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Re: What is a lightweight language

I think Shriram, that there is no harm in admitting that
continuations are kind of mind-bending.  I've done a
lot of continuation hacking and I still find them
disconcerting.  Ditto for nested backquote.  

I think the solution here is to admit that continuations
are hard, but give up the idea that you're trying to 
design a language for people who can't deal with hard 
stuff.  It is an amazingly liberating axiom.  You can just 
concentrate on whatever makes the language better, instead 
of getting sucked into the black hole of trying to guess 
what the  "average programmer" can deal with-- that's 
marketing, not technology.

Psychological hurdles are a real problem, like Dan says,
but you can choose not to solve that problem.  

(My guess is that if you do end up designing a language
that all the best hackers like, everyone else will get
dragged along, psychological hurdles or no.  But if not
it is at least a more pleasant niche market to be
working in.)


--- Shriram Krishnamurthi <sk@cs.brown.edu> wrote:
> Dan Sugalski wrote:
> > Don't dismiss or discount psychological hurdles. Bad, *bad* idea.
> They're 
> > by far the biggest problem--the technical issues almost always pale
> in 
> > comparison.
> I suspect I have spent at least as much time as you have thinking
> about the psychology -- both perceived and observed -- of students
> learning to program for the first time.  We also developed a
> comprehensive programming environment -- DrScheme -- designed
> specifically to addresses the care of beginners.
> So, yeah, I'd say we have the psychology angle held down okay.
> I think Joe Marshall's objection is strange, and hopefully isolated.
> Maybe at MIT, they specialize in scaring their students by throwing
> big words like "continuation" (more than two syllables) at them. 
> Most
> of the rest of us get by without resorting to this.  As a result, our
> students learn Scheme the *exact same way* they learn any other
> language: a little bit at a time.
> I don't see why something called a "continuation" should inspire any
> more fear in someone who doesn't know them (*and* -- and this is key
> here -- hasn't been told to be scared of them) any more than the
> existence of a feature called "globbing" (which sounds like something
> that hides under your bed and only comes out at night) should.
> Shriram

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