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The Guile community we could have (or: solving Worse is More Accessible)

From: Christopher Allan Webber
Subject: The Guile community we could have (or: solving Worse is More Accessible)
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2015 18:28:25 -0500

Luis Felipe López Acevedo writes:

>> Really the design is really well made, no problem with that, I just
>> want to be sure that we won't disappoint the main audience and
>> attract a lot of newsbies which i think we are not ready for.
>> If I can vote, I will +0.
> I get you point about the illustrations, but I disagree :)
> My Idea was to put "newbies" first without leaving out the experts. 
> Maybe with this change we can push ourselves a bit to make the project 
> be ready for people getting started in programming (it is not far from 
> that, I think).

I think this is absolutely the right goal, and the right call.  I am
100% behind the visual design, partly for this very reason!  I like the
design, it is the right level of modern, crisp and professional design,
but with just the right touch of playfulness.  That playfulness is
critical, I think.  Consider the community we have, and the community we
would like to bring in?

>From what I've gathered, the traditional and public view of lisp and
scheme is of some ancient wizards (perhaps not so far from the cover of
SICP) casting spells from towers or potentially labs, maybe AI
labs... I love wizards, and lisp's history has a lot to thank of fairly
wizardly characters, but while wizards evoke a sense of magic, it is a
kind of unapproachable magic.

The new design appeals to me: it retains a kind of magic, but it is the
kind of magic of childhood, and when Guile is at its best, this is
true.  Guile is a magical, wonderful playground, and one whose limits is
your imagination and your patience.  Perhaps you will indeed become a
powerful wizard, but maybe you will become a magician of some other
type.  But no matter what, magic is under your fingertips from the very
beginning.  Come play along!

If you'll permit me to ramble a bit, I think Guile's community is at an
opportune time.  It's not visible to the outside world so much yet, but
Guile's community is a deeply welcoming one... something that was
surprising to me when I entered.  I've heard from plenty of others in
the community that one of the reasons this or that person stayed is
because of the level of patience and care given to questions, and this
is a great sign.

We aren't a diverse community... look at the gender distribution on
these mailing lists, and that's telling enough.  But Guile has the right
environment to become a better.  Guile's three maintainers, Ludo, Andy
and Mark, have all expressed interest in becoming an even more welcoming
and diverse place.  But that requires hard work.  There are lots of
steps to be made, but how we present ourselves is foundational.

To put it another way, many here have probably read the "Worse is
Better" essays.  That paradox of "better" I think sticks in the craw of
many lispers; something both seems wrong and yet frustratingly right
about it.  Maybe another way to look at it: "Worse is more accessible",
or "worse has the path of least resistance", or also importantly, "worse
is where I felt welcomed."  Given that, no wonder many people feel safe
and better rather than what lispers believe is "the right thing".

But maybe we could have both.  I believe it requires effort, and perhaps
a rebranding of imagery.  The wizard towers are still there if you want
them... I doubt any lisper or schemer will give up on Guile or Scheme
because of some fun and inviting drawings.  The fun drawings don't take
anything away!  But they add something: they make Guile feel like
somplace, even as a newcomer, you might belong.

There's plenty more to do (and to be said) to make that true, but I
think this redesign is a great step in that direction.

 - Chris

PS: As for the "it's not professional enough", most companies follow
  where developers want to go these days anyway, and those who are so
  entrenched in professionalism are probably "enterprise software"
  shops.  Those companies are already so deeply entrenched in Java or
  .NET that I wouldn't worry about them at this point. :)

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