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Simon Peyton Jones Elected into the Royal Society Fellowship (lambda-the-ultimate.org)
297 points by augb on Apr 30, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments



Well deserved and absolutely couldn't happen to a nicer guy. After giving a talk at PLDI when I was a grad student, Simon made a point of walking up to me and saying "Nice talk." That had me walking on air for quite a while (if you watch the videos below, you will understand why).

Now, Simon got the award for his (fantastic) research and for his impact on CS education in the UK, but everyone in all of computer science should set aside a couple of hours this weekend to watch his talks on "How to Give a Good Research Talk" and "How to Write a Great Research Paper." Go ahead, I'll wait.

http://research.microsoft.com/apps/video/default.aspx?id=168...

http://research.microsoft.com/apps/video/default.aspx?id=168...

Also, Simon's home page is here: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/people/simonpj/


Haven't had the chance to meet him ever, but watching his talks or hearing about him from others, it seems like he really breaks the Haskell/functional programmer stereotypes of being a pretentious asshole or being unwelcoming to beginners. Wish people would pay more attention to some of the awesome people like SPJ rather than focusing on the vocal minority.


#haskell on freenode has always had s reputation of being open, welcoming and helpful. Try not to mistake pretension for someone talking about something you don't yet understand, which is very often the case when someone is accused of being an pretentious arsehole. Simon is by no means alone in his manner and friendliness within the Haskell community.


People at conferences are pretty welcoming. But in other venues you sometimes can get zealotry of the converts. (I myself might have fallen prey to that temptation from time to time.)


For the record, I don't think that the Haskell community is particularly bad. It's just something that I've heard plenty of times from people who have been exposed to the (tiny) bad parts of this community before learning the language that feel unwelcome (think the zealot-y types who reject any discussion as bad if it doesn't involve their favorite language (and this problem isn't unique to Haskell)).


There are certain people in the community who are very opinionated. Some go one step ahead and abuse others who don't use their favourite language. For instance, see these two posts (comments).

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20150628010942/http://timkellogg...

[2] http://roseland.io/blog/2014/05/10/number-golang-the-next-gr...

These comments are unfortunate. These two individuals, in no means represent the entire community. But such people are toxic for an otherwise great bunch of people like SPJ, Phil Wadler and other folks.


I don't see anything bad in the first link. I've been reading quite a bit about Haskell on the web, and (as you said) I've never encountered anything like the second link.

Please also note that 10 years ago flames like that were an art form and no one took them seriously. I'm pretty sure Rob Pike wouldn't.

I don't see why everyone who (probably) has been on the web back then and earlier should be sent to a virtual reeducation camp. Either ignore it or laugh about it.


Ah, Tony Morris. I think it's a shame he has such a confrontational and aggressive style, because he makes some very interesting points about Haskell, Scala and FP in general (for example, that types provide more valuable information than variable names).

I find he is an outlier in the FP community, though.


The problem is that the brand new Haskell Programming book, which seems to be recommended nowadays among Haskellers, is being written by bitemyapp (the one described in the first link). He's been bitching other languages, especially Go. He even stated Haskell is simpler than Go, which just shows his twisted reality. It is very unfortunate that such a toxic person is influential to the community.


On the contrary, I think that is a good side of Chris Allen (@bytemyapp), he truly believes that everyone (I'm not even narrowing it down to software engineers) has capability to comprehend the core ideas of Haskell and become as proficient with it as you are with other languages and then delve into more evolved topics when you feel like it. Like a true evangelist. He is frustrated with misrepresentation of Haskell in wider programmers' community and to his credit he is working hard to fix this. (Though his book is quite pricey :) ) I don't really know how much of a Haskell fanatic he is, but one should not turn his back on a person just because he is saying something you disagree with or don't want to hear (like belittling other languages).


Like a true evangelist. He is frustrated with misrepresentation of Haskell in wider programmers' community and to his credit he is working hard to fix this.

Learn yourself a Haskell was a great book. Many friends/colleagues picked up Haskell with that book and were really happy with it. @bitemyapp 's book may be better (I don't know, I didn't read it), but he seems to try to bash LYAH at nearly every possible occasion.

http://ircbrowse.net/browse/haskell?id=19614985&timestamp=14...

https://lobste.rs/s/5pqc1y/learn_you_a_haskell_for_great_goo...

http://bitemyapp.com/posts/2014-12-31-functional-education.h...

I think this is undeserved and perhaps toxic (especially coming from someone who wrote a competing work).


Personally, when first learning Haskell, I found LYAH intolerable. I've known people who did get a lot of value out of it, but it's not for everyone. I really couldn't stand it. I haven't bothered to read HPFFP yet, as it's rather more basic than is useful to me anymore, but a friend that had similar complaints about LYAH has been finding HPFFP incredibly helpful. There really are some serious problems with other major educational resources, especially for some audiences, and I don't think it's a problem to recognize that.


> I think this is undeserved and perhaps toxic (especially coming from someone who wrote a competing work).

He started writing a competing work several years after starting to "bash" LYAH. One of the reasons he started writing his own book is exactly because he doesn't think LYAH is particularly good.


His opinion. But I agree with you that this is undeserved. Perhaps it would sound less toxic/ungrateful if/when he publishes (to free online access) a part of his book that is equivalent to LYAH (in terms of covered material).


But Haskell is simpler than Go (in a similar way that Lisp is), so that's a poor example of "twisted reality".


Even if I didn't find Haskell or CS interesting (which I do), I'd still find Simon a nice, funny and engaging speaker. At least judging by the talks I could find online. Researchers, and especially computer-related researchers, sometimes sound arrogant. But in all of Simon's talks I could find, he sounds like a genuinely nice guy. And funny! He sure knows how to give a great talk.


He also knows how to ask exactly the right question after a talk, to give the speaker great insight into something that stumbled them.


Simon Peyton Jones is the mister Rogers of computer science. He is an incredible role model for how to treat others while managing to be balance being clear, benign, and constructive. (I've been a recipient of such feedback a time or three, and It was incredibly helpful for me each time. ) well deserved!


>>Simon Peyton Jones is the mister Rogers of computer science.

Can you please tell whom are you referring to here with the term "the mister Rogers"?


Mister Rogers[0] was the host of an American children's show, and was known for being extremely nice, both on and off the show.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Rogers


Thanks for the reply. I am not an American, so I didn't get it.

Also, I didn't know that politely asking for clarification is a valid reason for downvotes on HN.


> .. role model ..

And don't forget, the superior way to project confidence [1] in your 'precious'.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSmkqocn0oQ


Don't forget the sweaters.


I recently read his (first) paper [1] on the Spineless Tagless Graph Redunction Machine (STG), which forms one of the lower-level backends of the main Haskell compiler GHC.

After understanding the paper well enough to implement it from scratch (without any further literature), I have to say, albeit some 25 years late, how impressed I am by both his research and his ability to convey it. If you're interested in understanding how Haskell evaluation is done, I cannot recommend the paper enough.

[1]: http://research.microsoft.com/apps/pubs/default.aspx?id=6708...


The Dumbledore of functional programming has just been awarded the Order of Merlin.


Shows you that you don't need the union card of a PhD to do world-leading research in CS. Inspiring!


Yes, but he has followed career of a researcher with 7 years as a lecturer and 9 years as a professor before joining industrial research.


I met him once back then I didn't know who he was. Weirdly I was reading the book: http://www.codersatwork.com/ at the time - ofcourse I got a shock when I realised he was the next chapter!

Anyway he was a nice guy.


I sat next to him at a conference once (scala-exchange). Had a nice chat before the keynote started. I had no idea who he was. But when at the Q&A he started grilling the speaker the fog lifted and I realised who was next to me. And yes, he was a nice guy.


I'm happy and honored every day that a nobody like me gets to work with Simon, and talk to him regularly.

His work on Computing at School, in particular his ICFP 2013 keynote, continues to be incredibly inspiring to me. Aside from his wonderful technical prowess.


That guy is awesome.

I went to a conference in Portugal a number of years ago, and met him at the dinner for the speakers. He was super humble, and quite interested in my own very practical experience as a consultant/contractor and what kinds of problems I faced.

I came away deeply impressed not only by how bright he is, but what a good person too.




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