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Re: [Chicken-meisters] Re: Fw: Chicken and marketing

From: Mario Domenech Goulart
Subject: Re: [Chicken-meisters] Re: Fw: Chicken and marketing
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2011 19:45:10 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.1.91 (gnu/linux)

Hi Felix,

On Mon, 21 Mar 2011 22:46:54 +0100 (CET) Felix <address@hidden> wrote:

>> John ignored Chicken for some time because somehow he associated it to
>> bad farming practices and how badly chickens are treated.  He could as
>> well ignore Ruby if he once had a precious family jewel stolen. If
>> Chicken had a name like, say, Brainfuck, then ok, I'd think about
>> that. :-) So, the name choice is not an issue in my opinion.
> It's not about John at all who wrote that. It is Joe Random User, John
> as a person is not important here. "Chicken" is a, well, weird name.
> And it has no association to what it represents in our case. But see
> below for more about this.

I see.  But so are Python, Ruby, C, Java, Perl, Go and several others.

I actually don't know the etymology of those names, so I'm not sure they
are somehow related to their respective programming languages.

>> I'm not sure about Johns expectations regarding to marketing. I'd be
>> interested in developers who see value in the technical aspects of
>> Chicken, not in the name or logo.
> So am I. But sometimes people just look at what catches their
> eye, or sounds nice. Actually people do that more often than we
> think (we do it, ourselves). 

Yes, I agree to some extent.

>> But I can see the benefits marketing could bring.  More developers,
>> maybe companies support etc. Some people just don't know Chicken. There
>> are just too many programming languages (and implementations) around.
>> It's hard to filter what's good and what's not worth knowing.  Everybody
>> has limited time.  In this sense, I think marketing would be good, since
>> it would show people what Chicken can do (I obviously think it's very
>> good).  OTOH, marketing would also show what Chicken cannot do, and
>> people don't want that.  For example, if I want my web app to provide an
>> easy way to upload a file via HTTP, I cannot do that unless I implement
>> it myself or wait until somebody else do that.  It's just a small
>> example of a thing that people usually take for granted when exposed to
>> "marketing", and that they can find for sure in mainstream
>> languages/implementations.  I'm sure there are many other examples.
> I don't know anything about "marketing", and I think it is completely
> misplaced here. I'm not interested in "marketing" chicken, but making
> it more popular. So, let's please drop this meaningless term and talk
> about the real subject: would another name be perhaps more suitable,
> or would it not.

I was assuming "marketing" == "making it more popular". :-) I'm not a
marketing expert either, so I may be wrong here too.

Regarding to if a new name would be more suitable, I'm not sure.

>> Would we be able to handle the effects of marketing?  If we bring
>> attention to Chicken and have to answer "no" to most the questions about
>> "do you have?" or "will you do?", I'm not sure marketing would be
>> good.
>> The current situation is that we slowly attract developers who know
>> Chicken's limitations but have time and patience to improve it because
>> they see the project's potential.
> Of course we are interested in getting more people into using or at
> least trying out chicken. And we will handle the questions well, and
> figure out the things they complain about. We do that for several
> years now. If we are not able to face criticism, then we can all just
> go home and do something sensible with our time.  And chicken is
> pretty good. It is more powerful and robust than a *lot* of language
> implementations out there. And it's free, portable and well
> documented. And people get help. I have tried out around 10 million
> implementations of any possible language and I liked very very
> few. The important parts (reasonably reliable, free, portable, help)
> we have covered, often better than much more popular language
> implementations. Scheme is a niche language, and among the Scheme
> implementations, I think it is not too vain to say that we are in the
> top 3 in terms of features, usability and documentation. And
> performance isn't that bad, either.

I think that's a consensus. Among schemers, Chicken is considered one of
the top Scheme implementations in several aspects.

> I think chicken has a popularity problem and I'm not exactly sure what
> the reason is.

I attribute the popularity problem to several reasons, but one of the
strongest is that it is a Lisp.  No matter how good a Lisp
implementation is, it is always a Lisp, so it is unpopular and subject
to trolling.

Lisp languages/implementations are quite notorious for being weird (Lots
of Insignificant Silly Parens), intended for teaching (e.g., toy
implementations, specially Scheme), slow, no libraries for anything
practical etc.

In practice, that's what happens for 99% of Lisp implementations for
most of the mentioned aspects.  For those who are used to program in C,
C++, PHP or Java, Lisp is indeed weird.  I know several "good" (YMMV)
C++ programmers which simply consider Lisp very weird.

There are hundreds of Lisp implementations out there, but you can't list
10 usable ones for practical projects.  People just round it to 100%.

> I have the impression that more and more new names are appearing on
> IRC and the mailing list, so it might be that we have reached enough
> momentum recently.

Yes, that's a fact.  In 2011 we had 30-40 users hanging on #chicken.
Nowadays we have 40-50 (+ vandusen).  We have some new folks on the
mailing list too. I think the number of Chicken users is growing -- and
I think the growth is not linear in time!

> On the other hand, I sucked up everything I could find about Lisp and
> Scheme for a long time now, reading newsgroups, blogs and mailing
> lists and I somwehow got the impression that chicken really isn't very
> popular for quite a long stretch of time (with the exception of
> #scheme perhaps). That may be totally subjective, naturally being
> deeply attached to the project, but I still think this is strange. Oh,
> and I'm NOT talking about a conspiracy (even though that would be
> fascinating and it would make everything so obvious!  ;-). Is it
> because of the name? Not necessarily. And just taking it as the reason
> for lack of popularity is stupid, I know. That's NOT what I mean.

Are you also considering that none of Scheme implementations is popular?

Maybe Racket is a little bit because it is made by teachers and teachers
brainwash their students.  They probably brainwash about 150
students/year. If they get 10% of success, they get 15 new users a year
just by enforcing the use of their tool.  I think 10% is a very small
value if they consider their implementation any decent.  Anyway, no
matter if people find it decent or not, they know that Racket exists
(marketing).  Besides that, as teachers/researchers, they publish some
papers about things whose proof-of-concept is implemented in
Racket. Those papers are read by teachers which may teach Scheme in
their universities, so they naturally pick Racket (marketing).

Chicken is not used in universities.  It is only used by hackers who
have no prejudice against Lisp.

Gambit is a bit popular because of the alleged SPEED.  I bet that at
least half of Gambit users don't really need or know how to properly
determine what performance they need, but they still pick Gambit since
its slogan is "It is THE fastest", and that catches quite a lot of
users, no matter if it has only about 10 extension libraries, all
undocumented, #gambit is owned by zombies and documentation sucks.

Guile is known but not very used.  It has a small community of GNU

That's everything about Scheme as a programming language nowadays.  The
rest is only used by toy implementors and by those Scheme laywers which
don't count much for practical programming.

Another thing to consider is: schemers are extremely picky by nature.
So that even Scheme implementations are unpopular among schemers.

> Whenever people ask me about what I do with my free time or why I
> drive to remote places meeting foreigners, I tell them about the open
> source project I'm participating in. Then they ask for the name, and I
> (mentally) cringe, because I know when I tell them, they will look
> funnny at me and because I feel silly. And the name was intended to be
> silly, once. "CHICKEN" is the name of the one-man project, using
> slightly arcane technology (which some people consider extremely
> weird). I think the project has become something else, has involved
> other people, has become more "serious" (in the good sense) and is now
> (IMHO) better suited for and more oriented towards real and even
> professional use (especially considering the crap tools the mainstream
> is happily putting up with - that doesn't mean chicken is perfect of
> course, far from that).

I see your point.  But I think that the name Chicken has also some good
points.  I think it transmits the idea that the project is not strictly
serious, driven by assholes. Also, chicken (compiler) & eggs
(extensions) fit quite well.  Even Python has eggs now.

Sure, Chicken sounds funny, indeed.

People do have been mentioning Chicken on forums.  It is not mentioned
more because we (yes, WE all) are too shy and do not explore the modern
world of the social web. :-) We waste a lot of opportunities to
advertise Chicken on reddit, for example.

> I'm just saying the project has changed considerably since it's
> beginnings and perhaps we should think about reflecting that in the
> one thing that describes it more than anything else: the name.

I don't know. I'm not sure another name would make any difference...

All the other popular programming languages/implementations are not
popular because of their names, but because they have an initial special

* Perl: a better alternative to shell scripting
* Python: a cleaner Perl
* PHP: a better alternative to CGI
* Ruby: Rails
* Clojure: JVM
* Java: Enterprise, portability, C++ users

Chicken is... an excellent Scheme implementation. But for what?
Teaching?  Implementing itself? It's better for everything, so is Lisp,
but nobody sees that.

I think we are slowly attracting some good new developers and I really
think we are getting more and more respectful as a project.  We indeed
could advertise Chicken more and we seriously need USERS (not only
developers) using APPLICATIONS developed in Chicken.

Congratulations!  You've got to the end of this message! :-)

Best wishes.

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