Subject: Re: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2001 19:46:58 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Barry Margolin <>
| I think worrying about this encyclopedia entry is tilting at windmills.

  Then let others who do not agree with you try to change these entries.

| Do you really think that people doing any serious comparisons of computer
| languages are going to use that miniscule entry as their criteria?

  What makes you believe that those are the target audience?  People who
  would like to know about something they previously knew little or nothing
  about go to encyclopedia to satisfy their _curiosity_.  You are probably
  not that kind of person, but I am.  Many a journey to learn new things
  have begun with various encyclopedia entries over the years.  I would
  like an entry to be motivating those who seek to learn.  This particular
  entry is not.  Regardless of your defeatism, the fact is that some people
  start with absolutely no knowledge about Lisp and could use an entry that
  led them to want to learn more, and not be led _astray_.  Some people do
  in fact start with their own curiosity as the only motivation.  If one in
  a thosuand start their journey to something I consider valuable through a
  dictionary entry, then it is worth improving it.  You do not think so,
  but I wonder why you find it worth your time and effort to _discourage_
  those who do.  What is in this for you to want to _hinder_ an improved
  entry?  Why are you so interested in _de-motivating_ those who would
  simply like such an entry to be more accurate?  I find your expressed and
  strong _negative_ interest here very puzzling, to say the least.  How
  could it possibly be a good thing for you to cause an inaccurate entry to
  remain unchanged if it can be improved?

| Or that changing this encyclopedia will actually make a dent in the
| widespread misunderstanding about Lisp in the computer science industry?

  Yes.  "A dent" is precisely what I would hope for.  If it has wider
  effects over time, that would be a good thing, too, but it is hard to
  know these things in advance.  For instance, it _may_ be sufficient to
  change this one entry to cause other entries to be less inaccurate, as
  editors and the experts they consult, also consult each other's entries.

| I think this is much ado about nothing.

  Of course you do.  You have given up and you want others to give up, too.
  I would appreciate if you simply gave up and stopped working so hard to
  make others give up, too.  Giving up is not a good thing to be encouraged.

  Norway is now run by a priest from the fundamentalist Christian People's
  Party, the fifth largest party representing one eighth of the electorate.
  The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers.   -- Richard Hamming