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John Nguyen
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All this Gophering around can get boring. That’s not a bad thing, I still consider Go the language with which I am strongest and most comfortable. If I had to use a language at my workplace, Go would be it.

But sometimes you just want to poke around and see what else is out there. A language that offers a sense of adventure instead of the safety of Go and its static types, simplicity, rock solid linting and strict philosophy.

Elixir complements Go in this regard. In fact it seems to be the complete opposite. Loosely typed, immutable data structures, enumerators, functional style programming.

So yeah, apparently functional programming is a cool hip thing to do nowadays. Its a fancy term, it makes you think that functional programming actually works (you know, its FUNCTIONAL).

I play around with linux/unix/osx (hah!) a lot, and the fact that you have a pipeline operator Elixir is amazing! Also map, reduce, filter and each operators are something I miss a lot moving to Go from Ruby, so I’m glad to see that it’s got the first class treatment here in Elixir.

N(ot) I(nvented) H(ere)

Being in Go land for so long, I had forgotten what the rest of the programming world is like. Gopher’s shun extending the language, using dependencies, building packages for others to use.

Gopher’s have a serious case of NIH syndrome, and everything is handrolled to extremes. Its actually quite nice if you think about it. The software you develop ends up fitting like a really, really tight glove.

It was, however, still an (unexpected) breath of fresh air when I had a look at the Elixir community and how they were enthusiastically talking about writing macros, extending the language, using web frameworks and installing dependencies willy nilly.


So I figured as a raw exercise, to convert one of the easy katas I did long ago. The exercise is called Cut the Sticks and is a good exercise in recursion (my Go solution did not, however, use recursion).

Processing STDIN

The hardest part in Go is always processing the arguments that come through HackerRank. Lots of STDIN scanning, processing etc.

Here is how I processed the STDIN with Go.

// GetArgs reads from STDIN and returns stuff in the correct format
func GetArgs(r io.Reader) (int, []int) {
	var numArgs = 0
	_, err := fmt.Fscanln(r, &numArgs)

	if err != nil {

	sumArgs := make([]int, numArgs)
	for i := range sumArgs {
		_, err = fmt.Fscan(r, &sumArgs[i])
		if err != nil {

	return numArgs, sumArgs

Here it is in Elixir.

def process(input) do
  values = String.split(input, "\n")
    |> List.delete_at(0)
    |> List.delete_at(-1)
    |> List.to_string
    |> String.strip
    |> String.split(" ")
    |> Enum.map(&(Integer.parse(&1)))
    |> Enum.map(&(elem(&1,0)))
  recurse_cut(values, Enum.max(values))

Maybe I just suck at Go, but I dunno, there’s just something really, really satisfying about the pipeline operator and processing stuff functionally.

Cutting the sticks

The actual code involves chopping off the sticks by the length of the shortest stick until nothing remains.

UPDATE: I had a look and turns out I wrote the Go code recursively after all!

Here it is in Go:

func cut(numArgs int, args []int, finalArray []int) (int, []int, []int) {

	var newArray []int
	var newFinalArray []int
	var zeroValue bool

	minArg := args[0]

	// Get smallest number in args
	for _, arg := range args {
		if arg < minArg {
			minArg = arg
		if arg == 0 {
			zeroValue = true

	// If non zero, append to resulting array, less the minimum arg
	for _, arg := range args {
		if arg != 0 {
			newArray = append(newArray, arg-minArg)

	// If there exists any zero length sticks, run function again
	if zeroValue {
		return cut(len(newArray), newArray, finalArray)

	// If more than 1 stick remain, run function recursively
	if numArgs > 1 {
		newFinalArray = append(finalArray, len(newArray))
		return cut(len(newArray), newArray, newFinalArray)

	newFinalArray = append(finalArray, len(newArray))
	return len(newArray), newArray, newFinalArray


Here it is in Elixir:

  def recurse_cut(values, max) when max > 0 do
    min = values
      |> Enum.filter(&(&1 > 0))
      |> Enum.min
    IO.puts(Enum.count(values, &(&1 >= min)))
    result = Enum.map(values, &(&1-min))
    recurse_cut(result, Enum.max(result))

  def recurse_cut(_values, max) when max <= 0 do

Its so clean!

As you can see, for programs that require a lot of iteration and mucking about, you might find that a functional style is a lot more efficient, and easier to understand.

I still believe Go has advantages in tooling, raw speed, simplicity, teams, documentation and a unified community vision. But Elixir offers a great functional style of programming and a sense of adventure that complements it very nicely.

I haven’t explored Elixir’s metaprogramming, macros or concurrency yet. I will have a look and share my thoughts in the future.