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Re: Meta-Flame about flaming: Reply to ACW

The Lisp Forum, while time consuming to read, at least serves as a public
record of thoughts on various subjects that can be reviewed at a later time
to prevent various subjects from repeatedly wasting people's time in
private conversations. As alluded to in my mail on case, this conversation
has come up many times with many people individually :BUG'ing Maclisp. It
is my hope that in presenting such views publicly, I will have something to
refer people to at a later time, rather than repeating myself.

You may feel free to read this mail, but please do not complain about its
volume. If you feel it is a waste of time, just remove yourself from the
list.  I feel that in spite of the time drain it costs, it has been of
tremendous value to have an open channel of communication between the
various Lisp design groups, and I know of others who feel similarly.

Additionally, although there are no contracts for compatibility between the
language designers, please do not forget that gratuitous incompatibility is
something to be avoided, and this is another thing we seek to avoid. There
are many in the AI lab who would like to move code from AI to the LispM,
but can't because of incompatibilities. The LispM has been quite a barrier
to Macsyma, my Fortran->Lisp translator (sigh), and other things we have
attempted to bring up on the LispM for the benefit of LispM users.
Recognition of where the real stumbling blocks exist, why they exist, and
how they can be dealt with -- including the possibility of eliminating the
ones which oughtn't be there -- is an important result of this Forum.

Sometimes the point isn't even to change anything -- sometimes the point is
just to make a mental note to ourselves that if we ever redo it from
scratch, we should do certain things differently. Some decisions of that
nature will hopefully be useful at some time years from now -- or even in
the more near term to outsiders if we were to make these discussions
available to prospective implementors who haven't had time to think in this
level of detail about all the issues that have gone by.

In particular, your closing statement: ``most have simply not thought
deeply about the issues pertaining thereto'' is both haughty and false. Not
everyone has thought enough about every issue, but it is not always the
same people.  Everyone has something to gain except those with closed minds
-- and those people may feel free to remove their names from the delivery
list.  Certainly some small issues have received more mail than they
deserve, while worse issues may receive less attention than they merit.
This sort of thing is prone to happen in any open discussion.
Nevertheless, nearly all the persons participating in these discussions
have been involved in the mainstream of the design and implementation of
compilers and/or interpreters for some large Lisp or Lisp-based system.

I felt a strong implication in your note that lisp-design groups should be
left to go out and design languages without the interference of the lowly
masses, who should be content to go out and write code using whatever the
designers see fit and who should stop pretending to know enough to claim
that a design decision was bad. The line between the language designer and
language user is fuzzier by the day, so I feel such an attitude (if that is
indeed your feeling -- I suspect I have misinterpreted, though I can't
infer what you might have been saying) is a relic of the past.