[erlang-questions] Onboarding programmers who are new to Erlang

Richard A. O'Keefe ok@REDACTED
Fri Aug 29 03:34:18 CEST 2014

On 29/08/2014, at 12:17 PM, zxq9 wrote:

> On 2014年8月28日 木曜日 16:43:13 Raoul Duke wrote:
>> also: (do you agree or not, i am curious) teach that one should reach
>> for OTP first, rather than assuming one will do it at the "low level"
>> of rolling your own stuff from "base" erlang-w/out-otp.

Amongst other things, surely this depends on *why* you are
teaching Erlang.

Starting next week, I'll be teaching Erlang to some 4th year
students for 6 weeks.  The aim is not to turn them into even
mediocre Erlang programmers but to show them a way of doing
concurrency that is not POSIX threads and not Java threads.

I want them to come away thinking "engineering" not "magic".
For this purpose, "lifting the hood" and showing them the
basics is exactly right.  Erlang is a *means* in this
course, not an *end*.

For other purposes, getting people to use some of Erlang's
behaviours first might be the best way to get them writing
interesting code, and then you could explain how it works
later.  Like the way we get people using hash tables in
Python in year 1 these days, and then explaining them in
year 2.

Of course, this has its down side.  It is unpleasantly
common for our 3rd year students to automatically use
ArrayList<T> whenever they want a sequence instead of
wondering whether T[] might be better; I have to spend
a week or two in 3rd year trying to un-teach this practice.
I suspect the same thing might happen with OTP.

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