The endless droning: corrections and clarifications

:: lisp, correction

It seems that my article about the existence in the Lisp community of rather noisy people who seem to enjoy complaining rather than fixing things has atracted some interest. Some things in it were unclear, and some other things seem to have been misinterpreted: here are some corrections and clarifications.


First of all some people pointed out, correctly, that LispWorks is expensive if you live in a low-income country. That’s true: I should have been clearer that I believe the phenonenon I am describing is exclusively a rich-world one. I may be incorrect but I have never heard anyone from a non-rich-world country doing this kind of destructuve whining.

It may also have appeared that I am claiming that all Lisp people do this: I’m not. I think the number of people is very small, and that it has always been small. But they are very noisy and even a small number of noisy people can be very destructive.

Some people seem to have interpreted what I wrote as saying that the current situation was fine and that Emacs / SLIME / SLY was in fact the best possible answer. Given that my second sentence was

[Better IDEs] would obviously be desirable.

this is a curious misreading. Just in case I need to make the point any more strongly: I don’t think that Emacs is some kind of be-all and end-all: better IDEs would be very good. But I also don’t think Emacs is this insurmountable barrier that people pretend it is, and I also very definitely think that some small number of people are claiming it is because they want to lose.

I should point out that this claim that it is not an insurmountable barrier comes from some experience: I have taught people Common Lisp, for money, and I’ve done so based on at least three environments:

  • LispWorks;
  • Something based around Emacs and a CL running under it;
  • Genera.

None of those environments presented any significant barrier. I think that LW was probably the most liked but none of them got in the way or put people off.

In summary: I don’t think that the current situation is ideal, and if you read what I wrote as saying that you need to read more carefully. I do think that the current situation is not going to deter anyone seriously interested and is very far from the largest barrier to becoming good at Lisp. I do think that, if you want to do something to make the situation better then you should do it, not hang around on reddit complaining about how awful it is, but that there are a small number of noisy people who do exactly that because, for them, no situation would be ideal because what they want is to avoid being able to get useful work done. Those people, unsurprisingly, often become extremely upset when you confront them with this awkward truth about themselves. They are also extremely destructive influences on any discussion around Lisp. (Equivalents of these noisy people exist in other areas, of course.) That’s one of the reasons I no longer participate in the forums where these people tend to exist.


(Thanks to an ex-colleague for pointing out that I should perhaps post this.)