Gaming TIOBE?
Written by Alex Armstrong   
Monday, 12 August 2013

The TIOBE index of programming languages is easy to criticize when it drops your favorite language down the ranks and easy to love when it raises it up by a few positions. However, Perl programmers have a particular complaint and perhaps it is time to fix it. 

In a recent blog post, Mithaldu explains that Perl programmers should either stop complaining about TIOBE or do something about it. 


The particular problem with Perl is that it is the name of a programming language and not much else. TIOBE works by searching for references like "x programming" where x is the name of a language. For languages like Python where simply searching on "Python" would produce lots of hits for snakes and comedy shows as well as the programming language. For most language the need to qualify its name by "programming" occurs at some point in any article or request for help. But not for Perl as its name doesn't really crop up in any other context. 

As a result Perl programmers think that their language is under represented. For example, Mithaldu quotes results of a Wikipedia search:


perl 5194
perl programming 179
python programming 289
python 7239


The argument is that the 5194 results for Perl are likely to be all good and proper references to the programming language whereas the 7239 references to Python are likely to have a high occurrence of other topics than the programming language. The complaint is that while both Perl and Python are being under represented by insisting on "programming" Perl is being penalized more. This does seem to be true as a search on "python monty" gets just over 2000 hits and "python snake"  gets around 800.  Making the results 


perl 5194
perl programming 179
python programming 289
python - (monty & snake)  4200


which, if you take the search for perl and python minus (monty & snake) as being true indications of popularity then you can see that the positions have switched. 

So what are the Perlistas going to do about it?

The suggestion is that they contact all of the sites that use Perl rather than Perl programming language and ask them to edit their text to be more TIOBE friendly. 

Of course if the Pythonistas notice this my guess is that they too will join in the add "programming" movement, and the C-istas, C#-istas, Java-istas and so on. 

There have been calls to game TIOBE in the past from language enthusiasts who have simply suggested posting lots of questions with their language and programming in it. There have even been suggestions that there should be an attempt to get a completely unlikely language, APL say, to the number one spot just to show how broken the TIOBE index is. 

In practice, the TIOBE index is indeed an imperfect and crude measure of the popularity of programming languages. At best you can read something into the up and down movements of particular languages and perhaps big rank changes - but not into the fine detail. The TIOBE index does have something to tell us, but it is mostly about following your team.



More Information

Do your piece to fix TIOBE or stop talking about it

Perl Weekly

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Last Updated ( Monday, 12 August 2013 )