Meta-survey (long newbie observations)

Chappell, Simon P Simon.Chappell@REDACTED
Fri Apr 11 19:04:23 CEST 2003

Joe et al.,

I don't know that I can contribute any questions, but I can comment on my experience to date trying to learn the language. One of the important things, IMNSHO, for a language to attract new users, is for the learning process to be easy. Now, this does not require the language to be easy, just the learning process. I have very little time for learning new languages, so for a language to grab my attention, I need the learning process to be as straight-forward as possible.

I first heard of Erlang through the article over at last year. This brought it onto my watch list and I made my way to and started reading some of the introductory writings and downloaded the latest release and compiled it. The fact that it compiled first time on my Linux box gave me a good feeling. The fact that I had trouble getting out of the environment gave me bad feeling. It might be stupid, but not being easily able to figure out how to get out of the language environment caused me to feel hesitant to enter it again. Everyone else uses "exit" or "quit" (well, FTP uses "bye" :-) to get out of a language, but it took me a long time to find and get used to using "halt()."

But I was still intrigued by this new (to me) language that promised things that Java kept hinting it could do, but never seemed to actually deliver. So, I subscribed to the email list and have lurked for a while. I have been very impressed with the level of discussion on the list. The erlang list is one of the premium lists of all that I have come across.

I was pleased when I saw the tutorials, but then when I tried them they seemed wrongly targeted. They seem to start too simple and then veer of into way more detail on what looks like obscure stuff.

The PDF of the "Concurrent Programming in ERLANG" book was my grounding point. This is a very good book. So good that I rushed off to Amazon to buy it, only to discover that it is out of print! Grrrr! Fortunately, I have been able to get hold of a second hand copy in good condition. For a language to get traction, it needs good books. The Struts framework (that I use at my employer) was in this quandary, until some of the developers bit the bullet and worked with publishers to write books. Now, the framework is entering the mainstream and the growth has been phenomenal. Now, you may not wish for Erlang to occupy the mainstream and compete with Java, but I suggest that it needs at least one (preferably two) in-print books ... and if you can get O'Reilly to publish one, then you are home and dry. :-)

Now that I have finally gotten to the point where I could recognise a tuple if it leapt out and bit me, I have worked my way through the first of Joe's "Spitting in the Sawdust" tutorials and have found myself impressed with both Joe and the language.

Next is to finish working my way through the Erlang book and trying everything out. After that, I will pick a small project and try to write something usable in Erlang to solve a need. I also intend to integrate ErlGuten into my personal website build process, so that I can provide information in both HTML and PDF.

So, I hope that this is a useful insight into one Erlang newbies journey. There is much to get excited about and I feel that Erlang will have an exciting future. So, that I don't sound like a whining newbie, I am prepared to put together some tutorials (as time permits) on how to get from zero to one on the Erlang learning curve. (I'm sure that Joe et al go all the way to eleven ... to borrow from "This is Spinal Tap")

Thank you for reading all of this and I hope that it sounds as positive as I feel about the language.


Simon P. Chappell                     simon.chappell@REDACTED
Java Programming Specialist            
Lands' End, Inc.                                   (608) 935-4526

"Never give in - never, never, never, never, in nothing great or
small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of
honor and good sense." - Sir Winston Churchill

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Joe Armstrong [mailto:joe@REDACTED]
>Sent: Friday, April 11, 2003 4:10 AM
>To: erlang-questions@REDACTED
>Subject: Meta-survey
>  I'd like to conduct a survey of Erlang/OTP usage -
>  Before sending out a survey with *my* questions on it I'd like to
>ask what *your* questions would be.
>  I don't want to bias the discussion by saying what sort of questions
>I'd like there to be - so I won't (yet) say what sort of questions
>I think should be in the survey.
>  That's why this is a meta survey :-)
>  So to my questions:
>  1) - In  a survey  about OTP/Erlang  a number  of questions  will be
>asked -- what are the best questions to ask in such a survey?
>  2) If I were to ask such questions would you reply?
>  3) What would be the best form to ask the questions in order to get a
>high response frequency?
>  /Joe

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