From GNU sed 4.2.2 released, and a rant from the maintainer, and apparently quoting Richard Stallman:
We [the FSF] still prefer C to C++, because C++ is so ugly
The aesthetics of programming languages as an influencing factor in choosing which ones to use is relatively recent. Ten years ago I don’t think I ever heard anyone express a preference for say Pascal over C because it was “prettier.” It’s not that code didn’t have aesthetic judgements being made about it — you’d often find and complain about “ugly” code. It was however usually a comparison between code formatting styles for the same language.
Now Stallman might not have been making a purely aesthetic statement. I don’t know the context. He’s an old hacker from way back and there’s not a lot you could teach him about programming languages. He may have been referring to design trade-offs he didn’t like. Plenty of other people however have expressed, for example, a preference for Ruby or Python over Perl because Perl is “ugly.”
I’m just wondering out loud if it really is a new thing to see people use judgements about the “attractiveness” of a language’s syntax or if it’s always been there. Perhaps the rise of open source means that, compared to programming 10-20 years ago, we’re all reading a lot more code that we’re writing.
Really not sure what’s prompted this stocktake. Maybe it’s just that time of year.
Or it’s because it’s time to consolidate and stop relying so much on all these free services (free software, as in libre, is fine… free services however is another way of saying “productising myself so that others may sell me“).
So I now have some presences that are coming back to life:
- A Blogger blog, where I try and write down some of the half-thoughts that are taking up too much time.
- A Tumblr log, which is for random things.
- My Instagram feed (followers only).
- Also: multiple other blogs, another Tumblr feed, Google Reader, Picasa, GMail, Wikipedia account for editing, GitHub, CPAN, Last.fm, Identi.ca, Eventbrite, AOL AIM, Skype, Slashdot, Twitter, Vimeo, Yahoo!, Coursera, Venture Labs, and trial accounts at dozens of free services that I’ve long since forgotten about. Those are just the “free” ones.
There is also of course the inevitable Facebook and LinkedIn pages which I’m not ready to link in yet.
And so in 2013 I’m going to see what I can do to switch off all these free services and take back ownership and control of my own data. It shall be called… Operation: No More Freebies!
The breadth of the questions in my head has stopped growing, so dumping them all now. These may or may not be related. Just thinking out loud…in no particular order:
- What are the constraints on thinking? (Short list: metaphor, language, culture, semantics)
- Why did I become interested in privilege and intersectionality?
- Why have I become interested in innovation as a thing in its own right? (As opposed to being interested in it as a tool to achieve some other end — eg launch a business)
- Why have I come back to intellectual property as something of interest?
- What is it about the philosophy of science, the “science of science” and systemic scientific failures that keeps grabbing my attention?
- Why, again, am I interested in cross-discipline research as a thing in its own right? Have I gone full-meta?
- What are the constraints on problem solving, especially big problems? What is it that links Silicon Valley Technology Entrepreneurship, McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, and our missing moon landing?
- What is it about start-up incubators that makes me want to help build one?
- “Research takes time.” Why? I mean, why exactly?
- What is the value of diversity? What axes matter? What are my motivations for wanting to promote it?
- Why do I see the distorting effects of KPIs everywhere… am I seeing what I place there myself?
- Why have I linked Systems Thinking, lean manufacturing, agile software development and Japanese management and what nuances have I missed in doing that?
These are just the work related ones.
No wonder I’m having trouble sleeping.
Brain dump again. It may or may not make sense in hindsight.
We (the people) seem to do a terrible job of understanding each other. All our communication methods are “lossy”, in that information is lost in both the encoding & decoding processes. The act of listening actively alters the content of the message. And so does the act of speaking: it can force a sharpening of thought, but it can also force you to abandon a “feeling” or inexpressible viewpoint that changes how you are thinking but cannot be communicated to the listener.
For example, the preceding paragraph…
Is it possible to improve our abilities to understand each other?
Is this done in solely by focusing on communication, or are there other ways to improve understanding that can be independent of communication?
Has there been an inverse correlation between the rise of sophisticated communication networks and understanding between people? Comments section of most online news outlets suggests “yes”.
Thinking out loud here. This is a rough cut.
What are the constraints on thinking and solving?
- Metaphors, particularly un-acknowledged metaphors.
- Language itself, where concepts not expressible in our language are beyond our ken or ability to reason. For example, the lack of a French word for “like” (as in “I like ponies”).
- Semantics, where the choice of word is a rhetorical device to influence thinking. For example, political correctness.
- Grand narratives, which require axioms and conclusions to conform to a common model that explains how the world works. Ideas that do not fit (eg “3% growth year on year is exponential and therefore unsustainable indefinitely”) cannot be processed.
- Alliteration. If a mnemonic for remembering a list of things starts with the same letter for the first 3 items, there is increasing pressure to name each successive item with a word starting with the same letter.
Wondering if there are others…