Issue 200 – November 21, 2016

This email newsletter used to be called the Clojure Gazette. Thanks for reading and for your patience during this quick transition period.

Hi Functionalistas,

Can you believe that this is the 200th issue of this newsletter? I can’t. I started it back in 2012, focusing on the Clojure community, thinking that it was a small group of optimistic Lispers. Since then, Functional Programming has become cool, Clojure and six other functional languages are on people’s TO LEARN lists, and other languages and technologies are referencing Clojure as inspiration. It has been quite a ride and there appears to be more coming.

Back when I started, I had had to struggle with my interest in FP. I would bring it up at work and people would balk at Lisp, though they knew nothing of it. The insults and jeers were like recess in grade school. Now that there’s enough momentum, even the most skeptical are curious.

The work building the future is not done yet. Now is the time to remember what brought us here. Many people did a lot of work in the past that led us to where we are. We don’t have the good habit of knowing the history of our field. We grab at every new framework, tool, or language, looking for the answer to the software crisis. But the software crisis is as old as software. It won’t be solved so easily.

What we need to do is to read more. To learn what people have already done. It’s not that old ideas are better than new ones. It’s that we need to learn history so that we can learn from it and avoid repeating the mistakes. Unfortunately, the internet fosters a “pop culture”. The cure is to read printed material–books and papers.

Unfortunately, this newsletter is part of that pop culture. But I’m now dedicating two links per issue to papers and two to books. This is going to be a challenge because, well, it’s harder to read a book than a blog post, but the challenge will be good for me. Life is too short to not read books. Please share with me the influential books and papers that you think are worth reading.

Please share this issue with your friends and enemies. Happy 200th issue, everybody!

Rock on!
Eric Normand <eric@lispcast.com>

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Patterns of Software

I’ve been really enjoying this classic book of essays by Lisp legend Richard Gabriel.


The Synthesis of Algorithmic Systems

Alan Perlis was the first recipient of the Turing Award. His lecture was oddly prescient about the current state of JavaScript with current versions compiling down to older versions. Also, he talks a lot about the importance of homoiconicity and the strange stability of the Algol syntax.


Now what? YouTube

The Euroclojure videos have started going up and this one by David Nolen is great. It chronicles the rocketship trajectory of ClojureScript and discusses how we can get more involved. If you’re experiencing JavaScript Fatigue, watch this talk.


Communication with Alien Intelligence

Marvin Minsky postulates two principles that all intelligences must have evolved to deal with, and hence we would share these experiences. They would give us a basis for communication. I’ve been reading up on these things since Alan Kay has been promoting the analagous idea of software from different systems, without any human coordination, being able to communicate.


Mobile App in One Hour

The Clojure in One Hour series is a set of small projects you can do in less than an hour. This week I recorded myself creating a run tracker from scratch. The only thing I didn’t get to was the backend for saving the runs. But it does track my speed, pace, total time, and total distance.


Communicating Risk Reactively YouTube

Mike Pearson does an excellent job talking about the design decisions that went into communicating a difficult subject.


Making Machines that Make Music YouTube

Srihari Sriraman has developed a model of Carnatic music, which comes from southern India. He uses Overtone.


The Idea Factory

This book by Jon Gertner chronicles the many inventions, researchers, and leaders who made Bell Labs so productive as an research lab. I’m halfway through this book and I love it.


Jon Smock Clojure/conj 2016 Interview

I’ve been interviewing the speakers of the upcoming Clojure/conj to help attendees prepare for the mindbending talks. This one is by Jon Smock who will be talking about SAT solvers.