Subject: Re: More: Very large reals...
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 10:49:38 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Erann Gat
| I really wish that the *real* leaders of the Lisp community, like Kent
| and Duane and Paul Graham and Peter Norvig and Dick Gabriel, and even
| Erik, would lead this community in what I perceived to be a productive
| direction that I could both contribute to and benefit from.

  The obnoxious follower is in other words looking for the right leaders to
  follow ...

| Alas, what I perceive is that this is not happening.

  ... and faults his leaders for not being "followable".

| Erik seems intent on transforming Lisp from a programming language into a
| religion.

  What was that gripe about gross distortions of your views, again?  Are
  you _really_ so goddamn unintelligent as you prefer to portray yourself?

  You are longer on insult than I am, Erann Gat, and _way_ shorter on
  contents.  Your thinking here is just as vacuous as that insult is.
| I believe in the maxim that one should lead, follow, or get out of the
| way.  I tried following, that worked for a long time, but it doesn't
| today, at least not for me, and apparently not for a lot of people.  So
| I'm going to try leading for a while.  If that doesn't work, I'll get out
| of the way.

  I honestly believe you are in the way and should get the hell out of it.

  Popularity contests are not fought in newsgroups.  The only people who
  voice their opinions are those who have a contrary view to yours, and
  when that happens, you go bananas and think "religion" and what-not and
  claim that it is somebody else's fault that you cannot get what you want.

  The argument made by Patrick that you externalize your own problems seems
  right on target.

| Yes, I agree.  That's why one of the things I think needs to be done is
| to hide Common Lisp (or something like it) under the guise of a new name
| and surface syntax with a simple mapping to S-expressions underneath.

  And the DYLAN experience was not enough to discourage this nonsense?

  It is _not_ the s-expression syntax that ticks people off, it is the
  total lack of familiarity with the _words_, the very unusual way that the
  words have meaning while the syntax has (almost) none, and the fact that
  you have to know _each_ word to grasp the meaning of a function that
  someone else wrote.  This is _not_ a problem: What is a problem is that
  people want to be able to do something "useful" without knowing squat
  about their tools or languages.  I mean, when people have picked up K&R
  and typed in the "hello, world" codelet and it runs, that is rewarding to
  a rank beginner.  It is _not_ rewarding to a seasoned programmer.  It is
  a huge mistake to offer Common Lisp to beginners.  (Scheme even more so.)

| Here's a theory I've developed over the years: the digital world has
| become so complicated that it's impossible for any one person to keep up.

  What does this mean?  "My circle of friends has become so large that I
  can no longer keep up" means that you are no longer able to obtain
  information about what happens to people you care about, miss out on
  deaths in their families, new or passing pets, new or passing lovers,
  people moving, etc.  If this is the meaning, it has _never_ been possible
  for any one person to keep up with the "digital world", wherever the hell
  the boundaries for _that_ is, so the criticism is _completely_ vacuous.

| People therefore rely on the opinions of others at least as guides to
| where they should focus their attention and often as guides to actual
| decisions.

  And this was a change from _what_?  There is absolutely no merit to the
  "therefore".  People have always done this, too.  Local communities of
  people who do things certain ways is the way human society has evolved.
  There is _nothing_ peculiar about the digital world in this regard.

| In such a climate there is a positive-feedback effect where ideas get
| accepted as truth completely irrespective of actual facts.

  This is true in all possible climates.  Nothing special, nothing new.

| One influential "consultant" says something, enough people embody that
| opinion into their worldview, and suddenly "everybody just knows" that X
| is true.

  Sure, until the next influential "consultant" comes along.

| This has happened to languages like Lisp and Dylan and Eiffel: everybody
| just knows that no one uses them, they aren't good for anything (except
| that Lisp is good for AI), and so the vast majority of people don't even
| bother to learn about them.

  This line of reasoning is not empirically supported.  If the majority of
  people do not bother to learn Common Lisp, Dylan, or Eiffel, it is _not_
  because they know that _nobody_ uses them.  It is because the people they
  hang out with, the people they compete with for jobs, etc, do not use it.
  If a job offer comes up that requires a skill, a lot of people are smart
  enough to figure out that they could get it if they had that skill, and
  go learn it.  If some entrepreneurial guy discovers something unusual
  that he thinks will offer him an edge over his competition, he _will_ use
  it to that effect.
| Interestingly, the Lisp community is a little island of this same
| phenomenon happening, but anchored to a different "local maximum".

  But how the hell is this _different_ from anything?  _Every_ community is
  anchored to its own local maximum.  Every community is different.  There
  is no global maximum.  What is considered the most popular thing on earth
  depends on who you ask.

  The only problem we seem to have is that Common Lisp is not even the most
  popular language in its very own community, thanks to people like you.

| In the Lisp community, Lisp is the ultimate language, all language
| innovations that can possibly happen have already happened, and Lisp
| incorporates them all, so there is no point in learning any language
| other than Lisp.

  What a load of crap.  If this is one your premises, no wonder you have to
  be a fucking obnoxious pest in this forum and fight what you think is
  wrong, like you fight all other meaningless things you think is wrong.

| I am caricaturing, of course, and most people don't take these extreme
| position in their pure form.

  I challenge you to find that it is present in even one person regarding
  even one programming language innovation.  The insulting attribution of
  stupidity on such a massive scale to a whole community is how you get
  dethroned as a leader, not how you gain followers.

| But (putting on my scientist hat for a moment) this theory actually makes
| a testable prediction: that most people who like Lisp don't know much
| about other langauges, and most people who like other langauges don't
| know much about Lisp.

  With a scientist hat, you would at least have called it a hypothesis.

  But. good, at last a way to make you realize that you are wrong.  Not
  only empirically, but also logically: Common Lisp is not only hard to
  find, it is, by your very own testimony, unpopular and good for nothing,
  so one cannot escape wondering how people first discover it.  It is _so_
  very unlikely that people pick up a Common Lisp book in the computer
  section of their favorite bookstore or library and say "hey, I want to
  learn about computers and this language!".  (Well, I actually discovered
  computers and Basic that way from my favorite library as a kid because it
  had classified computers right next to mathematics, but the likelihood
  that it be Common Lisp is and will remain very close to zero.)

  The average discoverer of Common Lisp _must_ therefore have been exposed
  to at least several other languages, have found that computer programming
  is rewarding and also have been _dissatisfied_ with what he was already
  familiar with, or he would simply have stuck with that "tradition".  In
  fact, I discovered Lisp by accident and was unable to use it for anything
  for years, but the ideas it had presented somehow "fit" how I thought.

  Being so obnoxious as to list a lot of languages is counter-productive,
  but the languages that I have taken an interest in _after_ I learned
  Common Lisp appear to be even more important to defeat your stupid line
  of argument than those I knew before, and those include: Java, Dylan, Ada
  95, JavaScript, Python, SQL, and Perl.  In all cases, I have looked for
  stuff that I could learn from and incorporate into my own thinking.  In a
  lot of cases, I have determined, after a significant period of study,
  that the value of switching to those languages as my "mainstay" would be
  a very bad idea.  Java is too big for me and too much of a moving target
  and also seems to depend very much on "living" in a Java community, but
  that means a lot of _really_ ignorant people who know _only_ Java, and
  very little about computer programming.  If I cannot become filthy rich
  programming Common Lisp, I no longer have the stomach (literally) to try
  to become filthy rich _programming_.  This is why I am preparing to
  change carreer to law over the next few years, because, as I joke: there
  are two _really_ suspicious professionals: an old programmer, and a young

| (Here's a data point: when Paul Graham started designing Arc he didn't
| know Python.)

  That is not a data point for your hypothesis.

  In a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none.
  In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief.