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Re: [Axiom-developer] Heidegger, literate programming, and communication

From: Gary Johnson
Subject: Re: [Axiom-developer] Heidegger, literate programming, and communication
Date: Thu, 22 May 2014 14:05:58 -0700 (PDT)

Hi folks,

  I suspect I'm the Gary that Tim thought he was referring to since I've posted on several of his other LP-related threads (though not this one until now). I'm reading along and enjoying the back and forth as usual, but I'm sorry to say that I don't have much to add to this philosophical swordfight.

  As I've stated on other threads, I find LP quite useful to me, both in helping me remember later what my old code does (and WHY I wrote it that way in the first place) as well as helping me to write clearer and more parsimonious code in the first place (since I don't want to document a crazy web of unnecessary complexity if I can avoid it). All in all, my personal LP journey has been an interesting and reasonably productive one. And of course, using an expressive functional language like Clojure does allow me to keep my code snippets shorter and more isolated from one another. All good things for LP as well.

  I know that Tim likes to poke the mailing list occasionally and remind people that LP is the bee's knees and that they should really get on board with it. I also know that without fail one or more folks will quickly respond that LP doesn't provide enough value above docstrings, inline comments, autogenerated API docs, and the occasional blog post to invest the necessary time in developing new LP-mindful workflows. And, of course, someone will inevitably chime in with the rally cry "clear code doesn't need documentation".

  I understand that really embracing LP does require relearning how to program in several fundamental respects, AND it makes it quite difficult to use many of the developer tools many folks in the Clojure community have come to rely on. This makes the task appear somewhere between challenging and onerous to many programmers (or so I would imagine from following Tim's threads over the past year). However, (speaking only for myself here) I think the maintenance benefits often outweigh the upfront investment for any piece of software I intend to keep around for more than a few months. So for me, it's a net good. For some folks it's not. I get that. Enough said.

  But really, at the end of the day, I'm just getting tired of listening to people razzing on LP for the reasons listed above. There ARE good tools out there for doing this kind of programming. People just have to invest time and energy into learning them. I regularly cite Emacs' Org-mode as providing most everything you might need to comfortably create LP programs without even writing one line of LaTeX or XML (if you're allergic to those languages). Obviously, as Tim points out, it's an almost trivial assignment to roll your own tangle and weave scripts in whatever language you like (and I've tried that route too). So guys, if you don't like the ideas behind LP or just feel like it is too much of a hassle to use, then I completely understand that you don't want to use it. But could we maybe call a truce on this mailing list on the topic?

  Perhaps instead of constantly being pulled into philosophical arguments, those of us who actually do enjoy exploring LP could then use this forum to discuss amongst ourselves what tools or references we are finding useful in our journey. Clearly some folks (Gregg included) are churning out some pretty neat looking tools to make LP easier to do in the Clojure world. I for one would love to see more lively discussion around that and not feel like we're just bear-baiting whenever we mention the forbidden paradigm of Literate Programming.

  My 2c,
    ~ (the actual) Gary

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