Programer Celebrities; Styles and Tack

By Xah Lee. Date:

Xah Lee wrote:

Verdict: yay for Clojure!

On 2010-09-03, Pascal J Bourguignon wrote:


But judging from your “how to get list of vectors with value from file content…” question, one would think that after all the years you've been spending criticizing everything about programmers and programs, you'd at least have some sound notions of programming, but you seem actually to lack even the most basic programming notions.

lol Pascal.

asking simple language questions is no indication of one's knowledge in computer science nor expertise of the language.

Knuth, if he were to program in say java, lisp, JavaScript, php, or even html, he probably would be a beginner. But nobody would doubt his expertise as a computer scientist or a programer.

Same can be said for many language inventors, for example, Larry, Guido, Wolfram, …. Except in the first few years where whole team is just the inventor, each is certainly no longer the top most expert of that lang, and they can ask a lot technical questions.

When a person becomes famous, there's the question of whether he'd ask trivial questions in public. For example, suppose you became a famous computer scientist, or mathematician. But, in today's world, you wouldn't know the most basic things about thousand subjects that's related to your field. For example, Would Knuth ask basic html questions in some public place if one day he happens to need to write a line of html? On one hand, a highschool student can probably answer his question that otherwise he might spend few hours to dig into documentations, tutorials, etc. On the other hand, one might think: “jesus, Dr Knuth is asking a basic question about html??”.

Can you see the dilemma?

There's perl, python, php, JavaScript, java, c, c++, bash, html, css, Mathematica, … langs, and hundreds thousands other tech and protocols etc. Each, mostly has a inventor, and for our purposes, they are celebrities. Each of them, do NOT have a BASIC understanding of the hundreds other langs, protocols, technologies. But due to their work, they probably have questions or curious about them everyday. Now, if you are one of these celebrity, would you, take the 5 min and get your question answered in some public social networking site such as online chat, irc, stackoverflow, or, are you the type that would try to spend few hours by yourself on it, or ask only your close friend and colleagues, in the name of public perception?

Now, think of a famous computer scientist or celebrity programer you know, and tell me if that person is the keep-to-self type or freewheeling ask-around type?

I've thought about this, and have tried to observe what celebrities do. My observation is that there is no universal behavior pattern, and it basically came down to personality. Some such celebrity, would never ask any such question in public, and tend to keep a “professor” public image. While on the other extreme, especially in the last 10 years due to the effect of the internet and communication tech on society, don't care and feel free to ask questions in public. (For example, some such computer scientist and mathematicians openly write blogs, filled with questions that are basic outside of their very narrow speciality, or even something they should totally know but forgotten (frankly, doesn't matter how good is your memory, you probably forgot say 1% of what you know about a lang or field of study. Do you, remember the calculus you learned in highschool? or a philosophy course or a history course? But you can still be a award-winning mathematician, programer, writer, lawer, director, right? ))

what would YOU do, Pascal? are you the type who never do thought-flow in public?

also, keep in mind that the act of asking question, has social functions other than getting a technical answer. This is a big part of blogging and the web social networking is about.

if you have actually read much of my writings, do you, truely believe, that my understanding of lisp is such that i wouldn't know or unable to find out how to get a file content in one closed form functional line, or that not knowing about “vector” function in emacs lisp conflict with anything i criticized in computer science, languages, software engineering, or the programer culture?

today, i put on my blog the nice function you and TheFlyingDutchMan supplied:

note there is the other, almost identical, function:

(defun read-lines (filePath)
  "Return a list of lines of a file at FILEPATH."
    (insert-file-contents filePath)
    (split-string (buffer-string) "\n" t)))

which i wrote about 2 years ago, that appears in one or more of these pages:

waybackmachine can be used to verify it.

i asked the question because i was tired, and i feel it is good to ask. It spurs conversation, as well as helping me. And it is certainly true, that my emacs lisp know-how, is below yours, or most of the emacs developers who frequent emacs newsgroups.

even though i criticize a lot of things, but more so there's much more i don't know. Though, i try to keep the degree of my criticism proportional the level of a thing that i do know. (albeit with wild hyperbole at times :D )

So unless you stop writting inflamatory articles (you could even retract all the past ones) and start to spend serious time _learning_ programming, you're totally disqualified to say anything about programming languages.

I would advise you to study "How to Design Programs"

O, good old newsgroup style. In return, I recommend you to read

Celebrity Styles

On 2010-09-03, Marc Mientki [mien…] wrote:

How can I understand it???

By unstanding The Tao of Zen ☺

btw, Rich Hickey has a vid here: Are We There Yet? By Rich Hickey. Source

it's over 1 hour long.

actually it's quite boring to watch. I watched the first 30 min but got bored.

nevertheless, it's a nice video, and i enjoyed it. And he's a nice guy. (it's funny that Whitehead seems to be his personal hero.)

PS … i'm usually a observer type. So, when watching this video, i cant help but compare the different style, personalities, of various celebrities. i've watched a few in past years, some i blogged about, example

writing this reminds me of a talk given by Linus about git that i watched on google vid… Linus has a flamboyant, charismatic style, but is also a easy going type of guy. (For example, in our context, he'd probably ask any simple question that pops up in his mind) Compare to Neal Stephenson, which is quite up-tight and exceedingly boring to watch. Yaron Misky above, is quick and fast… and there's Richard Stallman, whose public lecture style can be said to be more methodological…

(btw, Linux's git talk totally sold me on git; but more significantly, by his talk it dawned on me that the greatness of distributed revision systems is not about being non-centralized, but the agility to move and grow and evolve locally with global impact.)

Being Humble and Tactfulness

On 2010-09-03 Pascal J Bourguignon wrote:

The problem is not that you didn't know insert-file-contents or similar functions.  This is indeed natural and it's on the ignorance of this that I judge your programming skills.

It's on your use of sequential assignments and copy-and-paste for a repetitive job.

you see, Pascal, i've been trying to be more tactful in recent months. You know? like not being a cold critical ass, and to engage people in a direct and more personal, friendly way.

are you sure, that your writing off of me, is justified?

because i humbly asked a question, now comes the baggage of incompetence to fend off?

because i posted a quick question, now i'm accused that my coding style is copy-and-paste and “sequential assignments for a repetitive job”?


although i try to be more tactful, but i reserve the right to remain Xah, at least in spirit, and hope not to become some smooth politician always with round-about non-specific all-pleasing expressions. y'know? the wisdom we hear about “just be yourself”, right? ☺

so now, instead of bouncing you off with pompous philosophy, rude logic, fully decorated with expletives, i take the more mild approach, of teaching you things that i see you don't know. (oh god! i faaked it up! i've just been demeaning, stepped on all the rules about friendship n leadership n persuasion principles in every book. Oh GOD, i'm such a faaking failure!)

So let me teach you: To be humble is to … (i dunno. (be yourself?))

haha. Actually, never mind any of that. I'm just all bullshitting. ☺ One thing i learned is that, being too serious at all times isn't a good thing.