Subject: Re: Loop
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1999/07/02
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* (Mark K. Gardner)
| I too find it unpleasant. I become impatient. Such a simple sentence
| should not take so long to decypher so I dismiss it. There are plenty of
| important, well formatted sentences for me to spend time on. Why should I
| waste time on unformatted ones?

  I gotta agree with this.  I also skip poorly formatted USENET articles,
  ignore people who can't spell, and get upset with people who _defend_
  the ignorance and incompetence producing them.

  in this particular case, however, I ran a small test on myself that
  surprised me.  it's easy to produce the "condensed" text style that
  Gareth McCaughan used as an example, so I took a bunch of unknown texts
  and tried to time my own reading speed.  I consistently got differences
  of a factor between 70 and 100, which I just couldn't believe, so I had
  to try many times.  if I worked really hard, I could get it down to a
  factor of 50.  that is, I normally read very fast, and having to piece
  together word boundaries, rejoin lines mentally to find broken words,
  figure out sentence ends, etc, had me bogged down.  now, the surprising
  part is that it didn't _feel_ like it was that big a difference, which
  I'm sure is due to the same principle that led people to believe that a
  compiler was fast if they got to watch a running line counter: activating
  the sense of action.  now, the counter-experiment was to read slowly, so
  that the factor would become smaller.  I found that I lost concentration
  when I got down to a factor of 25, but when I tried to read the words one
  by one and thinking about its role in the grammer, I managed to be only
  10 times faster than the condensed text, but I couldn't remember what I
  had read, but I _could_ explain the sentence structure very well.

  to someone who reads and types atrociously slowly and whose mind doesn't
  really work all that well to begin with (imagine¹ an autistic cripple who
  types with his right big toe only and who uses his head to move a huge
  magnifying glass that shows one letter at a time), I'm sure the pain and
  suffering of typing spaces and formatting text or code nicely for others
  to read is tremendously hard to deal with, and very different values of
  "optimal" may consequently apply.  e.g., add "blind" to the above, and
  you probably have a person whose Braille printer or electronic voice
  probably ignores (the then useless) whitespace, anyway.
| I feel that the most important reason for conforming to indention
| conventions is to communicate effectively.  To become a member of the
| Lisp community, I must "speak the language" that the community speaks.
| That language includes indention idoms.  If I refuse to speak the
| language, I will forever remain on the outside.

  this is very important.  however, many programmers are taught to program
  in virtual isolation, and there is seldom an "oral tradition" that they
  feel a desire to be part of.  some of this is because most programming
  languages have only been around for a decade at best, and there is not
  all that much to form a community around to begin with.  Lisp is very
  different in this regard: it is the language _of_ a community.

¹ or not, if you are offended by such images
@1999-07-22T00:37:33Z -- pi billion seconds since the turn of the century