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Perl Businesses Programming IT Technology

Why Corporates Hate Perl 963

Posted by kdawson
from the not-such-a-shiny-new-thing dept.
Anti-Globalism recommends a posting up at O'Reilly's ONLamp on reasons that some companies are turning away from Perl. "[In one company] [m]anagement have started to refer to Perl-based systems as 'legacy' and to generally disparage it. This attitude has seeped through to non-technical business users who have started to worry if developers mention a system that is written in Perl. Business users, of course, don't want nasty old, broken Perl code. They want the shiny new technologies. I don't deny at all that this company (like many others) has a large amount of badly written and hard-to-maintain Perl code. But I maintain that this isn't directly due to the code being written in Perl. Its because the Perl code has developed piecemeal over the last ten or so years in an environment where there was no design authority.. Many of these systems date back to this company's first steps onto the Internet and were made by separate departments who had no interaction with each other. Its not really a surprise that the systems don't interact well and a lot of the code is hard to maintain."
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Why Corporates Hate Perl

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  • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:08AM (#24669897) Homepage Journal

    ... that it's because it's too complex for them. There's no pointy-clicky visual perl, and absolutely no correlation between code size and complexity. So they can neither hire a $35k/year H1Ber to do it, nor count lines of codes to measure complexity.

    Oh, and without taking special measures, others get to see the code. Including sysadmins, who may laugh at the stupidity of the $35k programmers. Which doesn't make management look good.

    Perl is the enfant terrible of the programming world. A very smart one, but requiring the same smartness of its users.

    • by silentbozo (542534) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:21AM (#24669957) Journal

      What makes me laugh (and cry at times) is these same businesses, who insist that programmers and administrators are hard to come by, turn to ridiculous metrics like "how many lines of code do you write per day", and require x number of years of experience with technologies which just came out this year (and have yet to be proven.)

      Let them have their H1-Bs, and the deadwood with the inflated resumes. Good riddance.

    • If we forget the conspiracy theories for a while, there are other reasons too.
      A 100K/year good programmer can also have difficulties understanding perl code.

      If you look at the most efficient perl code, it will be very small, and do a lot. But it will also mean that nobody else can understand the code

      Heck I have difficulty in understanding a couple own scripts if I look at them after a year, and that too when I add comments.

      Perl is a very very powerful language. A small change can make the code do something
      • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:27AM (#24669983) Homepage Journal
        Regular expressions are by no means a perl-only feature.
        Possibly not the best example of why perl is shunned.
        Perl is simply not winning the marketing war.
        • by glop (181086) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:33AM (#24672459)

          So true.
          I switched to Python because I could not market Perl to anybody including myself.
          I was using it from time to time and would try to convince coworkers to use it too.
          But the readability issues and the lack of keywords made it more difficult to look for documentation etc.
          As a result I could not market it to my coworkers and started having serious doubts myself. So I switched to Python.
          Suddenly, I could convince my coworkers easily as it looked good, readable, easy to learn by example etc.
          Also Perl and Python are very similar in what they offer (regexps, hashtables, string parsing, networking, modules). But Python usually offers a language construct to support important software engineering concepts (e.g. objects are native and not reimplemented every time as in Perl).

          Just my 2 cents. I tried to love Perl and market it around me. But I couldn't. PHP, Python, Linux, Wikis are easy sells but Perl is not.

      • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:42AM (#24670083) Journal

        Your regexp example isn't awfully good - any language that has regexp support will have lines like that. These days, PHP has regexp support (possibly always has), C has regexp support, C++ has it, Java has it, and I expect that even C# has regexp libraries.

        The alternative to a regular expression is usually a very convoluted parser that's a lot of effort to support.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tomtomtom777 (1148633)

        s!(?:^|\w*/|\.\./|\./)[^\s,@;:]*(? Interesting? Thats a one line regexp which does something which appears to be very very simple to do, but actually isnt.

        That looks really simple? Sorry but it doesn't look to me. Perl may be a a very very powerful language, but that alone does not make it a language of choice.

        For a company to choose a language, one should not only consider the power, but also the maintainability. One should not only consider how a strong programmer would perform in it, but also how a beginner can screw it up, and how a beginner can understand a powerful program.

        These considerations make Perl generally a bad choice. As a simple test, dow

        • by unavailable (781386) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @05:02AM (#24670547) Homepage

          s!(?:^|\w*/|\.\./|\./)[^\s,@;:]*(? Interesting? Thats a one line regexp which does something which appears to be very very simple to do, but actually isnt.

          That looks really simple? Sorry but it doesn't look to me. Perl may be a a very very powerful language, but that alone does not make it a language of choice.

          Well that is a regular expression, not Perl. It's a different language, and is the standard way of handling strings in most programming languages. To be honest, I first learned about them in a formal language [wikipedia.org] class in college, years before I picked up Perl.

          If you don't like regular expressions, that's your choice, but it really has nothing to do with Perl, and you should try to understand them, as they are very useful, even outside programming.

        • by totally bogus dude (1040246) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @06:25AM (#24671033)

          Interesting that you got modded so high, despite failing to understand what the GP was saying.

          I'm not positive what that regexp is doing, but the presence of / and ../ or ./ matches suggests it's manipulating a directory path in some way. After a few tests I think it may be intending to return the filename portion from a path, but if so it's a little buggy (and a good example of why reinventing the wheel isn't a great idea; just use basename).

          You do make a point, but I feel your method of comparison is a bit questionable. While Python is a fairly old language, it's only seen general use for a very short period of time compared to Perl. That means that a) there's likely to be a lot more Perl code around than Python code, and b) a lot of the Python code that's around will be of high quality.

          The main reason for this is that when a language first begins to be noticed, it's usually going to be embraced by people who want to show how good it is. They'll take extra care to make sure it's well written and easy to understand, because they're evangelizing the language. As a language ages, people will be using it who really don't give a crap about the quality of the code, and that will "pollute" your sample set.

          Accessibility will also have a lot to do with it. Even when PHP was a pretty new language, a random sample of code would reveal it to be vastly inferior to just about every other language you could possibly think of. A lot of this is simply because PHP became so widespread that virtually every cheap (and many free) web hosts supported it, so every newbie who wanted to learn to program started with PHP.

          A new programmer -- or a bad programmer -- can write terrible Python code just as easily as they can write terrible Perl code. But at least it will have proper indentation. I would be very hesitant to base too much of my assessment of a language on its "newbie safety factor". Else we'd all be using BASIC and Logo.

      • by baest (763283) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:06AM (#24670207)

        For example look at this s!(?:^|\w*/|\.\./|\./)[^\s,@;:]*(?<=/)([^\s,@;:]+?)(?=[\s,@;:]|$)!$1!g;

        But this "Perl" code is really a regular expression which is also used in PCRE and PHP and so on. Copied because it was the best there was.

        To improve readability of a regex use best practise and use /x (with whitespace and comments) and stop confusing Perl and regex.

      • by BlackCreek (1004083) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @05:00AM (#24670541)

        s!(?:^|\w*/|\.\./|\./)[^\s,@;:]*(?<=/)([^\s,@;:]+?)(?=[\s,@;:]|$)!$1!g;

        "You have a problem, and you discover you can solve it by using regular expressions.
        Well, now you have another problem"

        I read this in the opening of a regular expression chapter of a Python book by Tim Peters (though the quote is certainly not exact); so I am unsure whether he was quoting somebody, or not. Anyway, the point stands.

      • by famebait (450028) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @06:56AM (#24671249)

        The problem here is that small != mean efficient.
        Parsing the code is not what makes a program slow, and
        we don't code for 1K or RAM anymore.

        "impressive" oneliners completely fail to impress me.
        Lines are cheap.
        Time is not.
        And bugs are expensive as hell.

        I'm sure if you wrote code that walked through the
        steps in what you are trying to achieve, all the
        following would be quicker:

        * for me to see the point of what you're doing
        * for me to correctly change what it does.
        * for you to get it working right in the first place.

        If you feel it is childish to write code like
          "find A"
          "find B based on A"
          "generate C based on B"
          "silently fail for some values of C"
          "replace B with C"
        -rather than one giant, brittle regex-replace, I submit that you are the childish one.

    • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:37AM (#24670049)

      I suspect they merely have associated "Perl" with "bad" because the existing cruft happens to be in Perl. Because there are very few managers who understand the difference between programming languages.

      Besides, you can create an unholy mess in any programming language.

      • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:47AM (#24670115) Homepage Journal
        You post invites the question:
        How many internal/script-driven systems have you seen
        over "a few" years old
        maintained by at least "a couple" different people,
        that don't end up a train wreck?
        The need to revamp a system is often more a question of when.
        So, you get to that point, and the question becomes:
        do we keep this funky old perl,
        or start from scratch with something relatively tidy and
        popular from a staffing perspective?
    • by chthon (580889) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:28AM (#24670353) Homepage Journal

      Yes! Book recommendations for Perl programmers, outside of the standard ones you need :

      • Perl Best Practices, by Damian Conway. This one is really mandatory.
      • Higher-Order Perl, by Mark Jason Dominus, to understand why Perl is so powerful.
      • How To Design Programs [htdp.org], which taught me better ways of using Perl, even though the book is based upon Scheme.
      • Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs [mit.edu], which is somewhat the bridge between HTDP and Higher-Order Perl.

      All the rest I learned from the camel book. I use Perl on three platforms (Win32, Cygwin and Solaris), using the same libraries, and now also adding Perl/TK to the mix.

      If you need to define several goals, I would recommend Perl Best Practices for writing maintainable and easy to read code and installing a peer review process.

      HTDP is more for individual programmers, to become smarter and better programmers.

    • by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @06:02AM (#24670903) Journal

      At my last job, I wrote a perfectly good perl loader for a large data file we'd bring in every night. They decided to kill it off and go with BusinessWorks instead. BW took 45 times longer (I shit you not -- 45 minutes instead of 1 minute) and broke every week. We finally got sick of the support issues and went back to perl.

      Fact is that shiny pointy clicky just introduces complexity and additional points of failure into the infrastructure. If you want the latest buzzwords, then by all means, go with shiny pointy clicky. If you want your system to work, keep it with tried and true.

      This has been said ad nauseum: There's nothing inherent about perl that makes its programs unmaintainable or broken. It's all about getting programmers who know how to write maintainable, well-designed code. A bad programmer can make an abortion of any programming language or fancy pointy clicky system.

  • Age (Score:4, Insightful)

    by damburger (981828) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:13AM (#24669913)

    Could it be that, as well as being from an era of more ad-hoc approaches, the code is simply showing its age? System tend to get modified over time, and such modification is often done by multiple people under multiple managers.

    I would also dispute the idea that the simplicity of newer code is necessarily a good thing. Maybe they are yet to find all the bugs that require inelegant solutions...

    • Re:Age (Score:5, Interesting)

      by famebait (450028) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:29AM (#24669989)

      I would also dispute the idea that the simplicity of newer code is necessarily a good thing. Maybe they are yet to find all the bugs that require inelegant solutions...

      That could of course be the case.

      But it is a fact that some programmers have slightly too much interest in "clever" tricks, compactness, and optimisations whether they're called for or not, and too little in clarity, modularity and maintainability.
      I won't claim this as fact, but I also strongly suspect that this kind of programmer also tends to love perl (you find them everywhere though). Many lose these traits as they mature, get to experience the pain and cost of working other people's unreadable code, and as you get more proficient you simply aren't that impressed by low-level coding skills any more. But some seem incurable.

      • Programming tricks (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dargaud (518470) <[ten.duagradg] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:56AM (#24670523) Homepage
        Exactly. In the words of one of my former bosses (while working on Perl projects):

        Whenever you think of a clever programming trick: forget it !

  • by pjf (184549) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:15AM (#24669925) Homepage

    It's simple why businesses don't like Perl. Slashdot is written in Perl. Whenever a business is mentioned on slashdot, their website goes down. Ergo, Perl is bad for business.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:17AM (#24669935)

    Shiny.
    New.
    Perfect.
    Can use it without knowing anything.

    They'll start complaining about the new stuff as soon as they realize it only gives them a new untested set of problems and work-arounds. If you want to keep working there, you'll change yet again when enough of the 'decision makers' can't take it anymore.

    I have a client with a very workable multi-platform enterprise calendaring/scheduling system. Two people out of 15 in the organization want to use Outlook. It's a fair bet the company will migrate to Microsoft Exchange within the next 6 months and if I want to keep making money from them, I will be training these two users and their colleagues on how to share calendars in Exchange/Outlook. Will life be any better for them? I think the learning curve for sophisticated use of Outlook/Exchange is a bit higher than for MeetingMaker... but we shall see.

  • Perl IS the problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:18AM (#24669941)

    Particularly perl, even with coding standards, reasonable indentation, comments etc.

    I stopped writing the stuff years ago because I realised that I was only making things worse. Perl encourages big ball of mud [laputan.org] development. It's specifically designed as a "glue" language which lets you stick things together, in fact it's a sticking plaster language which allows you to paper over cracks which would be far better filled in another way.

    Now if I see myself or others considering Perl to accomplish something, I'm pretty sure there's a problem with the entire approach.

     

    • by niceone (992278) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:53AM (#24670143) Journal
      Perl encourages big ball of mud development

      Is it really fair to blame the language? I think the reason perl is the centre of so many big balls of mud is that it is easy to do prototypes in it. If people choose to take those prototypes and turn them into big balls of mud, then that is their own fault. If you start with a clean sheet of paper, do a good design and then decide to implement it in perl you won't end up with a big ball of mud.
      • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @05:18AM (#24670633) Homepage

        The language itself is not the problem, but the 'community' and their promotion of it may be. I have seen good Perl written by good corporate developers, but that's despite the available Perl tutorial and examples.

        I can't recall seeing a Perl learning resource that presents code that is well structured, commented, and tolerant of bad inputs. That leads me to suspect that Perl attracts developers who take pride in hacking together "Works For Me" code in the shortest possible time using the fewest, tersest lines. Yes, you can do that in a C-like language, but Perl lets you get your "good enough" result faster.

        When Perl is promoted by impatient, sloppy bodgers, it's no mystery why it would attractd similarly minded developers. It doesn't have to be that way, but that does seem to be the de facto situation.

        • by fbjon (692006) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:27AM (#24671507) Homepage Journal

          Perl attracts developers who take pride in hacking together "Works For Me" code in the shortest possible time using the fewest, tersest lines. Yes, you can do that in a C-like language, but Perl lets you get your "good enough" result faster.

          For me, that's the strength of Perl. I don't use it for anything other than works-for-me type small tidbits of code. Will it require maintenance, or extending, or support by other people? Then I don't use Perl, because it's complex enough to warrant a strict language. In essence, text parsing and one-off scripts are fantastic, other stuff I stay away from.

      • by pzs (857406) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:26AM (#24671493)

        I see this claim all the time - "it's not Perl, it's that people write bad Perl."

        Well then, why is bad Python a million times easier to read?

        I also hear that Perl is great because you can write things quickly. This completely disregards the fact that you can write quickly in many other languages, that do not have the same "ball of mud" tendencies.

        I also think that those Perl mantras: "laziness impatience and hubris" are not virtues and nor is having a thousand different ways to do things - this just leads to code that can only be read by one person.

        Being methodical, aiming for clarity and simplicity, avoiding obscure functionality - this is what leads to code that can be maintained. Perl does not encourage any of these virtues.

      • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:54AM (#24671831)

        People on this board blame VB all the time for bad programs. Perl doesn't get a pass.

        (That said, I agree with you, I don't think you can blame the language for bad code; I *do* believe a language can contain features that encourage bad code.)

      • by encoderer (1060616) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @08:23AM (#24672311)

        Yes, it is.

        It's like saying "Most Basic & VB Code is Verbose, is it really fair to blame the language?"

        YES!!

        Every language has a unique idiom. And the best languages use this idiom to painlessly guide the developer to best practices.

        For exammple, lots of devs consider Java to be over-engineered and overly-complex. You've probably heard a dev talk about building something in, say, RoR in a week that would've taken 4 weeks in Java.

        That's probably true, because Java is a tool best designed for large applications and when you're using Java, it's idiom guides you into building multi-tiered architecture.

        Python's idiom guides devs into producing well formatted code and it's a great language for web apps because it puts powerful data structures right in the developers face.

        C# is a FANTASTIC language for teaching OOD to procedural developers. It's HARD for a procedural developer to think in terms of object hierarchies. The mechanics are easy to pick up. The ability to deconstruct a problem into an object hierarchy is hard.

        But you put them in front of a new project in C# and the language -- entirely OO itself -- just guides a developer to the right thing. It's very hard to shoe-horn a procedural architecture into an OO-only language.

        JavaScript makes it insanely easy to create an event-driven application. Anonymous functions, LAMBDAs, etc, guide a developer into producing code in an event/event-handler model.

        Any developer can do nearly anything with any language. But a language itself can make it easy and obvious when you're doing things right, and painful for you when you're doing them wrong. And a good IDE will reinforce both of these behaviors.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:19AM (#24669945)

    I see the same thing with developers in general. Nobody wants to use Perl anymore, PHP was the new thing, and now Ruby is eclipsing that. Now I'm not talking about cases where the new language legitimately makes something much easier, I'm talking about a good deal of fanboy-ish "Oh I do all my code in Ruby now because it's way better!"

    It isn't just PHBs, programmers themselves seem to fall victim to fads in development. They want to use the new shiny stuff, simply because it is new and shiny. Hell I've seen developers say C/C++ are "dead" and that shiny_language_x is going to take over.

    • by famebait (450028) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:46AM (#24670103)

      Hell I've seen developers say C/C++ are "dead" and that shiny_language_x is going to take over.

      That may be not so much fadism as well-informed wishful thinking.

      OK, plain C is not _that_ bad, but you do need to fight its innate spirit in order to implement sane coding practices.

      But I recently had to return to C++ on a recent project, and although I was expecting some tedium, it was way worse that I remembered. MY GOD how painful it makes a lot of really trivial things. Even the nasty hack known as PHP starts looking well planned in this light.

      It may be better than alernatives if you really need the performance and low-level capabilities, but if you don't (or only a small part of your project does), you're paying a huge price for wizard points you don't need.

      Glitzy clicky interfaces do not a good product make, but a platform where _some_ thought has been given to workflow really is something we should start to expect in this day and age.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iron-kurton (891451)

      It's true that programmers fall victim to fad-ism, but the fact is that the learning curve of Perl is quite steep compared to that of PHP. PHP (and, arguably ASP) brought something to the table that Perl lacks -- readability, comprehensibility, expandability.

      As far as RoR is concerned, it's nothing new -- it's simply a framework (a very young, immature one, at that, in terms of software maturity) that could have been written in ANY language (PHP on Rails, anyone?). This is why we're seeing RoR developers ge

  • by apodyopsis (1048476) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:19AM (#24669947)
    python seems to be the new perl - ie. a general purpose, scripting glue language. its small number of keywords and simple layout make it easier for the less technical minded to learn quickly.

    of course, many people will prefer to use perl because of its larger amount of add-ons and clever tricks.

    at work I use PHP a lot for many of my simulations and quick fixes, its really good for processing 2M line data files (try doing that with excel). I know its not what it was originally designed for, but it works for me.

    look on the bright side, perl will no longer be learnt by many people and in a few years legacy "perl coders" can command higher wages to work on "legacy system" - much like COBOL programmer do now (though there are less of them every year).

    I think this is the way it will always be, there will always be a simpler language to replace the old standards, and a new shiny technology that those who have managerial power but less technical knowledge can mandate from on high.

    so, what happened to java? I liked it, it never went away but seems to hover on the edge.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcvos (645701)

      python seems to be the new perl

      There's one big diifference, however: python is a well-designed, highly structured language. Perl sort of grew organically from a couple of scripting languages, and had OO pasted on later.

      Perl is probably brilliant for simple scripts, but should not be used for large programs. Python is very useful for large programs, however.

      so, what happened to java? I liked it, it never went away but seems to hover on the edge.

      On the edge of what? Java is the biggest programming language in the world today. It dominates the web and mobile phones, and although it's not quite as popular for desktop programs, i

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:00AM (#24670181)

        so, what happened to java? I liked it, it never went away but seems to hover on the edge.

        On the edge of what? Java is the biggest programming language in the world today. It dominates the web and mobile phones, and although it's not quite as popular for desktop programs, it's not uncommon there either.

        It's not a scripting language like Perl, however, so if your world looks like Perl, you may not notice Java that much.

        Your assertion that Java 'dominates the web' is laughable, as applets have been a near-total failure, replaced wholesale by Flash- and AJAX-based systems, while on the backend PHP, Perl and more recently Python and Ruby have eaten Java's lunch. Where Java has succeeded is on big iron and with corporate accountingware (it is the new COBOL, much as C# is the new VB), and on mobile phones (as you stated), with some moderate success on the desktop.

        • by mcvos (645701) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:43AM (#24670453)

          On the edge of what? Java is the biggest programming language in the world today. It dominates the web and mobile phones, and although it's not quite as popular for desktop programs, it's not uncommon there either.

          It's not a scripting language like Perl, however, so if your world looks like Perl, you may not notice Java that much.

          Your assertion that Java 'dominates the web' is laughable,

          No, it's your suggestion that applets are even relevant to this discussion that's laughable.

          Have you ever heard of servlets? Have you head of the dozens of web frameworks that run in them?

          You're living 10 years in the past. Right now, Java does dominate the web backend. PHP and Perl are hasbeens, and simply not suitable for the large scale web applications of today. Ruby is deifintely up and coming, but is still a long way from eating Java's lunch (though I'm sure that will happen someday -- I hope it will, because Java kinda sucks).

        • by Fross (83754) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:58AM (#24670533) Homepage

          Applets? This isn't 1998.

          If you missed it, this thred is about corporates. All the big players - governments, big iron (ibm, etc), large enterprise developers (logica, capita, etc), military and most cutting-edge science development projects, use Java for Enterprise-grade applications.

          Sure, the front-end desktop/browser embedded side is dominated by flash and ajax, with flex on the rise. But only small to medium development houses use much PHP and Python. Ruby is too new/too niche for now, and Perl *is* legacy, due to too few developers around, and no major new projects being written in it (Thank God).

          Thanks for playing, try again sometime.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by baest (763283)

        There's one big diifference, however: python is a well-designed, highly structured language. Perl sort of grew organically from a couple of scripting languages, and had OO pasted on later.

        You can argue that Perl's OO is pasted on, which is somewhat true, but that doesn't mean that it isn't powerfull. Try Moose [cpan.org]. Certainly OO is a thing being fixed in Perl6. Until that is available use Moose or try to realize that OOP isn't the only form of programming.

        Saying indirectly that Perl5 isn't well designed, just pisses me off. It grew organically, but changed during these years and got refined. If you keep to best practises, Perl code can be as readable as any language and even better as it is more

      • by Richard W.M. Jones (591125) <rich.annexia@org> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @07:24AM (#24671459) Homepage

        There's one big diifference, however: python is a well-designed, highly structured language.

        But still, dynamically typed so we get type errors at customer sites, slow, and memory hogging. (Also 'features' of Perl too). OO-paradigm, so clumsy to use. And the stupid whitespace thing means that patches get misapplied and it's very easy to accidentally misindent some existing code in the editor, not notice, then have the program do some totally different thing.

        Perl is probably brilliant for simple scripts, but should not be used for large programs

        That's complete nonsense. I personally have maintained 100,000-line Perl programs without problems. Divide the program up, factor out modules as libraries, do lots of testing and code reviews. It's really not that hard.

        Rich.

  • Why not Python? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Raul654 (453029) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:21AM (#24669959) Homepage

    At the risk of starting a programming language holy war, can someone explain to me why someone would choose to start a new project in Perl instead of Python? From what I've seen, they both do essentially the same things in the same ways, and they're both (roughly) the same as far as language overhead (from language interpretation) is concerned. But from a readability perspective, there's no question that Python is miles ahead. (Perl's readability, or lack thereof, is literally [bbspot.com] the source of jokes) In the long run, this translates into lower total development budgets, which is something businesses like to hear. So, why would anyone choose Perl over Python?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cheater512 (783349)

      Python's syntax pisses me off.

      I primarially program in Perl, PHP and C/C++ which all share virtually identical syntax.
      Makes it a lot easier mentally and you can still use the right tool for the job.

    • Re:Why not Python? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gullevek (174152) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:39AM (#24670065) Homepage Journal

      Very simple:

      * the user has deep knowledge of perl but not of pythong
      * the program needs certain libs that are easy available for perl but not for python
      * the user is not very keen on the syntax of python
      * there already exists a lot of perl code & libs that can be re-used and would need to be re-written to python

      whenever you start something from scratch in a different language you have to see if it pays off. If you already have tons of libs & classes and knowledge in one language there is no need to write it in another again.

      That's why I code my scripts still in perl, because I know what I am doing, I am fast, I get it done and I have classes that help me do the things I want to do. I see no reason why I should start again in python. I really don't have the time to re-do everything from scratch ...

    • by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerte AT drunksnipers DOT com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:12AM (#24670247) Homepage

      Reason is simple.
      Pearls are shiny and worth a lot.
      Pythons are scary, they can bite, and have venom and stuff.
      Rubies on the other hand are a viable replacement for pearl.

  • by Pecisk (688001) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:24AM (#24669971)

    Setting aside obvious reasons why corporate hats would hate anything they don't dig (tip: it is matter of control. Yes, they want to have possibility to fire you any moment without hesitation), Perl is powerful, but really hard language. Specially when it is written in hurry to complete some task. Without any shred of doc or help it is almost impossible to maintain for thirty party.

    Also, in broader picture, it is common problem with IT everywhere - nondocumented stuff which does system critical stuff is big no no. I know, lot of people see it as job security, but it is the same variation as terrorist has job security when it has hostages.

    If you want real job security, do your job properly, and you will get rewarded. And if there will be firings, they will happen in any case.

  • by Manip (656104) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:30AM (#24669997)

    Hmm let me think:
    - Few Perl Developers
    - Difficult (or impossible) to maintain
    - There are better alternatives
    - Easy to write badly difficult to write well (e.g. Language doesn't lend its self to good practices)

    Perl is a dying language and frankly it is easy to see why. The real question is what does Perl do better than the competition other than being older than my Dad and having a bunch of essentially pointless libraries?

  • Perl too readable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QX-Mat (460729) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:30AM (#24670003)

    People keep telling me that Perl is less readable than other languages, but i disagree. It's only less readable when you dont know the language specific semantics used - surely everyone remembers when they saw floor((float)i + 0.5) in C for the first time? It's no different to a perl programmer who uses @array = map { s/something/better/g } @data;

    While I must admit that if you code in perl like a one-liner guru, you're not going to make particularly managable code but not coding in perl has significient RAD drawbacks. In Perl I worry about one thing: variable tainting. In C and C++ I have to worry about tainted variables, constant index-off-by-one errors, the possibility of null pointers and null reference handling, libraries and linking.

    Some Perl programmers could do with more non perl experience to make their style managable. Perl 5 oop is a joke, and perl 6 is trollbait - but these aren't reasons why programmers shouldn't apply wider programming skills as a C/Jaava programmer uses their ADT knowledge and skill between langages.

    Matt

    • by Bryan Ischo (893) * on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:52AM (#24670137) Homepage

      I respectfully disagree. Which languages are easier to read and which ones are harder is of course obviously subjective. So maybe for YOU perl is easy to read. However, I myself have never, ever read or written (or written and then later read) perl code that was easy to read. There are lots and lots of very very small symbols which have very large effects on Perl code. Single characters can completely change the meaning of statements in perl. Sure that's true in many languages, but perl takes this problem to a whole new level.

      Perl will die if people in general find it to be too troublesome to write and maintain. I personally have been in that camp for years and years. This article suggests that this is a global trend, and I say, good riddance.

      C++ and perl are such different languages, that it's not really useful to compare them. They live in completely different parts of the programming language space. So it's not very useful for me to say that I find it much easier to write maintainable C++ code than perl code, even though it's true.

      One thing that really disappoints me about C++ is the direction that it's been heading for the past 5 or 6 years - "template programming". In fact it's about as bad as perl in terms of readability and maintainability, but much worse for debuggability. I can't think of any programming "language" worse than C++ template programming. I stay away from Boost and really hate what it's doing to C++.

      • C++0x (Score:4, Interesting)

        by js_sebastian (946118) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:35AM (#24670403)

        One thing that really disappoints me about C++ is the direction that it's been heading for the past 5 or 6 years - "template programming". In fact it's about as bad as perl in terms of readability and maintainability, but much worse for debuggability. I can't think of any programming "language" worse than C++ template programming. I stay away from Boost and really hate what it's doing to C++.

        I respectfully disagree. The direction C++ is heading, with C++0x, is awesome. With the next standard, error messages from compilation of templated code will become comprehensible, thanks to concepts. This will mean using complex stl classes will be as easy as using java generics. Of course, designing the STL will still be hard, but I for one do not have to do that.

        Also C++ will become viable for functional programming (which is possible but horrible nowadays) thanks to lambdas and closures.

  • by jjgm (663044) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:32AM (#24670011)

    The problem is, Perl is just a programming language, not a conceptual system. Arguably it is the antithesis of a conceptual system. Many teams then create their own application frameworks atop it (e.g. Mason, POE), and it's rare for these frameworks to be compatible since Perl offers so many variations in the construction of even standard programming artifacts like classes & objects.

    In addition, the level of expression (i.e. TMTOWTDI) means in practice that highly varying programming styles occur throughout large, long-lived bodies of code.

    As a result, significant Perl-based business applications tend to become hard-to-maintain hairballs of divergent style and subtly variegated concept.

    The root cause: as I started with; the absence of a standard conceptual framework for Perl means that during the early phases of a project, it's much harder to reason meaningfully about the eventual form of the system than it is with, say, Java or .NET where many of the design patterns are explicitly standardised.

    I wouldn't say that "Corporates Hate Perl". It's just the Perl as an application language doesn't suit the formal design & architecture process we're seeing increasingly as IT departments start to grow up and realise that they're not the most important people in the company.

    That doesn't disqualify Perl from being a useful tool, and it'll always have a place in data transformation, but it does mean that Perl isn't going to be one of the general-purpose application programming languages of the future.

  • by PinkyDead (862370) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:36AM (#24670041) Journal

    You have to migrate your badly written and hard-to-maintain Perl code into badly written and hard-to-maintain Java code as soon as possible.

  • by wyldeone (785673) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:39AM (#24670063) Homepage Journal
    While it's possible to write readable code in any language (well, maybe not Brainfuck [wikipedia.org]), and just as possible to write horrible spaghetti code in the same, Perl does not encourage clean, readable code like python or ruby (my preference.) As a result, nearly all of the perl code I've seen has been virtually indecipherable to anybody not a perl veteran. More modern scripting languages like ruby and python not only have "syntactical sugar" that allows complexities to be expressed more simply (and therefore, more readably) but in general discourage things like the perl super variables that radically decrease readability. Additionally, their object-oriented structure allows for more clear code organization, making 100,000+ line programs possible to understand (look at rails, for example; hundreds of thousands of lines of code, but readable for someone without great knowledge of the codebase).
  • by Skapare (16644) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:39AM (#24670071) Homepage

    This is an insult to associate us Perl-Haters with corporate types.

  • Writing bad code (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3NO@SPAMphroggy.com> on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:51AM (#24670133) Homepage

    As many others have pointed out, you can write bad code in any language. Perl makes it very easy to write terrible code, just as Perl makes it very easy to write just about anything else. There are other languages that place obstacles between you and the bad code you're trying to write - for example, Python won't let you not indent correctly, and Java won't let you not use OOP.

    When coding large applications, it is critical that certain coding standards are followed. Everybody has to play by the rules, and do things in a standardized way. Perl doesn't impose any of these rules for you automatically. If you choose not to self-impose any rules, your code will wind up being an unmaintainable mess. But no language can save you from that - if you write terrible code in Python, it's guaranteed to be nicely indented, but that doesn't mean it'll be maintainable. And, if you want to self-impose some rules to help keep your code clean, Perl Best Practices [google.com] will point you in the right direction.

    I highly recommend The Daily WTF? [thedailywtf.com]. Perl does NOT get a disproportionally large representation there.

  • by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @03:58AM (#24670171)

    Or, to put it another way, correlation is not causation.

    Perl has been around long enough (and, more to the point, was pretty much the only choice if you wanted a half-decent scripting language 10 years ago) that there's a strong chance in any business that badly-designed hard to maintain systems that have been around for 10 years or more include a fair chunk of Perl.

    That's not because of Perl, that's because they were badly done in the first place. I'm willing to bet that there's just as much code which is written in Perl and does a perfectly good job but nobody really knows about it because it's been sitting in the background doing a perfectly good job for so long.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arth1 (260657)

      That's not because of Perl, that's because they were badly done in the first place. I'm willing to bet that there's just as much code which is written in Perl and does a perfectly good job but nobody really knows about it because it's been sitting in the background doing a perfectly good job for so long.

      Until someone finds out it's written in perl, and launches a project to get it ported.

      In a company I worked for, that happened. A small perl script scanned all the web server logs, removed internal accesses

  • by MaX_3nTrOpY (629785) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:00AM (#24670187) Homepage Journal
    "I realized at that point that there was a huge ecological niche between the C language and Unix shells. C was good for manipulating complex things - you can call it 'manipulexity.' And the shells were good at whipping up things - what I call 'whipupitude.' But there was this big blank area where neither C nor shell were good, and that's where I aimed Perl."
    -- Larry Wall, author of Perl

    I rest my case.

  • I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RichiH (749257) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @04:01AM (#24670189) Homepage

    So, you are saying that someone, who is not specified, wants to move away from some program, which is not specified and written in Perl, to a solution based on a different language, which is not specified. You then speculate that this or might not be due to the grown & evolved nature of the unspecified program.

    How is this news? What do you actually want to tell us?

    Don't get me wrong, I love Perl. I simply do not understand why you would submit this to /. or why it would get approved. I am seriously confused.

  • by Hairy1 (180056) on Wednesday August 20, 2008 @05:06AM (#24670571) Homepage

    As a software manager what i'm interested in is developing quality applications. The biggest cost in software is maintenance. If a language is difficult to read by the original author it will be impossible to maintain by anyone else.

    I would consider Python because it encourages good design and readable code. Professionally I use Java because I can easily hire people who use it, and it also encourages good design and readable code, if a tad verbose.

    Perl is very consise, but also difficult to read. It turns into a maintenance nightmare, and there are far fewer developer who know Perl.

    Python is far better; it is more consise than Java, has similar OO features, is readable. It isn't quite up to replacing Java, but has impressed me and many other Java coders.

    Oh, and I have no sympathy for coders who think they are so cool being able to code in ways nobody else understands. I would rather see a slightly slower algorithm thats clear than a fast one that is unmaintainable.

    Complex code is the enemy of quality, as is premature optimization.

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