Quick snipits on the internet should be taken with a grain of salt and a little bit of thought.
There are two newer languages with a lot of momentum in the software world, Scala and Clojure. Both of these languages have strong pedigrees, Scala from Erlang and Haskel and Clojure from Lisp. Both languages offer great support for functional programming, a relatively new paradigm for most business developers. A direct consequence of the increased power of these languages is the barrier of entry is high for your typical developer who has only worked with object oriented code.
Anyone who was coding business systems around late eighties remembers the shift from pure a pure imperative style of programming (think C) to object oriented programming (think C++ and Java). The recall the skepticism that OO based systems will never perform, they remember the critics who thought the paradigm shift wasn't necessary and would be too difficult for developers to pick up. For those who were around in the late eighties the software climate of today should seem vaguely familiar. It is.
Now back to my first point about quick snipits and thinking. This quick snipit between the author of Scala and one of it's primary contributors was posted up on Artima:
Bill Venners: Some people lately have expressed doubt whether Scala is a language for the average Java programmer. What's your opinion?
Martin Odersky: Scala at the moment doesn't need to be a language for the average Java programmer. The programmers we want to appeal to are the expert programmers—the good programmers. Our aim is to make them much more productive than they are with Java. I believe over time there will be enough teaching materials and enough good tools to also make Scala appeal to more average programmers. But that's not what our immediate aim is, and I think good programmers can become more productive with Scala now.
This post was quickly linked to on Twitter and discussion ensued. Twitter to its credit and detriment, only allows for 140 character posts. This means you don't have to spend a lot of time reading through superfluous text but it can be difficult to explain things. The conversation went like this:
Both Scala and Clojure are not for the novice. At our last Clojure meetup the consensus was we're happy the barrier of entry is high
That being said I think there is a lot of value in beginner material with a solid progression for both languages.
Why would you be happy that the "barrier of entry is high"? I don't see any benefit to that.
Keeps the tourists at home. If someone takes the time to learn Scala or Clojure then they really want to be a good developer.
This is the kind of disturbing elitism that has cast Smalltalk and Lisp into obscurity and irrelevance, Scala deserves better
Woah. The key to my explanation is "wants to be a good developer." Anyone who has spent time developing tools knows that you often have to strike a balance between power and ease of use. Elegance exists when you are able to provide both. Scala has a low barrier of entry for Java developers who want to get started with it. However, to reach the intermediate stage and to be able to understand code written by others Scala presents a high barrier of entry. I personally think this is a good compromise for adoption, allows adventurous folks to get started and you don't pay the complexity penalty until you need it. The only issue is the barrier to intermediate Scala developer is rather high and can be a bit intimidating. However, the power through access to higher level patterns is amazing.
Clojure on the other hand has an initial high barrier of entry. Prefix notation combined with everything being immutable makes it difficult for folks to figure out how to get started. Once someone gets past this initial hump the language gets easier and many folks feel the complexity decreases. During the last Denver Clojure Meetup one of the members commented that they were glad the barrier to entry for Clojure was high, that way you know folks who are trying to learn Clojure are dedicated to taking the next step, to learning advanced tools and to becoming better developers.
I've spent a significant amount of time developing presentations on Clojure for the Denver Java User's Group, the Denver Open Source User's Group, the Boulder Java User's Group, and the Colorado Springs Open Source User's Group. I've presented five times in the past year on Clojure and spend my free time working on teaching examples. I truly want to make Clojure and immutable/functional programming accessible to whomever would like to learn. I stand behind my statement concerning the high barrier of entry, folks need to want to put effort in to gain access to the power provided by Clojure and Scala. If there is an easier way to provide access to these advanced power features I would welcome that level of elegance whole heartedly, it would save me a lot of time spent studying.