How not to Provoke Imitation

Jon Udell, who basically created the genre of screencasts, once wrote:

Now that it's almost trivial to make and publish short screencasts, can we expose our software-tool-using behavior to one another in ways that provoke imitation, lead to mastery, and spur innovation? It's such a crazy idea that it just might work.

Emphasis added because I just experienced the opposite effect. After watching a screencast demonstrating SLIME, or Superior Lisp Interaction Mode for Emacs, I have a much clearer idea of how much I want to use this technology: not at all.

Granted, I skimmed a lot of the fifty-five minute video on creating a morse code translator (and they say Lisp isn't useful). But when the narrator says, fifty minutes in, "this example is so simple that I can just look at it, and I know exactly what is going on," I think it comes very close to a perfect definition of irony. And then at the end, when he tries to quit and everything goes haywire, it's just pure comedy. I laughed, I cried (almost), but I did not develop any desire whatsoever to imitate what I was watching. Much the opposite.

UPDATE: Please read this post before commenting here. I didn't post myself on Planet Lisp, and I disclaim any implied understanding of or caring about Lisp that goes with showing up there.

 
 
 
Mmmm tasty, tasty FUD.

The author does not, as you suggest, spend 55 minutes creating a morse code translator; he spends 55 minutes setting up SLIME, accessing a remote Lisp image and interactively developing code with it, explaining the features SLIME and Emacs offer for Lisp development, and, yes, writing a 68-line Morse code translator.

I challenge you to do any of these things in 55 minutes in your language of choice. In fact, I challenge you to connect to a running image and do development with it or write a 68-line Morse code translator with no time limit at all. I don't know what specific part of the video you're talking about when you quote the author as saying, "this example is so simple that I can just look at it, and I know exactly what is going on," but I bet we'd all be able to appreciate the irony a lot more if you explained what he was referring to.

In any case, I will agree that the total breakdown when Marco disconnects SLIME is, indeed, hilarious. But please, cut out the FUD.
 
 
 
 
"I challenge you to do any of these things in 55 minutes in your language of choice."

That's precisely my point. After watching those things be done, I have no interest in doing any of them because they are all incredibly arcane. I'm not claiming to be an expert on SLIME or Lisp and I don't expect any competent programmer would mistake me for one. I'm just saying I have no interest in becoming one after seeing that video.
 
 
 
 
Well, that's a strange point then; Marco (the narrator of the video) made this video for the sole purpose of documenting these arcane features. He had originally made a video introducing his web framework, UCW, but a lot of the people who watched that video e-mailed him about specific aspects of SLIME: the debugger, connecting to a remote machine, the sexp-editing commands built into Emacs, and so on. So this video exists solely as a response to those queries. I don't see how this is a bad example of a "screencast." It's just a Lisp programmer offering information to folks who asked for it. This would be like watching a movie completely dedicated to the mating rituals of the African wildebeest and then coming out of the theater and saying, "The mating rituals of the African wildebeest? How arcane! That's something I really didn't want to know about!"

I guess I just don't fully understand what your post is all about. I do apologize for the somewhat militant tone in the first comment, but I detected a slight undercurrent of Lisp-hate in your post, and reacted hastily.
 
 
 
 
'I don't see how this is a bad example of a "screencast."'

I never said it was a bad screencast. It did a great job of demonstrating to me exactly how little interest I have in using technology like SLIME, so I guess that would make it a good screencast. I wrote about it because that's not the type of educational experience people commonly discuss when they talk about screencasts, e.g. the Jon Udell quote.
 
 
 
 
Marco should have stated at the beginning that the point of the movie was to show off the capabilities of SLIME and that what he was doing was not representative of a typical SLIME usage session.

When I read descriptions of it in weblogs, they mentioned its context and purpose.

And this post definitely does seem bitter against Common Lisp. I could do things in Lisp in 200 lines that are difficult or impossible in most other languages. So you're god damn right Lisp is "useful."
 
 
 
 
He says, "this example is so simple that I can just look at it, and I know exactly what is going on," while displaying and referring to the four self-explanatory defuns that make up his example program. It's a video about using SLIME and it's aimed at people already faniliar with both Lisp and Emacs. The irony is subjective.
 
 
 
 
"I never said it was a bad screencast. It did a great job of demonstrating to me exactly how little interest I have in using technology like SLIME"

Well, you are not a lisp programmer, are you? Watching a 55 minute video on how to use the advanced features of something that you don't use would be a trying experience for anybody, and Slime is, i admit, quite arcane.

But, you are going to attract negative attention to yourself when you post such deliberately misleading information. Your phrase, "/fifty-five/ minute video on creating a morse code translator", sets up a straw man that you use to advance an anti-lisp agenda. You admit you only skimmed the movie, which contains a morse-code translator as a minor (and mostly insignificant) sub-plot, but yet dismiss some the amazing features demonstrated (some of which are _impossible_ to set up in other languages, let alone in 55 minutes) because of the fallacy that it took a lot of time to perform a simple task.

I use SLIME every day, and i learned a lot from that movie when i first saw it. There are certainly problems with the emacs+slime environment, but being able to do what Marco did, in 55 minutes, is worth putting up with things going 'haywire' once in while. Definately, IMO, better than not being able to do it at all.
 
 
 
 
"an anti-lisp agenda"

I don't know where you're all coming from, but this seems to be the common thread and it's just silly. If I said I've never spoken Chinese, and I don't care to learn, would that make me anti-Chinese? I never said Lisp was a bad language. I just said I have no interest in using it. I have no interest in parsing morse code, and I have no interest in how many lines of code it takes you to do X, Y, or Z.

I don't care about Lisp. I thought I might. I watched the video. Turns out I don't. Why is this so hard to understand? Must everyone use the same technology you use?
 
 
 
 
When you say that you've never spoken Chinese and have no interest in learning it, you are not being anti-Chinese, but you are being closeminded and parochial.
 
 
 
 
"I don't know where you're all coming from..."

You got mentioned on Lemonodor, which is syndicated on Planet LISP.

"Must everyone use the same technology you use?"

No one said that, of course. But it's an amusing bastardization of what was actually discussed. I think the general gist of most of the comments has been that 1) complaining about someone's tutorial video is just silly, and 2) your implication that Lisp is useless, and that it takes 55 minutes to make a Morse code translator, is unfounded and arrogant.

Your opinion on this video isn't necessarily a good basis for deciding whether or not Lisp is a good language. This video isn't about Lisp; it's about specific features of a specific Lisp environment.
 
 
 
 
"If I said I've never spoken Chinese, and I don't care to learn, would that make me anti-Chinese?"

No, but if you said something like " I skimmed a lot of the fifty-five minute video on translating the lords prayer to chinese (and they say chinese isn't useful).", you might come off that way, especially if the video was about caligraphy and the arcane details of how to express certain concepts in pictograph, and had little to do with the chinese language itself.

"I don't know where you're all coming from..."

You've incurred the wrath of the SmugLispWeenies. Grab a copy of Practical Common Lisp, find out what CL is really all about, then you'll have a good reason to reject (or accept) what the language has to offer.

You have every right to your opinion, but when you start twisting the facts to support it, you can be sure someone will be along to call you on it.
 
 
 
 
"You got mentioned on Lemonodor, which is syndicated on Planet LISP."

Ah - now I see the problem. Lemonodor only copied what I wrote about Lisp and ignored the primary topic of what I wrote, screencasts. Which is understandable, given that it's a Lisp-specific weblog. But I didn't decide Lisp was a bad language (how many times have I said that now?) based on the video. I just decided I don't want to learn it. Because unlike bob, I have neither the time nor the inclination to learn every language.
 
 
 
 
This is an amazing example of how Lisp fanatics see things in a way that is very remote from the way normal people see the same thing. And I'm a Lisp fanatic! When I saw that movie, I thought it was incredibly cool and awesome, but I never actually ended up using the technology. It's never really seemed worth it, yet. Clearly my initial emotional response to the movie was mistaken due to my love for Lisp.

Oh, and hey, it's drewc! Still trying to enforce Common Lisp hegemony throughout the internet, I see.
 
 
 
 
"Oh, and hey, it's drewc! "

Ah Tron3k! Haven't heard from you in a while .. how is IncreduLISP going?

"Still trying to enforce Common Lisp hegemony throughout the internet, I see."

Your reading comprehension skills need a little work there, friend.
 
 
 
 
Meow! Hiss! Scratch. Hiss!
 

Be number 16:

 
 
 
knows half of 8 is