Subject: Re: Lisp's future
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 26 Jan 2004 22:15:12 +0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Ville Vainio
| All the #' in CL seemed like an unnecessary hassle.

  After several discussions with programmers in many languages over many
  years, I have gradually concluded that it is the #' reader macro that
  is harmful, not the functionality it provides.

  Quite unlike the QUOTE operator which people understand intuitively,
  perhaps even because of its name, sharp-quote is meaningless, and the
  bridge to its actual meaning is evidently difficult to build.

  My suggestion is that you write (function ...) instead of #'... while
  you need to internalize the functionality.

| Well, Paul Graham has. I, perhaps too hastily, extrapolated that to
| apply for rest of the Lisp community, probably because mr. Graham
| seems to be an "opinion leader" of a sort here.

  He is not.  There are no opinion leaders in the Lisp camp.  Part of
  what makes us (qua community) difficult to understand is precisely the
  lack of any «leaders».  For some reason, «committee product» is a bad
  thing in the eyes of many software people, who flock to the products
  of single-minded single minds, instead.  For some reason, following a
  single leader and adopting a uniform set of ideas and ideals from one
  person is preferable to adopting multifarious ideas and ideals from a
  group of people who cannot seem to agree on anything, but who actually
  agree on so much that the things they disagree about are /important/.

| As for marketing, I consider the user base of a language hugely
| important, and I don't see why Lisp ppl wouldn't care whether anyone
| else is using their language.

  Please understand that markeing is not indicative of substance, but
  rather of the lack thereof.  People come to Common Lisp and Scheme in
  the presence of a significantly /negativ/ marketing from those who are
  unable to grasp the languages' benefits, or even their nature.  The
  only thing that can make people come to like something with a negative
  impression in the general population is substance.  So Lisp people
  care very much about the substance, and so it is up to those who want
  to learn to appreciate it.  We know that lots of people will come
  around, but also that it might take some time.

| The main implementation language is often determined by the company,
| and finding a job where Lisp is the main language is not very likely,
| at least at this time.

  You are making this up, and that kind of negative marketing is very,
  very annoying here.  Please do not pretend that your fantasy world is
  the reality others live in.

| I'm mostly checking out Lisp for recreational value.

  All the people who have complained about Common Lisp and/or Scheme
  features they do not understand in the past have also only come to
  look at the language for their recreational value.  However, the kind
  of recreational value that you can get out of these languages is akin
  to that of learning a foreign language, or Latin or Greek: The value
  you get out of it depends entirely on whether you have put in enough
  effort to acquire basic comprehension.

| I dunno, I guess I'm just looking for the same rush I got when first
| learning Python, and expected On Lisp to provide it. Apparently Lisp
| just takes more time to grow on you.

  Yup.  It is much more different, and the worst problem is that if you
  have an «it looks the same, so it is the same» attitude towards life
  in general, you will be satisfied that you have seen something you
  already know, before you have any idea what you are looking at.  In a
  way, (Common) Lisp sorts people into those who maintain curiosity in
  the presence of similarity and those who need external stimuli to keep
  their curiosity up and running.

| CLOS just seemed to be rather arcane and verbose as a whole.  [...]
| "Common Lisp: the language, 2nd edition" didn't really help, to say
| the least.

  Try Sonya Keene.

| I'm also afraid that the initial disgust at parentheses would turn
| them away quickly - I'm past that point myself, but I certainly
| couldn't blame them.

  I have written in the past on the reason for this aversion, so I have
  no particular urge to repeat myself, but the central issue is that in
  the C family of languages, parentheses are associated with pain and
  suffering.  Intelligent as most programmers are, they are still the
  kinds of animals that associate intense, unrelenting discomfort, not
  to say outright pain, with the nearest available culprit.  Considering
  the tremendously complex function that parentheses have in C, and even
  more so in C++, it is not hard to understand that another language,
  which sports parentheses all over the place, triggers associated pain
  reactions in people who do not introspect sufficiently to understand
  what, precisely, they are reacting to.  I think the first thing you
  have to do with people who exhibit parenthophobia is to desensitize
  them and show them that the pain comes from the braindamaged abuse of
  two harmless characters in the design of C and C++ and that the right
  association is from C and C++ to pain, not from parentheses to pain.

Erik Naggum | Oslo, Norway                                      2004-026

Act from reason, and failure makes you rethink and study harder.
Act from faith, and failure makes you blame someone and push harder.