learning Lisp (was: Contributing)

Brian T Rice water@tunes.org
Thu Feb 20 14:54:02 2003

Just a couple of notes...

On Thu, 20 Feb 2003, Jecel Assumpcao Jr wrote:

> On Thursday 20 February 2003 18:07, Brian T Rice wrote:
> > If it matters, people like Eric Raymond and Richard Stallman (by no
> > means necessarily the greatest examples) will both tell you that
> > learning Lisp will make you a better programmer even if you never use
> > it (ESR wrote an essay with this as its thesis, actually). If you
> > reject that kind of advice, you're not being flexible, and not
> > reflecting well enough yourself. ;)
> Your advice is great and I'll say more about it below. But you must see
> that you have been expressing yourself in such an agressive tone that
> makes it very likely that your advice will be rejected. Now I
> understand the frustration of dealing with people who are starting out,
> but see how they are treated in the Squeak list and what the result is.

Yeah, it's a huge disparity, and I love the way the Squeak community
treats its members, but we're unfortunately in a totally different
situation, with 7 years of dead time, little code, and documentation that
still needs a hell of a lot of work.

> On Thu, 20 Feb 2003, David Scott Williams, web wrote:
> > How do amateurs who love the very fabric of programming becoming
> > experts without contributing, making errors, and fixing them?
> That is exactly how you become an experts but given the nature of Tunes
> you can't do any of that before learning a few things. Take a look at
> Brian's Slate language, for example. It is written in Common Lisp and
> if you don't know that then the source won't do much for you. And there
> is little documentation, though it is easy to figure out if you know
> Smalltalk (especially the Self dialect). If you don't know that, then
> you will have to keep bugging Brian with trivial questions for the
> longest time before you can do the simplest things in Slate. I hope you
> can see how the prospect of that might be upsetting to him.

Speaking of the Slate documentation, I do have a new version of the manual
that I'd like to release soon (I've been somewhat steadily improving it
for a few months), but it still needs a quantum leap to be the kind of
manual that can be read without any background. Do you have any
suggestions of a pattern to follow or some language manual that's similar
enough and has the right level of detail and approachability?

Some of the newer changes have been basically explaining things in more
detail and explaining Smalltalk/Self style and idioms. Anyway, it's
roughly at 32 pages in length, but my gut feeling tells me there should be
about twice as much material. I have my (and lee's) methods commented as
well as I can, so the nature of the missing material is different from

If you look at the Slate mailing list archives, there have been some
interpreter and emacs mode enhancements, and the libraries have expanded a
bit, so there's this growing disparity before we finish the bootstrap
between what Lee and I can do and what the average onlooker can grasp.

Brian T. Rice
LOGOS Research and Development