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Crossroads on Languages

Recently, I’ve been distracted by reading Paul Graham’s essays as a result of a Tim Bray posting.

My interests have been serious piqued as a result of one of his themes of using Lisp to write web applications. As a higher order language, the theory is that programmers will be more productive and that given the types of programmers who learn Lisp, you can attract better programmers.

It is a very interesting argument. Something that I’ve been giving lots of thought. My interests at the moment are in learning to write native Mac OS X applications. Python fell in my lap as an option mostly due to my background in Miranda and then the more popular (and powerful, useful, free) Haskell.

Part of my motivation behind learning Cocoa programming has been to write a native application that talks to a web based back end. For some tasks, I’m still not convinced that a web browser is the Right Thing, regardless of how much AJAX code you put in place. This is why the Cocoa apps I’ve been writing have typically avoided building their own data layer. One is built on regular expressions and the other on Address Book and iCal.

The bit I’ve been avoiding is writing the back end. Past experiences on this have been in Perl, which is useful, but I just don’t like. I’d rather not have to put $ signs everywhere.

Python seems to have the clean aspect and enough libraries for doing things so I’d been assuming that I’d use Python for the back end too. However, most of my thinking in Python is really derived from my Haskell days, so why not write the back end in Haskell?

I also may have been distracted somewhat by a few other developments such as Ruby on Rails and Django, as even with a thick client in Cocoa talking to a back end, in this day and age, an application really should have a web based version too.

Investigation has also gone into using XUL as it is both web based, cross platform and somewhat richer than AJAX.

All in all, it is a happy time to be in where there is such a wide range of equally valid choices. It now comes down to a question of tradeoffs.