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Raising kids and building Perl

The longest-awaited upgrade'-aside from the ever-M.I.A. Duke Nukem computer game'-has got to be version 6 of Perl , the dense, regular expression-friendly programming language that coders either love or hate.

Our favorite part of Perl's taffy pull of a release date is the annual presentation, called State of the Onion, that Perl overseer Larry Wall usually gives at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention.

It's a wry presentation. Wall always offer a bundle of enjoyable epiphanies and improbable analogies on why'-among other things'-Perl 6 is not quite ready yet.

And true to form, this year he mused about the similarities between raising children and developing programming languages, using his own brood as an example.

'As parents, to the extent that we can influence the design of our kids, we design our kids to be creative, not to solve a particular problem,' he reasoned.

In the same sort of way, Wall wants Perl 6 to be flexible. It should appeal to both novices and experts. It should be concise and yet allow for verbosity. And most of all, it should adhere to tradition but respond to common sense.

Wall also stipulated Perl should not be too flexible though. The language should also be self-reliant enough to resist peer pressure'especially from those faddish ideas inherit in other programming languages, some of which are on drugs, Wall noted, momentarily extending the analogy into gibberish.

If the two goals'being flexible and yet being resistant to undue influence'seem a bit at odds with one another, well that's why it is taking so long to finish Perl 6, he concluded.

That sounds good to us. Though we also wonder if the Perl developers' use of that peculiar open-ended development methodology [Link note: explicit language] everyone is curious about could take some of the blame for the tardiness as well?

--Posted by Joab Jackson

Posted by Brad Grimes, Joab Jackson on Sep 29, 2006 at 9:39 AM


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