Past Meetup

Programming Language Design: The Missing Evidence

This Meetup is past

57 people went


The Cooperage, 5 Copper Row, London, SE1 2LH · London

How to find us

Use Copper Row pedonal path, enter the little square with the mermaid fountain and search the stairs with the ZPG sign.

Location image of event venue


Neil Brown ( presents a talk about the paper "An Empirical Investigation into Programming Language Syntax" by Stefik and Siebert (


Program code has a dual aspect: it is understandable both by computers and by humans. Ever since computing moved on from directly entering numerical opcodes, we have had increasingly free rein to design for the humans more than the machines. However, this has been done in an evidence-free manner: designers choose keywords and notations without scientifically testing any aspects of their usability. This paper, "An Empirical Investigation into Programming Language Syntax" by Stefik and Siebert, aims to address this issue by scientifically comparing programming language syntax usability for novices.

In this talk, I will summarise the methods and key results of the paper -- but just as interesting are the broader questions raised by the paper. Are all programming languages less usable than they could be? Should programming language and tool design become more scientific? What role should evidence have in design?

This talk should be of interest to anyone who has ever done a little programming, and will be especially thought-provoking for those who have ever tried to teach programming to friends, relatives, colleagues, or students.

The meetup

PapersWeLove ( London proudly brings to you the best papers every month! Please join us to read and discuss the most amazing ideas in computer science. We meet at ZPG ( offices near Tower Bridge ( with the following schedule:

• 6.30pm: networking, pizza and drinks.
• 7:00pm: presentation starts

The Speaker

Neil ( works as a computing education researcher at King's College London; his role combines software development and writing research papers. He works as part of a team which develops two IDEs aimed at novice programmers: BlueJ ( and Greenfoot ( He also helps to maintain a large-scale repository of data on novice programmer activity, collected from BlueJ, which contains details of activity from over a million users.