Why I am a FANPERVert

It happens every once in a while. Someone emerges from the depth of the internet and starts ranting how bad Clojure is to newbies. He goes on to slap each and every Clojure toolsmith in the face: not a single of the major editor environments is able to evaluate a simple clojure file.

Obviously this is not true. But why don't you try to find out?


I clearly understand the expectations of newbies. I actually am often a newbie, because I often try new things. My first steps often lead me to tutorials and examples to get a quick overview. No tutorials? Ok. I check the other documentation – references, cheat sheets and such. Hmm… No other documentation? Ok, then there sure is some mailing list or forum to ask for help. (If not, the new thing really has to promise some value, that I dive into reading code and such.)

Did you spot a difference?

Exactly. I'm not afraid of the last 10%. Lee Spector said, that several projects in the Clojure community get newbies 90% of the way. Then why I should not walk the 10% rest myself? That's the way you learn fastest: by trying things. If someone isn't up and running in 5 minutes, I'm always reminded of Peter Norvig. Things take time and if you don't have the stamina to start, how far will you come?

The other side of the medal

Let's look at this from a different point of view. I'm the maintainer of one of the major dev environments: VimClojure—once ranked second after emacs (now probably beaten by CCW and Enclojure). All the work done on VimClojure is done in my spare time–competing with the time I have for my family.

I got a lot of feedback from people who had problems with getting VimClojure up and running. I really tried to improve the documentation, fine tune wordings, clarify paragraphs, add more instructions, … I even spent a whole day on making a screencast, which showed the installation (now long out-dated). But to no avail.

The lesson I learned is: no matter how much you improve things, there will be always someone who doesn't get it. Which – BTW – is not their fault. Maybe they don't speak english very well. Maybe they just started to use Vim.

Shrinking the 10% is terribly hard. The closer you come to 100% the more you have to invest. And I have only so many resources to invest. I'm sorry. But serving other people free lunch on time is not my highest priority in my spare time.

My decision

I won't spend hours on documentation fine tuning anymore. Whoever has a problem with one of the projects I maintain can drop me a mail or use eg. the VimClojure google group. If there is a useful outcome from solving the problem, I will enhance the documentation accordingly.

But sorry. No free beer anymore. You'll have to work yourself also a little bit.

Post Scriptum

  • Oh, and BTW: Only 90% of newbie experience won't mean the end of Clojure.
  • VimClojure is probably only a 40% solution (if at all). But I'm a FANPERVert and I don't care anymore…

Published by Meikel Brandmeyer on .