Re: parsability and human factors

"Derek M. Jones" <>
Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:44:30 +0000

          From comp.compilers

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Re: parsability and human factors (Derek M. Jones) (2015-02-07)
Re: parsability and human factors (glen herrmannsfeldt) (2015-02-08)
Re: parsability and human factors (Derek M. Jones) (2015-02-10)
| List of all articles for this month |

From: "Derek M. Jones" <>
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2015 12:44:30 +0000
References: 10-11-017 15-02-009 15-02-011 15-02-013 15-02-016
Keywords: syntax, design
Posted-Date: 10 Feb 2015 20:46:13 EST


  > The talk was titled "The Programming Language Wars".

and the answer is to invent another language!

  > is a list of some of the papers by the author, and
  > paper number 7 is one people might find interesting.

Most of this paper is based on two self reporting surveys,
the sort of thing pollsters use to rate public opinion.

The experiment that was run for the second part of the paper
looks very sloppy.

  > There is very little research into how people actually use features in
  > programming languages, though all designers seem to already know
  > without studying.

Some work is analyzed here:

There is a growing body of measurements of the use of programming
language features. Here is a very good one on the use of eval in

It is now common to encounter papers that measure stuff and arm
wave about finding power laws and how interesting this must be.
Sometimes they even check to see whether the data does in fact
follow a power law:

What is generally missing is any theory for the patterns seen.
A step up from arm waving here:
Of course developer decisions on what variables to use are not based
on probabilities, this is an emergent behavior of higher level, as
yet unknown, processes.

  > He did actual tests with both experienced and new programmers.

The academic definition of experienced is often very different from
that used by industry. It is common to hear third year undergraduates
labeled as experts and first year students as novices; industry would
regard them both as novices. As far as I can see in this paper
experienced subjects are the ones enrolled in computer science courses
and inexperienced subjects are those not enrolled in such courses.

Thanks for the pointer, but I have deleted my copy of this paper.

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