[Lispweb] Mod_lisp 2.0 released

Sunil Mishra smishra at speakeasy.net
Sun Jun 17 23:45:15 CDT 2001


There are many, many reasons for which mod_lisp is a good idea. 
I don't know if you have ever worked in an environment where you 
have a support staff operating all the back end machinery for a 
web site. They don't know lisp. Period. It is not reasonable to 
expect them to learn. The lisp way of doing things is alien to 
them, they will not understand it, and they are much more likely 
to make mistakes. To find someone that *is* able to understand 
lisp is going to be far more difficult and far more expensive. 
And besides, you would probably want them doing something other 
than maintaining your web server.

And web servers do need maintenance. They need someone to go 
through the logs, figure out problems, implement needed 
functionality, for example an approach to security. You never 
want your core application developers to be doing that work. 
They can do it, but it would be a waste of their time. Like 
asking an electrical engineer to repair a broken socket.

I love lisp. I think its the best language I have worked with. 
But putting down other languages, even if they don't quite 
measure up, does not help lisp's cause one bit. If anything, it 
alienates other engineers and support people with whom you have 
to work. And that kind of antagonism has no place in an 
engineering organization that needs to deliver a product.

We had been working on a distributed client/server application 
at my last job. The front end was java, and the back end was 
lisp. It was java because there has been a lot more work done 
with web development with java, and the problems are a little 
better understood in that context. It would be easier to hire 
people to build that front end. And the front end would have to 
be handed over to clients. Doing this work in lisp would be a 

The back end was in lisp, of course. Well, part of it was in 
lisp. We also had a transactional queue, a persistence manager 
(also in java) talking to a database. While lisp is great for 
solving hard problems, doing routine things is sometimes far 
more difficult. Because the routine things generally don't need 
a solution through programming.

IMHO, in the present day you cannot expect lisp alone to form a 
complete product. Period. Lisp is better, sure, but going 
forward lisp absolutely *must* learn to play with what is.

What mod_lisp gives is very important. It allows lisp developers 
to continue programming in lisp. And it allows the company to 
hire drones to handle the apache server, or whatever server they 
wish to use. It is easier for managers to justify using lisp. 
And last but not least, no lisp implementation on unix is 
currently multi-threaded. So building a truly scalable lisp-only 
solution is more or less out of the question. Throwing the http 
server into a separate process (apache) will ultimately also 
result in a service that scales better.

So before you put down someone else's work, ask, listen, and try 
to understand. And if you don't, say so politely.


On Sunday, June 17, 2001, at 09:04 PM, Andrew K. Wolven wrote:

> So the point that you are trying to make is that your employer 
> had you dinking around
> with inferior java technology in order to support a mostly 
> inferior web server in order
> to support an inferior operating system in order to support yet 
> another mostly inferior
> programmer who calls button-pushing a 'science'.  (All of this 
> having nothing to do with
> lisp or web except to justify a system which could have just 
> used fastcgi or jserve in
> the first place if you must sell buzztalk.)
> Consider this common abbreviation of one of my employers: 
> AIMD,  Aviation Intermediate
> Maintenance Depot.  The only Tomcat technology AIMD bothers to 
> support is F-14 Tomcat.
> In this environment, you may find yourself facing both a court 
> martial and the wrath of
> a widow if money makes you complacent and you cannot do your homework.
> Of course, that example is way extreme, let us consider a less 
> mission critical
> application environment:  an Online store.  Do you want to 
> rewrite the entire system
> from scratch to make the jump from 100 customers a month to 
> 100,000?  It's up to you, it
> is your time, your money and your carpal tunnel syndrome.

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