Subject: Re: On nil qua false [was: Re: On conditionals]
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2001 05:55:21 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Brian Palmer
| My perspective [...] is that the "Common Lisp community" as represented
| on the newsgroup is very brittle. The progression of some discussions
| have definitely left a very bad taste in my mouth, even as uninvolved as
| I am in the group.

  It is indeed the case that the community is brittle.  We suffer morons
  from other communities all the time, we have traitors in our own camp,
  and we have "popularity problems" and all sorts of irrelevant issues that
  people who need an excuse _not_ to use (Common) Lisp need to feel good
  about themselves instead of feeling like idiots who do not just go and do
  what they want to do.  There have been such people in this newsgroup for
  the past 5 years at least.  I have argued that this dissatisfaction with
  a great language is actually causing all the lack of popularity, because
  whoever wants to do something great for a bunch of sourpusses who will
  whine and bitch about trivial idiotic things because they have a mental
  problem accepting the authority of the standard, or generally just have
  so big egos that they cannot deal with the rejection of their bad ideas?

  This is just like some refugees from lands of poverty and war and famine
  and pain and illness who spend their entire lives cursing the country
  that has given them everything, but never "enough", mainly because they
  have no idea how to go about getting what they want on their own.  There
  are some people who think the universe _owes_ them something.  For some
  reason, these people tend to come to Common Lisp, most probably because
  Common Lisp has also given people so much for free that they could never
  create on their own that they feel helpless if they need something they
  have not got.  Common Lisp is also kind of a _relief_ from all the
  moronic languages out there, and finding that the relief was not perfect
  may cause some people to feel a little betrayed and to want more for free.
  We see this in people who whine endlessly about various things that are
  not in the standard, so they cannot use whatever their implementation
  offers them.  Similarly nutty arguments are extremely exhausting.

  I have also argued that any random luser off the Net (it used to be the
  street, but the lusers are too fat to walk these days) can find something
  to improve on in any of those new toy languages, while it almost takes a
  genius to make _actual_ improvements to Common Lisp.  This means that
  among the million idiot ideas that get implemented and discussed in the
  new toy languages, one or two good ideas may survive the "masses", while
  we need about one good idea for every five failing ones in Common Lisp.

  In most other language communities, having your ideas rejected is no big
  deal, because you can come up with another one at little extra cost, but
  if you spent a year designing something super-clever that you really like
  and which you have used for a long time seeing it trashed viciously
  (because you refuse to back down and get increasingly hostile to those
  who simply did not like your idea to begin with) may be too much for some
  brittle egos.  However, as every successful person knows, you have to
  learn from but otherwise forget your failures -- harbor no regrets, just
  do better next time.  Several contributors to the Common Lisp community
  have actually expressed extreme hostility to the failure to accept their
  undoubtedly brilliant ideas in some other universe, but while the Scheme
  community encourages people to go off and implement their _own_ Scheme,
  the Common Lisp standard is so big and mature that those who want to
  reinvent the wheel, or at least a portion of the wheel (like an Arc :),
  usually fail miserably.  (Just look at Guile, an attempt to approach
  Common Lisp asymptotically, but which took off with just short of the
  escape velocity of Scheme.)  In short, there is much more self-screening
  and "perfectionism" in the Common Lisp community than other communities.

  What this is driving at is the unprofessionalism of the "lone programmer"
  -- and Lisp is so powerful that it does not _need_ large teams -- who
  very unfortunately takes his software development _personally_.  People
  fall in love with (Common) Lisp in strange ways and few seem to have that
  important ability to get up and walk away from their creations, to throw
  it away if it turns out to have outlived its usefulness, etc.  This hang
  to get personal about their profession is tremendously annoying, because
  it creates another barrier to acceptance of good ideas: the inability to
  reject someone's ideas without their feeling personally offended.  We
  also have some amazing nutballs in this forum who post for no other
  reason than to "exact some measure of revenge" (to quote at least one
  mass-murdering anti-government nationalist) against whoever they think is
  responsible for their rejection.   This _unprofessionalism_ is dangerous.

  What would help make the community less brittle?  Professional detachment
  from one's professional opinions.  Fewer people who take comments about
  their professional opinions personally.  Fewer people who post personal
  opinions in the guise of professional opinions.

  The past is not more important than the future, despite what your culture
  has taught you.  Your future observations, conclusions, and beliefs are
  more important to you than those in your past ever will be.  The world is
  changing so fast the balance between the past and the future has shifted.