Antoine Kalmbach

Tales from software engineering

Focus

Focus is a design element in programming languages that I think deserves more attention than it gets.

A focused language puts emphasis on a set of coherent idioms. Multi-paradigm languages like C++ or C# are unfocused because they lack a certain principle.

Take C, for instance. You can do OOP in C, but it’s awkward. You need structures full of function pointers and the language wasn’t designed for it: it’s not a good idea to do it. The point is that you can but you shouldn’t.

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Imprecision and abstraction

What is the point of abstractions?

We want to hide things. We want to generalize things. We want to extend things.

Why are mathematical abstractions so intractable? Why is the Wikipedia page on functors incomprehensible to someone not used to mathematical formalisms? Why does it sound so vague?

When approaching abstractions, for educational purposes, it is sometimes easier to think of analogies or similes. We can conceptualize the idea of functors of “procedures” that operate on things inside “boxes”, or we can study relational algebra using Venn diagrams.

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Are my services talking to each other?

I am faced with an interesting thought experiment, which asks:

If I can see two of my friends, and I know they should be communicating to each other, what is the simplest way of making sure they are doing so?

Your first instinct is to look at them and listen. What if the communication method is subtler than that? What if you are, metaphorically speaking, deaf, and cannot eavesdrop on their conversation?

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