December 07, 2005
I Don't Even Wear a Bow-tie

This week's theme is revisiting the themes of previous images.

“I want to paraphrase Jon Stewart and say to John Wiseman: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting Lisp.”—Scott Reynen

Hi, Scott.

I figured I would send you a short note to give you some insight into my motivations, which I think it's possible you may have misjudged.

The reason that I posted a link a while back to your short review of that SLIME screencast is that I agreed with much of it. I love Lisp, and it took me months before I could actually finish that entire 55-minute video. And the bit at the end where he can't quit cleanly? That's kind of embarrassing.

I'm interested in how other people view Lisp, the things that lead them either to try it or to stay away from it, and the problems they have in using it. One reason I'm interested in those things is because I think there's lots of room for making Lisp better by fixing or minimizing the problems that even smart programmers run into when they consider using Lisp. And I selfishly want to benefit from those improvements myself.

“The idea that there is something better than Lisp is apparently inconceivable to some, judging from comments on the reddit blog. The Lispers instead quickly set about trying to find the real reason behind the switch. One assumed it must have been divine intervention, since 'there seems to be no other reason for switching to an inferior language.' Another figured something else must be going on: 'Could this be...a lie? To throw off competition? It's not as though Paul Graham hasn't hinted at this tactic in his essays...' Another chimed in: 'I decided it was a prank.' Another suggested the authors simply wanted more 'cut corners, hacks, and faked artisanship.'”—Aaron Swartz

I posted the stuff about Reddit because I thought that there may be something to learn by looking at the experience of a company that is pro-Lisp, is financed and mentored by a prominent Lisp-friendly figure, actually wrote version 1.0 of their code in Lisp, and still ran into trouble and rewrote their software in another language. Reddit's rewrite is no Lisp apocalypse, and it might not even turn out to be a very interesting event. But I think there's probably something to learn from their experience that can be used to improve Lisp. And Lisp can be improved.

“Despite my pride in my Lisp heritage, the time when I am closest to being ashamed of it is when I hear a Lisp advocate in the middle of a good rant.”—Tim Converse

I'm sorry you got a bunch of morons posting comments to your site. I don't think I'm responsible, though. It's true that I post snippets of things without much context. But those snippets are the things that my brain found interesting, and the idea is that you can click on the link and get the whole picture for yourself. I may emphasize, but I don't think I slant. In fact I'm pretty sure some people think of me as a Lisp zealot while others consider me a Lisp traitor.

And I guess I'm cool with that.

Posted by jjwiseman at December 07, 2005 04:41 PM

"But I think there's probably something to learn from their experience that can be used to improve Lisp."

The problem is that people who aren't using Lisp are obviously not interested in being part of that discussion, but by posting quotes with no surrounding context, you encourage the discussion to happen there rather than here on your own blog.

Aside from causing annoying flame fests, I don't think this is a good way to accomplish your goal of improving Lisp. A simple "what do you think?" at the end of one or your quoting posts would encourage people to discuss Lisp here, where the discussions appear to be a bit more elevated.

I don't hold you responsible for all the trolls out there, but your blog does appear to be functioning as a directory of Lisp flame wars waiting to happen, and I think you are in a position to change that.

Posted by: Scott Reynen on December 7, 2005 05:30 PM

About reddit, Marc Battyani has been single-handedly redoing in a few hours a reddit-like site in Common Lisp: Linkit...

Posted by: Faré on December 7, 2005 05:56 PM


I've been watching this whole thing unfold and I think you are one of the few Lisp guys who are actually seeing reality here. The Lisp community is lucky to have you.

Here's some ideas for those in the Lisp crowd that want to grow mind share:

- Stop rewriting Reddit in Lisp. You look silly, you're not solving anything, and you are completely missing the lesson. People are laughing at this. The focus and execution is admirable, but it is running in the wrong direction.

- Focus your energy on ONE implemenation. Take SBCL and run with it.

- Get threads and sockets working on the major 3 platforms.

- Documentation, documentation, documentation. Examples, examples, examples. Tutorials, tutorials, tutorials.

- Some nice web design to the Lisp sites that are out there wouldn't hurt.

- Go read Why the Lucky Stiff's blog Red Handed. People can learn a lot from this guy and the projects he's worked on.

Posted by: Eman on December 7, 2005 05:58 PM

Hey, you lisp traitor commie mutant, your site and my firefox seem to not negociate properly a choice of UTF8 or Latin1 between the preview and post options...

Posted by: Fahree on December 7, 2005 06:06 PM

"Focus your energy on ONE implemenation. Take SBCL and run with it."

OK, will do. Thanks.

- the Lisp community

Posted by: sarcasm on December 7, 2005 06:41 PM

John, is it true you really hate lisp even more than you hate Beyonce?

Posted by: Tensegrity Dan on December 7, 2005 08:41 PM

I can't believe nobody pointed out how extremely lame it is to abuse Jon Stewart in this manner. In any case, this Scott guy sounds like a real pussy. I bet Beyonce could totally suck him off.

Posted by: StopDaHating on December 8, 2005 04:20 PM

On some level, I can appreciate the rewriting of reddit.

On one hand it's somewhat rediculous, on the other it may help the community save face.

But why not do something to actually help the fucking community, and make it stronger, such as writing documentation and examples?

More jerking off won't really help, will it? I'm almost at the point where I can begin to make examples and whatnot, but it was hard to get here. And I think that's what's keeping a lot of people away from lisp.

Posted by: bitshifter on December 8, 2005 07:29 PM

If it were a good enough language, you wouldn't be scraping around for some "community support". I know Lisp has its merits, but without CORPORATE SUPPORT, who the fuck cares? Whatever. Maybe I'm a cynic. Maybe I've seen Java come and fail and become VisualBasic scripting on webpages, maybe I've seen C++ actually work and be a part of, I don't know, EVERYTHING.

Whatevs. free(me_fromthis)

Posted by: MoneyTalks on December 9, 2005 04:02 PM

"That Lemonodor, he's one bad, Lisp-hating muthaf--"
  Shut yo mouth!
I'm just talking about Lemonodor!

With that out of the way, I've been wondering. If representatives of Franz, Lispworks, CMUCL/SBCL, OpenMCL, & Corman (say) came out of a room and said they agreed on (language) standards for networking and multiprocessing, it'd be a fine thing. Think it'd happen?

Posted by: Michael Hannemann on December 9, 2005 05:11 PM

To Eman's otherwise utterly correct analysis I would add: Pour your efforts into a standard library. People think Python makes them über-productive, but I think it's got a tremendous amount to do with the library. You can jump in and in a few lines get an XML-RPC server going, pull results from a SQL database, parse ugly CSV files, log it all in a nice format, and then dump the whole thing to an SMTP server.

And to do that not only did you not have to track those libs down and wrangle them into place, but they have a cohesive design and documentation, which makes you still more productive. It's a heck of a way to get work done, and I dearly wish Lisp had an equivalent. Somebody's gonna hafta step up and be SBCL's or CMUCL's BDFL, otherwise it probably won't happen.

Posted by: Steve Freitas on December 12, 2005 12:14 AM

congratulations john, you've started a flame war. i'm proud of you.

Posted by: meatsock on December 12, 2005 12:34 AM

Whoever the dominant player is defines the standards. If others play along, great. If not, who cares? C++ was made popular in part by VisualStudio learning how to compile it and allow you to debug it. Also because it ultimately is the type of beauraucratic hodgepodgery humans have always loved. We must love these things, we keep creating them.

-- I'm not one for well thought out argumens, just pointing at some of the essential things that are irritating to me about historical computer language societies.

That said, I'll always love the posts at lemonodor, I love hearing about the growth or lack therein of Lisp, but I just don't share the sort of passion people seem to have about these things. So I make fun of that aspect. I don't particularly consider that a flame war, or, if so, I don't consider flame wars to be inherently bad.

I mentioned Lisp at work the other day (we make statistical machine translation, using C++), and one of the scientists said "Just don't mention that to ------" (the other head scientist). I find that odd. I should be able to mention Lisp to a scientist in the field of Linguistics without him having a passionate response.


Posted by: defineStandard on December 12, 2005 02:55 PM

John Stewart... John Wiseman. A little too close for coincidence, don't you think?

Posted by: Gary King on December 13, 2005 03:15 AM

That photograph is a miracle, man. This blog is forking excellent.

Posted by: why on December 15, 2005 12:04 PM
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