Joe Armstrong - Erlang and other stuff

Promoting Erlang

I've just got back from the 2013 BayArea Erlang Factory. This was my third time in SF and I had a great time.

Great is British English expression, I'm not sure how this translates into US English, it's the superlative of the American word awesome. I asked Mr. twitter what the superlative of “awesome” was, the responses included “bad ass” (= “bad bottoms” UK English) and words like “Dank” and “Tubular”.

It was great to meet old friends and make new friends, that's what I like about the factories, it's the gossip and the talks and the side-events.

In my keynote I mentioned UBF (Universal Binary Format) which is near to my heart. Unfortunately UBF is not widely used (which is a shame) and a possible reason is the lack of publicity.

The subject of “self-promotion” has bubbled up occasionally on the Erlang mailing list. Various users have described Erlang folk as being appallingly bad at promoting Erlang. I have in various posts tried to explain why this is so.

It's a cultural thing. In the far off snowy land from whence Erlang originated self promotion is regarded with extreme suspicion. We (the Erlang people) are actually quite proud of our work, but for us to say that what we have done is good is a cardinal sin in Sweden and is considered very bad manners.

It's OK for other people to say that what we have done is not-bad (which we, of course, must vigorously deny) but for us to venture the opinion that what we have done is good is considered at the least a breach of etiquette and at most bragging (which is frowned upon).

On the other side of the Atlantic this is not true. Here the adjectives start at Awesome and exactly how to express more appreciation than Awesome is a mystery to me.

I asked my American friends if saying that I thought that what we had done was not bad would be perceived as bragging, or would attract negative criticism. They ensured me that this was not the case and that it was OK to shout it from the roofs.

So I think I'll change strategy. The old method was:

  • Do some work
  • Publish on some website (say github)
  • Send a single post to the Erlang mailing list
  • If nobody showed any interest, then I concluded that the project was a failure and turned to some other problem.

    Since I actually rather like UBF (I think it's better than Json and XML) for example I remind people every ten years or so, so see if I can raise a modicum of interest.

    Now the worm has turned.

    I'm starting a new blog. I'm going to tell you why Erlang is wicked badd-ass awesome (translation: not-bad) and what's happening in the Erlang world. I'll also talk about some other competing technologies which I consider to be decidedly Unawesome and I'll tell you why.

    Stuff is happening. In two years time Erlang popularity will explode. In a series of blog posts I'll tell you why.

    In the next few posts I'll retroactively blog about what happened at the Erlang factory. This is behind the scenes stuff. What really happened in San Francisco?