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An Apology

Deven T. Corzine
December 18, 2000 08:59
An Apology
Message ID:

I'm sorry about the recent commotion over minor aspects of regex design and
implementation.  I stumbled into being the most active participant in an
argument nobody wanted, myself included.  I realized too late (and with the
help of a friend) that I had been arguing for a _declarative_ viewpoint,
against a prevailing iterative viewpoint.  It turns out to be much more
difficult to convey the declarative viewpoint clearly and precisely.

I still consider the declarative viewpoint to be perfectly valid, but I now
realize that it's merely a different (and minority) perspective.  I made
the initial mistake of assuming everyone saw the same thing I did, and the
further mistake of believing that the declarative viewpoint was preferable.
I realize now that which is preferable depends on your frame of reference,
and it's obvious now that the iterative viewpoint is the prevailing one.
(That may be the result of indoctrination as much as natural inclination,
but the fact remains.)  What seems intuitive from _each_ viewpoint also
seems counterintuitive from the other one, a good formula for dissension!

While I never assumed that the behavior would necessarily be changed (since
historical precedent and/or implementation issues might be compelling), now
I believe that it should remain as it is, because it's harder to understand
the way I suggested, and changing the behavior could prove disruptive to
the programmer's confidence in his/her ability to predict the proper match.
(Also, the C-style comment matching example convinced me that there _can_
be true utility in the current behavior, which I hadn't considered...)

Many people were quick to jump to conclusions and misinterpret my questions
about the design as ignorance.  I guess I got a little defensive because of
that, and responded to more messages than was wise.  I was surprised by the
reaction I received, since with Perl's motto (TMTOWTDI), I rather expected
divergent viewpoints to be not only accepted, but welcomed!

Maybe that was a naive expectation.  Or maybe I just did a miserable job
trying to explain the idea I was trying to convey.  I wish I had thought
of the declarative/iterative dichotomy earlier; my friend was the one who
managed to label them for me.  That brought the controversy clearly into
focus for me, and made me realize that the perspectives were different,
with neither inherently better than the other.  That's when I realized that
I had a personal preference for the declarative viewpoint that I didn't
notice as such, and decided it was a mistake to argue this to begin with.

I suppose I'm now tarred as the villain here, since I started the thread
and (because most replies were directed at me) ended up the most active
participant in this argument that got blown entirely out of proportion.
I hope people can look beyond that, and not prejudge me from one incident.
Only time will tell...

Sorry for all the trouble.  If anyone wants to discuss this issue further,
I'll only do it in private at this point; I don't want to further annoy
anyone on this list with the topic, even if anyone DOES want to continue!


P.S. For anyone curious about the "sleep debt" thing I mentioned before,
I'll recommend reading "Sleep Thieves" by Stanley Coren.  It's interesting
and presents some good evidence to suggest that Americans are particularly
sleep-deprived in general, that it's a dangerous and less-productive state,
and that we probably ought to be getting 9-10 hours of sleep, not the 7-8
hours that society deems "normal"...  (I too often get 6 hours or less!)

P.P.S. With my luck, it will probably turn out to have been a mistake to
send this message also.  Since I can't win anyway, I might as well send it. Perl Programming lists via nntp and http.
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