Worst ideas/features in programming lang

Ola Fosheim Grøstad ola.fosheim.grostad at gmail.com
Wed Oct 27 18:35:24 UTC 2021

On Wednesday, 27 October 2021 at 17:41:40 UTC, Basile B. wrote:
> I'm a bit surprised by the results of these studies. I'd say 
> that what people prefer actually does not matter because they 
> dont necessarily have in mind the consistency criterion 
> mentioned earlier.

My phrasing may have been a bit imprecise. The students were 
asked to rank the phrases as to how well they thought they 
matched up to the concept. So, basically, how intuitive they 
found them. They had C++ experience.

> (side note: there's actually a proglang, Quorum, that has part 
> of the design bassed on surveys !)

Yes, I found some papers on that one too! It appears to have been 
developed for blind programmers (?!), but has been adopted more 
widely in teaching.

I also found a paper that created and played melodies when 
debugging programs so that you could hear how the program 
executed. I assume this means that you could hear when a loop was 
exited, a branch was taken etc.

Surprising things to be found when looking around! Unfortunately 
there has been very few controlled usability studies of 
programming language designs... I found a presentation that 
claimed there has only been 22 studies (over 50 years?).

> What's important is that the compiler should prevent reasoning 
> errors, just like when AssignExp is rejected if used as 
> condition.

I think there are many aspects to focus on. I'll keep it short 
here. Some dimensions I think are relevant:

* learnability: how intuitive and natural is the syntax?

* retention: how easy is it to remember what you have learned 
(consistency, mnemonics etc)?

* skimmable: how good impression of what goes on do you get by 

* legibility: how quickly do you get a correct understanding of 
what goes on when reading?

* error prevention: is the syntax resistant to typos that go 

Clearly "and"/"or" is more resistant to typos than "&&"/"||", and 
also more skimmable with high learnability/retention (especially 
for "or").

But, if you don't allow implicit conversion to/from bool then the 
compilation stage should catch most such typos in the type 
system. So the impact of syntax also depends on language 

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