April 25th, 2007

the many-layered onion that is Joe Marshall

I'm a little slow catching up with the Joe Marshall party. I learned only today that he designed and implemented version 1.0 of REBOL. When Googling around for more anecdotes, I came across this amusing bit from LL1 coverage:

Most of the talks were relatively uncontroversial. However, during the Simon Cozens and Dan Sugalski presentation on Perl 6, the clash of cultures quickly became apparent. Cozens and Sugalski gave an excellent summary of Perl 6's run-time engine, but their interaction with the audience was awkward, and the ensuing discussion, although reasoned, was heated.

Several attendees noted during the talk that the Perl community seemed to be reinventing the wheel in areas such as virtual-machine implementations and garbage collection. At times, the feedback included some not-so-subtle barbs. To their credit, Cozens and Sugalski accepted this feedback gracefully, requesting URLs so that they could examine the appropriate papers themselves.

Unfortunately, they occasionally inadvertently incited the crowd with their flippant remarks. Sugalski, for example, explained that Perl's run-time engine needed to support a number of high-level programming concepts, and he showed a slide that listed some of them. When coming across "continuations" on his slide, he said, "Let's skip that. I don't really understand them." Gasps were heard throughout the room, as Sugalski's blunt confession seemed to be proof that "Worse Is Better" communities were indeed ignorant of computer science.

Sugalski also stated that, for academics, "Perl is not very interesting." Although several members of the audience nodded in agreement, it was an unfortunate claim to make, because it was clear that neither Sugalski nor Cozens really knew what academics were interested in.

I used to read Dan Sugalski's blog. My impression of it:

  • "This stuff is easy. Let me explain something cool I just learned."
  • "This stuff is easy. Here's a neat feature that will be present."
  • "This stuff is easy. Everyone should make a compiler."
  • "I'm giving up."

That's all old news, though. Perl 6 marches on!