[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

CFP: Scheme Implementors Workshop

I'm going to submit my position paper in public, because after my
submission, I want to address some additional remarks to the workshop
organizers in the presence of the community as a whole.

------- Begin Position Paper -------

   Date: Thu, 29 Feb 1996 15:00:10 -0500
   From: Mitchell Wand <wand@ccs.neu.edu>

   In your position paper, please answer the following questions:

   * Identification:  name, address, e-mail, home page, etc.

Alan Bawden
29 Reed St.
Cambridge, MA 02140
Alan@LCS.MIT.EDU	(note: I have no official connection with MIT)

   * Associated implementation:

	Name/Date of latest release:
	Availability (free, commercial, GPL):
	Estimated number of sites/users:

I have never participated in the implementation of any Scheme
implementation that ever had any users other than myself.

   * What are the major goals of your implementation? What are some non-goals
     of your implementation? 

Not applicable

   * List and briefly describe the major features that distinguish
     your implementation from R4RS. Specifically list those that 
     distinguish your implementation from others. 

Not applicable

   * What do you expect from the Scheme implementors meeting? 

It is my belief that the best thing for the future of Scheme would be to
freeze the definition of "Scheme" at the contents of R4RS (or perhaps R5RS
if that document can be produced without any controversy).  Further work on
the evolution of Scheme-family languages should then take place under the
auspices of some more traditional standards organization, such as ANSI or
IEEE or ISO.  Those Scheme-family languages would necessarily have names
like "ANSI Scheme" or "IEEE Scheme" to distinguish them from the classic
"Scheme" defined in the "Final Report".

I don't actually know what the IEEE procedures are like, since I didn't
participate in the existing IEEE Scheme standard (I originally thought that
the IEEE effort was a bad idea -- I was wrong), but I presume that there
are rules that determine who is a member and how voting works, etc.  I.e.,
I presume that the process resembles some form of democracy.  A shot of
democracy, in my opinion, is exactly what Scheme needs in order to recover
from its current slump.

Make no mistake, democracy will make some people unhappy.  Bill Rozas finds
a certain class of record-structure proposal unacceptable.  Under a
democracy he may get exactly what he dislikes.  I'd like to see the
existing macro appendix entirely repealed and replaced with a certain kind
of low-level macro system.  Under a democracy I may not be able to get my
wish.  Oh well, them's the breaks.  But Bill and I would both get a chance
to present our arguments in public and those who disagreed with us would
feel some pressure to present their counter-arguments.  The current
"Authors" system does not encourage such open debate.

Let us bring democracy to the future of Scheme.

------- End Position Paper -------

In fact, I have come to find the current "Authors" system repugnantly
elitist.  It seems to me to be based on the false notion that if we could
only get all the "winners" together in a room they would all be able to
agree on what a module system should look like.  I think this insidiously
promotes the idea that a failure to achieve an agreement about a particular
issue must be caused by the presence of some "losers".  Unfortunately, this
proposed workshop smells suspiciously to me like an attempt to keep out the
"losers".  In particular I note that I am apparently unable to qualify to
attend because I am not an implementor.  This bothers me because either:

  1.  You intend to exclude me.  In which case I am upset that I am to
      be cut off from the Scheme decision making process.  I make my living
      programming in Scheme, so I have more than a passing interest in
      Scheme's future.

  2.  You actually intend to let a few non-implementors, such as myself,
      attend anyway.  In which case I have to wonder what your -real-
      standards are for filtering participants.  Who put you guys in charge
      of judging who were the winners and who were the losers?

So I want the organizers to think about this.  You've now got my position
paper.  You've left yourselves until April 15 to decide whether I'm to be
invited or not.  It seems to me that Scheme loses either way.  I can think
of two things you might do, either one of which would make me happier:

  1.  Remove the restriction that only implementors will be invited to
      attend and perhaps offer some further clarification about how
      invitees will be chosen.

  2.  Clarify that this workshop has no actual power over the future of
      Scheme -- you just want to get a bunch of implementors together to
      talk.  Maybe you'll issue some recommendations to the authors.  (And
      maybe some of us will organize a parallel Scheme Users Workshop that
      will also issue some recommendations.  (And maybe we'll call ours the
      "Scheme Users Death Spiral Workshop" -- thanks for the idea John!))

Since the only public description of this workshop boils down to the single

  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.

There's plenty of room for clarification.