[squeak-dev] Re: [vwnc] [Pharo-project] Smalltalk for small projects only?

Alan Knight knight at acm.org
Thu Feb 2 19:52:22 UTC 2012

I don't think it is a naive belief. There are actually differences 
between languages, and they do matter in the success of projects. I 
think the widespread disdain for Java in the development world at large 
is partly a recognition of this.

This is just a bit of apocryphal and vaguely-remembered evidence, but I 
remember a discussion at a conference a few years back, and I think the 
participants were Alistair Cockburn and Martin Fowler. They were talking 
about "Design Starts" and successful completions of projects and the 
ratio between them as a metric. And were talking about various factors, 
but mentioned that in Smalltalk, though the number of starts was always 
low, the ratio of design starts to completions had been extraordinarily 

Equally apocryphal, I'm fond of saying that we have some large customers 
who are in the process of converting their applications from Smalltalk 
to another technology. Some of them have been doing so for many, many years.

> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Peter Hunsberger <mailto:peter.hunsberger at gmail.com>
> 31 January, 2012 8:54 AM
> With all due respect to the experience of everyone here, people really 
> need to give up on this naive belief that Smalltalk development is any 
> more efficient than development in any other language.  The simple 
> fact is that within the Smalltalk community a large portion of the 
> developers have been using the tools for a long time and are very good 
> at using them. Throw them at another environment and they are not as 
> efficient.  However, if you take new developers and throw them at a 
> Smalltalk project it takes longer to get them up to speed than 
> throwing them at a Java project simply because of the fact that 
> Smalltalk is not as ubiquitous. I switched to Java back when IBM 
> dropped Smalltalk, so I've seen both sides of this issue for a long 
> time, so let me related some anecdotal experience:
> I'm currently working on a Smalltalk project that has about about 50 
> man years of effort in it over 10 years.  Prior to this I worked on a 
> Java and XSLt project that had about the same effort over the same 
> period.  Both have web based GUI's with a fair amount of JavaScript 
> and the usual HTML crud and use a relational DB back end (SQL server 
> and Oracle respectively). The Smalltalk project has had a mix of very 
> experienced Smalltalk developers and inexperienced ones.  The Java 
> project was mainly junior and intermediate experience devs. I'd say 
> the overall architecture and design was about equivalent; very 
> different, but equally well done and comprehensive. The projects are 
> very similar in concept and execution.  The Java project had about 
> twice as many function points (some pretty major) implemented and four 
> times as many use cases supported at the point I switched to the 
> Smalltalk project.  For the most part this has little to do with the 
> language itself.  Rather, it is mainly, the supporting infrastructure 
> that one is able to draw on in Java projects and this includes 
> Eclipse, Git, etc.  Open Source projects also played a big part of 
> this, in the Java world one can pull in large chunks of functionality 
> at very low cost (eg. XSLt 2.0 processors and pipelines, Spring, 
> Hadoop, you name it) that are just not quite matched in the Smalltalk 
> world.  You can often get close, but it seems that there is always 
> something missing, if only because the teams supporting the Smalltalk 
> projects are often much smaller and just can't quite keep up with the 
> every changing specs and requirements.
> Bottom line, don't kid yourself that there is any inherent advantage 
> in using Smalltalk development over any other language.  It is faster 
> for experienced devs in small projects, but if you've got to pull a 
> team together from scratch for some medium to large complexity 
> enterprise scale project it is probably not going to fair as well.
> Now onto the main question posed here....
> I have also worked on a successful 200 man year project (C and C++ in 
> this case), which broke down to a little less than 100 people over a 
> little more than 2 years. This was in the telecom world and involved 
> many main frame billing interfaces and switching equipment interfaces, 
> all very mission critical. In this case about 60% of the team was 
> heads down developers. The rest of it was dedicated testers, tech 
> writers, business analysts, project managers and managers.  Here again 
> the supporting infrastructure played an important role.  Business 
> analysts could write up use cases that got stored in a repository (a 
> proprietary system) that could be used to generate test case stubs and 
> documentation stubs.  The development team tracked progress and bug 
> reports in the same repository and source code version control was 
> tied to the repository. End user documentation was stored in the 
> repository and version controlled. It was simple to know what was 
> going on anywhere in the project and to know where the problems were 
> and what code did what and to see the entire life cycle of any portion 
> of the code base from customer requirement to final deliverable.  I 
> know of no support infrastructure that even comes close in the 
> Smalltalk world and would consider it madness to even consider taking 
> on such a project using Smalltalk.
> Peter Hunsberger
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> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> laurent laffont <mailto:laurent.laffont at gmail.com>
> 29 January, 2012 3:37 AM
> 200 developers on a project ? Scaring ..... They should use another 
> technology than Java to go under 50 developers. They will save a lot 
> of money :)
> Laurent
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Janko Mivšek <mailto:janko.mivsek at eranova.si>
> 28 January, 2012 10:46 AM
> Hi guys,
> Ralph Johnson in his InfoQ interview made an interesting observation:
> 2:55 minute: "Smalltalk made an fundamental error ... image ... you can
> build something with 4-5 people what 50 people can build in Java, but if
> you take 200 people in Java ... it is really designed for small systems
> ... "
> Are we because of the image really destined for relatively small
> projects and small systems (of Java 50 people project size)?
> Are we really not able to scale to bigger projects/systems because of 
> that?
> Ok, there are few exceptions of course (JPMorgan, OOCL, ..), but still...
> [1] http://www.infoq.com/interviews/johnson-armstrong-oop
> Best regards
> Janko
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