29 July 2009

DSL and Meta Programing System

As a regular Software Engineering Radio listener, JetBrains MPS 1.0 release came to my attention.
I read articles, watched the screen-casts and downloaded the beast to put my hands on.

I have a mixed feeling: on one hand, it is a step towards higher abstractions. From bare metal to assembly to C to C++ to Java, this is where we are doomed to go.
But on the other hand, the tool and the concepts are really complex. It is not the kind of tool that you download and play with before digging the manual ! With MPS, I have been following the tutorial carefully, step by step. It won't be mainstream yet.

Nonetheless, it opens a whole new landscape. I guess that there will be DSL users, DSL developers and of course DSL architect !? The tool is already very powerful. The samples with complex numbers and mathematical notation are impressive: the readability is way better.

It remind me the idea that code isn't meant only to compile, but its most important purpose is to communicate its intent to other developers and designers. I could not find back the reference to the specific article where this idea was exposed, but anyway, this concept concern all DSL.

It remind me of the JBoss approach to BPML: they didn't try to do everything with the "graphical designer". They kept it simple and provided a way for the developer to deal with the implementation details. So "Graphical DSL" is more a collaboration tool between the analyst and the developers, than a bloated UML/OCL do it all thing. (Note: I like UML.)

No doubt that there is a strong need to reduce the gap between functional/business analysts and developers. Even worse with offshore developments. Agile is mostly about getting developers closer to the client, DSL are coming along. Will linguistic be the next buzz ?
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