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Re: Newbie thoughts on Guile Hall + Guix

From: Blake Shaw
Subject: Re: Newbie thoughts on Guile Hall + Guix
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2022 19:42:48 +0700

Aleix Conchillo Flaqué <> writes:

> My 2 cents:
> - Doing something in Guile is tough. I've been trying since 2011.
> Why is it tough?
> - The manual is written by very smart people for very smart people. Not for
>   newcomers.

I've seen this sentiment expressed a few times when this topic has popped
up, and I think it can come across as assuming that the people who struggle
with it are either not very smart, new to programming, or both. For
instance, I know that someone who described a difficult experience
which shared many of the same attributes as my experience, and they are
the author of a popular programming book that is certainly not for
newcomers. Before the pandemic threatened to separate me from my
partner if I returned to school, I was doing my PhD in philosophy of
mathematics focusing on categorical logic, and I've been programming
since I was 15, almost 20 years now (but I will admit I'm no super
hacker, my work has been specifically limited to audio dsp, opengl,
opencv and stage video & lighting). And I worry that beyond possibly
scaring off folks who could possibly become very active members of the
community, this form of sentiment functions to allow us to forgo the  
difficult work of understanding what the problems are and how they can
be addressed.

> I'm excited to see what Blake comes up with, but the content will
> probably still be not-trivial. At the end of the day it's a reference manual, 
> not
> a book to teach you how to write a new project from scratch.

I'm glad to hear it! It good to see so many people get excited about
documentation! Which certainly indicates a shared desire to see the
documentation improved. And I agree its a manual, and if anything there
is a good amount of inconsistency when the manual is itself unsure whether its
a tutorial or a manual. I think I have a very simple guideline that I'll
present that allows us to maintain most of the existing material while
allowing us to revise sections in a consistent way to make them less
tutorial-like, quicker to consult, and easier to understand, at once!
It's not magic, but I think will offer a notable improvement both "for the
working hacker", but also for the little schemers like myself. I'll be
excited to hear what you think of it. 
> - There are no simple and modern resources that teach what is the 
> "Guile/Scheme"
> way. How do you even organize a project when you start? Or something like 
> to teach the basics. Yes, you can read books but most 
> people
> when they start to learn a new language they just want to try to do something
> quick. And the books that teach Scheme are not trivial/practical.

I agree, and I'm really excited to see how Jeremy Korwin's book develops
because from just a glance at it, it seems to be on the right track to
fill those shoes.

> - Lack of libraries. We do have libraries but the ecosystem is not big and for
> those libraries we have it's hard to get started, most don't have simple 
> examples
> or don't have examples at all.
> - Assuming you find the library you need... how do you start using it? How do 
> you
> install it? Now there's Guix, but not everyone has Guix or wants to install 
> Guix.
> I'm on macOS currently so I can't even install Guix unfortunately.
> - Lack of support in editors other than Emacs (yes, geiser is great!). 
> There's a
> project that might help there: 
> But
> LSP is not enough, you need a paredit equivalent, etc.
> - Creating a new library is (or was) not easy. guile-hall and guix help here. 
> But
> how do newcomers even find "guile-hall"? Should guile-hall be part of Guile 
> and
> included in the manual?
> - Distributing the new library you have created is (or was) not easy either.
> Also, guile-hall and guix issues here.
> So basically today we are kind of forcing people to learn Emacs and Guix (if 
> you
> can even use Guix) to have a minimum decent environment.
> For me starting with Guile was not hard because of autotools, I already had to
> deal with that for many years. For me the hardest part was the lack of 
> resources
> (libraries, tutorials, examples, simple books).
> As for myself, I've been trying to create libraries to replicate what I use at
> work (and I'm far from that) or others that I find fun. And I will try to keep
> doing that to improve Guile's ecosystem and help with anything else I can.
> Best,
> Aleix

I address many of your concerns in my presentation, but not all of
them, and I agree with most them. Will be interested to hear what you think!


“In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni”

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