Lambda the Ultimate

inactiveTopic Notes on Postmodern Programming
started 10/25/2002; 2:40:59 PM - last post 10/29/2002; 1:35:21 AM
Luke Gorrie - Notes on Postmodern Programming  blueArrow
10/25/2002; 2:40:59 PM (reads: 975, responses: 7)
Notes on Postmodern Programming
    The ultimate goal of all computer science is the program. The performance of programs was once the noblest function of computer science, and computer science was indispensible to great programs. Today, programming and computer science exist in complacent isolation, and can only be rescued by the conscious co-operation and collaboration of all programmers.

This paper is doing the rounds on the 'net, is to be presented at OOPSLA '02. It seems likely to generate some interesting reactions.
Posted to general by Luke Gorrie on 10/25/02; 2:54:43 PM

Jarno Virtanen - Re: Notes on Postmodern Programming  blueArrow
10/27/2002; 1:19:36 AM (reads: 940, responses: 1)
To me it seems to violate the rules and guidelines of good writing for computer science, stated for example in Justin Zobel's Writing for Computer Science. (More pointers to writing and research ethics.) OK, maybe I just don't "get it", but, still, the ultimate goals of scientific writing are things like simplicity, unambiguity, clarity etc. That kind of writing, in my opinion, fails to meet these criteria.

Ehud Lamm - Re: Notes on Postmodern Programming  blueArrow
10/27/2002; 1:18:32 AM (reads: 968, responses: 0)
Comapred to other writings on postmodernism this one is pretty clear. (Not that I find it very enlightening, or anything)

Ehud Lamm - Re: Notes on Postmodern Programming  blueArrow
10/27/2002; 1:22:04 AM (reads: 933, responses: 0)
I took it to be a parody, by the way.

Darius Bacon - Re: Notes on Postmodern Programming  blueArrow
10/27/2002; 10:34:45 AM (reads: 885, responses: 0)
Simplicity, unambiguity, clarity? Sheesh!

That's so modern.

Patrick Logan - Re: Notes on Postmodern Programming  blueArrow
10/27/2002; 7:16:24 PM (reads: 875, responses: 0)
I think this is a great piece of writing. It is not an academic computer science paper, so it should not be evaluated like that.

The paper captures the *spirit* of internet programming over the last few years. I don't see it as a parody; I'd be surprised to find that it is one.

jon fernquest - Re: Notes on Postmodern Programming  blueArrow
10/28/2002; 12:49:20 AM (reads: 854, responses: 0)
> I don't see it as a parody; I'd be surprised to find that it is one.

I'm sure they're serious about a lot of their ideas, but they must be poking fun at them sometimes also, like the section on "scrap heap" programming.

If they were seriously comparing internet programming to searching in a junkyard, it would be like kicking themselves and everyone else in the rear-end. What has to be important is reading the code, understanding the ideas, and assimilating them, and hopefully improving upon them, like Raymond argues in The Cathedral and the Bazaar, not creating brique-a-brac junkyard sculptures out of code hacked out of existing systems. "Scrap heap" programming has to be parody.

There are positive ideals that one can be serious about though. I'd rather emulate masterpieces of code like Knuth's TeX converging on its 3.14..... perfection. He had an idea of what a perfect type-setting system would be and strove to achieve it.

The authors try to cultivate multi-perspectivism which is great, but in the end they don't really. They come down hard on computer science, mathematics, and logic, as if they were useless for "building" things, which is patently absurd. (A assertion such as "Computer scientists do not try very hard to make their ideas accesible to programmers outside of computer science" I would accept as a relevant criticism. The gnarly mathematics is often a barrier to entry.)

Computer science research *pushes the frontier of what is possible with programming forward* (albeit slowly) but that's the price of progress, *painstaking thoroughness*, not something you're likely to get with fixed budgets, fixed feature sets, and fixed deadlines (see Cathedral and Bazaar) or by adopting "scrap heap" methods of programming.

Nic Ferrier - Re: Notes on Postmodern Programming  blueArrow
10/29/2002; 1:35:21 AM (reads: 762, responses: 0)
I'd have thought a scrap heap was a pretty good analogy for what they were talking about. I've done that a few times, searched for and found an algorithm or programming trick in a scrappy webpage, maybe converted it into another language and used it, without much testing.

For those who don't understand postmodernist programming I'd suggest looking at it this way: it's about the program. Computer programs are what we as programmers, have in common. Whatever language they're written in (be it a turing machine or VB) we can all understand them to a certain extent. Programs are the best way to communicate ideas about programming. That's why programming languages exist. Postmodernism is really about getting back to the program but without forgetting everything that we've been doing for the last 20 years. In other words: don't be religous about details, the details are not important to communicating ideas about programming.