Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Unexpected Insight

Way back when I was a newish programmer, I discovered something that probably every programmer has discovered: explaining the problem you're stuck on to somebody else will often cause the penny to drop and you'll see the answer quite clearly just because you have articulated the story for the other person. It turns out that this effect is not limited to solving programming puzzles.

Just the other day, I wrote about my decision to return to Python, specifically Python 3.2+, for my next software project and I articulated some reasons for that decision. Telling my small blog audience about that was a catalyst.

Yesterday, while working on something not connected with software, I became aware that I was unhappy about something. I let that awareness sit for a couple of hours while i completed my task and then sat down in a comfy chair to reflect.

What became clear to me was that I was unhappy about the Python decision. One of the goals of my recent research into programming languages was that I felt the urge to learn a new language. Not just any new language, but a language that would introduce me to some aspect of programming that was not familiar to me. While Python 3 is a new language for a Python 1.2 programmer, it's not really a new language and doesn't involve the kind of learning I had in mind. And so, if I just focus on Python, I'll certainly be able to write some software, but I won't get the mental stretch I was looking for.

Further thought has given me a new plan. I will still learn the latest Python incarnation properly and keep up to date with it, because it seems likely that Python's ease of use, wide applicability and the excellent local Python community are all things that will make it a useful language for me to employ for quite some time. But I will continue my study of some functional languages, excluding Erlang for the reasons I gave the other day, focusing on Haskell and Clojure for the time being. One new idea that came out of my latest thinking is that it might be smarter for me to devote smaller bits of time more regularly to my study rather than trying to read several pages of a dense textbook in one sitting.

I need to keep reminding myself that one of the principal goals is for this to be enjoyable. Hopefully, this two-pronged approach that allows me the time to get comfortable with two or three languages together will produce the result I'm looking for.

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