Learning Erlang for Web Development

Jimmie Houchin <>
Sat Jul 15 06:30:42 CEST 2000


Hi,

Thanks for your reply.

Hal Snyder wrote:
> 
> Jimmie Houchin <> writes:
> 
> > I am exploring my options for web development. Erlang and Eddie look
> > like a tremendous foundation for building websites. They look like a
> > great foundation for building a web app server or toolkit like Zope
> > or ACS.
> 
> Welcome to the bleeding edge. Erlang's main use today is in telecom
> systems. But see Eddieware and Bluetail sites for free and for-pay,
> respectively, load balancing based on Erlang.
> 
> I work for a small computer telephony company. That was my excuse to
> learn Erlang. But I think there are enough revolutionary ideas in ERTS
> to do some very interesting distributed web work.

This not being Erlang's current primary use doesn't bother me. It looks
like it should support it very well though. From my perspective it seems
to have scalability, robustness and fault-tolerance well under control.
What it seems to lack for me is a web toolkit for building web based
communities, portals, etc. For more information see ACS at
http://www.arsdigita.com and Philip Greenspun's book Philip and Alex's
Guide to Web Publishing. It would seem to me that Erlang would be an
excellent implementation language for what he describes. Differences
being he believes scalability belongs on a single machine and that the
hard work should be done by a RDBMS. Oh well. I think Erlang, Eddie,
INETS and Mnesia could do the job and possibly much more elegantly.

I also prefer the way Erlang, Eddie, et al. scales. I like distributing
the processes and work load across multiple machines. I think it can
provide improved opportunities to survive machine or site failure due
either hardware, software or malicious issues.

> > I do not have a back ground in computer science or mathematics. I
> > have been studying various programming languages for several years.
> > So I have at least a certain level of programming knowledge.
> 
> Background in any discipline of abstract thinking is a big plus. Comp
> sci, math, particle physics...

Abstract thinking is not a problem.

> > Most of the languages I've studied are C++ (very little), Java, Python.
> > I've not used any Functional Languages. I've have a copy of SICP ready
> > to read if necessary. I will read at some point regardless.
> 
> Lisp background makes some of the basic list ops easier to grasp.

I bought the book so that I could get a basic grounding in computer
science.

> > Will not having a background in math be a problem in learning Erlang
> > for web development? I might have other projects, but none are math
> > related, per se.
> 
> Probably a math background is not needed. But math is fun, so don't
> let that deter you from learning more of it!

Math doesn't bother me. I am not afraid of math. I am actually quite
good with math in the areas where I've studied. I just haven't studied
math since high school. So when math is encountered in a computer
science context it is generally beyond what I've studied.

> > I have read 'Getting Started' and a portion of the Mnesia pdf. So
> > far nothing I've seen gives me any problems. However, browsing
> > comp.lang.functional and seeing all this stuff about monads, etc.
> > prompted this post.
> 
> AFAIK the Erlang developers have just said no to monads. Which leads
> to far fewer existential, tail-chasing threads on the mailing list. :)

I've seen the topic somewhat on comp.lang.functional, but the points at
which I caught it, it seemed to have degraded significantly.

> > If my background (or lack thereof) does not pose a problem, what
> > books or other materials would be recommended for learning either
> > Erlang or Functional Programming for understanding Erlang? In
> > particular materials not a part of the documentation of Erlang.
> > There seems to be a wonderful amount of documentation available.
> 
> Maurice Castro's Erlang in Real Time, available on the Erlang website,
> makes a nice complement to the Red Book for getting started. The
> Eddieware sources are an example of a production Erlang system; you
> will learn from them how important it is to understand the System
> Architecture and System Principles documentation. I even found the
> Wikie source (including a mini web server and support for Erlang
> Server Pages!) interesting reading, if a bit rough.

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll look for the Wikie and Erlang Server
Pages. It will be interesting to see what is already available in the
area of web development.
 
> Support on this mailing list has been cordial and well thought out,
> whenever I got stumped.

>From what I've seen the Erlang community is well thought of here and on
comp.lang.functional.
Nice. :)

Jimmie Houchin



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