Clearing the Air - More Languages that Suck

In response to criticism of a previous article on languages that suck, this new study aims to put the issue to rest - establishing definitively which programming languages suck the most, accounting for relative popularity among other factors.

Turns out (despite previous reports) that Perl does not suck the most, JavaScript does. Also, Ruby is by far the hackiest language on the planet ... keep reading to see why.


As in the first study, all data were collected from search results retrieved via Google's Code Search. For each target language, three pieces of information were initially gathered:

Total Files
An approximation of the language's footprint in Google's database (and thus its popularity). Determined by one of the following queries: lang:<language-name>, lang:"<language-name>", or file:.*\.ext where ext is the file extension of that language's source code files.

Measure of a languages hackiness. Determined by one of the following: lang:<language-name> hack or lang:"<language-name>" hack

Measure of a languages suckiness. Determined by one of the following:lang:<language-name> sucks or lang:"<language-name>" sucks

When choosing between two queries, the one with the larger number of hits is kept. For example, there are approximately 4.4 million hits for lang:c, and 4.53 million hits for lang:"c". In this case, the latter number is retained.

Collected Data

Popular Languages:

LanguageTotal FilesHacksSucks
C++847,000* 2,7003,000
JavaScript* 22,700600100
Lisp* 36,000600100
Visual Basic* 29,90040050

Unpopular Languages:

Each of these languages have a footprint of less than 1,000 total files. These statistically insignificant outliers will not be considered during subsequent analysis.

LanguageTotal FilesHacksSucks
Pascal* 6001003
SmallTalk* 4001006

* Values for starred entries were collected as follows:
  • C++ Hacks: This value is a composite of three queries each starting with lang:"c++" - little\shack (300), dirty\shack (400), and ugly\shack (2,000).
  • JavaScript: Searching for lang:"javascript" returns only 200 results, while lang:"javascript" div returns 22,700.
  • Lisp file count: Like JS, to get a reasonable count, used lang:"lisp" off instead of lang:"lisp" (only 400).
  • Pascal: lang:pascal has only 300 hits, while lang:pascal const has 300.
  • SmallTalk: lang:smalltalk has only 100 hits, while lang:smalltalk dir has 400.
  • Visual Basic: lang:basic has only 400 hits while lang:basic def has 29,900 hits.

Inferred Data

To analyze this data, the following metrics are helpful:

Hack Ratio
The number of "hack" results multiplied by 1,000 and divided by the total number of files.

Suck Ratio
The number of "sucks" results multiplied by 1,000 and divided by the total number of files.

For example, the Hack Ratio of PHP is 14,200 * 1,000 / 580,000 = 24.48.

Languages Sorted by Hack Ratio

RankLanguageHack Ratio
9Visual Basic13.38

Languages Sorted by Suck Ratio

RankLanguageSuck Ratio
7Visual Basic1.67


Graphing Suck Ratio as a function of Hack Ratio gives us an estimate of the value of hackiness as a measure of suckiness in a language (click for larger image).

Clearly there is generally a positive trend between the two metrics. Languages with higher Hack Ratios tend to also have higher Suck Ratios.

This means one can expect a language with a low Hack Ratio to tend not to suck, and likewise, a language with a low Suck Ratio will probably require fewer hacks.

However, as the ratios increase, the strength of the relationship decreases. This leads to notable exceptions such as C++, which has a high Suck Ratio, but comparitively low Hack Ratio.


It would seem that the foregone conclusions in the previous study were premature. With a Suck Ratio of 4.41, JavaScript is over twice as sucky as Perl, which has a Suck Ratio of just 1.92.

According to these findings, Ruby is the hackiest language of all, with a Hack Ratio of 128.21. In fact, it's nearly twice as hacky as its nearest competitor, Perl (with a Hack Ratio of just 68.27).

There's clearly a need for more research in this area, as the field of "statistical inference of the relative virtues of programming languages" is still in its infancy.

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Innovations - Google Code Search Autocomplete

Google's new Code Search is all the rage these days. Here I present Google Code Search Autocomplete - my contribution to this already great service.

Think of it as adding functionality similar to what Google Suggest adds to the normal Google search.


To get the autocompleter, you must:
  1. Install the latest versions of Firefox and Greasemonkey (if you haven't already)
  2. Once in Firefox, navigate to the Google Code Search Autocomplete Userscript
  3. Install it as you would any userscript by clicking the "Install" button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
Once it's installed, head on over to Google's Code Search and give it a try.

Start typing in the search box to see the drop-down list of suggestions.

Developer Notes

This script does its dirty work by issuing an Ajax query behind the scenes for whatever you've typed so far plus the string "\w*". So if you had typed "google", the Ajax call would query for "google\w*". For readers unfamiliar with regular expressions, this basically means "google*" where * can be any number of "word" characters (A-Z, a-z and _).

The resulting page is then parsed for all instances of <b> tags with class="hl". These contain the query matches. Once collected, terms are then sorted and displayed to the user via the drop-down div below the search field.

Due to these design constraints, some of the script's behavior may seem strange at first. For example you may get only a handful of hits for "goo", but many for "google". This has to do with the number of redundant hits returned during the transparent Ajax request. The more reduntent matches there are, the fewer drop-down options there will be.

Also, since an entire page request is being made behind the scenes, the drop-down may feel slow to update. Especially if you're on a slower connection.


This article builds on concepts developed in a previous blog entry, in which I describe the process of incorporating the Scriptaculous library into Greasemonkey userscripts. Check it out if you'd like to learn more about the underlying mechanics of this script.

I hope you've found this useful or interesting. Drop me a line and let me know what you think!

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Clearing the Air - Languages that Suck

New! Check out the follow-up article More Languages that Suck.
Everyone knows that programming languages suck, but which sucks the most?

I have conducted a scientific study to answer this question, and humbly present my findings below.


All data for this report were collected from search results done through Google's Code Search, by searching for the phrase "<language> sucks" (without quotes) where <language> was one of these 10: C, C++, Java, JavaScript, Visual Basic, Python, Ruby, Perl, PHP and Lisp.

Occasionally, two similar searches would turn up different numbers of hits. For example, "C sucks" results in 35,900 hits while "c sucks" results in 49,600 hits. Where this is the case, the query with the greater number of hits is kept.


The results seem to confirm conventional wisdom: Perl sucks the most, Ruby sucks least and all other languages fall somewhere in between.

It was surprising however to find that Visual Basic sucks less than JavaScript - I'd have thought it would be the other way around.

1Perlperl sucks58,900
2Cc sucks49,600
3C++c++ sucks39,900
4Javajava sucks27,900
5LispLisp sucks19,100
6JavaScriptJS sucks13,400
7Visual BasicVB sucks8,000
8PHPphp sucks3,000
9Pythonpython sucks2,000
10Rubyruby sucks500

Here's a graph of the above data (click to view larger version):

Operating Systems That Suck

Out of curiosity, I also tested for operating systems which suck. Again conventional wisdom proved correct: although Windows, Mac and Linux all suck, Windows definitely sucks the most.

1Windowswindows sucks60,000
2Macmac sucks58,200
3Linuxlinux sucks49,600

Honorable Mentions

Surprisingly, a search for "C# sucks" returns only one result. I took this to be a statisitically insignificant outlier, suggesting that either C# sucks so badly that nobody uses it, or that those who do use it dare not openly challange the .NET regime.

Also, searching for files with COBOL's file extension (.CBL) reveals about 100 hits. Unsurprisingly, the query "cobol sucks" (no quotes) also has about 100 hits. I leave it as an excersize to the reader to interpret this result.


All programming languages suck, some just suck more than others. Thank you.

(If you liked that, keep reading...)

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Cool Tools - IBM Page Detailer

I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but this content has moved. -- Jim


Must Have Software - OpenGrok

If you're a code monkey like me, then you've probably had to search through a source tree at one time or another - whether you're just a cog, or the whole machine.

Enter OpenGrok the "wicked fast source code browser".

From the project site:
OpenGrok is a fast and usable source code search and cross reference engine. It helps you search, cross-reference and navigate your source tree. It can understand various program file formats and version control histories like SCCS, RCS, CVS and Subversion. In other words it lets you grok (profoundly understand) the open source, hence the name OpenGrok. It is written in Java.
To see it in action:
  1. Visit the OpenSolaris Source Browser
  2. Search for "grok" via the Full Search field.
  3. Watch your results come back lightning fast!

Here's how it works: First you set loose OpenGrok's indexer on your codebase. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours depending on code volume. When finished, you configure your WAR to point at the index and fire it up on your favorite J2EEish container (Tomcat worked great for me).

Here are some more features of OpenGrok:
  • Syntax Highlighting - Source code for recognized languages is syntax highlighted for ease of viewing.
  • Source Browsing - It's easy to walk up and down the directory structure of your code via /xref.
  • Project Descriptions - In the search results, notice the green italicized text next to the project names. These descriptions are configured via an optional CSV file.
  • Line Number Links - On the right hand side in the search results, line links take you directly to the matching line of the source code file.
If you or your organization have any appreciable amount of source code, OpenGrok will make you more effective at finding the information you require.

There are a few very desirable pieces missing from OpenGrok at present, which I hope to provide in future posts. Stay tuned.



No one will ever read this - or at least, no one will find it interesting. Nevertheless I am compelled to write. The blank page is a formidable foe, one which I am determined to overcome. But with what? Who knows.

No matter. Words will find their place, as all things eventually do. Wo bu zhi dao.