Subject: Re: Microsoft Common Lisp? From: Erik Naggum <email@example.com> Date: 1997/02/04 Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp,comp.lang.scheme,comp.lang.misc Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> [comp.arch removed] * Cyber Surfer | Some of the problems of langage politics is a blind insistance on | adhering to standards. adhering, yes; blind, no. language standards are specifications to which implementors (vendors) are held responsible. without such specifications, implementors would seek to implement anything they wanted that seemed useful, and thus making the _language_ less reliable and less useful. I'm a language guy, and so to me the stability of a language is directly related to how much I dare express in that language. if I were an "app" guy, I would probably be interested more in how much I _could_ express in a language to "get some work done". put another way, I ask what an expression in a language means, and if I worry about what an expression _does_, it is only because what it means is not sufficiently well-defined for me to trust it. I believe the Sapir-Worf hypothesis that languages determine what we can think about, and I worry that if language loses meaning and instead is redefined in terms of actions or operations, we lose sight of the main value of languages: abstraction. however, Microsoft (and others) does not seem to think that specifications are at all useful until long after the fact. many programmers think specifications are a drag, and try to avoid them. by requiring that a vendor adhere to the specifications for what they say they are selling, we do nothing more than is already required in any other industry. it is when we accept that a vendor can produce anything it wants and push changes on its customers with impunity that we do make serious departures from established practice in good engineering. I don't think this merits a label like "blind adherence". unfortunately, standards are themselves political vehicles, and whether a standard is good or bad depends on many factors. however, when a standard is no good, you don't see very many people adhere to it, although you may still find parts of the corporate culture buying very expensive hype, in blatant disrespect for technical expertise. this is symptomatic of the way standards are treated -- decisions are made by non-technical people who are more interested in pecuniary matters than either technical or human. I found http://www.javasoft.com/people/jag/StandardsPhases/index.html to be a succinct summary of the many thoughts I have also made during the 5 years I worked with ISO standardization (1991-1996). I grew to hate the political nonsense and the growing desire for ISO to push uniqueness the way commercial entities do to attract customers. instead of serving the technical communities, ISO has changed its focus to serve the marketing departments, with the attendant lack of interest in technical problems. ideally, Working Groups should be working groups, and the political stuff should not take place until after the drafts and recommendations reached Sub-Committee (or Technical Committee, where the WG or Special WG is directly under the TC) level. however, to an increasing degree, vendors send political representatives to WG meetings who don't contribute with technical expertise, but rather block progress for non-technical reasons. or they make political "demands" instead of presenting their case in such a way as to encourage others to follow. ideally, a working group should only vote for technical reasons, not for political reasons. #\Erik -- 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine -- a basic ingredient in quality software.