An interesting paper entitled An Empirical Comparison of the Accuracy Rates of Novices using the Quorum, Perl, and Randomo Programming Languages by Andreas Stefik, Susanna Siebert, Melissa Stefik, Kim Slattery was presented at a workshop I co-organised PLATEAU 2011.
We present here an empirical study comparing the accuracy rates of novices writing software in three programming languages: Quorum, Perl, and Randomo. The first language, Quorum, we call an evidence-based programming language, where the syntax, semantics, and API designs change in correspondence to the latest academic research and literature on programming language usability. Second, while Perl is well known, we call Randomo a Placebo-language, where some of the syntax was chosen with a random number generator and the ASCII table. We compared novices that were programming for the first time using each of these languages, testing how accurately they could write simple programs using common program constructs (e.g., loops, conditionals, functions, variables, parameters). Results showed that while Quorum users were afforded significantly greater accuracy compared to those using Perl and Randomo, Perl users were unable to write programs more accurately than those using a language designed by chance.
There has been some interesting discussion of this paper elsewhere too: