Subject: Re: looking for a language with any of the following 4 charachteristics (all 4 would be nice). From: Erik Naggum <email@example.com> Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 22:16:14 GMT Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> * Eric Moss <email@example.com> | Addressing the parentheses phobia, which I see in other students in my AI | course, I say several things. I wonder if it is the parentheses or the enclosing delimiter. For some time, now, I have been trying to understand how people react to Lisp, and something occurred to me some tima ago that was recently reinforced. In almost all other programming languages, parentheses are actually painful, or symptoms of something painful. E.g., in those stupid infix syntaxes, you need parentheses when the precedences of the operators you want to combine are not related the way you want them to be. So the parentheses become a means of resolving a conflict between the language and your needs. In C-style languages, where type casts are necessary due to the retarded type system, parentheses are used to resolve a conflict between what the language thinks should be the type of something and what you want it to be. The number of parentheses thus correlate with the level of complexity, and the level of complexity with how hard it is to grasp. The only "neutral" parentheses are those used in function calls. The rest of the delimiters serve different purposes and also look different. However, in (Common) Lisp, parentheses are the only game in town (well, this is not true, but to the extent they are, bear with me), and all the emotionsl responses to parentheses-as-pain-indicators from languages that the programmer may have been previously exposed to come right back at him at a very low level of consciousness. Any thinking person would observe his reaction and think about it, but thinking peopla are never a problem. Those who only react and feel that something must be wrong with all the parentheses, may have a very particular reaction to parentheses. I have had occasion to exploit this recently to test the hypothesis. < and > are accetable delimiters these days, so I changed the reader and printer to use them instead of ( and ). (The only practical problem was that symbols with < and > in them needed to have that character escaped.) Presented to two people who had previously been negative to Lisp, one of them thought it was OK, now, the other went "you can't trick me into liking Lisp". Presented to three people who were predicted to have a strong dislike of parentheses, but had not had prior exposure to Lisp, all three found it interesting, and one thought the parentheses of the original code looked silly when presented with it -- the others quickly figured out what the point of the exercise was, but did not react with hostility to the parentheses. I found only one person whom I thought would not be hostile to parentheses, but he was hostile to all the HTML crap, instead, effectively being more annoyed with <> than with (). This, of course, serves no useful statistical purposes, but I do not want to run a research project on this. I would like to experiment with working with this syntax for a while just to see how I think it works, however. It might actually be the easiest way to get around the parenthesis "perception problem". /// 2002-02-12 -- In a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none. In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief.