Archive for July 22, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fortress Wrapping Up

Guy L. Steele Jr. (via Alan Eliasen):

After working nearly a decade on the design, development, and implementation of the Fortress programming language, the Oracle Labs Programming Language Research Group is now winding down the Fortress project. Ten years is a remarkably long run for an industrial research project (one to three years is much more typical), but we feel that our extended effort has been worthwhile. Many aspects of the Fortress design were novel, and we learned a great deal from building an interpreter and an initial set of libraries. Nevertheless, over the last few years, as we have focused on implementing a compiler targeted to the Java Virtual Machine, we encountered some severe technical challenges having to do with the mismatch between the (rather ambitious) Fortress type system and a virtual machine not designed to support it (that would be every currently available VM, not just JVM).

Sparrow and Google

Dom Leca:

Now we’re joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger vision — one that we think we can better achieve with Google.

Thomas Houston quoting Leca (via John Gruber):

We will continue to make available our existing products, and we will provide support and critical updates to our users. However, as we’ll be busy with new projects at Google, we do not plan to release new features for the Sparrow apps.

Rian van der Merwe (via Drew Crawford):

This is the core of the disappointment that many of us feel with the Sparrow acquisition. It’s not about the $15 or less we spent on the apps. It’s not about the team’s well-deserved payout. It’s about the loss of faith in a philosophy that we thought was a sustainable way to ensure a healthy future for independent software development, where most innovation happens.

I’m not sure how much we should generalize about this, though, since e-mail clients are a weird market. It’s difficult being boxed in between both the platform vendor and the Web.

Dave Winer:

Go to top of program. Repeat loop.

What Rian’s post says to me is that we’re coming close to the point where everyone gets pessimistic and thinks it’s going to suck forever.

So keep your eye open for something cool and fun that doesn’t really work but has shitloads of potential.

Update (2012-07-24): Kyle Baxter quotes Guy English in 2010:

“Apps” is fun. It’s fun to say, it sounds unthreatening, it’s a word sufficiently abbreviated that it takes on a life of its own without dragging to the forefront of peoples minds the more sterile and technical sounding “application”. Apps are not Applications – they are their own things. They are smaller. They are more fun. Apps are treats atop your technological sundae. They are not potential time sinks. They are neither burden nor investment. They each represent a nugget of fun, of fleeting amusement. Apps are gobbled up in the millions by people who would never rush so willy nilly to buy desktop software. Apps are Pop Software writ large in blinking neon lights.

Are Apps good business? No, they’re not. From a small developer’s perspective the App Store is a total disaster.

And continues:

There’s something important to learn here: since the App Store’s primary customers are mass-market, they don’t yet value apps very much, and are therefore only willing to pay a pittance for apps. For them, apps are simply entertainment, sometimes a bit more, but not much more. Perhaps that will change as these mobile devices increasingly replace the PC, perhaps not. But what’s also clear is that trying to sell a focused, obsessed-with-the-details app for mass-market prices probably isn’t going to work.

David Barnard:

But taking that money was a blessing and a curse. It enabled the company to accelerate the pace of development, but completely changed the yardstick by which financial success would be measured. Sustainability was no longer the ability to provide a decent living for 5 talented people, they also had to provide a return to their investors. And by that new measure Sparrow was still a flop, even after the much anticipated release of their iPhone app.


The thing is, the entire software industry is changing. Computer users used to spend hundreds of dollars for great software and pay again every couple years for upgrades. But over the past couple decades people have grown accustomed to getting more and more value from software while paying less and less for it. The web has played a huge part in that, but the trend was accelerated by the App Store and Apple’s management of it.

New Programming Jargon

Jeff Atwood:

In terms of programmer culture, though, there is precedent in the form of The Jargon File. Unfortunately, we don’t have a good designated place for deleted "too fun" questions to live, but all Stack Exchange content is licensed under Creative Commons in perpetuity. Which means, with proper attribution, we can give it a permanent home on our own blogs. So I did. I’ve collected the top 30 Stack Overflow New Programming Jargon entries below, as judged by the Stack Overflow community.