Sunday, June 15, 2008

How to choose the best programming language

Inspired by a new blog-article "Best programming language" there are some more open points to discuss on how to choose the best programming language for life, universe and everything. Let me give 5 of them.

First things first: Is choosing the right language even remote possible? And if so, how can it be done? Well, to set things clear let's have a real-world-example: Which (spoken) language shall I learn to succeed at most? If it's only a matter of understanding and talking to the most people this would be chinese. Do you achieve your goals with that? Most probably not.

Why wise selection is necessary

You can speak with one billion people in case you choose to learn chinese, but you could not read this blog (in case you prefered learning chinese before learning english). And how many people in your neighbourhood do speak chinese? Is it worth learning (under respect of this argument)?

Choosing a programming language too depends on many factors which you have to name and select with care. You want to show the best performance in programming (be it in programming-speed, stability, scalability ...), here is how:

5. Complexity of setup is not counting for evaluation

So, setting up an environment to evaluate the new programming language will last one to two hours (or even more)? Be honest: Setting up a testing environment for two hours is more easy than living with a not at all appropriate programming language for the next 6 month on a eight-hour-per-day-working-base in your new project. And of course you have to think about administration workload later on (which too reflects in evaluation, of course), but there are tools, workflows etc. which, done right, may help you to get rid of this point. Test the availability of tools, too.

4. The most hyped language may not be the best to choose

What is a hype (spoken in language selection)? Well, there is a new language out in the market. All people talk how easy and neat it is to work with it. Pretty cool so far. The drawback is that these languages are not widely "broadcasted" out there, mostly information is sparse on both the language and the usage/projects done with it. Of course you may use it, but be sure not to see things through rose-colored glasses.

3. Programming for fun is one, doing a project the other thing

Think of team-working, releasing, "changing one little bit might affect many others (and how can I prevent/check this)". This will help a great lot in case the project gets bigger and you will have to hire new people.

2. Prototyping and "getting things done (as fast as possible)" is not your daily work

Of course, most bosses and clients want to see what you do as fast as possible. They are more eager to compare your work with their business plan than to hear "no, we are setting up servers/software/configurations - please stand by". But on the long trail, as a programmer, you only can win if your work is profound and, in best case, solves problem other peoples like your bosses and clients do not even think of now. Test your desired language(s) if they fulfill your own personal claims on that regard, then test the language if it serves well in a programmers team and client-centric manner.

1. A fool with a tool is still a fool

Do not blame the programming language if you run in first problems (at first sight). Search for other ways if your goal cannot be reached with your first shot. Use Google to find new ways and thoughts (a good test to show if enough people using it / documentation on how to use it is out there, too). And even if you used the language for some years and think that the new project does not fit to it, give it a try on Google/the community. There are other people who might help you to solve a brain-nut-problem, sometimes on-the fly.

Not sure what langauge to choose now?

Watch out! There are a couple of languages on the market. And there is no easy answer to this question, if someone provides you with an easy answer, be most careful! Evaluate some languages, program some more in the languages that reach the "inner circle" for you and never forget the old but true saying: Use the right tool at the right time.

Other "Thoughts on" and "how to" articles:
Related posts:

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