[erlang-questions] Erlang for youngsters

Ferenc Holzhauser ferenc.holzhauser@REDACTED
Mon Jun 16 12:55:46 CEST 2014

The most important thing here I believe is to have a nice collection of
simple tasks/problems that are appealing to the target audience and best
(easiest/nicest) solved in Erlang. That's a bit of a challenge considering
that Erlang is created to solve problems that are rather "industrial" and
most people "from outside" can't really relate to. If the audience is not
comfortable with understanding the problem itself then it is tricky to make
them understand/like the solution too.

This we can see with many new people getting into Erlang: The problems they
are given are new and difficult to understand. So they often just go off
and eagerly try to solve all sort of issues they are familiar with (even
when they are not relevant in the particular case) before even trying to
understand what the real challenge is. Then they start complaining that
Erlang is not very good for some/many of those issues they are busy with.

And other way around: people coming to Erlang with the right understanding
of the problem area it is made for find it amazingly simple to learn.

Coming from the wrong (or right ?) background my imagination fails to come
up with these appealing challenges for the youngster target group, but I'm
sure many of you can do much better.


On 16 June 2014 11:31, Miles Fidelman <mfidelman@REDACTED> wrote:

> Garrett Smith wrote:
>> On Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 9:51 AM, Torben Hoffmann
>> <torben.hoffmann@REDACTED> wrote:
>> -snip-
>>  I think that a learning resource focused on teaching people the Erlang
>>> model from the
>>> ground up would be a great improvement. A clear narrative around how do
>>> we solve a
>>> problem the Erlang way. Teaching the basic constructs is not the problem.
>>> My initial target for such a learning resources would be young people in
>>> the higher
>>> grades of elementary school, say 12-15 years. Why? Because I want to
>>> influence them
>>> before their minds are totally corrupted by other programming models.
>>> I don't think we would have to dumb anything down in particular for this
>>> group - we
>>> just have to find a cool example and organise the learning around how to
>>> become so
>>> good that one can solve such a problem.
>>> Some sort of game will probably be the best candidate, say, some sort of
>>> Transport
>>> Tycoon clone?!?!
>> I don't have enough experience teaching programming to this age group
>> to provide anything more than a hunch. But I suspect that the Erlang
>> way, which is hard enough for very seasoned programmers to grok, might
>> be a bit ambitious for these young learners.
>> I'm speaking in particular about the model that emerges when you
>> isolate processes. It changes everything: your approach to building
>> software (move from state oriented to activity oriented), error
>> handling (move from defensive measures to assertive/let-it-crash),
>> program structure (from monolith to system), and so on. The benefits
>> of this shift are hard to get across, in my experience anyway. I wish
>> it wasn't, or I wish I was better at communicating.
> I'm with the folks who suggest that this group has fewer pre-conceptions
> to unlearn.
> It strikes me that the actor model is far more natural for certain classes
> of problems - network code, simulation, and gaming come to mind.  It's
> simply conceptually easier to think in terms of LOTS of independent
> processes.
> Miles Fidelman
> --
> In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
> In practice, there is.   .... Yogi Berra
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