I was very curious whether the way you think and act is directly related to the language you speak. I did some Bing search and stumbled on few blogs which mentioned about the lack of left or right in a language called Kuuk Thaayorre. They have to refer everything in terms of cardinal/ordinal directions. There were interesting examples in Scientific American. I was impressed by the fact that in the language Kuuk Thaayorre it is impossible for someone to refer something without knowing the direction. This forces them to be oriented always and that is because of the language they speak. It even affects the way people think about time and space, the English say the future is ahead and Chinese say the future is down there or the English say it is a long day and the Chinese say it was a big day. So a person’s thinking is influenced by the language s/he speaks.
Will these be applicable to programming languages? Is a programmer’s thinking influenced by the first language s/he learns? It seems it could be true. I observe that Java as a language did not change much (faster) but polyglot programmers have contributed to bring in efficiency and elegance which they learnt while using other languages. An example which I also stated in my older post (Don’t make me think) is LambdaJ, which helps in writing expressive code in Java when working with collections while not worrying about writing obvious for-loops. Frameworks like Roo help us to avoid mundane Java boilerplating and concentrate only on functionality. There should be many more out there which has helped Java developers but influenced by the features of other languages and frameworks.
A programming language has an option to keep growing through upgrades unlike the spoken languages. I am not sure why a spoken language need to be restricted from acquiring parts from other languages. I am the one who missed asking the question “How manyeth candy are you having?” when I started learning English. It took me a while to understand how to ask similar questions when I had to translate from Tamil to English.
Which developer thinks better? Java or Ruby or C#…..?
EDIT: Some bloggers pointed me to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapir-Whorf_hypothesis and http://lambda-the-ultimate.org/node/1067#comment-11228
Is abstraction is what which makes code look smaller, simple and easy to understand? I was looking for the dictionary meaning of the word abstract and found that abstraction is some thing like “You flip the switch and light comes on”; as an end user I do not worry about the internals as long as I flip the switch the light comes on. While this is very applicable for the end user what about the electrician?; does he need to deal with this level of abstraction? The electrician needs to have an understanding of the internal wirings and the load the switch is capable of handling, in order to maintain or make repairs.
In software world I have observed something similar, whenever my peers refer to bring an abstraction, mostly they meant to find a word to compress the steps of doneness. Abstraction means you as a developer becoming an end user of a part of the solution, where you do not need to worry about the internal workings. Compression is finding a term to represent the entire process underneath which will be commonly understood by all the developers. An analogy of this to a restaurant kitchen is the word ‘marinate’ is not an abstract term, every one in the kitchen understands this and the chef merely has to say “marinate the meat for 20 mintues, use the secret sauce”. The situation would be different if the process of marination is automated and you have a machine to do that, in that case the staff is end user of that process and not part of it and hence s/he is abstracted from what marination is.
What holds good in a regular development life cycle, abstraction or compression?
Richard Feynman illustrated a point about involvement and productivity in the book “Surely you are joking My Feynman”. There was a big team of physicists working with every possible resource available to create the atomic bomb. As part of the project they were supposed to do tons of calculations and hence hired the best mathematicians in the country and placed them along with expensive computers to churn the necessary calculations out. Since the project was top secret, the mathematicians just received the problems; in spite of their level of expertise, the performance was found to be too mediocre.
Feynman took the tough decision of disclosing the project secret to enhance their productivity and convinced his superiors to help him to do so. He got a buy in and went ahead in explaining about the nature of the project and why it is necessary for them to come up with the bomb before any other country comes up with their own. As expected by him he found the productivity to increase many folds when they knew the end goal and its importance. His idea of treating them not just as a facility for mathematics but involve them to be as part of the project has paid rich dividends. He has observed that the mathematicians became very inventive to make use of the limited availability of the computers and took extreme care to iron out inefficiencies.
This is a real life incident and I have also heard many times about “difference between laying the bricks and building the cathedral”. In the software building world, the bigger picture never gets painted to the entire team and often the talent is overrated than how the job can be taken to the finish line. Unless every one in the team has a strong sense of ownership towards the goal, the peak performance never occurs. Getting the whole picture can also give an illusion of a time consuming activity, but benefits out weigh the time spent on that activity.
What would happen if the captain of the football team need to yell to every one the field on what to do next, wont it be a terrible team to play with?