[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
questioning fairness/purpose of Scheme Implementors Workshop
[I've omitted Scheme-Standard here. It's a separate document, and every
standards organization has mechanisms for appealing breaches of fairness.
RRRS-Authors having no such similar mechanism, I'm bringing this to the
``The purpose of this workshop is to bring together the major
IMPLEMENTORS of Scheme in order to review the state of
various Scheme implementations and to assess alternatives
FOR THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF SCHEME.''
Maybe some will say I'm overblowing things, but I'm no stranger to
people saying that about my remarks, so I'll just blunder ahead and
say what's on my mind....
Scheme is a language, not an implementation. The issue of
implementations is largely secondary in my mind. The idea that
implementors should decide the fate of a language is offensive to me.
Language is a medium for communication. Communication is a handshake
between people expressing an idea and people receiving an idea. To
not represent both of those groups in the decisions about what a
language will be is very, very scary to me.
Common Lisp suffered greatly in the latter days from focus on what
implementors wanted to offer, sometimes based often on inertia and on
local quirks like that they had people interested in x or y extension
but not in z, so x or y was what got focus. This led to very uneven
coverage of syntax and functionality, and focus on things which were
often not what the users would have wanted. But since no users showed
up to vote, and since the ANSI standards process didn't provide a way
for them to speak if they didn't show up, there was no way to correct
this skew. Here we see, though, a meeting which is called to
voluntarily create such a skew. I see no reason to suppose Scheme
won't fall into the absolutely identical pitfall, assuming it has not
I urge you to rethink and retarget the "purpose" of this workshop. A
meeting of implementors is fine. But that meeting should not and I
really hope cannot directly affect where the language will go. If
this group wants to report back to the larger community of Scheme
things like (a) things we are having trouble implementing, (b)
opportunities for computations we can perform which there is not a
convenient way to express, (c) common pitfalls users run into, (d)
compatibility and interchange issues, this may be very valuable input
to the design process. However, such data/feedback should not be
confused with the design process itself, which I personally think must
occur in another forum.
Incidentally, while I agree that numbers of users is an interesting
datapoint, I'm leary of that as a datapoint for acceptance of
participation and I'm a little troubled that this information is asked
for at all. It feels to me about the same as if you asked "race of
primary implementor". It might be a cool statistic to know, but I
worry about the decisions that would be made on the basis of having
the answer available, most of which seem like opportunities for
dismissal of ideas on the basis of something more superficial.
This workshop appears to me to present itself as if it could attempt
to usurp existing mechanisms for design through rrrs-authors and
through IEEE through the creation of a process which is exclusive of
the long-established processes. I find that sad.
This workshop further excludes those who might have valuable input or
opinions. (I'll cite myself as a concrete example, although I don't
know whether I would have the time or money to attend.) The workshop
also excludes people who might have plans to implement Scheme in the
future, forcing them to ante up a concrete claim that they have done
so (or perhaps an unverifiable claim that they definitely will in the
future). This exclusion may lead to a very interesting meeting, but
whether it will lead to a very interesting language, that's another
I'm not sure what's to be done from this point. It is certainly
anyone's right to have conferences on whatever topics they like. But
I feel as if, because there will be some overlap between the original
authors and this new group, there is likely to be some confusion
involved about the moral authority this group has to direct future
process. So I wanted to register my alarm at the presentation in
this Call For Participation (and implicit Announcement Of Exclusion).
A similar meeting whose goal was merely to share implementation
techniques and to report on items such as (a)-(d) mentioned a few
paragraphs above would sound like a fine thing.