[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?]]]

Robert Virding <>
Sun Feb 16 20:01:44 CET 2014

This discussion of whether it is good or bad that Ericsson manages/releases Erlang often crops up. I feel there are 3 very strong reasons why it is good that they do:

- The quality of the actual is very good, it is product quality.
- The Erlang language has been kept very small and consistent
- There is basically only one release which everyone uses so you avoid the problem of "it runs on R17 with Bills patches v0.3"

Now I know that all these issues could be handled if Erlang was managed by some group/steering committee/whatever but it would be much more difficult. Especially the second one I think would be the first to go. I am reasonably certain that there would come quite a few suggestions for modifying/extending the language which would be very difficult to resist. Each one would be quite modest and reasonable but taken together the  language would grow with lots of special cases and suddenly become large and unwieldy. And everyone on the committee/group would have their own special features which really must be included because EVERYONE will benefit. Look at PL1 or Common Lisp.

Maybe I am being way to pessimistic here but I see the problems as real and being of the slippery slope type. From past experience it is much easier to add something than to remove it later, no matter hard bad it originally was.

Also having the same group making the decisions and building the standard releases means that there can actually be order in the world.

However you do it someone is going to get dissed for doing the wrong thing and will need a very thick skin.


----- Original Message -----
> From: "Pieter Hintjens" <>
> 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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