Ringo Starr and Willy Sutton On Programming Languages

Ringo Starr:

I didn't play drums to make money. I played drums because I loved them. [...] It was a conscious moment in my life when I said the rest of things were getting in the way. I didn't do it to be [be]come rich and famous, I did it because it was the love of my life.

When asked why he robbed banks, Willy Sutton is purported to have said he did so because "that is where the money is". Mr Sutton set the record straight for his biographer:

I never said it. [...] Why did I rob banks? Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life.

Money moves job indexes. But where the following for a language is only cash-driven, that following may become as broad as the ocean, but it will never be more than a millimeter deep. And it will dry up the moment the cash disappears.

CPAN and Perlmonks would not exist if people did not love to write and use Perl. Do other languages have similar things? The extent to which they do is the best indicator of how much people love to write code in that language.

The funny thing about following what you love and ignoring the money -- it's at least as likely to make you money as focusing on money. Mr. Starkey made a dime or two drumming. Mr. Sutton's record was more mixed, but this can be attributed entirely to the unusually heavy regulatory burden imposed on his calling.

What about companies with large investments in custom code? What about the interests of their shareholders? That's more than a fair question -- it's an important one.

But how much sense does it make to lock an investment into a technology, the first and last thought of whose practitioners is how much can they can squeeze you for? How much sense does it make to lock an investment into a technology that is avoided by those who do quality work, not for money, but for its own sake?

There are other languages which are very serious competitors to Perl. Python has its attractions. And there are people who both love what they do and very much know what they are doing who prefer Python. But the real balance of power between the Python and Perl will never show up in a job index.

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About Jeffrey Kegler

user-pic I blog about Marpa, my parsing algorithm, and other things of interest to techies.