Whitespace as syntax (was Re: Python Rocks!)

Bijan Parsia bparsia at email.unc.edu
Thu Feb 10 00:51:23 EST 2000

My last post on this. Really. Except for that other one. And I might
change my mind, who knows? :)

Paul Prescod <paul at prescod.net> wrote:

> This conversation strikes me as a little odd. The original poster
> hypothesized that languages become popular due, basically, to luck. I
> responded that no, languages are popular for reasons.

We're fine here. Except that luck is a good reason (well, timing,
positioning, etc.). It's not the *sole* reason. Lots of money helps. :)

> Now if we presume
> that people WANTED these languages to be popular and that they do not,
> then my position has the logical corollary that someone (or some group
> of people)
> are at fault for the fact that they never became popular.

*Saying* it's a logical corollary doesn't *make* it one. It doesn't in
anyway follow. It's perfectly possible that all the people who wanted a
langauge to be popular did everything in their power to make it popular
*and* the language not be popular. The simply counter possibility is a
larger bunch of people with *more* resources wanted that language to be
unpopular (or some other langauge to be super-popular).

(This *particular* possibility still leave "someone" "at fault", but
*surely* you can think up others. Consider some prisoner dilemma

> This last little bit makes me a bad guy because it means I'm saying
> someone screwed up. 

More precisely you said that various specific people *were* screwed up
in various specific ways. And through in a bit of disjointed Alan Kay

History is surely more complex than you make it out to be. Even just
reading Gabrial's "Worse is better" paper should give one that sense
(even though he tends to be a bit reductive).

> But what I'm not clear on is where exactly you and the other
> participants start disagreeing with me. Is or isn't there a real reason
> that Lisp is almost 50 years old, still widely praised by those "in the
> know" and is still not popular yet?

There are a variety of reasons, sure. But I don't think we can unpack
them without a bit of research, eh? And one interesting point is that
while not winning the Popularity Contest, Common Lisp has a *number* of
interesting axes of success. Perhaps the cabal "behind" Common Lisp were
trying to do *other things* than merely become popular.

(Not that there's anything *wrong* with wanting to be popular. I
actually have gotten quite a kick of watching the rise of Python. I
remember noticing shifts in the general popular technical literature.

Similarly, I notice that a decline in the Java buzz has diminished the
(often externally imposed) doom and gloom and defensiveness of
"alternative" languages. I think this is to the good.)

Bijan Parsia.

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