[erlang-questions] The Beauty of Erlang Syntax

Toby Thain toby@REDACTED
Sat Feb 28 01:00:01 CET 2009

On 24-Feb-09, at 10:27 PM, Michael Richter wrote:

> I would like to ask a multi-part, but rhetorical, question of the  
> list:
> Why do you think people stay away from functional programming  
> languages in droves?
> Is it because they're too stupid to understand them?
> Is it because of an evil cabal of IT Illuminati who are trying to  
> squelch the true freedom of the programming masses?
> Is it because the functional languages available do not seem to  
> meet their needs, whatever those may be?
> Is it because the fans of functional languages often come across as  
> religious fanatics preaching the One True Way <tm> of programming?
> Is it some combination of the above?
> My own answer to the question is a #5 with a strong skew toward the  
> higher numbers.
> #1 (the one that's becoming uncomfortably common in this thread,  
> albeit with muted wording) is a little too arrogant for my tastes.

It's also a straw man of sorts. There are less arrogant yet plausible  
variations on this, such as – many people are too busy, unmotivated,  
or not interested in exploring outside the mainstream or a comfort  
zone. Reaching for the lazy default is what made {Microsoft, <insert  
market leader here>} rich.

You can also call it a failure of education.

> There are an awful lot of awfully smart people who not only use but  
> make imperative languages out there.  I'm not willing to casually  
> dismiss them as too stupid to understand the One True Way of the  
> Lambda.

Again, you're putting the "too stupid" words into others' mouths.  
Perhaps "not exposed to" is more accurate. The imperative model is  
seductive enough, and entrenched enough, that you can go through  
education and a long career never needing or noticing anything else.  
In the end you can lead a horse to water, but some horses just prefer  
Coke, even if fruit juice is ultimately healthier.

> There is something they see in the various stateful, imperative  
> models that seems useful to them.

Sure it's useful. In a perfect world people would compare and  
contrast all relevant paradigms. They don't. Not necessarily because  
they're "stupid", or because some advocate of language X was too  

> Are you really so smart as to be able to casually dismiss them?  If  
> so, may I please read your Ph.D. thesis for the stunning insights  
> into computing and humanity that it undoubtedly contains?
> ...
> Keep in mind, too, that this man is lionized by a lot of the people  
> in comp.lang.lisp.  Is it really Microsoft and Sun's marketing that  
> makes C# and Java popular?  Or is it the behaviour of the other  
> communities that drives away potential converts?

Non-mainstream communities are often accused of toxicity or  
arrogance. (Having participated in dozens) I don't buy it. The Erlang  
community, as evidenced on this list, is smart, helpful and  
welcoming. There is very little funny business here. Which  
communities did you specifically have in mind??


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