Friday, March 28, 2014

JavaScript hype, code ninjas and why does it hurt

After watching some young IT guys in the office, spending the last weeks in jQuery hell, and reading Lincoln Baxter III's article on JS vs Perl and talking to some similar-aged guys, I think I'm starting to understand that this is a generational thing really. Mind you, I'll only turn 31 in a few weeks...

The problem is, JavaScript ain't bad, it's just not good. And it fully supports making it worse. It's been almost 20 years that it popped up us a good idea, needing a lot of refinement, but it managed to stick around. It would be okay to write some small functions in it, but writing full-blown applications like Google Docs or Facebook in a high-level script language? There's a reason we never did that in .bat files either...

On the other hand, as Lincoln points out, JavaScript is superior to any other clientside languages by the virtue of existence. There's nothing else out there: VBScript died, Flash is going away fast, the new things are in development. Normally, high level languages don't really survive 20+ years, or at least not without major refactoring.

It doesn't really help that our new startup-hype culture now worships programmers as code ninjas and other ridiculous names: it's getting into the heads of these cool kids. It seems like a good idea to name their function a dollar sign, or their method an underscore, because it's short and cool. I'm kinda thankful that the full UTF32 set or Wingdings is not permitted for use...

Why might this be a problem? I'm a sysadmin and as such, I'm trying my best to make things work: debug stuff, help developers deploy their apps, the works. I need to debug all kinds of languages, which isn't really a problem, as there's a few control structures and functions to any language, mostly in English. Debug PHP, Perl, Python, even Ruby? Sure, can do, worst case I read the manual a bit. Enter JavaScript: with vanilla, it's actually pretty okay:

var myElement = getElementById("navdiv");

I expect that it'll get, an element, by its ID. See, I know this, a bit of html: things will be fine.
Cool kid notation:

tmpl: _.template($('a').html()),

Say what...? There's more special characters in there than letters... I'm used to that if I read kernel C code, or a Perl regex, but not on some little validation function or something. If I don't have a fairly intimate knowledge about underscore.js and jQuery, which I won't necessarily have, don't expect me to help you out there if it breaks during deployment...

Or declaring a function inside a function call, that in turn calls a function, just because we can:

Todos.each(function (todo) {{'done': done}); })

Sure, we've saved 2-4 newlines. Who's going to maintain this code 5 years later? Or startup-land really only thinks in the first 3 years and 2 whiz-kids and they don't believe in this enterprise scale thing? If you really are the next Zuckerberg: he needs to maintain stuff after the IPO too.

The moral of the story? No such thing this time, we'll see what'll happen with the new tech bubble, the code ninjas and JavaScript. I still don't really like them and possibly never will.

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