Spurred by Jon Udell’s recent online column and some very real technology projects, I have been thinking a lot about “scripting” versus “programming” (see "Shipping the prototype". Although it has often been subtle, there is a level of quiet discomfort between the “scripting” versus “programming” factions in some corporate development environments in which I have participated. In some instances, executive-level technology management has held scripting languages in disdain as not being “real” languages for day-to-day problem solving, which has discouraged highly talented scripters on staff from practicing their craft. In such an environment, scripters are relegated to the lower ranks -- they haven’t yet learned “real” programming skills. The scripting folks need mentoring and lots of training in C++ and Java from the “real” developers to take their abilities to the next level. In the worst of these cases, the use of scripting languages is more or less banned.
On a practical level, I’ve found that two things happen in these environments: 1) many of the most talented scripters eventually become disgruntled and leave for scripting-friendly pastures, and 2) the “real” developers spend days and weeks writing Java and C++ code to solve problems that those talented Perl or Python programmers could have knocked out in a few hours. If you put the world’s most talented Java developer and the world’s best Perl programmer in a room and gave them an unstructured textual document to parse, I would put my money on the Perl programmer to finish first. When you’re going on a one-mile hike, you shouldn’t weigh yourself down with a full set of silverware, a saw, scissors, and an inflatable boat just in case you run into a raging river. You take a light backpack, a bottle of water, and a Swiss Army knife. That’s the mentality behind scripting –- when going on a one-mile programming hike, the tools for climbing Everest will only weigh you down. I agree with Jon when he says, “I'm still hoping we'll promote scripting languages to the first-class status they deserve.” At InfoWorld, scripting languages are not only first-class citizens, they have received my CTO Medal of Honor.
As a final note, expect to see more of me in the online and print pages of InfoWorld as I embark into a couple of new spaces. First, with the launch of our new Web site last month, I started a Weblog (http://weblog.infoworld.com/dickerson/). I'll use this to develop many of the themes you have been reading about in this column for the past two years, but with a more real-time take on what I’m working on and thinking about day to day. As my colleague Jon Udell has been proving for a while now (http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell), the Weblog platform is an interesting hybrid of old-school broadcast journalism mixed with strong points of view, plus a critical feedback loop consisting of e-mail and linking that makes the Web (and the Internet itself) so compelling as a medium.
In addition, the Technology and Test Center departments at InfoWorld have combined under my leadership, enhancing InfoWorld’s ability to bring you the real-world testing you have come to expect. In this new organization, the highly-talented technology staff at InfoWorld will be working hand-in-hand with the