Sunday, July 24, 2011

Stop hating Java 2

This post is in response to Andrzej on Software/ Stop hating Java post. I support most of the ideas Andrzej expressed in that post. Think of this post as continuation. This is my brain dump on things that was sitting somewhere in the back of my mind for some time and Andrzej's post jolted it out.

Ruby developers are prone to cults (observation).
It is interesting to see that Ruby developers (most people I worked with are good smart guys)  seem to have all drank several cool-aids: Ruby/Rails/Apple MBPs/IPhones/TextMate. They are "green", look to be "democratic", wear sloppy clothes, and are "laid back". They certainly fall into a few stereotypical descriptions. They religiously follow another big gorilla (Apple), whose policies are even more tight than that of Microsoft. What is more interesting is that we were able to pinpoint a Ruby developer in a group photo shot! Overall, I'd say because Ruby developers are prone to cult-like behavior, they miss a bigger picture sometimes. For them if it is not Ruby, it must be crap. Ruby developers are sometimes categorical to the extend bordering adolescent behavior. I think it is generally a human thing to resists other peoples' opinions and change. (note to self: Ruby developers are humans :)).

Any platform will do
Most people dislike languages they do not use, and Ruby developers are not exception. However, any language/platform can be used to build excellent piece of software, and there are many examples of that. Most all (as someone mentioned on Andrzej's post comments) think that PHP is crap, but although I'm not a PHP developer, I enjoyed this post from MailChimp, who has proven that if you have a brain you can build a great system ... even in PHP:) -

How Java screwed up royally
  • Standards - the biggest flop in the Java history was Java Enterprise. This does not require any explanation, I hope. Standards are a plague of Java. They are designed to make different implementations together, but this is not happening. Instead, they take years to "standardize", when Internet years are even shorter than dog years. There is a handful of low level good standards: JDBC, Servlets, JMS, but the rest is just a waste of time.
  • Trying to circumvent standards - Spring/XML mess. Spring came to mass market some time  in 2003, and spread like wild fire (due to complexity of JEE). I personally do not like Spring and try to avoid it at all costs (same goes for JEE). Spring projects are messy, impossible to debug, and tend to grow like a cactus: in all directions.
  • Way of thinking that if you have a hammer(Spring/XML) in your hand, every problem looks like a nail (your project).
  • Popularity of Java sucked a lot of people into the Java world who should not be there (maybe they should not even be in IT in general). I'd argue that when (if ever) Ruby becomes as popular, it will get all the problems Java has: boring business applications, millions of lines of unmaintainable legacy code, army of non-talented and non-passionate developers, corporate culture,  heavy management, etc.
  • Java developers are ostriches - they keep their heads in the Java sand and are afraid to look around.
Ruby would be in obscurity if not for Rails
Ruby developers say they have things other than Rails. I'd say this is BS. All things non-Rails came about to support Rails in one form or another. I think that Rails undoubtedly made Ruby famous. Rails is a Ruby killer application. Ruby is actually older than Java by a year or two, but has been in obscurity all these years until Rails came along. If it were possible to predict a different past, I'd say that if DHH used PHP for his projects and never wrote Rails, the world as we know it would associate the word ruby with a precious stone, rather than a programming language.

My History of Rails experience
I worked on a website project for Sears that was all Java, but slowly became a blend of Java and Rails. When this was happening, the project was joined by a number of good Ruby developers. While we had disagreements and arguments, I adopted a strategy to learn as much as I could from these folks, and about Ruby/Rails thing. As it turned out, there was much to learn and so I did. In the process, I also saw that many good things in Rails can certainly be implemented in Java, to the benefit of Java community.

What I did to make Java developers happier
Needless to say, I like Rails for its productivity and think that the Rails way of conventions and style of web development is(was) better than anything I knew in Java. So, I waited for someone to do cross-pollination and implement these ideas in Java. And then I waited some more. After a 2 - 3 year wait, I realized this is not happening, and decided to take the initiative in my hands. I wrote JSpec with DSL similar that of  RSpec, ActiveJDBC - implementation of ActiveRecord in Java, and ActiveWeb - dynamic web framework similar to Rails. I manage a team of 10  developers and we have a mixed environment Rails/ActiveWeb/ActiveJDBC and about 10 commercial websites/batch applications. All new sites are built with Active* stuff, and I can attest that developer productivity in Java are the same as using Rails.

What I seriously miss in Java
Closures! Of all the stupid useless language features that Sun has been adding for years (generics for instance - only a madman can understand their syntax), they
missed the boat with closures, the one and only feature I genuinely miss. Closures certainly would make all the callbacks and stupid inner anonymous  classes go away - and this will be the biggest contribution to making Java more readable. IN addition, closures would make most Java APIs concise and easy to use, as Groovy has already done by adding a ton of methods to JDK classes.

Message to haters
It seems that people who start sentences with: "I hate..." have constipation or something. My advice: take some Metamucil, after that a few beers with friends, and then surprise people you know by always starting with: "I like ...".

Whew, if you are reading this sentence, you are one patient person! All these Java vs Ruby vs .NET vs PHP [plug your abbreviation here] discussions are water under bridge. People call Java Cobol of the day. I'd say that if a Java program runs a business for 30 - 40 years, it is a huge success. Who knows what languages we will be using 30 - 40 years from now? So far, we have a good selection, let's enjoy!