Random Perl ... rant

Andy Wardley abw at wardley.org
Wed Apr 2 13:54:43 BST 2008

Ovid wrote:
 > 2.  Python is arguably a nicer language than Perl for many tasks and if
 > people can get over their silly qualms about vertical whitespace,

It's an interesting point because I'm one of those with silly qualms.

I fully appreciate that there's good reason for it, and acknowledge that yes,
I do _normally_ indent my code "properly" anyway so it makes no difference. I
also think that the underlying implementation is rather elegant (the scanner
generates indent/undent pseudo-tokens which effectively emulate { and }).

In fact, it's probably true to say that  90% of my dislike for it is entirely

However, I maintain that there are lots of irrational people like me in the
world, and if you're designing a product for popular consumption then you have
to take peoples' subjective opinions into account. Whitespace indenting is the
single thing that really puts me off the language. There are plenty of others
things that annoy me, but the whitespace issue is the real show stopper as far
as I'm concerned. Rational or not, I'm out (apart from a little dabbling).

The other 10% of my dislike comes from the fact that it makes auto-generation
of code (say, to translate a template to native Python code) a real pain in
the compiler. Sure, most people don't ever have to worry about that kind of
thing, but I see it as an indicator of a certain fragility in whitespace
dependant languages.

 > 3.  PHP wins, big time, because they target the Web so heavily and
 > that's *still* where the mindshare is.

"There are many great things about PHP, but the language isn't one of them."
(can't remember where I read that, but kudos to whoever wrote it)

 > Ignoring CPAN, which can be overcome with time, Perl doesn't have much
 > that is compelling to programmers over Ruby, Python.

CPAN is pretty hard to ignore though.

I agree that Perl the language doesn't have much to offer over Ruby or
Python, but the language is just part of the overall package.  CPAN is
what makes Perl so popular in the same way that ease of deployment makes
PHP so popular.

I totally agree with the points you make, though.  Things have been moving
fast in the PHP, Python and Ruby camps and we're looking a wee bit "legacy
language" over here in Perl world.


More information about the london.pm mailing list