Sunday, January 07, 2007

One Way

I was reading "Programmers At Work" this morning while giving platelets and ran across this quote from Jef Raskin:
Most computer designers, for some reason, delight in providing many ways of doing something. If there are fifteen ways to do something, they think it gives you freedom. The fact is that most users don't use the majority of the commands on their word processors. There are a few that everyone uses. And even though they've read the manual and know it might be a little more efficient to use a special technique, they don't bother. They use the same ones every time.

I've seen this time and time again. I know I've even fallen for the "flexibility" fallacy where I should have been simple. The above can apply to not only user interfaces, but APIs and languages. It made me immediately think of Ruby.

Ruby falls prey to the "flexibility" vulture and it's even touted as one of its greatest strengths by some (Reason #7). You have two ways to define blocks ({}, do), various ways of constructing arrays (new Array, %w), and other things to make various programmers from other languages feel comfortable. I think Ruby itself needs to become more opinionated.

There's a lot of great things about Ruby that I'm proud that are finally getting into mainstream minds like dynamic typing, closures, and meta-programming. It's cool seeing all of the excitement. But, I think if Ruby wants to go further, it needs to trim some of the fat. Now, this fat might have made programmers from other languages more comfortable, but we need to lose it. I would like to see Ruby more lightweight, easier to parse (it's a nightmare), and of course more opinionated. But, I worry that with all of the activity that bad habits will continue. I'm worried about the future of Ruby because all of the forking and lack of a clear direction.

With all of the battles that Ruby has won, I would hate to see it fail because of sins to gain more acceptance. It's won that, now, let's make Ruby the best it can be.