Words of wisdom: Bjarne Stroustrup

Bjarne Stroustrup wrote the following a few minutes ago on the concepts mailing list:

Let me take this opportunity to remind people that

  • "being able to do something is not sufficient reason for doing it" and
  • "being able to do every trick is not a feature but a bug"

For the latter, remember Dijkstra’s famous "Goto considered harmful" paper. The point was not that the "new features" (loop constructs) could do every goto trick better/simpler, but that some of those tricks should be avoided to simplify good programming.

Concepts and concepts lite are meant to make good generic programming simpler. They are not meant to be a drop-in substitute for every metaprogramming and macroprogramming trick. If you are an expert, and if in your expert opinion you and your users really need those tricks, you can still use them, but we need to make many (most) uses of templates easier to get right, so that they can become more mainstream. That where concepts and concept lite fits in.

Some of you may find this hard to believe, but "back then" there was quite serious opposition to function declarations because "they restricted the way functions could be used and the way separate compilation could be used" and also serious opposition to virtual functions "because pointers to functions are so much more flexible." I see concepts lite (and concepts) in the same light as goto/for, unchecked-function-arguments/function-declarations, pointers-to-functions/abstract-classes.

Reminds me of the related antipattern: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore we must do it!”