Archive for September, 2007

Uh oh!

September 25, 2007

Today I interviewed Donald Knuth for my book Coders at Work. The contents of the interview will, of course, be published in the book itself, but before the interview proper started he told me something that’s a bit worrisome. According to Knuth (who may have been relating something someone told him) there are three kinds of people: people who have written no books, people who have written one book, and people who have written many books. I guess unless I stop now my fate is sealed.


John Carmack and Linus Torvalds, please call your offices.

September 20, 2007

Things are going well on the Coders at Work front. On Tuesday I did my second interview (with Jamie Zawinski) and since I last posted about signing up Donald Knuth I have added Anders Hejlsberg, Guy Steele, and Dan Ingalls to my list of interviewees. The always-up-to-date list of who’s agreed to participate is on the Coders at Work website.

Two folks I’ve been trying to sign up for a while are John Carmack and Linus Torvalds. I emailed them both a few weeks ago and have pinged them each once since but haven’t gotten any reply. No doubt these guys get a ton of mail and mine may have gotten lost in the shuffle or been eaten by some spam filter. So I come to you, gentle readers, for help. If you happen to be close, personal friends with either of these guys and think, as I do, that their insights into the art, science, and/or craft of programming would be an interesting addition to those of Armstrong, Cosell, Deutsch, Hejlsberg, Ingalls, Peyton Jones, Kay, Knuth, Norvig, Steele, Thompson, and Zawinski, please drop them a line and ask them to get in touch with me.

Bomb me—please!

September 19, 2007

I wrote Practical Common Lisp because I felt that Common Lisp needed a new introductory book that could ease folks raised on other languages into Common Lisp and then show them what it’s really all about. Based on emails from readers, reviews on Amazon, word of mouth in the Lisp world, and the fact that the online version of PCL is the top hit when you Google for “lisp book”, I’ll say I succeeded tolerably well. So imagine my dismay when someone pointed out to me today the Google results for “lisp tutorial”.

The top hit is a page which apparently hasn’t been updated since around 1999 and isn’t really a tutorial anyway, so much as a large list of links including a link to the Hyperspec when it was hosted at The next few “lisp tutorial” hits are — with all due respect — exactly the sort of dated, dry tutorials that inspired me to write Practical Common Lisp in the first place and to do a deal with Apress to allow me to keep it online even after the dead tree version was published. Practical Common Lisp doesn’t appear anywhere, as far as I can tell, in the results for “lisp tutorial”.

With that in mind I did a small bit of search engine optimization today to make sure that the phrase “Common Lisp tutorial” appears on the main page of the Practical Common Lisp web site. If you also think Lisp might be better served if PCL was at least one of the results returned to a would-be Lisper searching for a Lisp tutorial you can help out: if you have a web page where it would be reasonable to do so, consider linking to the url with a link text of “lisp tutorial” or “common lisp tutorial”. Yes, I’m asking you to participate in a Google bombing. But it’s for a good cause. Think of the children.

Update: Based on the first couple folks I’ve seen providing links to the PCL website (thanks, guys!) I must not have made myself quite clear enough. The name of the game in a Google bombing is for everyone to use the same text for the link. If you want to play along, your HTML should look like this:

<a href="">Common Lisp tutorial</a>


<a href="">Lisp tutorial</a>

1. Harelequin doesn’t exist anymore. The canonical home of the Hyperspec is at Lispworks which is now two spin-offs removed from Harlequin: Global Graphics bought Harlequin and spun off Xanalys which in turn, in 2005, spun off Lispworks.

Donald Knuth!

September 4, 2007

Today I got a phone call from Donald Knuth who has agreed to be interviewed for Coders at Work. Yipee! I’ll be interviewing him later this month. Which means I’ve got half of my sixteen interviewees signed up. The folks who have agreed so far are:

  • Joe Armstrong — Inventor of Erlang
  • Bernie Cosell — One of the main software developers on the original ARPANET IMPs
  • Simon Peyton Jones — Co-inventor of Haskell
  • Alan Kay — Inventor of Smalltalk and object oriented programming
  • Donald Knuth — Author of The Art of Computer Programming and TeX.
  • Peter Norvig — AIer and Lisper, Director of Research at Google
  • Ken Thompson — Inventor of Unix
  • Jamie Zawinski — Author of XEmacs and early Netscape/Mozilla hacker

And my spam filter on the comments page seems to be working well — it has correctly identified as ham the half dozen or so real comments that have been posted since I installed it and unerringly id’d the couple hundred spams that have been posted in the same period.