O'Reilly OSCON language round table

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I listened to the O'Reilly OSCON language round table last night, and
found it interesting, not because of the technical discussion of the
differences between the languages, but because of the dynamic
relationships between the languages. These are my general impressions.

The two clear 'winners' were Java and Python, not necessarily because
of what they could do, but they seemed to be everyone's second choice.
The Java rep (James Turner, I believe) admitted that Java didn't do
very well in the three areas (web apps, system scripts, and embedded
apps) the round table covered, but clearly demonstrated that Java is
the current choice because of its strong architectural features. The
Python rep (Alex Martelli) made an exceptionally strong case for
Python, but was clearly playing second fiddle to Java.

Perl didn't come off looking so hot, and I really don't know why.
There was a nostalgia factor -- everyone mentioned that they had
learned and used Perl, and everyone admitted that they used Perl for
particular tasks, but I got the impression that Perl's best days were
in the past. Even the Perl rep (Jim Brandt) couldn't work up any real
enthusiasm for Perl, although he pushed all the right buttons and made
all the good points.

The most mentioned language not on the list was C. All seemed to agree
that C was the language you used to get to the bare metal. Obviously,
C isn't a 'best' overall language for open source scripting, but it's
the bedrock that underlies all the languages.

Lisp got several honorable mentions as the Perfect Language that no
one uses. Lisp obviously isn't an open source scripting language (in
the sense of Perl, Python, or Ruby) and no one suggested that Lisp was
really useful in this regard, but every time someone mentioned Lisp it
was in the sense of an idealized language that 'real' languages
couldn't approach.

Overall, the round table wasn't as advertised, a forum to discuss the
'best' language. PHP clearly is the most popular in this regard, but
only because it's an easy entry. The PHP rep (Laura Thomson) felt that
this was so. If I had to rank the winners and losers based on the
overall tone of the discussion, I would rank as follows: (1) Java, (2)
Python, (3-tie) Perl, Ruby), (5) PHP. If I had to rank them in order
of ease-of-use and popularity in terms of open source scripting, I
probably would rank them in exactly the reverse order.


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