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Estimating the size of the ocaml community
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Date: 2005-02-03 (21:16)
From: Thomas Fischbacher <Thomas.Fischbacher@P...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] Estimating the size of the ocaml community

On Thu, 3 Feb 2005, Frédéric Gava wrote:

> > Anyway, this leaves us with a very interesting question: how many people
> > actually do believe in the value of Ocaml? I, for myself, use it whenever
> > it is the most appropriate tool for a job (usually, when portability is
> > an issue). This is sometimes the case, but more often than not, LISP
> > turned out to be a better choice for what I do.

> What kinds of programs code with LISP could not be implemented (easely)
> using Ocaml ?

There are quite a few things which I don't like at all about ocaml:

(1) I by far do not have the flexibility in extending the language with 
own syntax which I have in Lisp.

(2) Speaking of syntax, there's a lot of unnecessary cruft in virtually 
any language besides LISP (or rather, Scheme).

(3) The type system is annoying. People claim it helps catching errors, 
but my impression is it only catches those which I would never make 
anyway. On the other hand, I cannot just have e.g. a function like 
POSITION-IF that returns a number or nil. (Either one has to work with 
exceptions, or wrap things up using the Maybe monad. Exception techniques 
may interfere badly with tail recursion in some cases.)

(4) There are a few other minor issues, such as a lack of 
multiple-value-bind, which I personally find slightly annoying, but 
not essential.

(5) It does not behave as expected wrt module interfaces, as these include 
md5 sums over source.

(6) I cannot easily COMPILE a function to fast machine code from the REPL.

(7) I cannot easily (format t "DEBUG: compsite-thingy-bla-now-is ~A~%" bla).

(8) There are quite some instances where Ocaml's syntax is 
counter-intuitive to the extent of becoming a source of ugly mistakes, 
due to interference with conventions people are used to from other 
languages. I do not talk about (p,q) as x vs. x as (p,q) (or x@(p,q)) - 
as everyone else (e.g. SML, Haskell) does it, but rather about issues 
like for x=0 to 3 counting 0,1,2,3, or "\010" meaning "\x0a" instead of 
"\x08", and such.

(9) It really annoys having +, +., and +/. Furthermore, it seems a bit 
inconsistent, as on the other hand, we have e.g. < and not </.

I know quite well that some people will consider some of these points 
actually as "good" features, and think the "problems" I face can be traced 
back to me being quite misguided about programming in general. For sure, I 
should not expect Ocaml to be LISP, as it isn't. But I don't do that. :-)

It's only that I experienced a few things in LISP as quite nice, and am a 
little bit annoyed when I cannot use them. But only a little bit. ;-) 
Still, Ocaml also has a few niceties that are missing in LISP. After all, 
it is still among my favourite languages. C++, Java, JavaScript certainly 
are not.

regards,               tf@cip.physik.uni-muenchen.de              (o_
 Thomas Fischbacher -  http://www.cip.physik.uni-muenchen.de/~tf  //\
(lambda (n) ((lambda (p q r) (p p q r)) (lambda (g x y)           V_/_
(if (= x 0) y (g g (- x 1) (* x y)))) n 1))                  (Debian GNU)