1 Oct 2004 chalst   » (Master)

crhodes wrote:
On this last, my view is that the Lisp community, whatever that is, certainly needs a process to evolve the language (preferably backwards-compatibly, but some things might need to be removed root-and-branch), it also needs people to do the work to produce high-quality standardization material: and it's more the lack of that that's lacking, and no amount of process will generate it. I'd love to be proved wrong.

I'm very glad to see that Common LISP has an open language standards process. Christophe is quite right to point out that having one doesn't mean good language evolution will happen: people have to write one: today the SRFI process is in a very healthy state, producing lots of useful language standardisation for scheme, but it took a lot of time to get that way. Olin Shivers started the SRFI ball rolling with an excellent list library, but I don't think that it was until about SRFI-22 or so that the whole process looked like it clearly had self-sustaining forward momentum.

For what it's worth, an outsiders view of what Common LISP needs; for all I know there are standard solutions to the following problems:

  • Standards for international character sets, especially UNICODE, and for localisation;
  • A hygienic macros library that integerates properly with CL's regular macro expansion (a solved problem, and I know there are toy CLs with hygienic macros, but do any of the major implementations support them?);
  • Standards for (i) one-shot continuation, and (ii) multi-shot continuations;
  • Good C/POSIX FFI support, and support for invoking CL programs as #! scripts.
I was disappointed when poking around the clrfi site to see absolutely no mention of the SRFI site, process or history. Is this a sign that the CL/scheme wars are still not over? Of course, CLers could never, never learn anything of value from any experience that happened in the scheme world, no, why the very thought...

The thread Explaining Monads has just dropped off the LtU front page; I'll link to it so I have a permanent reference, and I'll just make a point: why, when people are trying to explain the Haskell IO monad, does the very fundamental categorical construct of an algebra (or, perhaps more relevantly, coalgebra) never seem to surface? A little bit more formalism would eliminate whole clouds of demonstrably confusing hand-waving about "Haskell programs talk in a side effect free way about side effects". The formalism is that much more worth carrying out since it is so essential to the motivation for monads in the first place.

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