[racket] Sweet expressions; or making it easier to introduce Racket to me and my coworkers :-)

From: Norman Gray (norman at astro.gla.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Jul 21 10:54:25 EDT 2011


On 2011 Jul 21, at 12:11, Stephan Houben wrote:

> As described in Steele and Gabriel, "The Evolution of Lisp":
> "On the other hand, precisely because Lisp makes it easy to play with program representations, it is always easy for the novice to experiment with alternative notations. 
> Therefore we expect future generations of Lisp programmers to continue to reinvent Algol-style syntax for Lisp, over and over and over again, and we are equally confident 
> that they will continue, after an initial period of infatuation, to reject it. (Perhaps this process should be regarded as a rite of passage for Lisp hackers.)"

I have another example, which possibly argues for both sides of this story.

A while ago, I spent a little while on an alternative input syntax for XML <http://nxg.me.uk/dist/lx/> which parsed (for example) XSLT in an s-expression syntax, and produced SAX streams for consumption by conventional Java XML tools.

I thought it was great, because it was massively easier to read and write than XSLT in XML syntax, but when I advertised it on XML lists, it turned out to have all the airworthiness of a brick.  It was treated with incomprehension (perhaps I'm just rotten at selling things).  Score one for the claim that no-one gets sexps to begin with.

However when I asserted that all of the angle-brackets in XML syntax, and all of the end-tags, are distracting, the interesting rejoinder was: "what end tags? oh, those end tags!" -- that is, the same rejoinder ("what brackets!?") that folk make to the claim that lisp-like syntaxes have too many parentheses.  At the time, I wrote enough XSLT to be very irritated at the ugly syntax, and to have an itch to scratch, but not enough that I stopped seeing the redundant elements of the syntax.  I'm not sure what conclusion to draw from this, because I still think that XML is a ridiculous programming syntax, though I've written a fair amount of it on and off since this first involvement.

Best wishes,


Norman Gray  :  http://nxg.me.uk
School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, UK

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