Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Nameless Imperial Troops of Statica Fire

In a galaxy far, far away..."AJavaGuy" writes:
    I ended up here from a Java blog pointing here. Your attempts at
    reading the minds of Java developers are not very successful. I want
    you all to pay attention and not take this badly, I'm going to try to
    help you understand this.

OK, here's the deal. I did java for 8 years. For three of those years, I was the lead architect on the projects I worked on. I came back to Smalltalk because I am more productive. Period. I was successful in java, but I can write more functionality in less time,bugs,programmers,hardware, and software in Smalltalk and I want to delight my paying customers. Smalltalk is freedom to do this. I know what I'm talking about when I speak of java. I'm not speaking from a point of view of ignorance. I have spent my share of time on your side of the fence. Have you ever done a project in Smalltalk? My original post was meant to be a rallying call to fellow Smalltalk developers to think of how we could spread the love of the language we adore. Your reply was meant to spread hate and knock us down. But, I'm always up for a good debate. So, I'll preface my comment the same: "pay attention and do nt take this badly" and I will be proud enough of my opinions not to stand cowardly behind some anonymous signature.
    The main reason most programmers dislike Smalltalk is *because of*
    the dynamic nature of the environment. If you hack away at your
    environment all the time, not only do you not get any work done (see
    "Macdinking" in the Jargon File), you end up shipping the workbench to
    the customer because your app won't run otherwise. Java IDEs produce
    code that can be run with a standard JVM.

Huh? Most java developers that I show Smalltalk to are astonished by the power we have over the environment. They are actually intrigued by the dynamicism of it all. Their complaints usally come from syntax and how foreign the environment seems (no files). All I ever ask from someone is to give me a chance to show them the power. If they decide not to use it, then I'm alright. I know I will not convert everyone. If java makes you more productive, then it's all within your right to use it. But, to say that my apps will not run because I'm shipping my workbench is ludicrous. In fact, I usually start with a clean image and then import my code before I deploy anything. In fact, I strip away all cruft I don't use in my code. Smalltalk allows me to work with a living system and that property allows me to write code faster. I spend very little time tinkering in the environment. I spend most of my time writing code to deploy to my clients. My code always runs and I'm continually delighting my customers with functionality beyond their wildest dreams. How can I do that? because I have time left over to give extra bells and whistles that make my customer's life easier or just plain more features.
    The few companies which ignore past experience and try Smalltalk,
    will try and only sometimes survive one experience with Smalltalkers
    producing code that can't be shipped to the clients, before deciding to
    use *any* other language next time.

The most successful projects that I have ever been on were all Smalltalk. Smalltalkers are the most productive programmers I have ever met. Name one company unsuccessful with Smalltalk and I'll bet it was never the environment or the language.
    Dynamic languages are also very easy to make mistakes in, if you're
    not incredibly careful with exhaustive test suites. Compiled languages
    are simply better for large-scale software engineering.

So, static typing allows you to make less mistakes? Wrong. We run our code a lot more often and without tests, I rarely run into a problem with types in Smalltalk. When will people learn that typing problems are small when compared to logical. So, you're paying a huge bill with very little safety in return. I know I will not convince you of this because I think it's a "religious" argument. We think of software construction differently. I think of it from a craftsman/artist point of view and you look at it from an engineering perspective. Our past experiences have shaped our beliefs. I've been very productive in dynamic languages and you in static ones. It seems you have had some really bad experiences with dynamic langauges. I am truly sorry. But, I've have had bad experiences in static languages. Let'e leave it at that. I will however still try to convert programmers who have open ears and minds. I am always on the lookout for something better than Smalltalk. I'm still looking and I hope to find it. I just know that java/C++/C#/etc ain't it for me.
    There's also a matter of taste--in the opinion of most programmers,
    Smalltalk is one of the most hideously ugly languages ever made. I know
    you don't agree, but you're a minority opinion. You have to consider
    the very real possibility that you're not normal.

If you mean most by C++/Java programmers, then yeah, they probably would think Smalltalk syntax is weird, but I wouldn't say ugly. I consider Smalltalk to have one of the most elegant and readable syntaxes available. If you ask most non-programmers, they can easily read Smalltalk and understand the code. I never had a client that would stand to look at java/C++.
    It's not a matter of ignorance. Basically every professional
    programmer knows Smalltalk, from reading Design Patterns if nothing
    else, and quite rationally chooses not to use it. Making a prettier GUI
    isn't going to change that. We're not idiots, and we're not shallow,
    and the pompous attitude that we are makes us treat you with contempt.
    We chose the best tool for the job, and it wasn't Smalltalk.

Cool...You choose your tool and I'll choose mine. We're both craftsman. We choose different tools to get our jobs done. I think it takes less materials and thought to get my job done with my tools. I have proof just click here for a comparison of the same functionality in Smalltalk and java. But, I don't believe I'll convince you, so you can continue to use your tools if you like. But, I believe I can beat you to market everytime with more functionality (and working).
    For aimless hacking on your desktop and producing prototypes,
    Smalltalk's fine. It's never going to be common in engineering, though.

Fine, let Smalltalk not be in corporations and common engineering. Let it flourish in companies that want the competitive advantage and don't want to be average. I never wanted to be common anyway. I WANT TO BE EXCEPTIONALLY SUCCESSFUL!. So, I'm sorry if my enthusiasm comes off as being smug, but I believe and stand behind what I say. In fact, I'm proud to say it and not hide behind some anonymous moniker. Have a good day.

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