[erlang-questions] Erlang Intro/Evangelism Presentation -- Starbucks!

Edmond Begumisa <>
Fri Jan 21 05:34:55 CET 2011


When I first read Paul's essay many years ago I thought he was nuts. I  
agreed with most of Graham's essays except this one. I was initially with  
Joel Spolsky on this.

I've since changed my mind :) I, like many, focused too much on the Lisp  
element of Paul's argument (probably coz I don't "get" Lisp -- I still  
don't get it!) Yet the important part of his essay was on questioning  
popularity. It took me a while to see this.

We have this vague notion of "industry standard" which has become just a  
fancy way of saying "popular". Java, .Net, SQL-RDBMSs, curly brace syntax  
are "industry standards" because they are popular. Everything else is  
"weird" and dangerous. Paul's core argument (which I initially missed) was  
that popularity is never a good reason to do anything, especially if  
you're trying to innovate. If you do it how most people do it you're more  
likely to get what most people get -- mediocrity.

If I had listened to Paul all those years ago I would have discovered  
Erlang sooner. I wound have searched for alternatives to RDMBSs sooner.  
Instead, I chose the misguided safety umbrella of sticking to "industry  
standards." I wasted many years under that umbrella when I should have  
been scattering through the rain trying find less crowded shelter  
elsewhere.

But then, save for consulting jobs, I've always worked with small teams in  
de facto start-up scenarios (a special case as you note). So I'm probably  
incapable of fully appreciating the other side of the argument: finding  
interchangeable programmers to maintain/upgrade code in "corporate"  
environments like Yahoo!

Steve Yegge once lamented about how you can't use Erlang or Python at  
Google (a company many consider to be innovative)...

"...a company where there's an engineer with ten years of experience, an  
architect, who's in your face screaming at you, with spittle flying on  
you, because you suggested using, you know... D. Or Haskell. Or Lisp, or  
Erlang, or take your pick... at Google, when I first got there, I was all  
idealistic. I'm like, wow, well Google hires all these great computer  
scientists, and so they must all be completely language-agnostic, and ha,  
ha, little do I know..."

Transcript:  
http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2008/05/dynamic-languages-strike-back.html
Video:  
http://ee380.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/videologger.php?target=080507-ee380-300.asx

- Edmond -


On Sun, 09 Jan 2011 15:34:16 +1100, Michael Turner  
<> wrote:

> Paul Graham's Beating the Averages can always bear another re-reading
> (notwithstanding it's various exaggerations -- I'm sorry, Paul, but  
> Cobol IS
> closer to Python than to assembly language.)  You could probably  
> substitute
> "Erlang" for "Lisp" everywhere in the essay, without doing violence to an
> excellent point.
>
> The problem is, Graham is addressing a special case: the startup context,
> when there is (almost by definition, from the VC point of view) a market
> window for a new class of application.  The overwhelming bulk of  
> production
> code in the world does not match that description.  Faced with the  
> problem
> of maintaining Yahoo! Stores as production code, Yahoo! rewrote it in C++
> and Perl.  Paul Graham opines that they did this only out of Lispophobia,
> but I really wonder: if he'd been golden-handcuffed to Yahoo! and put in  
> a
> position to hire underlings, he'd be in an awkward position, wouldn't he?
> "Gee, I have to hire quite a few Lisp hackers who are both (a) more or  
> less
> in my league, and (b) all hot to work at Yahoo! on something like Viaweb,
> rather than, say, some interesting problem in computational linguistics.
>  And, uh-oh, in the meantime, I'm getting a million resumes from people  
> who
> have written a few hundred lines of bad Autolisp."  I think the pickings
> would be slim.  In an interesting thread of commentary on Paul Graham's
> essay, none other than Dan Weinreb, one of the preeminent Lisp hackers of
> our time (or any time) writes:
>
> "... it would take a lot, or require special circumstances, to persuade  
> me
> to choose Lisp for a major software project, if I were in charge of
> making the choice."
>
> http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=31402
>
> <http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=31402>-michael
> turner
>
> On Sun, Jan 9, 2011 at 6:20 AM, Robert Virding <
> > wrote:
>
>> ----- "Edmond Begumisa" <> wrote:
>>
>> > Probably true. But I am reminded of something very interesting Ulf has
>> >
>> > just pointed me to...
>> >
>> > "The Innovator's Dilemma (C. Christensen) as quoted by Todd A.
>> > Proebsting
>> > ...
>> >
>> > "… companies [languages] that did everything right---were in tune with
>> >
>> > their competition, listened to their customers, and invested
>> > aggressively
>> > in new technologies---*still* lost their market leadership when
>> > confronted
>> > with disruptive changes in technology…"
>> >
>> > http://ll2.ai.mit.edu/talks/proebsting.ppt
>>
>> This is definitely a very interesting book to read (the Innovator's
>> Dilemma). Also interesting is Paul Graham's essay "Beating the  
>> Averages",
>> http://www.paulgraham.com/avg.html , which is also about disruptive
>> technologies.
>>
>> Robert
>>
>> --
>> Robert Virding, Erlang Solutions Ltd.
>>


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