[erlang-questions] What problem are we trying to solve here? [was Erland users group [was re: languages in use? [was: Time for OTP to be Renamed?]]]

Pieter Hintjens <>
Sun Feb 16 12:08:55 CET 2014


On Sat, Feb 15, 2014 at 6:08 PM, Fred Hebert <> wrote:

> That makes for quite a steep curve, doesn't it?

This is a core problem. It is an uncanny valley; before you can get
those theoretical productivity gains you have to make large
investments.

We had this experience in the ZeroMQ community (where I take many of
my lessons from), and the principal lesson was that although there are
sufficient very smart people to help with the hardest problems, the
real life comes from passers-by who learn rapidly in an easy
environment, and get benefit from day one. Decreasing slices of these
people then stick around and learn more and more.

If you scare off the tourists, you cut the number of solid
contributors sharply. This has killed many technically brilliant
projects. Indeed, technical brilliance is one of the best ways to
scare away contributors. Bumbling sincerity beats code quality any
time of day.

It's not snowing in Belgium. However, community building is the same
problem in any country. Remove barriers, remove confusion, create
competition, encourage people to work together instead of reinventing
the same answers over and over. Create space for specialization and
profit. Open up communications. Standardize obsessively. Spread
ownership and decision making as widely as possible.

The ex-cathedra model can't compete with the rabble in the
marketplace. So Erlang's greatest challenge IMO is simply shifting
away from the top down "we decide for you" model to one that is driven
by users.

If there's no shift in power by Erlang's current owners to a real
community driven thinking process, the other options would be to fork
the entire language and open it up, or allow it to die.

To present this choice as (a) Ericsson or (b) Random Stupid Committee
is a false dichotomy. The correct answer is (c) collective ownership
and decision making with no single points of failure.

It's no coincidence that the only sustainable organizational model for
building distributed systems is itself a distributed system. Which the
Erlang community isn't, today.

IMO Erlang is trying to deny Conway's law. It's like trying to deny
gravity. Face, let me introduce you to Ground. Let's see who wins.

I'd love to learn Erlang, mainly because of the people who use it.
However I'm lazy and modest in my investments and can't spend six
months to see profit in a project. I won't use tools I can't improve
myself. I won't join communities where I depend on others for decision
making.

No complaints here. Just observation and comment based on watching a
tragic number of good projects die because people didn't raise their
heads up and ask some basic questions about relevance to the market.

-Pieter


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