The new edition of my book Mastering Regular Expressions was reviewed on Slashdot today, where the reviewer generously granted me a rating of “11 out of 10.” In looking over the comments people left during the course of the day, I appreciated the kind words many chimed in with about the book.
I found it amazing, though, even by Slashdot standards, the amount of ignorance displayed in a few of the comments. Here's an excerpt from such a comment:
Now, if you know much of anything at all about modern-day scripting languages and their regular-expression implementations, you know immediately how outlandishly stupid the comment is.
The problem with comments like this is that if the reader doesn't already understand the situation, they'll not necessarily know that the comment is ignorance incarnate, and perhaps be lured in by the fancy mathematical words like “context-free” and actually think that the comment has some validity.
I'll be the first to warn that regular expressions are just one tool and that they are certainly not the hammer for every programming nail, but comments like this are basically saying that only pure DFA implementations circa 1979 are worth using, and the use of any features added since then is bad. Geez, even before I wrote my book, few would have espoused such an opinion, but it's lamentable to see it now 10 years after the first edition, in a discussion of the new edition, by someone who's clearly never read either but even more clearly needs to. (One of the reasons I wrote the book in the first place was to try to clear up this ignorance-borne foreboding of regular-expression technology that one occationally sees.)
To my family and regular readers more used to posts about Japan, Anthony, or with pretty photos, who may not understand anything of this post past the first paragraph, I offer this cute picture of a just-turned-one-year-old Anthony sweeping the floor:
The trick will be getting him to do it when he's 13!