"In a race, a small language with warts will beat a well designed language because users will not wait for the right thing; they will use the language that is quick and cheap, and put up with the warts. Once a small language fills a niche, it is hard to take its place."
For any else who hasn't come across it before, it's a simultaneous discussion of and example of what it means to express oneself using a 'small' language. It also gets into how such small languages may be effectively designed to grow into larger languages. The document itself is an example of the process using a subset of the English language, but Steele's focus is on planning/architecting programming languages which can be effectively grown by: providing effective, general primitives which can be used to define new terms and rules for the language; and structuring the language development process in 'bazaar' fashion, allowing many people to participate in design and implementation, while someone with excellent judgement surveys contributions with an eye for good ideas/work.
I liked this quote, which is a fairly typical example of some definitions he has to make in order to stick to his own rules for the project:
Meta means that you step back from your own place. What you used to do is now what you see. What you were is now what you act on. Verbs turn to nouns. What you used to think of as a pattern is now treated as a thing to put in the slot of an other pattern. A meta foo is a foo in whose slots you can put foos.
(His use of pattern here is in the sense of pattern vs. instance.)
I thought his conclusions on what he learned by carrying out the project were also interesting and insightful. Here's part of it:
I learned in my youth, from the books of such great teachers of writing as Strunk and White, that it is better to choose short words when I can. I should not choose long, hard words just to make other persons think that I know a lot. I should try to make my thoughts clear; if they are clear and right, then other persons can judge my work as it ought to be judged.
Edit: fixed formatting.
Varieties, cross pollination from different JS engine/teams make JS much stronger.
Flash, ActiveX, Silverlight, VBScript are all seem more mono-culture - Start to die as soon as the parent organizations/core dev team loss interest / move on to to next best thing.
Flash is a successful until CPU usage, security issues kill it. Just like strong mono-culture plant in a farm got wipe out certain deceases/virus.
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14435298 and marked it off-topic.