The Java Seige Mentality

February 5, 2004 10:03 PM

Gavin King

In fact, what most amazes me about IT communities is the sheer ubiquity of argumentum ad hominem. I've always associated computing with the pursuit of understanding via scientifically inclined methodology. Yet most of the debate that occurs in the Java community consists of name-calling.

Alan Green is listed in a few public aggregators, Javablogs and pyblagg being the main ones. I must admit to finding the childish behaviour of some Javablogs denizens frustrating. Maybe I’m just an old fart. Or maybe I’m just not macho enough to program in Java.

pyblagg, on the other hand, is a delight. In general, the Python blogging community is full of interesting people, who are capable of expressing themselves clearly, who are polite and who can respect alternative points of view. Does the language rub off on the people or do the people rub off on the language?

Glenn Vanderburg

Also from RubyConf, one more answer to where we went wrong with J2EE, and Java in general. Matz -- the inventor of Ruby -- titled his keynote address How Ruby Sucks. Java folk have always taken the language too seriously. It's too late now -- it would incite an irrational panic among Java developers -- but we might be in a much better place today if, about five or six years ago, James Gosling had been able to deliver a talk about Java in that same spirit.

I think, to some extent, Java programmers suffer a seige mentality.

We're surrounded on all sides, you see. To C programmers, we're children who can't handle real complexity. To Smalltalkers and Lispers, we're misguided souls groping towards a better way, but trapped in the wicked grasp of Sun's marketing. To Perl and PHP nerds, we're too busy over-complicating things to ever get anything done. To Ruby and Python hackers, we're already dinosaurs. And to everyone, we're apparently the COBOL of the 21st Century.

Pretty much every other language has its niche. You can point at it and say that it's useful for this, or it pioneered that, or you'd use it in this circumstance. The only people who say anything like that about Java are, well, already Java programmers. C# programmers might look on Java as a slightly embarrassing parent, except we're the competition, and it's better to just not mention us at all.

I think that's what you get when your language was designed as a compromise between competing points of view, rather than striking out on its own path.

And like pretty much everyone who has nobody else to bully, we turn on each other. On a regular basis.

I'd be among the first to admit that Java has its flaws. Its design is a compromise, and it is thus compromised. But it still has a lot going for it: not the least of which being the quality of tool support and available libraries. And it is a language in which talented people can produce worthwhile software.

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