Smalltalk evolution panel at StS 2004:
Members: Lars Bak, Martin McClure, Vassili Bykov, neil Konz
Vassili: Evolution happens. Works on tools, not the "language part" of the system. Still, gets to be in that area quite frequently with what he does. Pretty much, given the way Smalltalk works, we all end up playing in this area.
Neil: Agree that evolution happens. Especially in Squeak, it moves in a lot of areas at the same time. A surprising number of Squeakers are playing the language design/evolution area all the time. Evolution in how it's being used. While Alan Kay had the initial vision, he's not pushing from that end. He's funding/pushing his own projects - he looks at is as infrastructure. Some are evolving to make it smaller (Squat), make it a Web Services system, Seaside, graphical experiments (Croquet)... No one is selling it - has pros and cons. Good: No one to kill it, can only die through lack of interest. Con: It's a "spare time" thing, people will only work on things of interest to them. Smalltalk has a bright future for server side work and scripting - other scripting things aren't as good
Martin: Smalltalk needs to get better - contradictions:
- Smalltalk should get larger (Gemstone - bigger repositories, etc)
- Smalltalk should get smaller (embedded systems - like Lars)
- More Innovation, but also more interoperability between dialects. Should be more discussion between implementors on what is happening and what should happen. Too many times we've had slightly incompatible similar ideas.
- More free Smalltalks - commercial Smalltalks need the ideas
Lars: I'm not a language designer - what will get it more accepted? Better support for Scripting - need to be able to use Smalltalk from "standard" file based tools. The other scripting languages (no names :) ) are pretty much all bad. Focus on what Smalltalk is good at - need to quantify it better. Talk about features, not "religion". Should have a Scripting Smalltalk
Q: Eliot "hijacks" session. Smalltalk community is simply that "we're better" - no uptake, turns people off. Need to explain what actual problem we are trying to solve. Want to sell aspirin, not vitamins.... Draws us a picture of where Smalltalk ought to grow. Off into a business model thing....
Lars: Find a niche where you are better than the competition and try to grow there. Don't fight the same battles - find new markets.
Alan Knight: Push simplicity - point out how easy it is to get started. Point out how quickly you can get into the system and start accomplishing things (closer than where step 1 is "create the XML manifest file"
Bob Nemec: We are techies, not marketers. Have the STIC step up more - get the word out.
Neil: Have to reach the decision makers - not just the tech guys.
Me: Get involved - Get a blog, get the message out there.
Sam Shuster: Get better pages to show up for Smalltalk searches on Google
Vassili: How to carry the message - make sure that the message is positive, not snarky or put down -
Dennis Smith: Marketing - there is stuff we can do. Starting with VWNC is not as simple as it could be (ed. - the New Class dialog helps). Generally, the ramp into the product is harder than it needs to be. Say I wanted to introduce Smalltalk to high schools - what can we point to as help?
Martin McClure: Squeakland.org and EToys. This is solved somewhat in Squeak.
Neil: Yes, EToys and the toys associated with it really does work for getting people into scripting - can and is being used to draw people into Croquet. "People don't buy languages - they buy solutions to problems". Got into ST by looking for something like ControlWorks
Bruce Badger: talk to Linux groups, introduce things like Squeak and VWNC to people, show them what you can accomplish with these tools. Show the open source one, show the commercial one - crowd was very pleased
Rich Demers: Wanted a panel on what should be done to evolve Smalltalk, not a marketing discussion. Lots of things have stayed the same since Smalltalk-80 - should we look at new things for Smalltalk? Look to other languages for ideas? Need some forum for talking about these sorts of things - some organizational thing through the STIC?
Alan Knight: STIC is not a faceless thing - it's a known group of people who are quite busy, and spend most of their time organizing this show. After this show we may actually have some money and be able to do some things - but we need help. "Ask not what STIC can do for you".
Martin McClure: Evolving is done in order to survive better. Need to get the word out in order to be able to evolve.
Bob Nemec: There is a large open source community around other things (Linux). Perhaps we should come up with a "common Smalltalk" effort.
Alan Knight: Not true that all the work is in Squeak - Ralph Johnson's Camp Smalltalk effort has worked very well. Lots of open source work in VW as well.
Sam Shuster: Dialect portability - used to do SUnit ports across ST dialects. For a long time was concerned - at this point: "Who cares?" Bob: Risk management
Martin Kobetic: Too short a time to get things done, nothing gets done between the sessions. "What is Smalltalk?" Squeak? VW? There are efforts (like GLORP), but it's fragmented.
Hunter: used to do Smalltalk back in the 80's - now doing financial services, came here because "it's time to do Smalltalk" - web services make it easier, "no one cares if the server is Smalltalk". Offering a clean object platform that can deal with standards based communications are possible. Only obstacle - getting the examples to work are harder than they need to be.