Posted: Mar 13, 2012 9:51 am
by VazScep
mizvekov wrote:That premise is worded quite strongly, but I can't really disagree with a weaker version of it.
It's quite difficult to match all those pesky parentheses to their closing ones :smile:
I just never really bought that. For starters, no serious Lisp user would dream of Lisp hacking without a facility to highlight matching parentheses. (go to Options->Paren Match Highlighting in Emacs). And with decent syntax highlighting and appropriate indentation, I never found readability an issue in Lisp. That's not cheating: every language cares about appropriate indentation and syntax highlighting, and I always have paren-match highlighting turned on when hacking in ML or Haskell.

In fact, when I'm tallying my shopping lists or budgeting, I tend to use Lisp so that I can write in this style:

Code: Select all
(+ (* 2 37) ; beans
    400      ;detergent
    127      ; meat
    1000    ; extremely expensive cuisine that helps make this look less of a student's shopping list

and because of Lisp's syntax, I can put my cursor at the end of subexpressions such as (* 2 37) and evaluate just that part by hitting C-x C-e.

This is probably not much of an argument. I am, after all, stupid enough to think that Emacs and xmonad make me substantially more productive than someone using the latest gimmicks from Apple.

On a more serious note, I think LISP underutilizes our ability to remember lots os symbols and to map names to things, while it abuses our capacity to keep track of nesting.
Well, that's the sort of argument I was up against. The problem is that it, even as someone who has ditched Lisp and never looked back, this doesn't match my experience at all. I just never had the sort of problems people complain about, and so my suspicion is that the complaints can be explained in other ways (such as a simple case of not getting used to it). On the other hand, I don't see any empirical evidence (or any clue how you would reliably gather it) that Lisp really is difficult for humans to read.

It is also worth mentioning that John McCarthy never intended Lisp programmers to write s-expressions directly. The s-expressions were supposed to just represent the parse trees, and an alternative m-expression syntax would be built over the top. In questioning Lisp's design choice here, it is always worth remembering that when given the choice, the Lisp users favoured the s-expressions over the m-expressions, and so the m-expression syntax was forever scrapped.

Hope I am not starting a flamewar here :grin:
So long as I'm sober, I can probably keep my emotions under control :drunk: