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Re: learning Emacs Lisp


From: B. T. Raven
Subject: Re: learning Emacs Lisp
Date: Tue, 11 Nov 2008 18:24:50 -0600
User-agent: Thunderbird 2.0.0.17 (Windows/20080914)

Xah wrote:
On Nov 10, 12:59 pm, Niels Giesen <address@hidden> wrote:
Richard Riley <address@hidden> writes:

[...]

Of course. But eLisp is special in that its almost unreadable to the
typical procedural programmer fluent in C/C++ etc until you know a lot
if it already. Or that was my experience. And we all have different
experiences so it does no harm to remain open as to what suits other
people.
Where is there any evidence that the original OP is a `typical
procedural programmer fluent in C/C++'?

Vast majority of programers coming to emacs is familiar with
procedural languages, such as C, C++, Java, perl, php, visual basic.

The original poster may be a exception, but it is reasonable to make a
general assumption when giving tips.

It annoys me to pieces that so many textbooks assume that everyone out
there is a C/C++/Java programmer. For me, Lisp was my first
programming language (thanks to Emacs, which I started using to write
law papers in), and I do not need textbooks to explain for instance
Ruby to me in Lisp (which is perfectly feasible) but I even less need
comparisons with Java or C. Even worse, doing so is a major
distraction from the real object of learning.

Consider teaching Dutch to someone from Morocco but using English
during the lessons: that's just plain silly and simply leads to
unnecessary confusion. Using analogies from Slovak to teach Polish
however may be insightful, but only when the student already has
knowledge of a Slavic language. Same goes with programming languages:
do not assume.

it is relevant to consider something vast majority of readers are
already familiar of.

Vast majority of programers, are familiar with one of procedural lang
such as C, Java, C++, perl, visual basic. These are roughly maybe 95%
of all programers. So, when teaching a new programing language,
mentioning tips related to procedural lang is fruitful and effective.

Similarly, when teaching a foreign lang, it makes sense to mention
tips contrasting to the lang English.

When teaching something, teach it by itself; people willing to learn a
new language are most likely not stupid, and if they are somewhat
smart, they will find out for themselves what differences and
similarities there are between languages known already.

you are of course just bitching. Of course, most tutorials do try to
teach the lang itself, and very few are entirely based on transition
from another lang, such as “Python for Perl programers” or “Java for C+
+ programers”, “PHP for Perl programers”, “Haskell for Lispers”, etc.

For me, it would have been nice when learning JavaScript if the books
had warned me that not everything is an expression (invalid left-hand
assignment anyone?), that you have to explicitly return something,
that there are things such as keywords, and it would be nice if
textbooks explain how to take advantage of closures instead of trying
to get rid of them, hide them, and how to build an ugly half-assed
Class system.

The first few of those would cause people coming from C or Java at
least to frown but most probably to get irritated ("Why would I care
about all these strange incomprehensible things from some dead
language with too many parens, when all I want to do is simply to
learn JavaScript?????"). Therefore, I would not recommend such in a
learning text on JavaScript.

You were complaining about books giving tips of procedural lang tips.
But now you are using a example of giving tips about lisp to
illustrate how silly it is. Note that the books we are discussing, do
not give tips about lisp, because it is a lang very few people know.

However, books about functional langs do sometimes give relevant info
for programers familiar with lisp. The principle is the same, namely,
that for a significant portion of the readership, they are familiar
with lang x, so the book give tips for lang x programers. For example,
the official elisp reference gives many tips and warnings to those
familiar with Common Lisp, and about C too.

(to me, it is entirely distracting because i do not have working
familiarity with Common Lisp or C, nor do i care about them. However,
i'm the world's top expert in Mathematica, but vast majority of
potential readers of elisp doc are not familiar with Mathematica.)

I thought that Stephen Wolfram (author of _A New Kind of Science_) was the top expert. Is this another exaggeration like the statistics you pull out of a hat?: e.g. "99.9999% of all southpaws are touch typists." Remember that all majorities are not "vast," in fact the vast majority of them are not even majorities but only pluralities.

Ed


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