But I also advocate strongly for unit testing. Maybe it is because I write in Python for web and use unit test to run and prove the lines of code I write (I really hate going to the browser and re-clicking on the knob).
But still, I think you are a bit wrongish in your anti-TDD view. Say, check the first programming classes by Norvig in udacity. He should probably not be classified in the Cowboys, but his first step is writing the testing code.
The only definition I personally find plausible is by Jonathan Alexander ("Codermetrics")
Coders designated as “architects” are usually the more experienced members of the
team. Their assignments may differ from other coders, with a higher percentage of
complex tasks, including design tasks. They may also be expected to spend more time
guiding and assisting other team members, to ensure that the software is well-designed
I think that I am architect-type programmer. I'm doing a lot of exploratory work but I'm not "sitting weeks without writing any code" - I'm writing prototypes. In my company the worst crap is born by our "thinkers". It is also well-specified crap.