[erlang-questions] Erlang web servers challenge

Joe Armstrong erlang@REDACTED
Mon Jul 11 12:54:12 CEST 2011

On Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 2:13 AM, Richard O'Keefe <ok@REDACTED> wrote:
> On 9/07/2011, at 2:44 AM, Ulf Wiger wrote:
>> Having said this, I invite anyone who goes through that kind of exercise to share their results. Not only will it help you evaluate the experiment honestly; it will increase the store of experiments that can be copied and tailored to the specific challenges of the next project.
> I had an unpleasant experimental experience of my own last year.
> Let me first give you the lesson I learned, and then the background.
> LESSON: Expect your experiment to surprise you,
>        probably by showing the experiment was a waste of time.
> Background: I'm sick of arguments about style.  To my mind, it is so
> obvious that baStudlyCaps isAVeryStupidWayToWriteIndeed and I
> cannotUnderstandWhyOtherPeopleDoNotSeeThat.  But they don't.  My zeroth,
> the New Zealand Anglican Church has even brought out an electronic
> version of the liturgy called WePray, in a desperate attempt to seem
> hip.  (Since it is only available for an operating system sold by what
> may be the largest software company to have been convicted to software
> piracy, I wonder what their ethics committee were doing.  But I digress.)
> So I devised a little language called Chatterton
> (http://www.cs.otago.ac.nz/cosc345/chatterton.pdf),
> which allowed me to mechanically produce several style variants of
> some sample programs and ask some 3rd year software engineering students
> to find some mistakes in them.
> What I expected was one of three things:
>  - no measurable effect
>  - more readable code (i.e., NOT baStudlyCaps) being easier to fix
>  - more familiar (i.e., JustLikeXingJava) being easier to fix.
> What I *got* was students telling me they couldn't read code on
> paper; they needed syntax-colouring IDEs (the listings all fitted
> on a single sheet of paper and used black-and-white styling) and
> ideally a debugger so they could find mistakes by stepping through
> the code.  I also got students telling me that it was horribly
> unreasonable of me to expect them to read a 30-page manual; NOBODY
> could read that much.

Oh dear - Attention deficiency syndrome - I suspect, though cannot
prove, that is is
a consequence of our brains being constantly bombarded with irrelevant

The cure is simple: You set reading them off Proust for a few hours a
day with no interruptions.

(for example: from
Cities of the Plain
(Sodom et Gomorrhe)
[Vol. 4 of Remembrance of Things Past--
(À la Recherche du temps perdu)])

"Their honour precarious, their liberty provisional, lasting only
until the discovery of their crime; their position unstable, like that
of the poet who one day was feasted at every table, applauded in every
theatre in London, and on the next was driven from every lodging,
unable to find a pillow upon which to lay his head, turning the mill
like Samson and saying like him: "The two sexes shall die, each in a
place apart!"; excluded even, save on the days of general disaster
when the majority rally round the victim as the Jews rallied round
Dreyfus, from the sympathy--at times from the society--of their
fellows, in whom they inspire only disgust at seeing themselves as
they are, portrayed in a mirror which, ceasing to flatter them,
accentuates every blemish that they have refused to observe in
themselves, and makes them understand that what they have been calling
their love (a thing to which, playing upon the word, they have by
association annexed all that poetry, painting, music, chivalry,
asceticism have contrived to add to love) springs not from an ideal of
beauty which they have chosen but from an incurable malady; like the
Jews again (save some who will associate only with others of their
race and have always on their lips ritual words and consecrated
pleasantries), shunning one another, seeking out those who are most
directly their opposite, who do not desire their company, pardoning
their rebuffs, moved to ecstasy by their condescension; but also
brought into the company of their own kind by the ostracism that
strikes them, the opprobrium under which they have fallen, having
finally been invested, by a persecution similar to that of Israel,
with the physical and moral characteristics of a race, sometimes
beautiful, often hideous, finding (in spite of all the mockery with
which he who, more closely blended with, better assimilated to the
opposing race, is relatively, in appearance, the least inverted, heaps
upon him who has remained more so) a relief in frequenting the society
of their kind, and even some corroboration of their own life, so much
so that, while steadfastly denying that they are a race (the name of
which is the vilest of insults), those who succeed in concealing the
fact that they belong to it they readily unmask, with a view less to
injuring them, though they have no scruple about that, than to
excusing themselves; and, going in search (as a doctor seeks cases of
appendicitis) of cases of inversion in history, taking pleasure in
recalling that Socrates was one of themselves, as the Israelites claim
that Jesus was one of them, without reflecting that there were no
abnormals when homosexuality was the norm, no anti-Christians before
Christ, that the disgrace alone makes the crime because it has allowed
to survive only those who remained obdurate to every warning, to every
example, to every punishment, by virtue of an innate disposition so
peculiar that it is more repugnant to other men (even though it may be
accompanied by exalted moral qualities) than certain other vices which
exclude those qualities, such as theft, cruelty, breach of faith,
vices better understood and so more readily excused by the generality
of men; forming a freemasonry far more extensive, more powerful and
less suspected than that of the Lodges, for it rests upon an identity
of tastes, needs, habits, dangers, apprenticeship, knowledge, traffic,
glossary, and one in which the members themselves, who intend not to
know one another, recognise one another immediately by natural or
conventional, involuntary or deliberate signs which indicate one of
his congeners to the beggar in the street, in the great nobleman whose
carriage door he is shutting, to the father in the suitor for his
daughter's hand, to him who has sought healing, absolution, defence,
in the doctor, the priest, the barrister to whom he has had recourse;
all of them obliged to protect their own secret but having their part
in a secret shared with the others, which the rest of humanity does
not suspect and which means that to them the most wildly improbable
tales of adventure seem true, for in this romantic, anachronistic life
the ambassador is a bosom friend of the felon, the prince, with a
certain independence of action with which his aristocratic breeding
has furnished him, and which the trembling little cit would lack, on
leaving the duchess's party goes off to confer in private with the
hooligan; a reprobate part of the human whole, but an important part,
suspected where it does not exist, flaunting itself, insolent and
unpunished, where its existence is never guessed; numbering its
adherents everywhere, among the people, in the army, in the church, in
the prison, on the throne; living, in short, at least to a great
extent, in a playful and perilous intimacy with the men of the other
race, provoking them, playing with them by speaking of its vice as of
something alien to it; a game that is rendered easy by the blindness
or duplicity of the others, a game that may be kept up for years until
the day of the scandal, on which these lion-tamers are devoured; until
then, obliged to make a secret of their lives, to turn away their eyes
from the things on which they would naturally fasten them, to fasten
them upon those from which they would naturally turn away, to change
the gender of many of the words in their vocabulary, a social
constraint, slight in comparison with the inward constraint which
their vice, or what is improperly so called, imposes upon them with
regard not so much now to others as to themselves, and in such a way
that to themselves it does not appear a vice."

One they have got used to reading sentences like this that ramble on
for a few pages without getting anywhere
in particular they will find a 30-page manual easy going.


> And finding a definition of an identifier
> in a 2-page listing is just beyond human capacity; it's impossible
> to do that without the machine assistance of an IDE.
> So the whole experiment produced no worthwhile data for reasons having
> nothing to do with what I thought I was testing.
> As other people have been saying, the "Erlang web servers challenge"
> is at serious risk of producing no worthwhile data.
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