A Perlisism for Identifiers: Delay Binding

Inference based on semantic retrieval is more robust than inference based on syntactic parsing.

identifiers should be as dumb as possible – in other words, should include as little metadata as possible about the thing being identified, leaving all information to be retrieved from metadata repositories rather than inferred from the identifier itself. People always want to infer meaning, and will often try to teach machines to do the same. The problem is that apparent meaning in the structure of an identifier is all too often misleading…1

In order to be authoritative, identifiers should be assigned as early as practicable in the creation process, but minting is not binding.

Functions delay binding; data structures induce binding. Moral: Structure data late in the programming process.2

Identifier resolution delays binding; identifier structures induce binding. Moral: Structure identifiers late (or never) in the minting process.

Also, structure identifier resolution (i.e. retrieved-metadata structure) late. Metadata is about claims; there may be many and different claims about the same thing. “Multiple resolution”, i.e. making different metadata sources/profiles/formats accessible depending on what a client is trying to retrieve, is akin to functional polymorphism and hence even later binding.

  1. M. Bide, “Standard Identifiers: an overview of the current landscape,” presented at the USPTO Open Meeting: Facilitating the Development of the Online Licensing Environment for Copyrighted Works, Apr. 01, 2015. [Online]. Available: pdf ↩︎

  2. A. J. Perlis, “Special Feature: Epigrams on programming,” SIGPLAN Not., vol. 17, no. 9, pp. 7–13, Sep. 1982, doi: 10.1145/947955.1083808. Online at http://www.cs.yale.edu/homes/perlis-alan/quotes.html↩︎