Site problems

As many have noticed we had a few problems with the site yesterday. Thanks to everyone who emailed to let me know they were experiencing difficulties.

We think the problem has been solved, and that the site should be stable now.

Admin notes

Several changes in the discussion dynamics on LtU require attention, I think.

First, and most important, is that the core business of LtU - the home page blog items posted by contributing editors - have been dwindling. What is more, the discussion forum, whose goal was to support the blog, have become very active, and often only tangentially on topic for LtU.

I have received complaints from long time members about the declining quality of the discussions, and while I haven't done any serious comparative analysis I do know that I now regularly skip threads, especially highly active threads and threads that are dominated by only a few members. I think I am not alone in this. I encourage long time members to continue publicly pointing out when threads become un-LtU-like, and remind everyone that these notes should not usually serve as opportunity for meta-discussions about policy.

I urge the LtU contributing editors to make an extra effort in the next few months to post quality items to the home page. It seems that without more emphasis on the blog, LtU will lose its relevance. I call on all members to keep in mind the style and policies of LtU (do read the spirit page, if you haven't already), and move inappropriate discussions to other forums.

The second issue is - of course - spam. We are constantly bombarded by spam, most of which you don't see since me and Anton manage usually to block the spam accounts from posting, and when spam does slip through we delete it fairly quickly. Still, in the last few days some spam messages did appear on the site, and took awhile to delete, despite our continued efforts. I apologize for that.

In previous discussions of this issue it was decided not to require approval for all new messages (however, I do moderate posts from suspicious accounts). Spam does not survive a long time on LtU, since the site is active and threads that are posted to automatically appear in the tracker, and is thus not a great concern most of the time.

I don't think the last attack was enough of a problem for us to change our policies, or spend time writing code to support advanced spam handling (there are many more exciting things we can be doing for LtU). If someone wants to help with the process of identifying suspicious accounts, deleting spam, and blocking ips, please volunteer. Help with running LtU is always appreciated.

General admin notes

We are experiencing a surge of new members, and that's great! We always value new members.

Let me remind everyone to pursue the policies document (available through the FAQ page). I want to emphasize two policy items in particular: We discourage nicknames, and when they are used encourage members to provide a url of a home page or related information in their profile. Second, LtU is in general not intended for detailed design discussions. More relevant forums are listed in the policies document.

Happy Birthday, dear Lambda!

Eight years ago LtU was born. In terms of internet phenomena that is truly remarkable longevity (heck, even google is hardly ten years old), but even in "real world" terms I think this qualifies LtU as a venerable institution.

Ever since Chris posted the first LtU birtday message back in 2001 it has become somewhat of a tradition to post a birthday message each year, and these have become a good place to reflect on the sate of LtU and the direction it is taking. Looking at the previous birthday posts sure got me reflecting. Here they are: year one, year two, year three, year five, year six, and year seven.

So how did we fare this last year? I think that overall we did pretty well, much better than I expected last year when we were in the middle of what looked like a losing battle with spammers. I think we (and by that I mean Anton, first and foremost) managed to pretty much keep spam under control without imposing unnecessary restrictions on new users. LtU was always welcoming to new users, and we strive hard to keep it that way - which leads to the second issue...

We were worried that with too many new members signing up the quality of discussions will go down, and the atmosphere of the site will change. While this happened to some extent from time to time, I think that in general most discussions remain as informative as ever - in fact, some have become too highbrow even for me... Quite a few new members have become regulars, and even contributing editors. I am very glad to see this happen, for all the obvious reasons. I am especially glad to see that we stopped attracting so many "drive-by members" who sign up only to ask one question and are then gone. LtU is not the best place for such questions, which in the past also proved to be mostly off-topic. New members, on the other hand, always add something new to the community.

Indeed, what is truly phenomenal and inspiring about LtU for me is not the continuity of the site, but the continuity of the community. I've been saying this every year, I think, but it is worth repeating. What gives LtU its unique flavor are the many members that have been part of the community for many years, some from the very early days. While not an online sewing circle, I think LtU does encourage long time members to become contributing editors, to share their interests more explicitly, and even to mention from time to time, if they so wish, their own changing circumstances. This is a professional community, but a community none the less.

The community is what holds LtU together, but it is hidden in the forum. The public face of LtU, and what should be the main focus of the discussion on the site, are the home page news items. From the early days there has been a tension between the forum and the blog aspects of LtU: while ideally all good links should be on the home page, and these should be the focus of discussion, quite often the forum takes on a life of its own. Since some members do not follow the forum discussions closely, and since the home page items are a good way to stir the direction of the site, this may be less the ideal. The solution, as always, is for the contributing editors (who are those members who manage the home page group blog) to be more active, and for more members to become contributing editors. If you are a regular, and think that you can contribute semi-regularly (i.e., as often as you want) to one or more of the LtU departments, you should consider signing up.

Let me conclude this rambling message on a more personal note. This year I moved to Menlo Park, California. Hearing from and meeting local LtU members made the move easier. It was a great experience to encounter people in various places who recognized my name, and asked "Are you the guy from LtU?" (the next question usually being "So what do you say about Scala?", by the way). Being extremely busy I didn't take advantage of all the activities around here this year, but the one time I did manage to go to a BayFP meeting was great fun.

Who knows what the next year will bring? For now, thank you all for your participation. You are LtU!

New Members

I am glad to see many new members joining the LtU daily.

This is a short reminder to all the new users to please read the FAQ and policy documents, and use LtU for the intended purposes of the site (the LtU spirit page may also be of interest). As the community gets larger it becomes more important to keep in mind the shared interests that bring most people to the site.

I also recommend reading the getting start thread (linked from the FAQ), which contains many useful reading suggestions, as well as the various other pages linked to from the navigation bar on the left.

As always old time members are urged to assist the newer members and make them feel welcome to our community.

Leave of absence

I am in the process of relocating to the United States for a couple of years (we'll be stying in the Palo-Alto area), so I will probably be less active around LtU in the next couple of weeks until I settle in. I also expect it will take me more time to respond to emails.

LtU turns 7: The year of spam

Seven years ago today LtU was born. I find it incredible that we have been doing this for so long, that some of the earliest members are still here, and that some of the same topics are still going strong! While the range of topics and general style of LtU remained fairly constant over the years, each year brought with it its own flavour. The main reason for this was that LtU was always open to new members, and each contributing editor influenced the discussion according to his interests.

So how can one summarize year seven?

I think that for Anton and me year seven will be remembered as the year of spam. We have been fighting spam daily, and I fear that we will have to put in place more draconian measures on new users shortly. Some of you probably saw a couple of spam messages that managed to get past us. But let me assure you: this is a tiny fraction. There are hundreds of new users that signed up only to post spam, with at least two or three new spammers signing up daily. Since we try to accommodate new members, I am not deleting users that fail to comply with our request for real names or identifying personal information - and so detecting potential spammers before they begin posting spam is difficult and time consuming. One reason why I posted fewer programming language related posts was that I was simply too busy fighting spam...

This is a good opportunity to thank Anton again for all he does to keep LtU up and running ( his insightful and amusing posts I take for granted, you see). Without his help in putting in place the technical infrastructure required for all the spam monitoring and control we would have drowned in spam long ago. This is one reason (aside from the fact that I was very busy with other things) that year seven is (still) not the Year of the Wiki. We put up a wiki, but decided that the integration of the wiki into LtU would require too much time, time both us couldn't spend this year.

Spam came to LtU for the simple reason that LtU became too well known a site... In fact the second thing that happened to LtU this year is that the number of active members grew considerably. This is, of course, very gratifying. I still remember the early days, when LtU had three members, and we didn't know if between the three of us we can keep finding enough interesting material to keep the site alive.

As one might expect this meant that some topics that were discussed here many times came up for discussion again. It is good to revisit these issues from time to time, but I fear that the rising volume of messages, and the number of new users, some of whom with less decorum than others, kept many old timers from engaging in these discussions, leading to some long threads that were not up to the usual quality of LtU discussions. Since no one was there to object, some may have gotten the impression that these threads (replete with ad hominem attacks, insults and language advocacy) are acceptable on LtU. I am partly to blame for not stepping in, but I just didn't have the time to follow all these discussions. So let me take this opportunity to remind everyone that discussions of this type are not welcome by the LtU community, and suggest more recent members consult the LtU policy as well as the LtU spirit pages. We discussed various forms of moderation and control in the past, and I still think the conclusion we reached - that is that the community should "police" itself - is the right one. If you find the content or style objectionable, post about it (in a separate thread, if needed).

I noticed that several of the LtU contributing editors began to post less and less. While I think the items on the home page are
interesting and exciting, there are fewer new home page items each week than I'd like. One reason for this is that many prefer to post things on their own blogs, and a fair amount of LtU candidate material gets posted to places like While there are LtU members who prefer to keep the site restricted as much as possible to the discussion of published academic papers, my opinion is that if a regular member considers some project, site or presentation to be of interest to the LtU community, he should post about it here. This is even truer when it comes to contributing editors, of course. Contributing editors - don't hesitate, contribute! I remind everyone that we have some departments that are begging for stories, top among them the new departments devoted to Scala and Ruby.

It seems to me that LtU is in a state of transition. We can fight to remain the LtU we all know and love - but this requires effort. Or we can hope for the best, and see LtU turn into comp.lang.misc. To make sure we don't jump the shark, the community has to step up. Both in terms of steering the conversation, and keeping threads from getting long and disorganized, and by posting new and interesting stuff!

This is a good opportunity to ask long time members to mentor new members, not just direct them to the getting started page :-) . I implore old timers that are sitting back to engage in the conversation, and let us know what they are up to. We miss you guys!
And most of all, I pray for spammers to just crawl back to where they came from.

The last wish, I know, is unlikely to happen. The others I think are within our reach!

Happy birthday everyone!

Mutable variables eliminated from .NET

Redmond, WA: At an unusual press conference held this Sunday morning, Bill Taylor, Microsoft's General Manager of Platform Strategy, announced that after much research into the causes of security holes and instabilities, Microsoft will eliminate mutable variables from the .NET platform and its languages, including C# and VB.NET. "One of our top researchers found that mutable variables were the major root cause preventing us from achieving the great user experience we always strive to deliver," said Taylor. "Once we realized that, eliminating them from .NET was a no-brainer."

Given that this announcement was made on a Sunday, reactions have been limited so far, but one prominent VB.NET developer commented that "Compared to the switch from VB6 to VB.NET, this ought to be a breeze." A C# developer was heard to say, "After anonymous delegates, monads shouldn't be a problem."

To ensure wide penetration of this significant update, Microsoft will be issuing updated Windows CDs to all licensed customers, free of charge. The new CDs can be identified by the distinctive holographic "Haskell Inside" logo, featuring a holographic version of this portrait of Simon Peyton-Jones, grinning from ear to ear.

LtU readers are encouraged to share any inside info they may have about this move!

The Future of LtU

Recently the homepage is almost dead, and the discussions about important papers that are mentioned on the home page almost non-existent.

I am sad to say that if this continues LtU will fade away - something I am sure none of us wants.

This is a cry for help. If you are an editor, please try to post news you come across that might interest the LtU community. Take part in the discussions (you don't have to participate in all of them! participating in discussions on "static typing" is optional...) If you are an editor, are reading LtU, but haven't posted in a long time, don't feel you have become an outsider. You are still part of the team, and I for one am interested in what you might want to share. I know some long time editors got discouraged for various reasons -- I think now is a good time to return and reshape things to what they used to be.

If you are a regular reader and participate in the forum regularly, if you think you understand the spirit of LtU, how about signing up to become an editor? The process is simple (basically, you have to email me and that's it).

Many of you have personal blogs, and they are great resources. I still think the LtU community effort had an additional value it'd be a shame to lose. If you agree - post!

Finally, if you are a programming language scholar, and are reading and enjoying LtU - how about signing up to be a guest blogger?

Busy, busy, busy

As you can probably deduce from the lack of posts, I am extremely busy. Real life is taking its toll.

I implore the other editors to take charge.

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