Thursday, October 12, 2006

RuPy, Snakes and Rubies, Night and Day

What is going on?

All around me I see people relating Python and Ruby. The communities seem somehow intertwined with their users, usages, and publicity. It seems like you can never find a blog that talks about one without the other, or a new frontier being tested by one of the "new" languages and not being explored by its counterpart. Where do people see this distorted similarity between two languages that are as different as night and day?

To Rubyist out there, don't take offense. I have far more experience with Python, than with Ruby, so I might sound biased. Please, take this as an honestly unbiased opinion. I'm just talking from the middle in this case.

Python stands out from most of the other languages around. Largely it is understood as "the language without brackets", but it is not entirely alone there. Ruby almost appears like a language extremist. Their core types have fifty million methods each, because if you expect it to be there, it should be there. Python is important, because it explores the methods a language can encourage good coding practices onto developers. Ruby is vital, because it explores interesting constructs like continuations and compact code forms utilizing their quirky syntaxes. Both might have their place, but they are far different places. Python is unassuming. It will take nothing for granted, such as not taking for granted that you wanted a method call, not a call to a function in some method. Ruby is assuming. It understands the difference between objects and types, just based on the casing of the name.

Fuzzyman states a similarity between the languages, but can this be taken as anything more than common usage? We can see an assumption of similarity across both communities, but nothing really ties them together anymore than any languages are connected by virtue of all being languages.

I've been known at times to seem like a Python zealot and anti-PHP/Perl/Ruby, but in this case I'm setting that aside and I want to state very clearly: these two languages are not similar. They are very different beasts, with more differences than anything else. The illusion of a relation between Ruby and Python only harms both of them. We have people asking for continuations in Python constantly, when they are a great idea in Ruby, but would not likely work well in this very different environment. Rubyist get attacked by a barrage of Rails killing Python projects, trying to take their steam.

Shouldn't we go our separate ways?

3 comments:

Manuzhai said...

You see, while Ruby and Python indeed have their differences, they really have more similarities. (I haven't worked with Ruby myself, but I've somewhat followed some of the rubyists.) Both are dynamically but strongly typed languages with quite large standard libraries. This sets them apart from most other languages, for example, Ruby and Python are not functional, are interpreted, not compiled and have dynamic typing, not static typing.

This makes them close relatives! Even while their are important syntactic differences and even differences in philosophy, Ruby and Python still are, as programming languages go, closely related.

Anonymous said...

Can't we just all love one another? ;-)

They're different.. they're different. but they do share a lot of similarities. And I love the cross-pollination that's going on, and the competition is helpful for both communities as long as it doesn't devolve into mean-spirited bickering.

The request to get continuations, even if it might be largely irrelevant (I think you have a point) is a good example of the challenges that will help Python (and Ruby) gain new converts and ultimately improve.

So while I think your post was really about "why can't we all get along", it bears repeating: this is good stuff, so long as we get along while we're doing it. Like Windows and Linux, the competition improves both platforms, unless the competition becomes unfair.

(And, to all the Python people out there, we already know who's winning.) (And, to all the Ruby people out there, we already know who's winning.)

;-)

-j

schuyler said...

I think your examples indicate two answers. Python's principles of easy code-reading means keeping out continuations. In this way, Ruby and Python should stay separate.

I think the copying of Rails into Turbogears, Django, etc. is related to the problem space: both Ruby and Python are used on the web where MVC projects create similar problems (maintaining templates, etc).

In fact, I think a lot of the cross-polination is going on in the web application problem space.

I write here about programming, how to program better, things I think are neat and are related to programming. I might write other things at my personal website.

I am happily employed by the excellent Caktus Group, located in beautiful and friendly Carrboro, NC, where I work with Python, Django, and Javascript.

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