Sat | 3 May 2003archive link

Design Papers

11:55 EST | These papers deal with questions of design. Most of the design papers collected so far are some commentaries on papers by Paul Graham. Over the course of the past year he has written and released a couple of interesting and provocative notes on his web site. I have written parallel-ogues on each of these papers. These documents are paragraph-by-paragraph commentaries on the matters being discussed.

While I disagree with much of what Graham says, I find his remarks always provocative and therefore worth discussing.

Graham on Beating the Averages

This is a paean to Lisp. The problem is that it offers no evidence whatsoever on any issue other than the fact that Graham likes Lisp and is quite apparently able to use it effectively. While I don't doubt this, it is of little use to anyone else, and Graham offers no evidence that others would find the choice of language to be significant in the process of deveoping systems and successful startups.

Graham on Hackers and Painters

In this paper Graham tackles the task of describing things that he feels painting shares with `hacking'. I find it to be a very careless paper, too casual about the use of words, and with little contribution to either hacking or to painting.

Snctns isnt Pwr

This paper is an extension of my remarks about Graham's Succinctness is Power paper. The technology of the parallel-ogue, while good for responding to points made in a paper, is not very helpful in dealing with problems that arise because a paper doesn't deal with all of a problem. It is good technology for discussing what someone says, but not for discussing what they fail to say. In this paper Graham's proposition about succinctness is dealt with in somewhat more depth.

Graham on Succinctness is Power

In this paper, Graham discusses the relationship between succinctness and power. I find the discussion is interesting, but hardly compelling. There seems to me to be lots of confusion between the language itself and expressions of programs in the language. The paper also pays scant attention to the problems of interaction effects between language and personal programming style.

Graham on A Hundred-Year Language

Graham's paper argues that by trying to develop a view of the `programming language of the future' we can learn something about what we ought to be doing today. I am not so sure.

Graham on Design

In this paper Graham attempts, in my opinion less than successfully with attempting to relate design efforts and research efforts. I find the paper somewhat unclear on whether it is talking about whether it is dealing with research on programming language design, research on programming or rather more general relationships between programming and research. But it is an interesting paper and well worth discussing.

Graham on Taste

In this paper Graham raises issues associated with the development of taste, particularly in the context of design. He draws heavily on examples from Renaissance art, and while I find some of this discussion successful and almost all of it interesting, I also find a substantial part of the discussion mis-directed and wrong. Arguments about Art, Science and Engineering are often very interesting, but I am not sanguine about the liklihood that these discussions are likely to lead to any design consequences that have much immediate impact.

Design Papers

Beating the Averages
23 july 2003 The discussion in Graham's notion that in order to `beat the averages', languages like Lisp are an important element in the arsenal. This parallel-ogue rejects that idea.
Hackers and Painters
23 july 2003 Graham compares the role of the painter with that of the hacker. The parallel-ogue raises lots of questions starting with definitions and the way words are used and going on through lots of (to my mind) unsupported suppositions about computer programming.
Snctns isnt Pwr
3 may 2003 The discussion in Graham's Succinctness is Power is insufficiently broad. This paper discusses the broader aspects of the problem Graham raises.
Commentary: Graham on `Succinctness is Power'
29 apr 2003 Comments on Paul Graham's paper Succinctness is Power. This is a `parallel-ogue' wherein the original text is presented along with the commentary.
Graham on `A Hundred-Year Language'
14 apr 2003 Comments on Paul Graham's paper A Hundred-Year Language. This is a `parallel-ogue' wherein the original text is presented along with the commentary.
Graham on Design
27 jan 2003 Comments on Paul Graham's paper Design and Research. This is a `parallel-ogue' wherein the original text is presented along with the commentary.
Graham on Taste
30 jan 2003 Comments on Paul Graham's paper Taste for Makers. This is another `parallel-ogue' wherein the original text is presented along with the commentary.

About Mind/Matter

* mind/matter started in 1963 as SONAMCO. Most of the principals have been, at various times, members of the faculty of MIT's Sloan School or of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. After several stages of evolution and corporate spin-offs it has become mind/matter.