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Where is

Feb 10, 2012

Update: David Nolen created an Google Group. I’m hoping beyond hope that it works! I’ll be there to help.

Some time in late 2001 MIT held an event called the Lightweight Languages Workshop or LL1 for short. While I’m certain the event itself was influential to those in attendance, the truly magnificent byproduct of the workshop was the associated LL1 mailing list. Scanning down the messages to that mailing list reads like a roster for the programming languages hall of fame. The topics on display, from historical recollections to bleeding edge to wholly new topics (that we’ve yet to catch on to in many cases), are of a ridiculously high quality that almost any random thread puts every current outlet of rampant opinion to shame.

And that’s a problem. There is a true gap in the computing ecosystem since the LL1 mailing list went silent. Certainly there are other important mailing lists and message boards in operation today,1 including Fundamentals of New Computing, Squeak-dev, and (at times) Lambda The Ultimate, but none of them have the same mix of breadth of conversation and tone of respectfulness of LL1.

The world needs a new LL1. But it’s not as simple as just putting together a mailing list and calling it Any mailing list would need most (if not all) of the following to garner even a hint of the magic in the old:

  • A bevy of thought leaders
  • Supplemented with a bevy of open-minded and respectful enthusiasts
  • A general desire to push the collective envelope as opposed to individual agenda
  • Thoughtfulness
  • An enthusiasm for the new, with a deference to the past
  • No sacred cows
  • Invite only (maybe — depending on the following)
  • Fair but firm moderation
  • A clear focus on the goals of said list

Where is this, and who are the right people to get it started?2


  1. It might be enough to simply join the best of the current sites and force that LL1 evolves from them, but I suspect that: 1) the existing community might not like that idea, and 2) it’s just not possible to evolve something like LL1. 

  2. I have a few people in mind that could take this role, but will defer from naming them to avoid putting them on the spot. 

One Comment, Comment or Ping

  1. Thomas

    Sorry for being late, I just ran across this article, but couldn’t help but to leave a comment about a topic that was once dear to me.

    I was made aware of LL1 and the mailing list early on (the mailing list was later renamed to ‘ll-discuss’, I was a member of the list for 3-4 years before I abandoned it around 2005.

    I was full of hopes when I joined the list sometimes after LL1. I was then a programmer for some years, with a strong interest for programming languages but no formal background or training (no compiler class, no Dragon book, no type theory, asf.). I wanted to learn more about the concepts underlying various PLs, but on a pragmatic level. I wanted to learn what a certain language feature will give me if I use it in mundane, industrial projects, and also what the associated costs are. I wanted to be able to value one language against another on that basis.

    At first, ll1-discuss seemed like the perfect place for this. There seemed to be a mix of practitioners and people with an academic background. Topics and approaches were, as you write, diverse. But this changed over time, especially as a certain academic group started to quickly take over discussions. It would mostly start with an interesting question or observation, and a related answer, when those members would chime in, picking the academic aspects from the thread, and then discussing this particular aspect among themselves. Others that chimed in on other aspects were quickly silenced with polite but academic arguments that expressed what they said was not relevant and “on the right level”.

    Now I perfectly appreciate the need for discussions about these things on an academic level. The sad thing was that there are probably enough channels within academia where those discussions could take place. But there was no forum where industry and academia could meet, and ll1-discuss which had this promise turned also out to be a fail in this regard.

    I truely regret this. I can vividly remember complaints from academic people why industry wouldn’t adopt the advances made in PL research in the past decades. But when it came to actually translating those results to practitioners they gave a sniff at us. To this attitude I attribute a lot of the fact that ll-discuss has deteriorated into a mostly announcements-only mailing list.

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