I was gonna spend an hour on this and then I spent my whole day on this long thing nobody's going to read.
But here's some more musing on "systems lisp" things, whatever the hell that means: "A Guile Steel smelting pot" dustycloud.org/blog/guile-stee

@cwebber "Compilation By Program Transformation" is such a weird title... it's like "Walking by Moving Legs"

@cwebber but ohhhh Christine... this post is giving me the feels.

I really want to believe. I want to live in this dream world we've all been envisioning where we can finally live free from the curse of the Original Sin of using C.

but that dream feels like a black hole that just sucks in all the work you can possibly give it without a credible promise on the other side of something that can work for everyone.

for every person who hacks on an ideal application, you have someone who's going even further to develop their own ideal language, and someone who goes further than that to develop an ideal (done right this time!) VM, and beyond that someone with their ideal OS that finally learns from the mistakes of the past, who of course is surpassed by someone with their amazing, pure, ideal instruction set and CPU architecture which will finally set us free (once we solve the pesky problem of fabrication).

@cwebber and even with all this that everyone has done, can you really credibly tell me that this "ideal" world is for everyone? have we found a way to render Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, and Russian without harfbuzz? have we found a way to implement TLS 1.3 in sectorlisp? are we prepared to reimplement the entire universe of browser-based applications in this from-the-ground-up done-right-this-time world?

meanwhile we're having this conversation on a network which runs on web browsers and unix and mountains of unspeakably awful, insecure, hacked-to-bits C code but it's this incredible place where people can actually own their conversations and live their lives without corporate pressures breathing down their neck every second.

it feels so indulgent and elitist to spend time on the former when the latter is here today and is actually demonstrably changing lives, I guess?

but I'm as guilty as any, some wanker who builds compilers recreationally. I dunno. wish I could do more.

@technomancy @cwebber I really *really* sympathise with this fear, and feel that it's the hard work that needs to be done. is it impossible? maybe, and these foundations are certainly colossi of code and absorbed knowledge and practice, but they are not intractable or irrepeatable -- I believe we do not rebuild them largely because of the sunk costs, not because it is impossible.

The question is: how to make this challenge tractable? A few ideas:

@technomancy @cwebber

* in the before times the majorit of the established world was proprietary, so you couldn't use automated systems to analyse and incrementally incorporate older systems. Now harfbuzz, chrome etc default to open
* there is evidence that re-implementation is getting easier: we've gone from Linux being a multi-year bootstrap to hobby OSes emerging a regular basis, including web platform support e.g github.com/SerenityOS/serenity

@technomancy @cwebber

* similiarly, the toolkit around emulation or building harnesses has improved: VMs/sandboxes are not only commonly used but code has adapted to living in these spaces -- a program that doesn't run in docker or virtualized hardware isn't much use thse days

@technomancy @cwebber

* there's increasing commonality between well-funded commercial research goals and the needs of alternative platform makers: e.g. the porting of chrome to Fuchsia, Google's cap-based OS, Microsoft and ARM's funding of OS ports and toolkit support for CHERI msrc-blog.microsoft.com/2022/0

@technomancy @cwebber

* there are also some hardware trends that are promising -- on one hand we now have a handful of promising open hardware platforms (and no more than a handful!) which gives some hope to having a limited support matrix. on the other, the chip building stack is opening up, promising some ability to bend the hardware to the needs of our goals instead of struggling the other way

@technomancy @cwebber

I think the biggest social challenge, as you note, is how hard it is to get everyone to focus on one "perfect" platform rather than everyone pursuing their own utopian dream setup. This certainly divides resources and attention. It's the classic problem of decentralized development! But that just means we must pursue the hard work of connecting and co-operating, just as the builders of open systems before us did

@mala @technomancy I agree with *both* of you on *everything* there. And I think we're at a stage where there's enough happening with people not helping to each other that writing a "smelting pot" like post is good. Eventually you need to make choices, have focus, try to drive core work in a particular area, but right now I think some cross-dialogue is good.

Also, the choice to focus *largely* on PreScheme is not accidental here. You can see a lot of parallels between PreScheme and Fennel: both are targeting an existing ecosystem rather than trying to build an entirely new world, and in that way, provide a clever way to survive it.

@cwebber @mala but yeah I'm not criticizing the Prescheme work; more wringing my hands in existential angst over taking the Prescheme idea to what seems to be to be its natural conclusion.

but then i harnessed some of that existential angst towards something more practical and installed gotosocial on my home server, and it looks like A) it's really easy to install and B) the federation bug that bit me last time appears to be fixed.

so it's possible to strike a balance between building towards this ideal world and building technologies that help people today where they are.

(but I gotta say, after setting up a home fedi server, if you somehow found a way to defeat the evils of NAT and port forwarding, I think that would be a greater force for user empowerment than all the lisps ever created put together)

so I guess this whole thread is just a weird elaborate way to say ... 

@cwebber @mala

"don't quit your day job"?

re: so I guess this whole thread is just a weird elaborate way to say ... 

@technomancy @mala I especially won't if it can continue to be written in lisp, even if it's not *about* lisp ;)

re: so I guess this whole thread is just a weird elaborate way to say ... 

@technomancy @mala At any rate, I think it's worth persuing multiple exciting directions. It's hard to anticipate which things will take off, giving boosts of encouragement to things that look interesting I think is good.

RISC-V and Blender are both things that I now regularly see hitting my timeline that I was really excited about for a long time but there was a lot of "yeah, this is never going to happen though, it would have by now". Hell, ActivityPub itself is in that category. It could be pretty demoralizing working on it when the main thing I had ringing in my ear was "this is never gonna happen". I'm glad I didn't listen to that, and put in the work.

Lots of other things I've been excited about *didn't* make it. But you really don't know what will. It's worth encouraging, trying to promote and inspire things that might, from the extremely ambitious stuff (a new architecture?!) to the more down to earth (the thing we want that compiles to the thing we don't as much!)

@cwebber @mala yeah I guess I should be totally extra clear here that this whole time I'm describing my own emotional journey and emphatically NOT telling other people what they should be doing with their time!

@cwebber @mala but it's also about me personally wondering if there's some way to spend my own efforts more on things that could have end-user impact rather than toys for nerds.

(as much I can say it's a great and necessary thing that gotosocial is taking over the niche that pleroma originally occupied, trading elixir for golang means it's nearly impossible for me to summon up any enthusiasm to hack on its codebase directly.)

@technomancy @cwebber @mala Since we're baring our souls and talking personal emotional journeys here..

Having spent a good chunk of my life trying to bootstrap a new language stack and OS from scratch[1] and gotten a visceral education in all the ways that's difficult and, worse, ill-posed[2], I now have a new answer to the most impactful thing I can work on:


[1] github.com/akkartik/mu

[2] lobste.rs/s/h4lnkn/what_are_yo

A more decentralized approach to software governance.

This connects up with capitalism, bear with me.

Projects evolve over time, especially growing monotonically more complex. Again and again I see projects slow with age. Is a clean new project really an advance? Maybe it's just younger? Conversely, I don't use Emacs, but I think it's the healthiest software project in the world today. Extremely old, continuously in development for decades, still sporting incredibly vibrant releases.


@akkartik I've been thinking about "career-oriented open source software."


I embarked on writing a cluster-oriented language + bytecode/virtual machine that would be the core by which an ecosystem of "low profit" data technologies could connect into and be marketed in a "co-op" manner.


The motivation for the endeavor is discussed in these slides:


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