re: Sh*tpost: can we stop saying "syntactic sugar"? VIEW POST


Interesting points, most of which I hadn't thought too deeply about before. I do find "syntactic sugar" has become a weasel word, much like "scripting language" is. It is often deployed as a way of belittling the value of a language's syntax choices.

I suppose by some interpretations, everything is "syntactic sugar" because we're not writing in binary. By even Landin's original usage, it's just a symbolic abstraction, and all modern languages are effectively symbolic abstractions.

While I like the idea proposed in the comments that "syntactic sugar" adds no actual features, but rather just makes the code easier to read and write, one could make the counterpoint that we never actually have "new features" by the truest definition of the term. We can replicate all imaginable behavior in assembly/binary, desugared, but nearly all of it would be too complicated for direct replication to be practical.

Perhaps some developers just use the belief that they write in a more "sugar free" language as a form of self-aggrandization, a la "real programmers use butterflies," but I'd counter that making one's own workflow deliberately harder with no actual gain is considerably more obtuse than using "syntactic sugar". (Bear in mind, that's coming from someone who spends a phenomenal amount of time doing bare-metal memory management in C and C++.)

In other words, it would be tremendously stupid of me if, for no other reason than to avoid "syntactic sugar," I built an application in C that could have been written to identical spec and goals in Python, given the fact I know both languages. Yet some coders I know will do exactly that.

By the way, that does not include projects for continuing self-education; knowing languages like C gives one a deeper working understanding of, not to mention an appreciation for, the abstractions that exist.

By the way, I'm not sure your particular choice of title is entirely constructive, mainly because you shouldn't devalue your own post by labeling it such. By the same token, you're not a bird brain or a knucklehead. Belittling yourself and your work is only useful for destroying your self-esteem and crippling your own growth.

"Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less." -C.S. Lewis

Never confuse a lack of knowledge with a lack of intelligence. A birdbrain couldn't have even written this article.


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P.S. May I recommend you reace the #unpopularopinion tag with #healthydebate? This fits right into that category, and again, I wouldn't devalue your opinion so much!


I included #unpopularopinion as a reference to the same hashtag on twitter. I'm going to add #discuss.

"Sh*tpost:" was my attempt at a linkbait title. I always hope to get people reading and responding hehe.

It's highly unusual that somewhere on the internet you can actually post an opinion about dev and not be ignored, downvoted or dogpiled on like on StackOverflow, that when someone new makes a post with a strong opinion, traditionalists aren't coming in hoards to tear them down. The devTO blog is super special for this kind of environment. shout out to @thepracticaldev

I imagine that self effacement is a self-protective coping mechanism in addition to my inclination towards new sincerity (authentic, earnest, gratuitous expression).

SO aims to be factual and reusable. It can be intimidating to be downvoted as a new user, it has certainly been for me, and non-verifiable and incomplete information from experts can certainly still be useful, but the value of SO as a whole is increased because of its strict policies. Dev.to might be more beginner-friendly but is often wildly inaccurate.

Unrelated: I think you hit the nail on the head with "sh*tpost" in terms of clickbait :P


Thanks for your response, and you've given me a lot to think about in regards to it as an actual compsci term! And yeah, if we consider the scale and complexity of certain applications, sugar makes sense due to not repeating oneself, cutting down lines of code, etc. I think my disgruntlement was over the blurriness of its meaning. It could be a feature, a transpiling/intermediary syntax on a framework, it could be a bunch of new syntax in a newer version of a language... etc. And coming from a learner's perspective, it seemed like jargon that was a hindrance to understanding exactly what that "add-on sidedish" of a syntax did.

Re: self-effacement
On the same lines of logic, being able to talk about code doesn't mean I know how to code proficiently. But I'm definitely enjoying reading more about the details of how JS works and making quantum leaps in my own way.

I know where I stand given the general response and performance on the job. There's been a bunch of failures in the last two years, but I enjoy coding. I believe intellectual vulnerability is important for learning and creating good vibes. In case I seem to devalue myself too much I have salary negotiated and tried to prove myself as much as I could that I was a valuable member in previous positions. Previous experience has made me feel inauthentic when acting confident or burying insecurity in addition to trying super hard to fit in various work cultures. Guess time will tell. In a few years I may regret this style of writing. I appreciate your encouragement and know what you mean though--used to teach/mentor art students. Hated that they felt nerves over explaining their relatively young practices. I'd be like, "It's art, not brain surgery. You're doing it! Who cares what kind of artist you are?!"


I completely understand where you're coming from about feeling inauthentic. That's actually called "imposter syndrome", and talking down about yourself feels like a cure. In reality, self-debasement will make the imposter syndrome worse.

I suggest you adopt a different line of describing yourself. (This is the one I use myself):

  • Be as honest about your strengths as your weaknesses. For example: I am an expert in C++ memory management, but I have no skills in machine learning. I am fairly good at designing vector-based logos, but I cannot draw a decent stick figure to save my life. Keep your positive and negative self-statements in balance.

  • Own your mistakes, only allow yourself to apply negative terms to what you did, not who you are. For example: I once a wrote a scripting language in ActionScript 3.0 using regular expressions. It was terrible, slow, and I made sure to destroy that source code so it would never see the light of day again. I say: "the language design sucked." I don't say: "I suck at language design."

  • Avoid exaggerations. I'm a quantitatively verified expert in some areas of coding, but pretty dismal in others. Thus, I wouldn't say "I'm a programming expert" (unqualified), as that'd be an exaggeration; I'm only an expert in certain things. But I wouldn't say "I'm a mediocre programmer", because I've written some definitely non-mediocre things.

By the way, programming is art, so everything you told your students applies here. It's programming, not brain surgery. You're doing it! Never allow yourself to say "I'm not a real programmer." If you've written code, you're a real programmer.

Be honest about what you have yet to learn, but be just as honest about what you can do. Keep praise and criticism of self in balance.

Thanks for spreading the positivity man! Wish more people had healthy self esteem practices on the interwebs. You are doing good things. Hope you have a great day!


This reply is great on so many levels!

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