Erik Naggum

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Happiness comes more from loving than being loved; and often when our affection seems wounded it is only our vanity bleeding. To love, and to be hurt often, and to love again—this is the brave and happy life.
J.E Buckrose
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Erik Naggum, Lisp programmer.


  • Some people are little more than herd animals, flocking together whenever the world becomes uncomfortable for any reason, seeking the comfort of those who agree with them, do not contradict them, and take care of their emotions. I am not one of those people. If I had a motto, it would probably be Herd thither, me hither.

Usenet articles

  • Let's just hope that all the world is run by Bill Gates before the Perl hackers can destroy it.
  • You have failed to consider the ramifications of the solutions and pose a problem that simply would not exist if you did. This taxes my patience, which is already legendary in its general absence.
  • I may be biased, but I tend to find a much lower tendency among female programmers to be dishonest about their skills, and thus do not say they know C++ when they are smart enough to realize that that would be a lie for all but perhaps 5 people on this planet.
  • The Web provided me with a much needed realization that information cannot be fully separated from its presentation, and showed me something I knew without verbalizing explicitly, that the presentation form we choose communicates real information.
  • A novice had a problem and could not find a solution. "I know," said the novice, "I'll just use Perl!" The novice now had two problems.
  • Elegance is necessarily unnatural, only achieveable at great expense. If you just do something, it won't be elegant, but if you do it and then see what might be more elegant, and do it again, you might, after an unknown number of iterations, get something that is very elegant.
  • aestheticles: n. The little-known source of aesthetic reactions. If your whole body feels like going into a fetal position or otherwise double over from the pain of experiencing something exceptionally ugly and inelegant, such as C++, it's because your aestheticles got creamed.
  • For some reason, the United States is the only country on Earth where accidents don't happen – it's always somebody's fault, and you can sue that somebody for neglect.
  • Whoever decided to use the semicolon to end something should just be taken out and have his colon semified. (At least COBOL and SQL managed to use a period.)
  • Part of any serious QA is removing Perl code the same way you go over a dilapidated building you inherit to remove chewing gum and duct tape and fix whatever was kept together for real.
  • Rewarding incompetence and ignorance increases the number of incompetent programmers. Designing programming languages and tools so incompetent programmers can feel better about themselves is not the way to go.
  • Structure is nothing if it is all you got. Skeletons spook people if they try to walk around on their own. I really wonder why XML does not.
  • The theory is the result of listening to the problem. When the theory acquires a life of its own because some people like it more than the real world, all kinds of uninspiring, uninteresting things happen, so the key is both to listen to the problem and to study the theory. But always remember that just as much theory is bunk as there are buggy solutions. There is nothing more wrong with "theory" than "solutions" – both their quality and their applicability are orthogonal to their existence.
  • The novice-friendly software is more like a misbehaving dog: it shits on the floor, it destroys things, and stinks – the novice-friendly software embodies the opposite of what computer people have dreamed of for decades: artificial stupidity. It's more human.
  • The clumsiness of people who have to engage their brain at every step is unbearably painful to watch, at least to me, and that's what the novice-friendly software makes people do, because there's no elegance in them, it's just a mass of features to be learned by rote. However, this suits people a hell of a lot better than setting out at age 6 to become a great ballet dancer and achieving their goal 20 years later after every tendon and muscle and joint has been asked to perform just a little bit more than nature ever intended over and over and over again. To most people, this is insanity. But in reality, it's art, and it's the art in what we do that makes us human.
  • If I sound grumpy, it is only because I have come across too many idiots of the "it can't be done" persuasion lately, the kind of managers who have an aquarium in their office because fifteen brains think better than one.
  • I have argued that a religion or a philosophy cannot speak about facts of the world – if it does, it is now or will eventually be wrong – but it can and should speak about the relevance and ranking of facts and observations.
  • Sometimes, the only way to learn something really well is to revert to the state of mind of a novice and reawaken to the raw observations that you have accumulated instead of relying on the conclusions you have reached from the exogenous premises absorbed through teaching and bookish learning.
  • Computer programming is like the ability or skill to see what Picasso saw from all the different angles at once. If it is an art, the crucial element of art is to look at things from an angle that produces new insight or at least has that potential.
  • The Novice has been the focus of an alarming amount of attention in the computer field. It is not just that the preferred user is unskilled, it is that the whole field in its application rewards novices and punishes experts. What you learn today will be useless a few years hence, so why bother to study and know anything well? I think this is the main reason for the IT winter we are now experiencing.
  • Gotos aren't damnable to begin with. If you aren't smart enough to distinguish what's bad about some gotos from all gotos, goto hell.
  • If car manufacturers made cars according to spec the same way software vendors make software according to spec, all five wheels would be of widely differing sizes, it would take one person to steer and another to work the pedals and yet another to operate the user-friendly menu-driven dashboard, and if it would not drive straight ahead without a lot of effort, civil engineers would respond by building spiraling roads around each city.
  • In Norway, we have a community of people who prefer to use a version of Norwegian that looks very much like lutefisk: Dug up remains from the garbage heap of history and dressed up to look like a tradition.
  • All experience has taught us that solving a complex problem uncovers hidden assumptions and ever more knowledge, trade-offs that we didn't anticipate but which can make the difference between meeting a deadline and going into research mode for a year, etc.
  • If GML was an infant, SGML is the bright youngster far exceeds expectations and made its parents too proud, but XML is the drug-addicted gang member who had committed his first murder before he had sex, which was rape.

Usenet signatures

  • Microsoft is not the answer. Microsoft is the question. NO is the answer.
  • Environmentalists are much too concerned with planet Earth. Their geocentric attitude prevents them from seeing the greater picture – lots of planets are much worse off than Earth is.
  • Intellectual laziness is punishable by brain death. It is a natural law.
  • In a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none. In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief.
  • Act from reason, and failure makes you rethink and study harder. Act from faith, and failure makes you blame someone and push harder.
  • The past is not more important than the future, despite what your culture has taught you. Your future observations, conclusions, and beliefs are more important to you than those in your past ever will be. The world is changing so fast the balance between the past and the future has shifted.
  • My other car is a cdr.
  • If you think this year is "97", you are not "year 2000 compliant".
  • If this is not what you expected, please alter your expectations.
  • Sufficiently advanced political correctness is indistinguishable from sarcasm.
  • NETSCAPISM /net-'sca-,pi-z*m/ n (1995): habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from the realization that the Internet was built by and for someone else.
  • If you are concerned about netiquette, you are either concerned about your own and follow good netiquette, or you are concerned about others and violate good netiquette by bothering people with your "concern", as the only netiquette you can actually affect is your own.
  • Suppose we blasted all politicians into space. Would the SETI project find even one of them?


  • Some tasks are by their very nature so chock full of gory details that the elegance has to be an acquired taste, not something you can always bring with you or just "intuit" externally to the task.
  • I think we all need to take our teachers with multiple grains of salt. They have, after all, figured out their stuff at a much slower pace than they try to teach us. Something is bound to get lost in that process.
  • Life is too long to be good at C++.

External links