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Documenting our decisions

    Date: Fri, 21 Mar 1986  23:40 EST
    From: "Scott E. Fahlman" <Fahlman@C.CS.CMU.EDU>

    I don't think that a new edition of the Steele book will do the job.
    Digital Press has been reasonably cooperative so far, but I doubt that
    they will give up their copyright, and we just cannot produce a document
    for the Common Lisp standard that says "Copyright Digital Press" on it.
    If that book were in the public domain, we could use its actual text as
    a starting point, but I don't see this happening.  So it looks like we
    have to develop a new document.  Of course, the Common Lisp it describes
    will be very similar to the Common Lisp described in Steele.
					   The standard document needs to be
    as clear and unambiguous as we can make it; it does NOT necessarily need
    to be organized a a tutorial or as a convenient manual for the working
    programmer, nor does it need to be subtly witty.  There will presumably
    be a lively market for other Common Lisp books, including the
    second edition of Steele, that will fill those needs, but the new
    document should become the definitive language standard.

It seems to me that there are two issues that are somewhat orthogonal:
(a) Can the ANSI effort begin with some form of the Digital press book,
    or must a new document begin from scratch?
(b) Should we plan to bring out an interim edition to tide us over to the
    point where something officially ANSI comes out (even in draft form)?

If the answer to (b) is yes, then a subissue is whether it should be a
second edition with Digital Press or published through some other mechanism,
such as agreeing that the Lucid document is the right thing from now on.

If the answer to (a) is no, then I would be leery of having a "competing"
new edition out of Digital press coming out at roughly the same time as the
ANSI standard, because that would only create confusion as to which is the
"real" standard, and I would rather avoid such confusion.  Better to let the
Digital press book die a natural death and put my efforts into the ANSI

On the other hand, I worked pretty hard on the book to get a lot of subtle
things right.  It is certainly not deathless prose, but it has been polished
a lot, and it would be a pity for the ANSI committee not to be able to take
advantage of that.  Then again, maybe it would be a good exercise to chuck
the whole thing and start over and really get it right; more work, but
potentially bigger payoff in accuracy and clarity at the end.  There is also
the possibility that the Lucid document (which I have not yet seen) is
exactly the right thing.  I would be happy if it were so.


(*) I decided to dig up my contract with Digital Press and scan it for
loopholes and traps, and found this clause, a potential pitfall for the
"natural death" theory:  "The Author agrees to revise the Work for
subsequent editions if the Publisher considers it in the best interests of
the Work.  [I have no idea how a Work can have "interests".  --GLS] ...
Should the Author be unable or unwilling to provide such a revision... the
Publisher may have the revised edition prepared... and may display in the
revised Work and in advertising, the name of the person, or persons, who
prepared said revisions."  What do I make of this?  Barf.