Research & Insights

By Lukas Biewald, May 11, 2009

The Programming Language with the Happiest Users

Which languages make programmers the happiest? It’s clear that some languages are more popular than others, and many of us debate long and hard over the relative merits of Python vs Ruby, C vs Java or Lisp vs everything else. But what’s the general consensus?

I decided to do a little market research. I scraped the top 150 most recent tweets on Twitter for the query “X language” where X was one of {COBOL, Ruby, Fortran, Python, Visual Basic, Perl, Java, Haskell, Lisp, C}.

Then I asked three people on Amazon Mechanical Turk to verify that the tweet was on the topic. If so, I asked if the tweet seemed positive, negative or neutral. You can try the task for yourself at http://www.crowdflower.com/judgments/mob/592.

Whenever you judge sentiment, there are lots of tricky cases. The tweet, interesting idea and a new cool language, unlike old boring Lisp:), seems negative towards Lisp, but the emoticon makes me think that the person may actually like Lisp. The tweet, Lisp … remains an influential language in “key algorithmic techniques such as recursion and condescension” could be construed as positive towards Lisp, but could also be construed as negative.

On the other hand, many tweets are very clear, such as, Once again I find myself battling with Haskell. Why oh why create such a language? or The more I learn about Haskell, the more impressed I am with the language. Nothing like intentional infinite recursion, mind = blown.

Without further ado, here are the results:

I am not surprised that COBOL was the least favorite, but I am somewhat surprised that Perl was the favorite. Sifting through the data, unlike other languages, there seem to be a surprising number of people that just felt like giving Perl shoutouts. More than other languages it has tweets like My favorite scripting language is Perl, which I can do in Linux, but right now, I need powershell. or I seriously love perl. Is there any better research language? truly?.

Clearly there are a million caveats. Are Perl or Lisp users happier people in general? Are the tweets ever from users? How do the people using Twitter differ from the population at large. And perhaps the particular day we scraped had an effect.


Notes:

  • There’s a great website langpop.com that does some nice analysis of relative language popularity.
  • The “C” query combines C++, objective-C, C and C#. It would be nice to split this out in future work.

Updates:

Just to answer a couple criticisms — C, C++, etc. were combined not because I don’t consider them to be completely different languages, but because it was difficult to search for just C or C++ or C#. I thought about taking it out completely, but figured why not show the data. I left out php because it was matching tons of webpages like example.com/home.php. I should have included JavaScript. For the record, the language I use the most these days is probably R, which I also forgot to include :).

I think most of the criticisms about the validity of the data are reasonable. What we try to do with these blog posts is not peer reviewed science, but quick and dirty data exploration (see our blog’s manifesto: http://blog.doloreslabs.com/2008/03/the-manifesto/). I am not trying to imply that any language is better than any other language, just to get a rough measure of the sentiment out there on Twitter.