[erlang-questions] Erlang and bbcode

Ulf Wiger <>
Thu Jul 12 08:16:28 CEST 2012

On 12 Jul 2012, at 07:37, Richard O'Keefe wrote:

> On reading the slides about "Erlang sucks" I thought,
> "what is bbcode and how hard can it be to write an
> Erlang parser for it?"
> Since having that thought, I've checked half a dozen
> definitions of bbcode and looked at a parser or two
> and am little the wiser.
> BBcode strikes me as truly bizarre.  What is the point
> of entering something that looks pretty much like HTML
> except for using square brackets instead of angle brackets?
> But there is worse.
> [snip worse]

I guess this is indicative of a kind of problem that plagues most 
of the candidate development environments: they all include a
variety of helper tools and conventions that work for those who
have learned their strengths and idiosynchracies, but which may
well look truly bizzarre to someone from the outside.

Another part of this is of course that, as developers, we suffer a
great deal of frustration on an almost daily (or at least weekly)
basis, as things don't quite work the way we expect them, and 
we have to spend some time (occasionally quite a lot of time)
fixing stuff that shouldn't be broken in the first place.

When we are in our "home environment", this sort of stuff is par 
for the course, since we are learning things we consider
useful, and also hope to eventually contribute some helpful 
improvement - or at least knowledge we can share to our fellow
community members.

As newcomers, we just tend to feel frustrated and alienated.

But when spreading into a new domain, a development 
community of course has the choice of either copying the existing
helper tools (complete with possibly bizzarre semantics), or 
trying to understand them and creating something similar, but
more sane. Both approaches have their pros and cons, and
either way, friction is inevitable.

I am reminded of Todd Proebsting's excellent talk at the LL2
workshop at MIT 2002 - "Disruptive Programming Language Technologies"

http://ll2.ai.mit.edu/talks/proebsting.ppt (Powerpoint)
https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Fll2.ai.mit.edu%2Ftalks%2Fproebsting.ppt (Online view of the above)
http://web.mit.edu/webcast/ailab/mit-ll2-s2-09nov02-80k.ram (webcast - first talk in the video)

In particular, this line:
   My criteria: technology must

   Have disadvantages
   Be mostly ignored by recent PLDI
   and POPL conferences
   Alleviate real problems…
   “What does it do?”

If you pick a disruptive programming technology, expect some 
pain (by Todd's definition). The initial question then becomes
"why use Erlang in the first place?", and, depending on the 
answer "is the pain worth it?"

The answer in many cases may well be "no".

Ulf W

Ulf Wiger, Co-founder & Developer Advocate, Feuerlabs Inc.

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