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Ask HN: Are you satisfied with Elixir or do you regret choosing Elixir?
387 points by sdiw 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 287 comments
I'll be starting to work on a new project from next month and I've been reading all but good news about Elixir. I have talked to people in real life, most of the devs had positive things to say about it. Does anyone have any arguments against selecting Elixir? Question coming from RoR developer.



My company is moving away from it. We built a few services but after a few years some of the original people that introduced it left the company and it became very difficult to hire for. New hires were either people wanting to learn (so we had to spend a good bunch of resources into teaching + end up with a system built by noobs to the language) or very expensive developers with a lot of experience in erlang and elixir.

We also found many times missing libraries, or found libraries which are incomplete, or unmaintained or just not well documented. Just compare the total amount of libraries in Hex, vs the total amount of libraries in rubygems. Somebody will say "but Elixir libraries are higher quality so we need less, etc,etc" as if there were not good developers in the ruby world and every elixir developer were a rockstar.

Tooling is just terrible. The VSCode plugin is crap, kills the CPU unless you disable features. There is no IDE from jetbrains. There is a plugin but last time I tried it, it was even worse than the VSCode plugin.

Also, I've read some comments where people mention "we don't need redis", "we don't need workers" everything is so much easier. That was our thinking at first. But then you realize on deployments you will lose your cache, or your background jobs, etc. So you have to persist them either in mnesia or in the database. At that point you're just reinventing your crappy undocumented and untested version of delayed_job.

Most of what you get from elixir in terms of redundancy, high availability, etc you can have that anyway from kubernetes, heroku or any PaaS.... you will need more than 1 server anyway, so...

Liveview sounds amazing until you try to use it in the real world. The most minimum latency kills the experience.

In the end, we are back to Rails and much happier. Specially now we are using all the hotwire stuff. Not fancy, and not fashionable though.


> Tooling is just terrible. The VSCode plugin is crap, kills the CPU unless you disable features. There is no IDE from jetbrains. There is a plugin but last time I tried it, it was even worse than the VSCode plugin.

I am using VSCode too and the experience is not as good as with Typescript/Javascript but is not that terrible either. I would compare it with Rust's experience, so far.

> Also, I've read some comments where people mention "we don't need redis", "we don't need workers" everything is so much easier. That was our thinking at first. But then you realize on deployments you will lose your cache, or your background jobs, etc. So you have to persist them either in mnesia or in the database. At that point you're just reinventing your crappy undocumented and untested version of delayed_job.

Of course you need _other_ libraries to achieve some of those things. You do not have a queue built it but there are some very good tools like Oban https://github.com/sorentwo/oban that are basically doing what Sidekiq does, just relying on the main database you are already using. There are also very good libraries for caching that rely on ETS and that simply replaces what you could do with Redis.

> Most of what you get from elixir in terms of redundancy, high availability, etc you can have that anyway from kubernetes, heroku or any PaaS.... you will need more than 1 server anyway, so...

This is partially true. The ability of BEAM to cluster and execute processes inside the cluster, internal communication between actors and so on are not _just_ achievable with k8s, not without a good added complexity.


> Specially now we are using all the hotwire stuff.

Maybe I'm missing something, but doesn't this have precisely the same latency characteristics as live view?

I do agree that some of the "you don't need redis" and similar are overblown (particularly claims about tasks replacing background jobs), but I think there is truth to these claims in the following sense: Particularly in Rails, Redis gets used not just as a tool, but also to manage shortcomings in the language / runtime. Eg: Hotwire. Ruby doesn't have a good way to concurrently manage stateful connections, so it has to fallback to Redis. Ruby doesn't have a good way to manage inter-process or inter-node communication, so once again Redis steps in to fill that gap.

There's nothing wrong with using Redis, it's a fantastic tool. Using it as a state holder for an event loop through ends up feeling extremely convoluted after you've written a few GenServers (Phoenix channels / liveview).


Liveview (as well as stimulus-reflex) promote minimal JavaScript by trying to push most interactions to the server, and let the server decide what should change in the frontend. So for example, to show a modal, you send an event that signals the user wants to show a modal, so the backend sends back the html for the modal. You click to close the modal, this sends an event to the backend, the backend sends you the diff or the instructions to remove the modal from the dom.

In the hotwire world, the encouraged approach would be to already have the html in the dom, and use a stimulus controller to show or hide it [1]. And you only issue backend calls when you really need to reach to the backend anyway (like submitting a form, or refreshing some actual content). You don't call the backend just to signal a button was clicked so that the backend removes html if you can already do that in the frontend. Hotwire is not about avoiding JavaScript, hotwire is avoid organizing it well and reducing the amount you need.

Of course you can do things wrong on both approaches, but it is what one approach promotes vs the other.

As an example of why this is a problem, see this [2] example. I'm in Europe on a fiber connection, and clicking in one of the calendar days, and closing the modal feels just so terrible....

[1] https://tighten.co/blog/stimulus-101-building-a-modal/ [2] http://expo.stimulusreflex.com/demos/calendar/2021-05-01


Yup. And as illustrated by OP's example links, avoid Stimulus Reflex (NOT stimulus.js) for production too. Apart from the stated reasons, the fact that websocket connections aren't scoped by User by default is a really, REALLY sharp edge!


Im a little puzzled by this.

This is essentially like saying "Dont use Rails, the controllers arent scoped to the user by default"

There are plenty of valid reasons to use websockets not scoped to a user. Also how is SR supposed to know your user scheme?

What if you have a multi-tenant app and websockets should be scoped to an account and not a user? Im honestly confused by this statement.


Wouldn't you just override the defaults if you need to scope at the account level?

There are plenty of valid reasons to not scope it to a user. Having the default scoped to the most common case makes sense.


As far as security is concerned, it's the application's responsibility to properly scope websocket connections... if and when that's appropriate. This is true of any websocket connection, not just those used by StimulusReflex or even ActionCable.

As noted by the parent, latency is certainly a consideration when using such tools, but there are a myriad of libs and techniques that can be leveraged to help you build great user experiences with StimulusReflex and LiveView. You just need to consider your options and architect accordingly.

Note also that the expo demos for StimulusReflex are incredibly old (a few major versions behind at this point) and were created in haste to help people grok concepts via example. They were never intended to be a canonical guide of how to best architect such apps at scale. We're considering taking the expo site offline in favor of more specific and better architected demos.


This is also true of REST requests. They're not scoped to the user by default. In fact, Rails doesn't even have the concept of a user by default.

The argument against using actioncable because it doesn't scope to users by default is roughly akin to arguing against rails in production because rails doesn't even know what a user is by default.


> In the hotwire world, the encouraged approach would be to already have the html in the dom, and use a stimulus controller to show or hide it

You could also use a turbo-frame here: the modal might contain data that could be expensive to pre-render in the first pass. For example, you have a list of things and you want a modal to show additional details for each thing rather than require navigation to a detail view. Those additional details might need more SQL queries that you don't necessarily want to include in your initial list render, so it makes sense to have that pulled from a separate request.

Closing the modal though should not require another round-trip to the server, that can be done with Javascript.


Nothing about StimulusReflex pushes you away from this approach. This all comes down to the developer.

StimulusReflex is built on top of Stimulus. The point of SR isnt necessarily to write less javascript, its an easier way to sync client and server state and have a single source of truth.

Use SR where SR makes sense, but just because you have a hammer doesnt mean everything is a nail.


The trick is to use liveview for data that needs to come from the server anyway. I'd guess that the OP did use it for everything, like popups etc and did not do the same with hotwire.


So what's the recommended approach for doing it without liveview in the liveview world? jquery? just document.addEventListener?

That's what hotwire gives you: an opinionated approach and a golden path to do things in a manageable way.


There's the so-called "PETAL" stack these days: Phoenix, Elixir, Tailwind.css, Alpine.js, LiveView. In that scenario, you use Alpine.js for the frontend-only stuff.


You can use alpine.js. There is even a way to integrate it with LV: https://dockyard.com/blog/2020/12/21/optimizing-user-experie...


<button @mouseenter.once=" fetch('/dropdown-partial.html') .then(response => response.text()) .then(html => { $refs.dropdown.innerHTML = html }) " @click="open = true" >Show Dropdown</button>

Seriously? This has to be a joke.


I was stumped when I saw it just now. What the heck...I guess the next thing, an amazing breakthrough, is going to be Alpine.scss style="background-color:$red-secondary;font-weight:bold"


I don't use alpine, but isn't that the blessed way of doing it in React/Vue/etc? I thought they were the ones introducing both @handlers on elements and JSX styling


Maybe, except in React you have a huge community, formatters, linters, editors, testing tools/libraries and an overall architecture for doing things. Alpine seems worse than just using jQuery. I'd prefer to use something like Unpoly before using this monstrosity.


Then don't use it, no one is forcing you man. Just because it is not for you doesn't mean its bad or that other people can't have use for it.

You don't really need to use alpine either if you use Phoenix with Liveview, you can probably get away with just using vanilla js if all you really need is some small functionality of modals popping up etc.


why would you load the dropdown HTML separately, just render it along in the template with x-show="open" and have the @click="open=true"?


This is an example from their docs. That's why.


> Maybe I'm missing something, but doesn't this have precisely the same latency characteristics as live view?

There's an open GitHub issue on LV which mentions when using live_redirect you're paying a very large penalty in page load speeds due to extra latency being introduced by LV: https://github.com/phoenixframework/phoenix_live_view/issues...

Before this issue existed my non-scientific impression was the same. There was something that felt off when using sites that primarily used LV for navigation and loading content. It always felt like I was clicking, waiting a noticeable amount of time and then the content would appear -- even with a decent ping time (< 100ms).

I never experienced that type of delay when using Turbolinks and now Hotwire Turbo with comparable ping times to a server.


Interesting analysis. Do you have any quick examples of site's that use LV? I'm curious.


Not at the moment, but I remember someone posting an example LV page on Twitter a few months ago for pagination and I distinctly remember how delayed the page felt and I pinged 80ms to the server. Basically I've seen scattered examples when they were posted over the years on various social sites.

I'm having a hard time finding a current example demo LV app that demonstrates page transitions using LV or to be honest any sites heavily using LV in general.

But it should be reproduceable in a demo app that uses live_redirect to transition between pages. The issue has repeatable steps and it's been confirmed as a bug by the maintainers of LV, except it looks like it's going to be tricky to solve it.


Those advantages are really overblown and not worth the hit in missing libraries or missing hires.


Totally agree. I've been in this industry since 2001 and never, ever had a performance problem which couldn't be solved with just thinking what your code is actually doing. The bottleneck has been always the database, or the network, etc. The only problem I've had with threaded languages is running out of threads/processes due to making external API network requests, etc, but you learn to not block threads by using jobs, etc. And worst case, more hardware has been always cheaper than more developers due to less productive languages (hello Go! :wink: :wink:).

You are not Google.


Performance is one thing. I think another major benefit people cite for using Elixir/functional programming in general is the productivity aspect. Of course you may argue that this is easily outweighed by hiring pains as a company grows. Just wanted to mention that from a pure language/developer perspective, I'd much prefer to work with Elixir than something like Java or even Go.


I fully agree with you, but the demographics in HN is special -- you may be talking to people who work at Google-scale :P

Anyway I believe you really need a very special case to make Elixir shine. Obviously you can build whatever you want with it, and it's really nice, but if you are doing consulting you are going on for a hard sell. And startups will sooner or later feel the crunch of more expensive and/or difficult hiring.


Yep, the benefits most esoteric languages offer are superficial compared to the benefits a mainstream language ecosystem offers.


> Most of what you get from elixir in terms of redundancy, high availability, etc you can have that anyway from kubernetes, heroku or any PaaS.... you will need more than 1 server anyway, so...

For what is worth, that's one of the reasons why Elixir exists in the first place. I find the Erlang VM a fantastic platform and there is no reason to restrict it to high availability/distributed scenarios. Elixir developers should be productive and write performant and maintainable applications, even if at the end of the day they are just pushing to Heroku. Especially if you are coming from another dynamic language, such as JS/Ruby/Python.

As I like to say, in the "worst" case scenario, you can use Elixir as you would any other language, and that's completely fine!

If you want/need to go deeper, the abstractions are there to do so, and that's the difference compared to K8s: it is happening one layer inside. The high-level principles of redundancy and availability exist at the library level, so you can look at your connection pool, message queue, http clients, and find the same ideas there. Another area where K8s directly complements Erlang is in helping establish clusters. Overall, they are rather working together rather than stepping on each other toes. I wrote more about this here: https://dashbit.co/blog/kubernetes-and-the-erlang-vm-orchest...


I am bummed out to see that this is the top comment. I don't doubt your experiences but I hope that other people do not latch on to this and use it as a strong argument against using Elixir. All of these complaints are skin deep and kinda petty, to be honest.

> Tooling is just terrible. The VSCode plugin is crap, kills the CPU unless you disable features. There is no IDE from jetbrains.

This is a bizarre criticism of Elxir the language. There are a lot of developers out there who prefer a more lightweight editor and do not want the bells, whistles and crutches of a heavy duty environment. I would never complain about a language just because an IDE does not exist for it.

Tooling in Elixir is really some of the best I have ever used as far as the consistency had with mix, hex, hexdocs, etc...

> Also, I've read some comments where people mention "we don't need redis", "we don't need workers" everything is so much easier.

You can still use all the same battle tested tools with Elixir... but it is true that there are lots of situations where those things are genuinely not needed thanks to some of the things that come out of the box on BEAM.


> This is a bizarre criticism of Elxir the language. There are a lot of developers out there who prefer a more lightweight editor and do not want the bells, whistles and crutches of a heavy duty environment.

Right, but...there are also developers out there who do want those things.

It feels very dismissive to dismiss a complaint like that as "petty" just because there's a set of people who don't have the same needs. I feel like it's a very useful piece of information about the language that doesn't feel at all petty to me.

If you don't want the IDE-like tooling, then you can read the comment and think: "ah, they want more tooling than I do, so this critique doesn't apply to my use-case". If you do want that style tooling, then you might read the comment and think: "Ah, that's good to know. That applies to me, and I'll definitely take it into consideration".

Someone having priorities that are different from you doesn't seem "petty" to me. It just seems...like different priorities.


Exactly. One of the MOST valid criticisms of a language is the way (or lack of ways) in which it can be used.


Don't focus on tooling, focus on their complaints about not having enough senior engineers familiar with the language.

We're in a similar boat. I don't know the full history of how we came to use Elixir, but I would wager that early on in the company, someone really loved it and evangelized it. But now, we don't have that many senior people who know it well. I can count the ones I talk to regularly on one hand, and once I run out of fingers, I'm probably sixth place runner up, which makes me very uncomfortable.

That's why I wouldn't suggest Elixir. Unless you're incredibly sure you won't have significant churn for the lifetime of your business, or have money to burn specifically hiring Elixir folks, I wouldn't recommend it.


This is not the fault of Elixir. It’s the fault of trigger happy CTO’s who chase shiny new objects without thinking about the long term, big picture. I’ve made plenty of unsexy decisions when my heart was pulling me in a different direction - because it’s the right thing to do based on the team you have or the direction you’re headed.

Adopting Elixir, like Clojure or Haskell or any of the more esoteric languages is a commitment. Don’t do it if the benefits aren’t there or you aren’t willing to make the investment.


> This is not the fault of Elixir.

That's very true. But it's still something to consider, especially for OP who's choosing a new language for a new project.


What do you think has been the difficulty for people at your company learning it?

I encounter a lot of devs, especially experienced devs who pick it up very rapidly compared to what I've ever seen with JavaScript, ObjC, Rust or other most other languages I've spent time with.


For simple things like "add field to GraphQL schema, hook it up to a resolver, and read some data from the database" - doesn't take too long.

The language itself is very different from the C-like imperative languages most everyone knows, so there's a bit of a ramp-up from that, but for basics, people can be released into the codebase within a month.

But when things go wrong, or when you need to do something more complicated, things get difficult. It's much more difficult to google around for solutions. When Dialyzer is spitting out strange errors, hunting down their causes and solutions is challenging without someone who understands it around.

I feel like 99% of Typescript/Ruby problems have been encountered and enshrined in Stack Overflow and the like, but Elixir doesn't have that sort of volume.

It's a fun language, and worth learning, and I played around with it in a side project, but quickly started running into conceptual roadblocks when it came to (no surpise) the GenServer stuff, and how to actually spin up a stable service that does things in some given way. I probably could have stuck with it, but at that point it felt more like toil than joy, so I decided I'd rather do something else with my time. I'd be fine with going to work for another company working with Elixir, provided that there were people there who can swoop in from above and help me solve my problems.


what area/work does your company do? advertising?


> I would never complain about a language just because an IDE does not exist for it.

I think their complaint is valid, especially in light of their finding it difficult to find experienced coders who are in their salary range.

New coders can lean heavily on a good IDE to help: code completion, breakpoints, step wise debugging, one click links to the docs, easy code navigation, and more. Senior coders can and should use the editor of choice, but a great IDE makes a world of difference for a junior or even intermediate coder.


I haven't used elixir but used erlang for a while, with emacs. It did have a learning curve, but I don't think an IDE would have helped.


I worked on an elixir project at a ruby shop for about a year. We had complex distributed system, and were replacing core ruby services with elixir. Ultimately the project was a failure, and was re-re-written in Ruby, and the Elixir devs were let go.

We faced similar issues to you, bad tooling, weak libraries, and very few knowledgeable devs.

Finding people to hack on elixir was extremely difficult, and likely the driving force that killed the project. Having an inexperienced team who had no experience with many of the language features elixir offered created a very difficult to work in code base.

This killed productivity, so management threw resources at it. Code quality dropped further when we were no longer just a group of noobs interesting in hacking on elixir, and became a group of noobs begrudgingly hacking on elixir.

I feel pretty scared from the experience, and wouldn't be interested in using elixir professionally again. Which is a shame, it can be a nice language to write, and some of its tooling like hex is quite nice.


I think new languages wont be able to break in the top 10 without a mega corp pushing them. The market is too saturated and there is a language for everything under the sun. Elixir is just facing too much competition for web stuff and doesnt enjoy Google pushing it.


I don't think it's necessary for a language to be in the top 10 to be considered a success. If the people who use it, wouldn't use anything else, then that is the success.


As long as you're aware that hiring and maintaining will be significantly harder then yes you're right. But that also means there's no reason to choose esoteric tech X for yet another CRUD app; you would pick Erlang/Elixir when it actually makes sense and only then.


thank you for sharing, I am removing elixir from my resume after reading all these comments haha


lol not sure if you're serious or not, as Elixir job offers are certainly still on the rise.


> We also found many times missing libraries, or found libraries which are incomplete, or unmaintained or just not well documented

Can you give some examples here. This may have been true in the past, but isn't true anymore. I can give an example where ruby is lacking: Performant HTTP libraries, Elixir and Erlang are so good in this space, look at `finch`, `httpoison` etc,. there is first class support for HTTP2 and connection pooling / persistent connections which is very hard to find in ruby.

> Tooling is just terrible. The VSCode plugin is crap, kills the CPU unless you disable features. There is no IDE from jetbrains. There is a plugin but last time I tried it, it was even worse than the VSCode plugin.

Which plugin are you referring to? Is it using dialyzer? Using dialyzer gives you so much static analysis for free as opposed to the default ruby vscode plugin. I have never heard of complaints about tooling. On the other hand, I know lots of developers who love the tooling, mix is great, iex gives you documentation with just `h String`. Plus with language server support, you have really good IDE support in vscode and vim. Look at the number of stars on the `ElixirLS` plugin here: https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/search?term=elixir&targ...

> Also, I've read some comments where people mention "we don't need redis", "we don't need workers" everything is so much easier. That was our thinking at first. But then you realize on deployments you will lose your cache, or your background jobs, etc.

Yes, you'll lose data in your cache. Caches are supposed to be ephemeral, not everyone needs their caches to be persisted. However, if your use case requires persistence, you have a lot more options than just sticking it in redis. Plus, `oban` is a high quality background processor with persistence, without the need for adding redis to your stack.

For applications where performance matters, Elixir and Erlang give you lots of tools to build a truly performant app, However, if you don't need those tools, you might be better off building it in something more familiar.


> Using dialyzer gives you so much static analysis for free as opposed to the default ruby vscode plugin. I have never heard of complaints about tooling.

ctrl-f for "dialyzer" in this thread, and you will :)


Or peek into my four-year old codebase, and try to give a usefull meaning to the error 'function has no local return' that pops up in dozens of functions which, honest to FSM, have a local return. (The message usually, but not systematically, mean that the function is calling a function that is calling a function that is ..[skip].. calling a function which spec is not exactly respecting the `@spec` comment - because how could it, there is no static type checker ;) ?)


I love Elixir, but even I have to say that the tooling story in IDEs is awful. Using VSCode, ElixirLS is the best extension I've found so far, but even the experience with it makes me want to ditch Elixir entirely more often than not (and no, the number of stars on VSCode marketplace means nothing).

The extension will often just lock up, either giving you no autosuggestions/errors, or refusing to remove errors that you've already resolved, and the only way to fix it reliably is to delete the .elixir_ls/ folder and/or completely close and restart VSCode, both of which require rebuilding the entire dialyzer which is a constant battery killer on laptops. This is such a frequent issue that some days I find myself having to quit/reopen VSCode at least once an hour, and despite spending absurd amounts of time trying to find a long term fix, I've never found one.

Not to mention the issue that has been open for 8+ months where ElixirLS is built using an older version of Elixir, and if you are using a recent version of Elixir for your project (anything newer than 1.9), some of the core functionality of ElixirLS just breaks (autocomplete and hover tips). That issue alone makes me want to ditch ElixirLS (and likely Elixir) entirely.


The Ruby community is 4x bigger than Elixir and I am being generous to Elixir, and even Ruby is considered smallish.


It astounds me how much I hear about the “VSCode extension uses all my CPU” thing.

Yes, the extension uses a ton of CPU for 15 minutes the first time you set it up. It’s building a giant database for type information to give you type checking and hints.

It does this ONE TIME when you first set it up. It explains this. It’s really not a big deal. I’ve found the extension to be great, I’m not really sure what you are referring to there.


It isn't just "ONE TIME" for me. The extension freezes up often and completely stops giving autosuggestions or warnings, and the only way to fix it is to delete the .elixir_ls file and rebuild the database. When I say "often", I mean there are some days where I have to do that at least once an hour, and 5-15 minutes of high CPU usage every hour is just way too much to be acceptable.

I love Elixir and the ElixirLS extension is the best I've found so far, but that's not saying much. The extension has enough issues with it to make it very frustrating to work with, and even enough to make the entire Elixir experience not worth it in many cases.


Is it possible to share more details about your particular setup? I believe you, but this doesn't sound right. I've used the plugin on all three major operating systems in a wide variety of projects and configurations, and have never had this happen to me. Curious to learn more about what could be the culprit for you.


I have had the same issue as the parent poster. I'm on Windows 10. Everything was fine when I was on Elixir 1.9.2, but the moment I upgraded to 1.11.2, the ElixirLS extension just started to break frequently, or getting stuck while building. I ended up disabling it until I have time to troubleshoot further.


I strongly disagree with your generalisation regarding the tooling: Mix and Hex are without any doubt some of the most pleasant tools I have ever used. (I personally don't care about IDEs so can't comment on the lsp implementation or idea plugins)


> complains about tooling in IDEs

>> I strongly disagree (doesn't use IDEs)

??


"Tooling is just terrible." <- this is a generalization, to which I strongly disagree :)


In addition to that, I struggled to find a well maintained library similarly to Devise. Also, many people won’t agree to me, but Ecto is also a kind of pain. I think Phoenix would have been in a better position if there were libraries like ActiveRecord and Devise.


I struggled with Ecto. It seemed too complex. I missed find_by_sql and the scopes of ActiveRecord. But once I went past the initial learning curve Ecto is a seriously well designed library. I have not written a single sql query by hand. Now I feel find_by_sql is an anti-pattern as I was mixing sql with ORM.

Once your database becomes sufficiently complex you start writing a lot more sql.

ActiveRecord's way of chaining scopes to combine multiple scopes is brittle. You can't customize the conditions. Ecto solves this by giving you composability. You can build on top of your earlier commands. If you combine this with pattern matching in the functions or Enum.reduce you have an extremely powerful and a flexible query engine.

Ecto also relies on the strengths of underlying database engine rather than treating it as a black box. If you are dealing with 100s of tables Rails way of polymorphic design doesn't give you referential integrity. I like Ecto's recommendations: https://hexdocs.pm/ecto/polymorphic-associations-with-many-t...


Probably there's no one in the Elixir community with enough know how to build a Devise-alike lib, it's what it is.


Uh, I shouldn't have to point this out but Elixir was created by the people behind devise...


Here a good blog post on this exact topic

https://dashbit.co/blog/a-new-authentication-solution-for-ph...


The problem with the internet is that you can't markdown irony...


ahah sorry about that! I merely wanted to add that to the conversation but I should've replied to the previous message.


Is this a joke based on the fact that the same person created Elixir as Devise?


Jose Valim, the creator and primary author of Elixir, actually wrote Devise.


Jose Valim, creator Elixir, was one of the core developers of Devise...


That's the joke


I've been able to drop in pow with ease and have everything I would have gotten from devise.

That said, the community is moving towards phx_gen_auth which jose himself wrote and will come out of the box with 1.6


"Also, I've read some comments where people mention "we don't need redis", "we don't need workers" everything is so much easier. That was our thinking at first. But then you realize on deployments you will lose your cache, or your background jobs, etc. So you have to persist them either in mnesia or in the database. At that point you're just reinventing your crappy undocumented and untested version of delayed_job... Most of what you get from elixir in terms of redundancy, high availability, etc you can have that anyway from kubernetes, heroku or any PaaS.... you will need more than 1 server anyway, so..."

I used Erlang for 5-6 years in a production environment in a deployment that wasn't the world's biggest, but did seriously need clustering because we needed more than one machine to handle the load, not just redundancy. This comment leads to my core observation about the entire ecosystem for anyone considering using anything in the Erlang ecosystem.

Erlang started in the late 1990s. Joe Armstrong was brilliant, and I would imagine was also surrounded by some other very smart people whose names I do not know. Despite what I'm about to say, let nothing I say be construed as disrespect for either the language or the people making it.

Let me set some context here. C++ ruled the day, and still looked to inevitably replace all C. Python, Perl, and the entire dynamic scripting language category had just been invented. Java was in the news, but not on your computer yet. Haskell... pre-monadic IO... had just been standardized somewhere in here. Threading was possible but was every bit the nightmare it has been presented as, and you had to be careful spawning more than single-digit threads because of the resource consumption. Open source was just beginning to be A Thing... that is, it had existed in its embryonic form for decades, of course, but it was just beginning to cohere into the Linux world we know now. Machines were still measured in the hundreds of megahertz and the single-digit megabytes of RAM.

Erlang was a far more radical departure from anything else in this era than it is today. There was a lot of academic work on this stuff, and there was a lot of very specialized high-end work on multiprocessing, but it wasn't being done by "mere mortals" and it wasn't very simple. Erlang's designers looked out into the world, and what they saw was a huge jungle, where what maps we had had huge regions that just said "Here There Be Dragons". And they started in, hacking and slashing and slicing their way through, guided by a few intuitions and a whole lot of engineering firepower.

And they largely succeeded in creating a settlement in the wilderness. They grew and managed to pave over the hack & slash paths into roads, built a community, built a pretty incredible VM, built an ecosystem around them. Let this accomplishment not be underestimated; this is a land that had eaten many others in that era.

However, sitting here in 2021, this is no longer a wilderness. Much of the area has been razed, highways driven through it, McDonald's by every exit, and millions of people living here in various bustling metropolises.

And I think what we've found is that where Erlang plopped itself down is OK... but not more than that.

As a consequence of its isolation, Erlang bundles a lot of things into itself that just didn't exist back in the day. It bundles in messaging passing and a network-aware message bus, almost literally decades before anyone else even thought of a "message bus" as a distinct product segment. (i.e., they existed, you could find academic discussion and some early passes at it, but it wasn't really a distinct category yet.) It has a threading environment. It has these "supervision trees" idea which are cool. It has immutability at a time where Haskell was even crazier than it is now. It has a mechanisms for bundling and distributing applications. It has this entire alternate-reality ecosystem in it. But...

... in 2021, none of these are best-of-breed anymore. Many of them are deeply quirky. Immutability is cool, but we only needed to not be able to pass mutable references on the message bus, not be fully immutable within an Erlang process. I believe Elixir fixes this one. A modern message bus going between processes gives you this whether you like it or not because it also can't carry mutable references between OS processes and systems. Having a message bus integrate into the language is a big mistake, because it makes it hard to hook up anything but Erlang nodes to Erlang. (I say "hard" and not "impossible" because I know it can be done, but it's hard.) A modern message bus like Kafka or the dozen other choices doesn't impose an implementation language on you, nor does it impose that implementation language being the only one. Process restarting is a necessity for production-grade systems, but we've settled to a large degree on OS-level handling for restarts, and within a system, there are easier ways to accomplish the goal than bring in the entire Erlang supervision setup. Mnesia, a clustered DB was a neat idea, but in 2021 is so poorly featured and unreliable it doesn't even qualify as one anymore; nobody in their right mind would bring up an Erlang cluster just to back some other language's code to Mnesia as a database. Pattern matching is cool, but not cool enough to justify all the other issues that come with it, and proper use of other language functionality is often good enough anyhow. (I don't tend to miss it; I tend to properly use some form of polymorphism instead. Trivial pattern matching is replaced by this, and to be honest, non-trivial pattern matching is probably a code smell if not an antipattern; if you're reaching three levels down into a data structure, you know too much about that data structure!) Modern Erlang performance is meh; it used to have the clear advantage when dealing with lots of sockets but now there's a lot of things that can comforably exceed it. Its type system is an annoyance even by dynamically-typed standards, if you like static types than just stay away. (They will cite Dialyzer, but it isn't anything remotely resembling a replacement.) And if I reviewed the docs I could find a few more of these, plus I find there's a lot of cases where Erlang has solutions to problems only Erlang has in the first place, e.g., "gen_server" is neat, but the entire gen_server set up, with its initialization phase and its three proscribed ways to call it and the need for an explicit "gen_server" module type are largely the creation of Erlang in the first place... in other languages you generally get the functionality packed up differently but it's all there without having to exactly match what Erlang does.

So, in 2021, the problem is that going into the Erlang ecosystem tends to lock you into a whole package of things that vary from "not best of breed but mostly OK" to "significantly inferior to the modern alternatives". All it really has is very nice integration of its not-best-of-breed stuff, but even that kinda becomes a trap after a while, like when you realize you need a real database after all, then maybe you have to integrate with another message bus so you can integrate with non-Erlang code, and, you know, a couple more cycles around that loop and you'll really regret having chosen Erlang.

One thing that I think it has going for it, and why it's probably still got a cult following today, is that if you're a relatively new developer, or not experienced in network programming, it is a heck of a trip when you get into it, because the tutorial will introduce you to half-a-dozen ideas you've never seen before. Cross-server message buses? Amazing! A network database with an easy API? Amazing! Spawn a million processes on a commodity box? Amazing! I think this explains a lot of the appreciation it gets today. But no longer are any of those things unique. It's just that the normal developer lifecycle will tend to encounter those, one at a time, over the course of years, instead of having them all thrown at you in one amazing, mind-blowing language introduction.

But in 2021, you can do not just "better" than Erlang for all of them, you can do much better. Except that whatever you put together will be something you had to put together, and it won't be quite as nicely integrated. But it will allow for multiple languages, it'll allow you to better integrate with the direction modern ops is going, it'll scale better both internal to your language and in terms of performance, and you'll be better able to hire for it.

The Erlang ecosystem was brilliant and far ahead of its time. I honor it as an incredible pioneer and recommend, even after everything I said, that anybody thinking of writing some incredible new language spend some time in the Erlang ecosystem to see some of what is possible with that sort of integration. But I can't in good conscience recommend it, in either its Erlang flavor or its Elixir flavor (or its Lisp flavor or anything else) to a modern developer. Everything Erlang does is much better done now by other things, minus the language/ecosystem lockin. This is not because Erlang lost, it is because it to a large degree won. It blazed a trail, and we all now agree, it was a trail very worth blazing. But the next waves of settlers & builders ultimately have created something better.


I'm confused by the extent to which you believe the things that Erlang/OTP and the BEAM do have been entirely replicated by other ecosystems. I think you're quite right that distributed systems engineering and threaded programming as a whole has moved in the direction of Erlang on a lot of fronts, but I don't really see the parallels (no pun intended) at the language level. Most popular languages still depend on cooperatively scheduled threading models (even async/await depends on the dev inserting yield points), while the BEAM's does not.


"I'm confused by the extent to which you believe the things that Erlang and OTP and the BEAM do have been entirely replicated by other ecosystems."

One of the reasons I make a bit of an accusation that the people bedazzled by Erlang/Elixir may be not very experienced is that a common take away from the community I have repeatedly noticed is the belief that if another language doesn't have exactly what Erlang has, warts and all, it doesn't have what Erlang has. Thus, I see in many other languages various attempts to port the exact thing Erlang has out into that other language, when in fact the other language already has solutions to that problem, even if they aren't exactly how Erlang solves it. [1]

While I personally exceedingly strongly agree that the Erlang-like threaded approach is vastly superior to manually explaining the asynchronous-ness of your code to the compiler, it still remains the case that "async/await" largely solves the problem of handling millions of threads at a time in those languages that support it, and even if that particular element of it is inferior to Erlang, it will be compensated for by the wide variety of other things that are superior. Just because it isn't exactly like Erlang doesn't mean it's not decent solution. Moreover, my exceedingly strong agreement is also, like, my opinion, man, and there are plenty of people who disagree with me and consider async/await superior, and they would account this as simply being better than Erlang/Elixir.

In the 1990s and the 200Xs, Erlang had solutions to problems that no other language had solutions for, or where Erlang's solutions where clearly head and shoulders above. In 2020s, Erlang no longer has anything that it uniquely has the solution for, even if the exact Erlang solutions don't exist elsewhere.

[1]: I wrote about this recently at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26833616


>One of the reasons I make a bit of an accusation that the people bedazzled by Erlang/Elixir may be not very experienced is that a common take away from the community I have repeatedly noticed is the belief that if another language doesn't have exactly what Erlang has, warts and all, it doesn't have what Erlang has.

On one level yes, they have constructs that you can use to accomplish some of the same goals as the tools Erlang provides, but some people (me) like the specific programming model that Erlang provides for dealing with these problems. The concurrency characteristics of the systems I hack on every day would be much harder to model without GenServers. It's not particularly surprising that Erlang is not the only way to solve a problem in software engineering, there is no silver bullet.

I've written much more C# than I have Elixir in my time as a developer and the fact remains that I prefer functional programming and I like using OTP. I don't see what the "wide variety of other things that are superior" are in languages that aren't Erlang. The ecosystem is stronger and the tooling is better, but those are not intrinsic to the design of the language. Tooling kind of is, with static languages, I suppose. Lack of static types are the one thing that bother me a lot about Elixir.


"The concurrency characteristics of the systems I hack on every day would be much harder to model without GenServers. It's not particularly surprising that Erlang is not the only way to solve a problem in software engineering, there is no silver bullet."

Erlang was at one point the only way to get this sort of structure, though.

Now it isn't. Multiple languages like Go have lightweight coroutine-y type things; if the isolation isn't perfect, you can fix it with programming discipline. There's also Pony, and Rust which has its own thing which is in its own way far stronger than what Erlang offers. Async/await languages are very amenable to setting up lots of little process-like things, to the point that arguably it's the only sane way to structure your programs in such languages. There is a real change in Erlang being almost the only thing on offer, to merely being one choice of a whole bunch and no longer being impressive enough to justify the lockin. (Not that Erlang uniquely has lock in; all languages have lock simply by virtue of the fact that once code is written in X you can't just change it to Y one day. But it's not worth the lock in anymore.)


>Erlang was at one point the only way to get this sort of structure, though.

It still is though! Isolated processes with asynchronous, dynamic message passing requires really heavy libraries in most other languages. Rust is completely different, I can't fathom why you'd compare them in this way.


Because as I've said, I'm not comparing solutions, I'm comparing problems. Rust solves the isolation problem in a completely different way. Go also solves the isolation problem by enforcing it at a language community and best practice level, rather than rigidly enforcing it in the language. Now, I personally wish it had something more like Erlang or Pony, but, at the same time... it's doing fine without it and completely satisfying my Erlang use cases in real code, better than Erlang did. Not perfectly, but fine. (I rather prefer channels as a default to Erlang's message passing, which in both my opinion and experience has the "unbounded buffer" problem in that messages can build up in a queue forever.)

Message buses solve the message passing requirement. You can get a whole range of solutions from "just sling vaguely JSON stuff around" to "here's a whole strongly typed protocol", with a whole array of options on persistence, clustering, language support, etc., a whole array of options around how synchronous they are and what guarantees they provide, rather than Erlang's one exact solution,

You're kind of demonstrating my exact point here... it isn't that the exact Erlang solution shows up in other languages, the point is that the problem space that Erlang covers is now covered in plenty of other languages, in all sorts of ways, many of them better for some task than Erlang's one point in the space that was selected very, very early in the exploration process. This was not the case 20 years ago. It is now. And I don't particularly think Erlang's coverings of the problem space are the best. People not already deep into Erlang aren't evaluating whether or not some solution is exactly like Erlang, they're evaluating whether the solution is a good solution on its own terms, and once you remove the "must be exactly like Erlang" clause there are a lot of better choices for every element of Erlang, except arguably, the integration of all of them together.


I understand your argument, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't think these arguments are unique to Erlang, you could make these arguments about the use of any language to solve almost any problem, outside of kernel programming. I choose tools based on how they fit with how I want to solve problems.


> you can fix it with programming discipline

You can write distributed coroutines in assembly with enough programming discipline. What is interesting in a language is not what it lets you do, it's what it prevents you from doing.


> But in 2021, you can do not just "better" than Erlang for all of them, you can do much better.

Really appreciate the effort that you've put into this post but it's 99% saying you can do better but without examples of stacks that would be better. For those who don't have your knowledge could you provide some examples?


The core insight of Erlang is that having lots of little processes communicating over a message bus is a great way to design code. It also proves by demonstration a statement that many programmers, especially in the past decades, would have found hard to believe, that you can structure code as a whole bunch of relatively small self-contained services. Many programmers, perhaps even today, would not believe how far you can get with such a model, thinking that fairly massive monoliths are still really the only way to scale up.

Rather than specific examples, let me provide terms to google, as these are now such rich spaces that even a list of examples would be impoverish. Google "message bus"; there's half-a-dozen solid production options you can deploy yourself, and all the major clouds have at least one option, often more. Pervasively use a message bus in your architecture and you can't hardly help but end up programming in a very Erlang-esque fashion.

"Database"; no longer is an SQL database over a socket your only option. Some databases even combine a bit of message bus functionality, like Redis, or Postgres.

Restarting and reliability: Process-level restarting of much smaller processes has become popular with things like Kubernetes, Docker, and even just plain ol' Systemd. (This is one place that I will assert that systemd is better than the init.d-based system, which had a solid story on how to start processes but a very ad-hoc one on restarting failed processes.) Internally, consult your favorite language for monitors or restarts within a process; I've got one for Go called suture. Getting an idiomatic restart into a language depends on tons of details and I don't have a good sense of the options across dozens of languages. Note this only really matters if your language and program is handling a lot of things at once in a single process, which is not always the case.

That's most of what would matter, I think. Most of the rest of Erlang like "pattern matching", well, do whatever they do in your language. Which may be pattern matching.


This comment sold Elixir for me more than anything. On a small team, each of those are massive headaches. Using Elixir I can have all of that with a unified vocabulary, documentation, deployment, syntax, repository, etc. Sure, each might be slightly worse that the best thing on offer today, but I don’t have to glue them together.


And you can swap a built-in feature for an external component later, if the need arises.


Sure, you can achieve what Elixir does by combining a bunch of different components replicating its features, all with their different execution schemes, configuration syntax, deployment constraints. That's the whole point of Elixir, it gives you an integrated environment to do these things with consistent vocabulary, documentation and deployment strategies.


But Erlang provides something that Kubernetes/Docker/Systemd isolation does not: fine granularity / per request isolated processes. Is the difference between a code bug killing a single call in a VoIP system vs killing an entire OS process with hundreds of them.


Do you mean actors? I kinda hate how they’re always referred to as processes.

https://github.com/actix/actix https://github.com/akka/akka


The actor terminology isn't used in any official sources since Erlang processes are not quite "actors" in the actor model sense. They were inspired by OS processes.

http://erlang.org/pipermail/erlang-questions/2014-June/07979...


Thanks - that's very helpful.


> Immutability is cool, but we only needed to not be able to pass mutable references on the message bus, not be fully immutable within an Erlang process. I believe Elixir fixes this one.

In fact Elixir does nothing for this. It is true that in Erlang, you cannot rebind a variable and must use a different variable name for every assignment. In Elixir you can rebind the same variable, but the data is just as immutable as in Erlang, and the rebind is only visible in the current scope, which trips up new programmers not used to it.


Erlang started in the late 80s and saw production use roughly 95


I think that it would be helpful if you provided examples about those things, good and bad. As it is it's mostly "erlang's" bad - perhaps if you offer the counterparts to what would be a better pick we could have a discussion - and then perhaps see how far the tree of dependencies goes on each side? And also what you would loose by picking up those solutions?

Just taking on some random stuff:

> Trivial pattern matching is replaced by this, and to be honest, non-trivial pattern matching is probably a code smell if not an antipattern; if you're reaching three levels down into a data structure

If the data structure is being accessed in a module to deal with it specifically then that is part of the knowledge of the module. And you can't escape that with or without pattern matching, since you'll have to codify those things in code anyway, be it long chains of ifs, switches, or whatever, you'll always have to write the code with the same level of knowledge about the data structure to express the same conditions?

> Modern Erlang performance is meh;

This I'm not sure. I've seen libs written in elixir beat libs written in C++ and they had to start a VM to be run. Obviously there will be plenty of stuff that a low level language can do more efficiently and faster I don't think anyone disagrees with that - but I think sometimes people sell erlang and elixir's speed short.

> but the entire gen_server set up, with its initialization phase and its three proscribed ways to call it and the need for an explicit "gen_server" module type are largely the creation of Erlang in the first place

I haven't seen any language with the concept of an independent program, that has a synchronous interface (mailbox), but can be modelled entirely asynchronously, and can't block whatever running loop. (and I read your other reply and thread). There's also a reason why some things have a particular way of being set up inside the beam, and that's mostly related to the guarantees it provides and with the fact that processes are transparent across nodes. If you take out the impossible to block scheduling and network transparency you'll be of course able to spin up something similar to a GenServer without the same "ritual" - but it no longer has anything to do with the former perhaps except its API?

> A modern message bus like Kafka or the dozen other choices doesn't impose an implementation language on you, nor does it impose that implementation language being the only one.

Given that you can have any socket, tcp or not, and easily handle it, this doesn't seem to be a fair point. On kafka or any other message bus the implementation language will be that of the sources and sinks communicating with kafka? Or you just write kafka and the other programs wake up as insects in a bed?

> Mnesia, a clustered DB was a neat idea, but in 2021 is so poorly featured and unreliable it doesn't even qualify as one anymore; nobody in their right mind would bring up an Erlang cluster just to back some other language's code to Mnesia as a database

I haven't used mnesia at scale and indeed heard people complaining about it, more than once so there's probably some issues there - having said that, in terms of similar db's (KV based and not SQL,etc) even db's like MongoDB and such need expensive and usually paid managing solutions right? And can still loose data unless you really cover your redundancy?

> But in 2021, you can do not just "better" than Erlang for all of them, you can do much better.

Could you tell us succinctly how? As a, usually, solo developer I would be really interested in knowing, and I'm not asking sarcastically.

I also don't understand how it's difficult to integrate Erlang with other things, it basically has a standard lib very accommodating of sockets and inter process communication through STDIN/OUT, with effective monitoring on top.


"If the data structure is being accessed in a module to deal with it specifically then that is part of the knowledge of the module. And you can't escape that with or without pattern matching, since you'll have to codify those things in code anyway, be it long chains of ifs, switches, or whatever, you'll always have to write the code with the same level of knowledge about the data structure to express the same conditions?"

There are other options. In object oriented design, using the loose definition of "anything with 'methods'" (thus, including Go and Javascript even if they don't have "inheritance"), if you want to know something, you ask directly, using a method for that case. It is the difference between "account.getBill(lastMonth)", where you load the logic into the account object to fetch bills from different times, and pattern matching where you write into the code taking the bill deep assumptions about how the account is structured, such that when refactoring the account you have to go change all its consumers. Note I am only criticizing deep pattern matching here; pattern matching in general I like, even if I can live without, but in Erlang terms, if your patterns look like

    [thing, [_, _, {something, X, [Y, _, Z]}]]
you've gone off the rails.

"I've seen libs written in elixir beat libs written in C++ and they had to start a VM to be run. "

There's almost always some microbenchmark a slow language can beat a fast language in, but that doesn't make it a fast language. You might want to dig into that "elixir lib that beats C++", because either the C++ was really bad or the elixir lib is actually written mostly in C(++).

"I haven't seen any language with the concept of an independent program, that has a synchronous interface (mailbox), but can be modelled entirely asynchronously, and can't block whatever running loop."

Yeah, but when you're talking about a 30-40 year programming language, that's not a necessarily a compliment. Nobody else has seen fit to exactly copy it, because we've found better things to cover the problem space than that.

"Given that you can have any socket, tcp or not, and easily handle it"

There is a lot more to being a message bus than just having a TCP socket.

"I also don't understand how it's difficult to integrate Erlang with other things, it basically has a standard lib very accommodating of sockets and inter process communication through STDIN/OUT, with effective monitoring on top."

That is not "easy to integrate with", that's table stakes. What I'm referring to being hard to integrate with is how you tend to be stuck in the ecosystem. It has monitoring, sure... but in 2021 it's a very quirky monitoring that doesn't integrate with any of the rest of what has developed. You can, in theory, connect to an Erlang cluster without Erlang, but in practice the requirements of being "an Erlang cluster" are so specific, with its own quirky term format that isn't quite JSON or quite anything else, is so difficult as to not be worthwhile. Once you've taken the time to speak to a non-Erlang message bus, use a non-Erlang database, wrap your Erlang code in K8S or some non-Erlang manager, use Erlang to hit HTTP APIs, speak to non-Erlang monitoring systems... why are we using Erlang again?


I still don't understand the point about the deep pattern matching. In OOP you'll have an object that encapsulates all that knowledge, and in functional programming you'll have a module that encapsulates all that knowledge, clients of both the object in OOP and clients of the data structure in FP will need to have the same knowledge to deal with it - once you need to serialise the information. I just don't find the argument compelling, in my reading it would be akin to saying, it's a code smell a class has all this implicit knowledge of the object it's modelling (assuming the deep pattern matching in the module dealing with transforming it).

> There's almost always some microbenchmark a slow language can beat a fast language in, but that doesn't make it a fast language. You might want to dig into that "elixir lib that beats C++", because either the C++ was really bad or the elixir lib is actually written mostly in C(++).

Usually it's microbenchmarking that doesn't flatter elixir/erlang - and stampede problems where you can get away with just brute forcing - eg. parsing directly to output a bunch of files where the output is a file(s) - but there, if you want then to build usable metadata through all of it things change fast - writing a correct program in any of the fast languages that has the same ergos for keeping usable information throughout and is at the same time easily changeable, can interleave information in parallel with pretty amazing monitoring, and doesn't require years of training, is quite a different thing.

I know it doesn't use C++ because I wrote it and I know how much more it does as well, though I'm not here to convince you.

> Yeah, but when you're talking about a 30-40 year programming language, that's not a necessarily a compliment. Nobody else has seen fit to exactly copy it, because we've found better things to cover the problem space than that.

Well, sure, I just think it should not be written as "cover" the problem space, is more "making holes" in the problem space.

> There is a lot more to being a message bus than just having a TCP socket.

Given that your argument was:

> A modern message bus like Kafka or the dozen other choices doesn't impose an implementation language on you, nor does it impose that implementation language being the only one

I'm not sure there's any more esperanto than tcp/sockets, which comparing to any other language are a joy to write, use, monitor, and deal with.

> You can, in theory, connect to an Erlang cluster without Erlang, but in practice the requirements of being "an Erlang cluster" are so specific

This sincerely... How do you connect to other clusters in other languages (if they're even able to set up meshes)? You don't. How do you solve it? With clustering solutions. How is it that a runtime that can be put inside those same clustering solutions, by the same process, but has a zillion more functionality can be worse than those other solutions regarding that?

> Once you've taken the time to speak to a non-Erlang message bus, use a non-Erlang database, wrap your Erlang code in K8S or some non-Erlang manager, use Erlang to hit HTTP APIs, speak to non-Erlang monitoring systems... why are we using Erlang again?

Yeah, because they all speak something else than http/tcp and we know erlang is not really made for handling sockets and can't do http.post().


Can't upvote this enough


> Most of what you get from elixir in terms of redundancy, high availability, etc you can have that anyway from kubernetes, heroku or any PaaS.... you will need more than 1 server anyway, so...

Yeah, last time I tried to get a hang in Erlang I felt it was trying to solve stuff that is already being solved by my infrastructure in a language agnostic way.


I'd say it's rather the other way around. Your infrastructure now solves what Erlang did 25 years ago.

Not to argue your point, though.


they are not the same kind of concurrency model though


"There is no IDE from jetbrains" Is that now a thing that is important? I've only just started using an IDE from them - and I don't see how it's miles better than say vscode?

This whole thing sounds very much "ruby good, elixir bad"


> Tooling is just terrible. The VSCode plugin is crap, kills the CPU unless you disable features. There is no IDE from jetbrains. There is a plugin but last time I tried it, it was even worse than the VSCode plugin.

That's my main blocker, proper JetBrains IDE support just makes everything so much easier. I need a debugger.

I tried the plug-in, and kudos to the author but it did not work for me. In the end they're only one person so of course they could not test every single configuration

-

I wonder why JetBrains has not put their weight behind it.


Rails is very productive but it has problems of its own. Many companies move away from Rails once they reach certain growth milestones.

Erlang (and by extension Elixir) is a concurrent language. You use it when you have non-trivial concurrency challenges. When tackling the right problems, the language shines.

Implementing a simple CRUD application with Elixir is overkill, because you can make your servers stateless and delegate most of the concurrency problems to the database.


In my personal experience (the last bunch of companies I've been at) that milestone you mention is more like what is the current fashion and what the new hires want to work on because of the latest blog post they've read.

At my previous job we had *ALL* of them. Each service or project you opened you could guess the date it was started because of how it was built. Rails -> Node -> Elixir -> Go -> Next.js and the frontend backbone -> ember -> react (redux -> mobx -> rxjs -> [some other random state lib] -> just context! -> recoil) -> typescript and probably by now they're already using whatever the new trend is by this morning. It is insane.

None of the companies needed any of the performance provided by this tools, in fact, they all struggle with developer productivity more than any other metric, and every time they switch to the new shiny toy, productivity takes another huge cut. But hey, people get paid anyway at the end of the month, so let's keep playing.


The CTO should be fired, what the hell. In fact maybe we should start naming the companies (not the CTOs I will respect their privacy) so we can know where NOT to work.


Next.js is node-based.


I really don't see any reason to move from Rails other than a new CTO trying to shake things up with a tech he's more familiar with. If Shopify/Github/Gitlab/ can build it on Rails so can you. If the monolith is too big you can break it down with engines or to separate apps. Now I like Rails but I would say the same about PHP/Node or most popular stacks. Rewrites to another language are almost always unnecessary.


For many years Github ran on a fork of Ruby and a fork of Rails. Recently they upgraded to Ruby 2.7 and that's what they use now.

https://github.blog/2020-08-25-upgrading-github-to-ruby-2-7/


It says right in your link "Many years ago, we ran GitHub on a fork of Ruby (and Rails!) and while that hasn’t been the case for some time". So that was a long time ago, what is your point?


Just on the hiring point. There are three companies to my knowledge using Elixir in Toronto. I applied at two and the responses were 1. Not enough professional experience using the language. 2. Very low salary expectations on their end. Pretty bad for Toronto but especially poor for hiring in what is essentially a niche language.


Rails is awesome nothing comes close to being as fun and productive. Tried php and django, not bad but not Rails.


Can't agree more with this. I've used both, Rails since a few years ago and Django for about 8 years or so, and while I still like Django I think rails is far, far superior in every aspect. The only thing I like more from django is the migrations system (not even the ORM, just the migrations) and maybe the admin as a tool to browse the database. Other than that, Rails all day.


Yes the Django admin was cool, the Rails core team didnt want to bring something similar to Rails for reasons I dont quite remember..maybe its a shame


Have you tried Laravel?

Asking because I'm just curious about the comparison between the two


A bit, its ok. Im just a sucker for the combination between ruby and rails. php wont do it for me, but its a solid language.


ah, well, another ruby or python enthusiast trying to avoid other models of concurrency at all costs


oh boy. where to begin

> We built a few services

So you never really committed to it in the first place. Also, this complicates the deployment problem.

> after a few years some of the original people that introduced it left the company

Probably left for a company that actually committed to Elixir. :P

> and it became very difficult to hire for

In a world where everyone is remote and where 10 Elixir people apply to every job, this product must have been pretty unappealing

> New hires were either people wanting to learn (so we had to spend a good bunch of resources into teaching + end up with a system built by noobs to the language) or very expensive developers with a lot of experience in erlang and elixir.

"We didn't want to pay employees their worth and instead bitched about what we couldn't get without hiring those employees"

(Why couldn't you hire an assortment? One experienced guy and a couple noobs?)

> We also found many times missing libraries, or found libraries which are incomplete, or unmaintained or just not well documented

Alright, fine. Sometimes you have to "roll your own" in this space, still.

> Tooling is just terrible. The VSCode plugin is crap

You should not use the word "tooling" here because VSCode is not an IDE, Elixir should not require an IDE, and moreover, Elixir should not be judged because "there is no good IDE for Elixir". "Tooling" should refer to the support libs and tools that ship with the language, all of which are excellent.

> At that point you're just reinventing your crappy undocumented and untested version of delayed_job.

Spotted the guy who never heard of Oban https://github.com/sorentwo/oban Benefit of the doubt: Perhaps it didn't exist yet.

> Most of what you get from elixir in terms of redundancy, high availability, etc you can have that anyway from kubernetes, heroku or any PaaS

This is entirely missing the point. If a bug or runtime error crashes your Ruby interpreter, you better have another one ready to go from a pool (because Rails stacks can take a while to load), and then you better not exhaust that pool! If such an error crashes Elixir, it just restarts the process, which only takes a millisecond because forking an immutable language's state is trivial compared to a mutable language's state.

> Liveview

I actually haven't played with it much yet so can't comment

> In the end, we are back to Rails and much happier

"We can underpay cheap devs again"

You also repurchased entire classes of bugs that are impossible in Elixir such as: mutation bugs, monkeypatch bugs, and concurrency bugs (just forget running your test suites in parallel). Also, these are literally the hardest types of bugs to fix (nondeterministic behavior), and will likely cost you more in the long run than any differential salary you balked at (I have spent entire months debugging something in the Ruby space, you'll remember my comment once this bites you in the *** one day).


I’m sitting in Africa and I can whisper “Elixir job” out my bathroom window and have 10 people interested in it. Maybe it used to be difficult.


> In a world where everyone is remote and where 10 Elixir people apply to every job, this product must have been pretty unappealing

That's really inaccurate, not everyone is remote and looks like post COVID most companies will be hybrid office/remote. So hiring is still a problem, and getting hired is a problem for people who don't want to be 100% remote.

> "We can underpay cheap devs again"

I don't think Rails devs are particularly cheap though I'm not sure if that's what you meant.

> mutation bugs, monkeypatch bugs, and concurrency bugs (just forget running your test suites in parallel)

Rails comes with parallel testing since Rails 6. As for concurrency - I know that Gitlab moved to Puma (a threaded webserver) and tons of huge companies use Sidekiq which is threaded as well. I'm not saying there are never any problems but it seems to work well for many many companies.


Can you name a few of the libraries you didn't find?


Erlang and Elixir ecosystem has a bunch of unmaintained throw-away projects.

I wrote a bunch of Erlang and Elixir tooling before I realized the most useful projects were thrown over the wall FOSS codebases.

If it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid. Fashionable is for runway models.


I'm at a relatively early stage VC-backed startup and from day 1 it's been written in Elixir. It was a fantastic choice, for many reasons, with some being:

- Elixir is good for just getting stuff done. I came from a previous startup that used Go and Elm.

- The community isn't as small as people make it out to be, or, it's quality over quantity. ;)

- There's a lot of good modules out there, and if you need to write your own, it's easy and there's well-defined patterns. E.g. I recently improved our internal Zendesk client and it was a breeze.

- https://dashbit.co/ for paid support/advice is amazing.

- The console for experimentation, debugging, inspection, etc. is fantastic.

- The let it crash, and other Elixir/Erlang philosophies, have been very helpful.

- There's a solid amount of batteries-included, but not in an overbearing/restrictive way.

- It's such a pleasant day-to-day dev experience.

I didn't know Elixir before joining this startup. For myself, and workmates who also didn't have prior experience, it's been a breeze to get up to speed in.


I see that you're hiring. Are the positions remote as well or strictly London?


Admittedly it's more or less London-based at the moment, unfortunately! Which timezone are you in?


Currently, with summertime, it would be GMT+2. Not far from UK, CZ :)


I'd say reach out, with the likely caveat that the response may be non-remote for now (I personally fully support remote work). We could hopefully reach out in the future too?


We're hiring in CZ :)


It's not argument "against" selecting it (it's a free world, and mileage vary), but a couple of scar-earned advice:

- Be careful about libraries. If you know that your system has to interact with X, don't assume that there is a running, idiomatic, maintained libary for X on `hex.pm`. Do a bit of due diligence. We had experience ranging from `meeh` (oauth2, graphql, http) to `pretty bad` (mqtt, swagger.)

But as other say, if you're doing vanilla Phoenix/Plug/Ecto with exactly the right kind of DB, you'll should be ok.

- Give a little though about how you'll be deploying and operating. `releases` and `configuration` haved changed in pretty big ways in the past (https://elixir-lang.org/blog/2019/06/24/elixir-v1-9-0-releas...), the ecosystem is constantly in flux (`config.exs` vs `Application.get_env` vs ENV_VAR vs..) . Plus, the erlang virtual machine (BEAM) has knobs that are not always easy to play with. And if you hide it behind, say, docker containers, you'll have other troubles. Don't expect an `heroku do-some-magic` experience.

- Unless you're familiar with the Actor Model already, and your application is very simple, expect a learning curve made of:

  1. A period where you're afraid of GenServer and fail to do anything because you don't want to create a supervision tree
  2. A period where you think you've understood GenServers and you create GenServers like crazy
  3. A sobering period where you don't understand anything about your application
  4. A couple of refactorings where you move the pendulum until you reach something that's acceptable
- Finally, you're coming from RoR, so you're probably fine with not having static types anyway ; may St Isidore help you ;) There is a thing called `dialyxir`. It might help a bit ; It will disappoint a lot.


If you're aching for typespecs in Elixir being useful, but are dissapointed with Dialyzer, I recommend checking out my library Hammox: https://github.com/msz/hammox. It's an improved version of Mox, the de-facto mocking library for Elixir, which you can use to automatically assert in tests that your mock calls, or any function calls, fit your typespecs.

I personally found that with rigorous enough usage, I don't even miss having actual static typing anymore ;)


This is great! Thanks for sharing.


What you said about releases is somewhat true, but I’d like to clarify.

It has absolutely changed a decent amount over the last few years. Because it used to suck. It’s not really in flux, more like being improved because everyone knew it sucked. It’s in a much better state now and I’m very happy with it where I wasn’t before.

Also, I would say that “in flux” isn’t a proper characterization because it was always backwards compatible. Nothing broke, they just improved the experience through better methods.


Fair enough. I just haven't fully recovered from the PTSD of "deploying something that reads environment variables at startup" four years ago.


Absolutely feel that. The `runtime.exs` config that they added a while ago has been an absolute godsend and really fixed 90% of my complaints with deployment. It unified all config for deployments and development and made it all runtime!


Interesting, some of the libraries you mention such as graphql and http, I feel there aren't better libs that exist than absinthe and ranch/cowboy.

Which graphql library do you prefer over absinthe in other ecosystems?


From what we understood (back when we shopped for a lib, which was a long time ago), absinthe advertised itself a lib to write graphql servers ; we were looking for a graphql client,so we ended up using a smaller lib.

(And it's entirely possible that we simply picked the wrong lib ! Which is, still, kinda my point. Every elixir lib is "young" by virtue of the language being "young", so you can't use "age" as a heuristic for being the "right" lib. Happens for all"young" ecosystem,so not particular to ex.)


> absinthe advertised itself a lib to write graphql servers ; we were looking for a graphql client

> And it's entirely possible that we simply picked the wrong lib !

This is 100% a failure of a decision-making process, not the language ecosystem. Picking the wrong library could be avoided by the smallest amount of diligence, it's pretty language agnostic.


Nice points indeed!

I would also say that the "library" one is basically valid for every language. In general is always a good thing to spend some time analyzing the possibilities before importing an external lib into your application.


I literally have a Simpsons-Mendoza meme printed out on my desk, except instead of "MENDOZAAAAAA", McBain is screaming "DIALYZEEEEER".

What a god-awful piece of software.


I’m very satisfied with Elixir. I, a longtime Ruby on Rails developer, learned Elixir on the job at CityBase and have been thrilled with it every day.

The first thing that tripped me up with Elixir is the difference between single quoted and double quoted strings. They’re different data types!

Most of the work I’ve done has been writing JSON or GraphQL apis that react apps consume. We’re about to start using Phoenix LiveView.

I like using Phoenix + Ecto. It’s lightweight and very fast. I learned Ruby through my work with Rails, and I did not have the same experience with Phoenix. And that’s for the better.

Deployment-wise, we moved from Edeliver to Kubernetes and it’s worked great.

I need to figure out the right editor experience for NeoVim, I haven’t gotten an LSP to work just right. Sometimes Dialyzer is a pain in the ass. Also, I’ve had some issues installing erlang via ASDF lately and sometimes I’ve had to use homebrew symlinks to skip that problem.

I recommend that OP give Elixir a shot and see what you think. There’s also very nice community on the Elixir language slack server.


I'm about six years in with Elixir, five years in production at Appcues. I have no regrets at all -- Elixir and the BEAM have been fantastic. It is convenient to write very scalable and stable systems that operate in soft real-time, which is what I do for a living, so I have warm feelings.

Previously I wrote Scala for a few years, then RoR for a few years before that, following about a decade of Perl. I recommend you try Elixir.

Anyone complaining about a talent pool is focusing too hard on prior Elixir experience. We hire backend engineers and teach them Elixir. This has worked out great so far, especially now that we're a fully remote business and are no longer as constrained by geography.


We chose elixir in 2016 for our product and never regretted it.

Apart from application bugs we’ve caused, it just keeps chugging along and working beautifully. It’s never once been the bottleneck in our stack.

Finding people has not been tough at our scale, and they’ve been good quality.

We are just scratching the surface with OTP. And between that and the data processing tools, we know we can handle pretty much any scale.

Deployment is nearly as crude as it was 5 years ago though. We use distillery and edeliver. We are moving to docker containers soon.

We use Exq for background jobs and have processed 75 million in a year without a sweat (most of that in the last two months). We handle 55 million requests per month on t3.mediums. We are looking to switch from Exq to Oban but I’m nervous about whether Oban’s Postgres based architecture will handle it. It’ll probably be totally fine.


55 / 2.62 (millions of seconds in a month) ~= 20reqs / second

That's not very impressive, you could achieve that easily on something deemed "slow" like Django or RoR

But I guess your load is not constant. How many reqs/sec can it handle in the peak time?


> 55 / 2.62 (millions of seconds in a month) ~= 20reqs / second

I'm pretty sure Java 1.0 running on an Amiga could handle that...


I bet even 8051 + 10 Mb ISA 10BASE2.


Yes it's not constant. We have a handful of bursts (tens of thousands of SMS conversations happening at 9am every day that complete in about an hour, for each SMS we send out, we get back 3 status callback webhooks from Twilio). And we've had a couple "mass" message sends where it did take a few hours to send 1.6 million messages. But again, that was due to our twilio limits and not elixir. We had to throttle our jobs when Twilio started saying their queue for our number was full.

I just checked (because we now process most jobs in the background), we have gone as high as about 500 jobs per second in exq on that same machine (and each job typically runs anywhere from 5 to 15 SQL queries). The bottleneck is actually the size of our RDS instance. Not complaining about postgres, just saying elixir hasn't been the bottleneck for that amount. Every hour we process CSV files with 30,000 records, etc.

We only started caching things about a month ago. I have been very lazy about that since it just didn't make any difference until recently.

Again, the point I'm trying to make is that using elixir has been positively and utterly boring in the best way possible. No drama whatsoever. We've spent the overwhelming majority of any of the time related to this looking at postgres. Not even complaining about Postgres either, it's more a conversation of what's the right RDS size and IO for our traffic.

This stack has caused us very little drama.


to be fair t3.medium is very small for a production deployment ($30/month on-demand) so I read this as having cycles to spare


Running 75 million jobs a year would be totally fine. Depending on the configuration and load Oban easily runs thousands of jobs a second, and 75 million breaks down to less than 3 a second.

I’d argue it’s worth the switch, but I’m highly biased!


Thank you! I've been meaning to ask Oban people about this. Sadly, while Exq has been rock solid for us the last few years, Oban seems to have a ton of active development and features we wholeheartedly want to adopt. Just haven't had the time to run tests :)

Our workload is highly bursty. We queue about 20k jobs in the morning, which themselves queue another 100k-150k jobs. Then hourly we queue additional ones. I'm concerned about the Postgres overhead of inserting thousands of rows for jobs, each with potentially their own transaction.

With Oban, we can actually get rid of Redis in our stack (currently using it for Exq)


I love Elixir. But…

Five years ago I spent time learning Elixir on the side thinking I was investing in an upcoming technology that would pay off for me financially. I eventually built some services in Elixir at work and really enjoyed it. They performed well but the language didn’t catch on with the rest of the team.

However, five years later the mainstream languages (Ruby, Go) are still paying more. I still get recruiter messages for Elixir jobs offering less than market value but I haven’t used the language in over a year.


Looking for increased pay based on programming language used is going to lead to disappointment more often than not. The best thing that anyone can do to increase their compensation is be aligned with a business, or part of a business where they’re a profit center vs a cost center. The language itself is more about a persons preference and the things that you value as far as day to day working experience.


I thought of this as working at a tech company on a core tech product for a technical manager in a tech role. But working as a developer for a profit center is more concise.


Interesting, I've had the opposite experience. I get paid a ridiculous amount for Elixir work because finding experienced Elixir devs is so difficult. Most of the job offers I get for it I avoid because I think "there's no way this company is going to last longer than a year paying that much for developers".


I'd love to know what the going rate is for experienced Elixir developers. I'm interested because I'm toying with a side-project and can still choose the stack after the prototype, and I'm also a developer that knows both Rails and Elixir.


Care to share get actual salary and location?


As an SRE who has had to baby sit production elixir apps I'd highly recommend first having a talk to your operations guys. I've never had a more challenging system to debug and keep running.

It's only a matter of time until you hit something as confusing as https://elixirforum.com/t/dbconnection-connectionerror-pid-x...


Yeah, I concur. If you’re a ops infrastructure let’s people deploy whatever ever they want in a container, and you can make the devs debug the elixir specific code, then you should be ok. If t try us devs force having to understand Erlang releases, GenServer timeouts, and Ecto based macro errors onto the ops group, everyone is gonna have a bad time.


Haha I'm not sure if we know each other since I know the issue you describe in this link. Regardless, I think this is a somewhat weird example since the it should not be DevOps' duty to look at and try to understand an error that stems from Ecto. And our company did face this issue, but this was largely related to the DB optimization and the Postgres instance instead of anything language-specific. If you have bad DB schemas and optimizations you're gonna face the same issue no matter in Java or Go. Saying that you've "never had a more challenging system to debug and keep running" sounds really dramatic as our Elixir apps have been running fine 99% of the time and barely even triggered any on-call incidents.


> I've never had a more challenging system to debug and keep running.

Heh, the core system I put in place at work 3 years ago and is updated daily has never gone down once. Isn't that the point of the BEAM and supervision trees?

It's different, requires to learn a new skillset, but I wouldn't call it "challenging to keep running."


Very satisfied with Elixir! I think it just fits my way of thinking. I love the terse, but explicit code, the VM, OTP, pattern matching, working with immutable data, integrated tooling, documentation support. The community is great, too.

The popular packages are top-notch, but as others have said - there might be issues finding what you need. My personal experience seems to be the opposite though - when going from Elixir to Ruby, it turned out that some of the gems were really, really far from perfect.

In terms of deployment, my take is that the community has finally figured it out. Elixir is a compiled language, so there is a build-time configuration and runtime configuration and I think it's best to keep the two separate, which is now well supported by the new runtime config (Elixir >= 1.11). Mix releases + runtime.exs + Docker works for me perfectly.

If you're coming from RoR, you'll be able to pick up Phoenix really quickly. It draws a pretty clear line between your web layer and your business/app layer though. Writing controllers and views should be similar, but I'd suggest spending some time on Ecto - it's quite different from ActiveRecord (in a good way, IMO).

One thing I'm missing in Elixir is optional static typing akin of TypeScript, but that's not coming anywhere soon. Other than that, no regrets.

I got introduced to Elixir in 2015 and was trying to work with it full-time since then. I was able to get a full-time Elixir job and I'm really happy about that. If you're looking for opportunities, I'd suggest attending ElixirConf or ElixirConf EU - last year I got 5 interesting job opportunities from ElixirConf EU alone (it was a virtual event, so the ticket was cheap).



Hey Stefan, nice to see you here :)


We adopted it 4 years ago and love it.

As for training people, I taught my non-technical co-founder Elixir for some backend scripts he needed to write. He found it much simpler to pick up then Javascript or Ruby and his code was idiomatic rather quickly.

As for the IDE support in VSCode, I've found ElixirLS[1] great. I do have to restart it sometimes (delete the .elixir_ls folder), but that's a small cost to pay for a pretty great experience.

After spending years in RoR in multiple code bases, I find Elixir code bases to be easier to debug and libraries easier to grok. Without the mutable state of OOP, I don't find myself asking, "Where is this state coming from and when/how was it set?" Of course, macros can be hard to follow, but I still find an Elixir library more straight forward than a Ruby one.

We've also experience the great performance and reliability shared by others on this

We haven't had difficulty finding the right libraries even though the ecosystem isn't as mature as Ruby or Javascript.

[1] https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=JakeBeck...


Another vote for ElixirLS, I haven’t had much issue with it.


for me it works okay-ish.

I still have to occasionally grab my laptop to keep its fans from taking it airborne, it still crashes occasionally, requiring nuking .elixir_ls (and holding onto the laptop again), and while it hasn't happened recently, I've had situations where I'd get weird errors for code that should be fine, also requiring me to delete .elixir_ls to get rid of the warnings.

That said, I don't really mind, but then I perhaps don't care as much about IDE-ish features. I've also been doing more and more work inside LiveBooks, and those don't even have vim keybinding!


It’s honestly been one of the smartest choices we’ve made. We’ve been running it for four or five years now. It powers high throughput systems and those systems are classified as critical (if they go down, most of the product goes down.) Not a single regret.

New hires new to Elixir have spun up on it very quickly, in my opinion what a team needs is one or two people experienced in Elixir to give some initial guidance but you don’t need a staff of experienced Elixir engineers to do great work. I have not found it a hard language to teach.

Personally I’ve found the library ecosystem very strong, and writing our own libraries has not been hard. It’s important to note that interop with Erlang is quite good, so you have access to decades of library development from the Erlang ecosystem in addition to libraries written in Elixir.

The basic elements you’re given out of the box for handling fault tolerance and concurrency are graceful and intuitive. The performance has also deeply impressed us.

On a personal level, it’s also the most enjoyable language I’ve worked in and I’ve had very good experiences with the community. I find the tooling very good, including the VSCode extension (I have contributed a few features) but the default dialyzer setting definitely does hog the CPU on first build. I disabled it since we don’t get much out of it.

I’ve built and run software in production in a lot of different languages over the last 15 years. Nothing has compared to Elixir, not even close.

YMMV, I’m not here to refute the experiences of others, I’m just here to say for us it’s been an incredible experience. Absolute joy to use.


4 years of writing elixir professionally and I have yet to enjoy a language as productive as elixir.

Everything from ecto, and branching logic by pattern matching function signatures to the easy composition and cohesive community around the amazing tooling (mix/hex) and testing. Plenty more I love for productivity

But because of OTP and it's capacity to scale and distribute computation I thoroughly stay loving how deep the topic is and how there's always more to learn.


If you invest time learning Erlang everything around Elixir will make sense and it will be a pleasant experience not only to "write" but to test, debug and maintain as well. I would go through this slightly dated but gentle introduction before learning Elixir: https://learnyousomeerlang.com/content

Thinking in processes and knowing/using the GenServer abstraction is the core of Elixir programming.

So, one negative is that difficult to use without Erlang knowledge. Also some good libraries are Erlang only for compatibility/historical reasons.


this. I had piloted a project in Elixir a few years ago. It wasn't until I really learned Erlang that it became a pleasant experience. In the end it was replaced by another team in another language.


> If you invest time learning Erlang everything around Elixir will make sense

But this seems like a big issue to me. It probably makes the learning curve high if u basically need to learn 2 languages.


Outstanding work from the Elixir team. Very good community in the forum.

It’s winter of elixir land. The hype cycle has died. If I have to start a project I will think twice unless it really needs distributed system.

My personal opinion - talent pool, plugins and ecosystem is kind of stagnated. First talent pool is really limited and not readily available. Very few companies use elixir in production. More hobbyists in the community than people who actually use it.

Hex has a lot of plugins which are not updated from long. For many there won’t be a plug-in. You have to write it from scratch.

In Phoenix, they are reinventing magic with LiveView.

Few guys who do elixir consulting gain most from the ecosystem.

As a developer if I have to invest my time learning a new language, I would choose rust or Go.

As a company if I have to start a project, I will check whether I have a requirement of distributed systems.

PS: I have used elixir for past 5 years in production.


I would also prefer having a typed language over the fail fast in production approach.

Especially if your code does not saturate a single CPU core.


I'm currently learning Elixir and I'm loving it. I'm in that got 30% of my app written in it place.

I may or may not regret using it in the big picture (libraries, esoteric ness, performance, a 5th language/platform in our soup of tech we use to solve our problem, etc, and who knows) eventually; it's too early for me to tell.

But I wont regret learning Elixir. There's a certain zen in the "ah so you're a programmer, eh? But can you do it without any references/pointers or for loops, huh?" This from a guy who spent 20 solid years as an "objects all the way down" smalltalker, and does a lot of multi paradigm hybrid Python/Kotlin/Swift these days with a bunch of C as well.

What I really noticed last week when I did a day of Python after a week of Elixir is how much time I spend in other languages writing branch logic code. Code where you decide what direction your code should go next. Should it do this or that now. Or if it should optionally do that. I'm writing an order of magnitude less of that code (it moves to a more orthogonal place in multi function matching) in Elixir. It's stretching me and I'm learning new ways of seeing things that ultimately make me a better programmer; the slack channel has been really nice.

I tried Haskell to try and get the taste for pure functional a year ago; it did not go anywhere near as well as this.


1.5 years in and Phoenix Liveview is perfect for internal webapps. Have personally seen development take half as much time with half as much people compared to traditional stacks. You don't need super rich interactions nor offline mode for internal apps, plus they might be harder to prio against customer-facing feature work. Elixir and LiveView are really powerful tools to have in your toolbelt. Even if you can't use Elixir, look at Hotwire or Livewire for a similar programming model. You won't get zero-setup fault tolerant components (nested LiveViews can crash and not take the entire page with it, and retry side effects automatically), but you'll still cut out the JS side of the development.

And we haven't even spoken about an app-aware repl that lets you manipulate/inspect your running app (even in prod). There are so many game-changing layers in this stack. It's hard to beat once you've explored it.

Very happy customer here.


I've had an niche event ticketing Elixir/Phoenix app in production for 4 years and have had next to zero problems. It gets very bursty traffic (100s of simultaneous users when an event opens for ticket purchases with load quickly tapering off in a negative exponential distribution) and the load average barely changes with insanely fast responses on a $10 VM.

I think the only downside for me is having to squint sideways to figure out how to convert a complex SQL query into Ecto. I've been writing SQL for almost 30 years and I find myself dropping into using Ecto's `fragment` too often. I've been meaning to pickup "Programming Ecto" to educate myself more (https://pragprog.com/titles/wmecto/programming-ecto/).

I've done my share of RoR apps too and the nice thing about Elixir is there is very little magic and what magic there is (mostly via macros and code auto added via a `use` statement) can be seen and changed directly in your code instead of being hidden in some gem somewhere.


I write very few fragments and many more raw queries. No ORM is worth the trouble of going too deep into the rabbit hole of learning for the nth time how to write SQL in X.


It is tempting to just drop down to raw queries but then when I read about things like composable Ecto queries (https://medium.com/flatiron-labs/how-to-compose-queries-in-e...) it makes me want to stay at the higher abstraction level.

The final example in that post:

    EctoCars.Car 
    |> EctoCars.Car.with_color("blue") 
    |> EctoCars.Car.with_transmission("automatic") 
    |> EctoCars.Car.with_engine_horse_power(200) 
    |> EctoCars.Repo.all()
generates very clean SQL:

    SELECT c0."id", c0."color", c0."vin_number", c0."specification_id"
    FROM "cars" AS c0
    LEFT OUTER JOIN "specifications" AS s1 ON c0."specification_id" = s1."id"
    LEFT OUTER JOIN "transmissions" AS t2 ON s1."transmission_id" = t2."id"
    LEFT OUTER JOIN "engines" AS e3 ON s1."engine_id" = e3."id" 
    WHERE (c0."color" = $1) AND (t2."type" = $2) AND (e3."horse_power" > $3)


Yes, we use that pattern in the Elixir project I'm working on. But that's a simple query despite all the JOINs. It's just a waste of time to convert complex queries into Ecto. Maybe the reason is that I build them in the database using it as a REPL. Then I have working SQL and a lot of hard work to turn them into Elixir. Or Ruby, or Python or whatever. I played that game for far too long. I give up immediately now, write raw SQL and move on to the next productive task.


I think the parent commenter is not saying to write your one time use query in elixir using wrapper modules with Ecto, but tried to show that queries generated by Ecto are pretty clean and understandable in compare to other popular DataMappers/ORMs


That sounds like a fun but challenging project: Convert sql to idomatic ecto. Mostly as a way to help people learn ecto better. Probably a long-tail-y issue, but maybe one where a 70% solution is useful?


I'm very bullish on Elixir as a language, but I temper that with the reality that I don't think it will become a mainstream language (in the next few years, at least).

I picked up Elixir probably 4-5 years ago when a co-worker kept recommending it and wanted to explore it more. We finally got the approval to do a microservice in it that was well-suited for it. Over time it became one of the two "blessed languages" alongside Ruby, and was probably adopted by 40% of teams. Our monolith was still Ruby, so a lot of teams had to use Ruby.

I found that people could pick up the language fairly quickly, but it would take a few stumbles on OTP before things started to click there. People generally seemed to like learning it, though. Maybe they were just being polite.

For me, Elixir has been the most fun I've had programming since I started. It allows me to more consciously design my systems because I don't really feel limited by it—this is why I'm bullish on the language. I enjoyed programming in Ruby, but felt limited to doing things a certain way.

There's also still a ton of opportunity in the community (which is excellent as it is, imo). For example, I wrote a book with Pragmatic that I don't think I would've been able to write in the Ruby world. If you're the type of person who likes exploring, figuring things out, and documenting afterwards, then you could make a nice name for yourself in the community.

Hiring is still a bit rough. If you're trying to scale to 50+ engineers then you're going to need someone skilled in training to bring the team up. Throwing them into the deep end won't work. I think smaller teams should generally not have as big of a problem? I'm curious to see how my former employer will maintain Elixir—grow or shrink adoption—over the next 2 years.


Shrink probably, sorry its not growing and it never became popular...


Sorry, have you worked with the former employer I'm mentioning? I'm talking about a specific use case that has specific needs and challenges. Blanket comments like yours aren't really helpful or necessary.


[flagged]


The thread is literally "Are you satisfied with Elixir?" A big piece of that is me having brought it to a SaaS company and from 0 usage to 50% service coverage. So yea, I am curious what they'll do in 2 years—that was my point. It's a point that you're not qualified to constructively opine on.

I wouldn't care if someone else posted your comment, but you've been downing (non-constructively) on Elixir in this thread and other posts you've made on Hacker News.


I am free to say what I want about Elixir, I make it no secret. It got most of its (now faded) hype by trashing Ruby, which rubbed me the wrong way. I genuinely believe Elixir is an unsmart career choice , my feelings about Elixir aside. Without a big corporate backing it and never making it into the top 20 languages during it's peak (which is now passed) there is only one way - down. It has nothing to do with Elixir as a language and everything to do with how saturated the market is. As a career it's not a great main language in most areas of the world; sure the superstars will get by nicely. But if you're average you're better off with one of the popular stacks. OP is free to choose what he wants but I don't see how any of what I say isn't true, maybe you'll enlighten me.


Joel, I wish you'd stop appearing in every popular Elixir post's comments to say something bad about the language or ecosystem. You've admitted in previous discussions that you've never even used Elixir, so why even comment on a post asking about personal development experiences with the language?

>It got most of its (now faded) hype by trashing Ruby, which rubbed me the wrong way.

It's a programming language, not a sports team. Developers excited about a new language are allowed to be excited and compare with other languages. I don't know what trashing you saw that offended you, but commenting on every HN post to try to steer people away is unproductive.


I don't think I'm gonna stop soon, sorry. For one I really do think Elixir is a horrible career choice and I wanna save young average developers who still have time to correct that mistake (the superstars will do fine no matter what). And second every time I see "Elixir is better Ruby" I get more and more pissed off. If I ever stop reading those things I may slow down about Elixir but you guys just keep me going.


I have read your comments in this thread and your remarks push me more away from Ruby/Rails than Elixir/Phoenix. My first thought was: "wow, some Ruby developers are so insecure about their tech stack that they feel they must criticize other technologies in programming forums to get by". It looks very unprofessional and immature. So think carefully on what you want to achieve, because if your goal is to drag another programming language through the mud, you might drag yours in the process instead.


I don't think my comments have anything to do with you wanting to do Elixir, please go ahead with that sir, I don't know you and don't care honestly. I think it's not the greatest decision career-wise but as I said if you're a top 10% developer you'll do fine no matter what tech you choose. If you're not you are most likely to regret it eventually. Elixir is actually a great place for superstars now since it's so small; you can much more easily make a name for yourself there than with php/go/ruby. But for your average web developer Elixir brings very little value. As for insecurity - Elixir as a community started to count page views(!) on ElixirForum to show how the community is thriving. Any other metric - Tiobe index, Stackoverflow, Redmonk, amount of jobs, they're all ignored or gaslighted. So who is insecure? Us Rubyists already took the blowback hit, we know we aren't cool anymore. Elixir is facing that now and in the coming years. And again, if I wouldn't have read countless posts about how Elixir is superior to Ruby (always to Ruby, not to other stacks), though the 2 languages don't have much in common at all, I wouldn't have had such an axe to grind, but I got sick of it.


I've been using Elixir/Erlang for more than 6 years and absolutely love it. The community is a lovely place to be, tooling is great. Concurrency is awesome. Erlang is battle tested. If you are building applications that have anything to do with networks, you'll be able to build some seriously performant apps without having to reach for other tools and I love the community's focus on performance.


Unfortunately I can't comment on production Elixir use (yet), but as a proffessional Ruby engineer of 6 years and an Elixir hobbiest of 3, I think that Elixir's biggest drawback is its deceptively high learning curve.

The learning curve is "deceptive" because the Elixir syntax is very easy to pick up for someone familiar with Ruby and, once you get over the functional "gotchas", you can feel productive very quickly. Especially-so given how much you get out-of-the box with a standard "mix new" project.

The learning curve is "high" because in order to actually write Elixir in a way that scales well in prod, you'll need to get comfortable with Open Telecom Platform principles like GenServer and Supervisors, which will likely feel very foreign at first.

For any Rubyist working in Elixir, if you encounter a situation where your Ruby brain wants to start browsing Hex for a library, you should probably answer these two questions first:

1. Can we do this easily with GenServers? 2. Is there an Erlang standard library module that already does this?

Conversely, if you jump in expecting to rely on Hex the same way you rely on Rubygems, you're in for a bad time.

Ultimately, I think you really need someone (ideally two someones) who is comfortable with the Actor Model and OTP in order to use Elixir successfully at a business.

But if you can build that solid OTP foundation for your project, there's a decent chance you're in for a good time.

The real-word business cases provide some encouraging examples of that: https://elixir-lang.org/cases.html


I've been programming in elixir for 5 years now.

Currently on my 3rd year as CTO of a startup. I chose elixir for the greenfield project because we wanted realtime sync for all devices and the smaller projects I worked on before in elixir went off without a hitch. I also found its concurrenly handling and performance far superior to node and I was producting far less bugs due to its functional nature.

3 years in and I'm very satisfied. There are a few epics we took on that would have been much more expensive to do in go or node. For example, we made a partnership with a credit card device terminal. Their interface required one persistent webocket connection per restaurant. IN another language, I would have had to coordinate with my devops guy to have a dynamic system to allocate a process for each of our accounts and route that to our devices. The intended use case were on premise POSes so our cloud based solution wasn't somethign they had planned on supporting.

Anyways, I was able to configure horde and a dynamic registry to boot up a process for each active account and automatically resserect on crash. Since pubsub is built in, It was easy to pass along data from it to all the devices over the channels interface. Best part is it was all doable within the code base running without any changes to out deployment.

Overall, I've been happy with elixir. the only bg downside is its gotten a bit boring. Things just work which leaves me spending time on rust in my free time when I want a challenge.


I have been using it for my (modestly sized) first serious public project (https://github.com/domovikapp/domovik-server/), and I have been quite satisfied with it.

For the pluses:

- the development experience is stellar (live code reload, REPL interacting directly with the running server, excellent debugger, dependencies management & build system are good and can be extended in the language itself);

  - the integrated documentation generator is of high quality;

  - the performances are satisfactory (you'll get more out of a $10/m VPS with Elixir/Phoenix than with RoR);

  - deployment is surprisingly easy with the releases system;

  - the language itself is quite pleasing;

  - the standard library is very well designed and architectured, and everything just fall in place together;

  - Ecto shows brilliantly how to combine high-level, ORM-like operations and low-level, close-to-the-SQL ones;

  - Phoenix itself is a very well though out framework.
For the cons:

  - the ecosystem is still quite young and has some sharp edges and/or missing docs; 

  - the OTP is magic for heavily parallel workloads, but it is also quite foreign and there will be some work to grasp its inner workings;

  - there are some quirks in the language coming from the Erlang runtime; 

  - I would love to have a static type system, although I see how it would conflict with the tenets of the OTP.
So all in all I might not recommend it for a very high stakes project; but otherwise, just go for it, it's great.


We’ve skipped so many additional things like Redis, Memcached, Sidekiq and tons of libraries because it’s so easy to write a module to replace stuff.

Switched from ruby to elixir 4 years ago and the only time we touch ruby is to maintain some old system.

It’s so darned easy to add functionality to an exiting app that you have to be careful of bloat.

And the functional paradigm is like second nature now. It’s hard to go back to a non functional language.


How do you deal with deployments and not losing things you could otherwise persist in Redis or Memcached? Of is your application stateless in that way?


It’s stateless in that way. We’ve redesigned things in such a way that there is more idempotency in the code that does not depends on an external holder of state that is not the primary database.

It’s hard to explain, but the end result is that we don’t reach for Redis as much as we used to.


If you are a RoR dev, Elixir will feel like a breeze. As someone who does Haskell in their day job, I miss static, powerful type-systems.

That being said, the ecosystem is wonderful. Plug, Phoenix and Ecto are exceptional libraries!!


Interesting to see someone work in Haskell professionally. Jobs in Haskell don't seem be plenty atleast in my area. Could I know what do you work on, and what was the process of obtaining a job there?


Do day jobs in Haskell actually exist? Are you working in academia?


There are a bunch but they call the Haskell "Scala" for some reason.


That's make me wonder: what's the "right" pronunciation for Haskell in English? Does it rhyme with Scala?


Depending on accent, I've heard "Haskell" rhyme with either "skull" or "fell".


There are some in finance


Lots of these newfangled blockchain businesses use Haskell. I'd wager probably most non-academic Haskell programmers work on blockchain stuff.


In 2016, we started to use Elixir as our default backend stack (from Ruby on Rails) for new projects and never looked back! We have since shipped a dozen projects using Phoenix, Ecto, Plug and Absinthe.


A couple of guys at my company did their first startup using Elixir years ago, but they weren’t devs so they had to contract a company to do it. They regret it now because no one at our company can work on it, and they have to rely on the contractors who charge a lot. Sure someone could learn it, but we’ve got more important things to do. As much as everyone on HN loves it, you’re going to have to work hard to get others involved. It really isn’t worth it unless you want to own it for the rest of its life.


Why did non devs choose the language of a product ? Sounds like a strange decision. Or it was the contractor's choice with its dev team waiting for years the opportunity to try Elixir.


I think they read about it on HN


> They regret it now because no one at our company can work on it

> Sure someone could learn it, but we’ve got more important things to do

If they can't give you 2 or 3 days to learn a language then they don't regret it that much I guess.


I'd say your unlikely to pick up the entirety of OTP in a few days, but agree that it should'nt be too daunting to train in it.


You usually don't need to understand the entirety of OTP to work on an elixir code base. For some Phoenix projects you don't even need to know what OTP is to get things done.


We started to use Elixir around mid 2016, we were mostly using rails/sidekiq stack at that point and started to face scaling issues with sidekiq. Moved small parts to Elixir first and then later started to use it for most of the new services. We had to create new libraries for some specific use cases. Apart from that, it was mostly smooth experience. We rarely had to tune or adjust the code for performance. Today we have a big monorepo with 20+ apps. My long term concerns are more about whether the tooling will work if we try to scale it to 100+ apps with a single monorepo.

We majorly depend on Plug, hackney, Exq, brod and Ecto.


I have been writing Elixir full time for over 4 years now and I could not be happier with the language and surrounding community! With an incredibly small team (just myself and one colleague working on the backend), we are able to develop and operate very high throughput applications that reliably handle over 100k requests/s (2 main web facing apps, plus a handful of supporting services). We generate millions of dollars of revenue for our customers each week, and sleep very well at night.


I still love it a few years in. Every project I've used it on has worked really nicely with low resource usage and close to zero maintenance. Switching from RoR to Phoenix/Elixir takes some learning, mostly due to the switch to functional programming, but it's worth it imo. Everything becomes so easy to reason about, test, debug, etc. You'll learn a lot from it and become a better developer in general even when going back to ruby/python afterward.


Highly relevant thread from less than a year ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23283675


I've been writing Elixir full time since March this year and I've loved it.

Here's a few of the highlights for me:

1. It makes me want to write more tests.

In other languages, I always defaulted to opening up a terminal to quickly hammer out something before implementing it and usually came back to the tests as an after thought. Sure with an IDE integration you can highlight and execute just the test you're looking at, but in many cases I found it clunky.

With Elixir, the entire test suite executes so fast that it's easier and faster to just work with the tests than hammer through things in the console.

For the situation where the console works better, you can copy the iex lines above your method as a code comment and that will run as a test when you run your test suite (so tests as documentation essentially).

Lastly on the test front, the assert_value library is incredibly helpful for hammering out first versions of unit tests.

2. After taking the Coding Gnome course from Dave Thomas, I love the approach to code structure.

Dave emphasizes thinking of the functionality of your application independently from the interfaces which access it. For example, the HTTP layer, a REST API, a Websocket layer, the command line, and an IEX terminal are all different interfaces.

Thinking of my code that way and developing around an internal API rather than doing something like REST first testing, etc has made things a lot cleaner for me. I'm also a big fan of the defdelegate approach for that internal API layer.

The libraries I've needed so far have been really solid, but I generally don't pull in libraries unless I really need them anyway. If I'm connecting to an API, I'd rather write the connections directly in most cases as I need them rather than pull in an API library directly for it. Gives me more control and better understanding of things and I like that. YMMV.

3. Tooling wise, VSCode has been great for me.

I've considered reaching for IntelliJ with the Elixir plugin, but as it stands right now I'm very happy with VSCode. It's been a great experience and all that I need on a day to day basis.

There's a lot more to say than that, but these are my biggest things that I'm liking so far.


Been building backend systems for nearly 20 years in Java/Ruby/Elixir. Elixir is by far the most productive language/ecosystem that I've used. I've built 4 systems in the last 5 years and they've all gone smoothly and performed well in production. Only thing on the wish list is full static typing (there's dialyzer which is useful but very much feels like the bolt-on that it is).


I don't use it professionally, but I built a side-project in Elixir a few years ago and was amazed at how much I was able to get done with such a little amount of code. The service is still running today with basically no maintenance. For me it was a great choice and I would totally build my next project with Elixir on the backend.


I think of this "applications don't need much maintenance" observation when reading some of the "libraries don't get updated often" complaints here. A lot of the libraries in the ecosystem are already super stable and that's a great thing!


I picked Elixir to develop Statuspal 4 years ago as a solo founder, I’m pretty happy with the decision so far, we’ve been in production for close that time and I feel very productive and enjoy it a lot.

That’s not to say we never encounter hiccups, we’ve been bitten by a few libraries getting unmaintained, a few drastic changes in Phoenix in the first years, and a hard time getting a proper deployment setup, but nowadays is much more mature.

Thanks to Elixir we got away with things like not needing to cache (for quite some time) with great performance and with little resources, not worrying about the app becoming slow if 6 people visit at the same time.

Hiring Elixir developers is not as easy as RoR devs but is doable, I had good experience in Elixir specific places like https://elixirjobs.net/ and Upwork to a lesser degree.


Having done python for many years and coming to Elixir the things that I find Elixir does really well are:

- mix and the general tooling (package management, testing, deployment)

- iex - specifically being able to run a shell at the same time as running my app. It makes it easy to test and explore code from the REPL

- documentation (both in iex and hexdocs) - Navigating Elixir documentation is standardized and easy

- Immutability - it took a while to get used to but now I wouldn't have it any other way


and the standard way of doing config is great.


Very satisfied with elixir and the ecosystem is growing! There are some performance concerns if you're doing a large amount of list or string manipulations but these are somewhat special cases and I tend to reach out to a Rust NIF to handle them which resolves the problem.


Somebody posted my post which sums up my experience a while ago[0]. In short: No regret, just make sure you are not building something that can be done twice faster with an existing Ruby library or so. But for a long-term team project, I would prefer Elixir codebase.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26702222


The only thing I don't like about Elixir is the fact that it doesn't come default on most distros so to use it even for scripting I need to pull strings to get it approved. Otherwise Elixir would replace Ruby for me wholesale

The comparisons to Ruby are a bit superficial. Having written and then torn apart highly abstracted code in Elixir, I would always try to keep my code as low abstraction as possible in Elixir which I need not really do in Ruby. Otherwise I find debugging concurrency problems very difficult (and yes, you can still create many concurrency problems in Elixir). If you are doing single-threaded stuff, there is almost no reason to use Elixir. I do like Phoenix better than Rails, but only marginally


There are things about Elixir I love, most of which come from the Erlang language (esp. their processes and gen behaviors). There are those I dislike (tooling is not where I'd like, tracing to underlying Erlang is hard sometimes).

There are projects where I'd choose Erlang or Elixir (typically M&S or HPC efforts where the processes really come into play, or real-time mission critical efforts where every minute of downtime could cost lives).

Most other projects are based on what the shop I'm in uses, or my personal preference for the task. I'm finding I'm choosing Rust more and more, outside of my day job, which is strictly C++ at the moment (but we're investigating Rust).


I am super happy with Erlang/Elixir, having build and run game backends, Kafka replicators, an ML platform (models in Python) and several social apps over the years. My story is a bit different but maybe interesting to contrast: I used to work with Ruby for years when I switched to Erlang 9 years ago. So for me the syntax was unfamiliar and the actor model was completely new. Elixir and Phoenix where not around so I started with processes, messages, gen_server and the like. I started building an Erlang-process load balancer, learning about mailboxes and supervision in the process. Later I switched to Elixir and felt reminded of the Ruby syntax, really liking it plus new things like the pipe operator. For me the biggest learning that needs to happen (apart from general FP) is on structuring applications. One way to think about it is having long-running micro services within the VM along with short-lived processes for small tasks like serving a single http request. I can see that coming from Ruby today and using Phoenix can give you a cozy feeling where you build stuff without thinking too much about OTP, processes and how the VM does things (scheduling, mailboxes, monitoring, GC, supervision, distribution). And I think that's totally fine unless you want to step outside the framework and really make use of all the things that set Erlang/Elixir apart. So maybe one way to get started today is looking at Erlang first, explicitly because it's unfamiliar.


Corroborate the "some libraries now feel unmaintained" view given elsewhere. Also the language itself and best practise seems to change now quite often and there's a bit of a tendency to do things in multiple ways through shorthand macros which can be a bit confusing (bit of the LISP problem going on here). That said the structure of my code is vastly better than when I was doing everything in Python trying to use multiprocessing and/or threads and/or asyncio.


Two years in, Elixir+Phoenix is an extremely productive setup for me.


So here's my experience as a hobbyist.

I really enjoyed using Elixir when it gained some traction around 2017-2018 and found the language to be beautiful. The documentation is also great. Here's a few reasons why I never kept using it for my own projects.

Most of the time Elixir feels like overkill. It's easier to use Node.js or Golang to create simple services or prototypes. The mental overhead of having to go from an imperative language to a functional one is high. Once I had paid that cost and gotten over the learning curve, I found it exhausting to write and didn't really feel like I was getting a lot of value.

Take BEAM processes and supervision trees for instance. Almost all of my projects are containerized, split into different services, and have some kind of redundancy on top. When I was deploying Node.js projects onto VPSs I almost always used Docker, systemd, or pm2. Once I started working with AWS regularly, I was using ECS and Lambda for everything. The ability to easily create discrete services and have redundancy for those services meant that I didn't really get a lot of value from having this single Elixir instance that is responsible for many things.

Take ETS: when I started using Elixir, I already had years of experience using Redis and preferred it to most in-memory data stores. I tried to give ETS a shot but found myself wanting the Redis API over and over. Thankfully, the Redix library was excellent and had great support for almost all Redis features, but it always felt like I was using Elixir incorrectly by not utilizing ETS.

Some other points that have already been iterated in other comments:

* Packages are very hit or miss. Sometimes a package will only have an Erlang counterpart and coding efficiently becomes harder if you don't know or understand Erlang well

* The IDE tooling is also hit or miss :( It sucks when your IDE starts to freeze or doesn't understand how to autofill certain things

* Environment configuration is kind of a pain. In the beginning it was really hard to tell what the initial starting point of my application was and how to feed in configuration values to those different parts of my app. I wish this part of Elixir was easier.

* Phoenix was just too much. It always felt like a massive framework and I would rather have had something closer to Koa (Node.js) or Mux (Golang).


> I would rather have had something closer to Koa

I'd just use Plug then. Not every tool suits every job


This is what I used when I used Elixir. But I can't say I prefer it to the other tools that are available in other languages. Pattern matching was cool, I guess.


No regrets, Elixir is a great language running in a rock-solid runtime, with such a nice community around it. Recommend that you give it a try.


I run GetToKnow (https://gettoknowapp.com) on Elixir.

It costs me $50/mo total (app + DB) and I can easily support 20k users across 250 organizations (some of whom are paid).

I'm basically ramen profitable overnight and my overhead is incredibly low. It's essentially pure profit.

With Ruby/Rails this would be at least x4 the cost.


I love Elixir, and personally like to use it for hobby projects, but I don't dare to use it in anything I plan to make a big deal out of. Not because it's bad, but because hiring another Elixir developer would be expensive as hell.

It's an amazing language but it's hard to hire for. I wouldn't want to pay someone the kind of money I get paid for it.


We’re very happy with it, essentially using it as a full-stack front-end though, rather than whole app. This is partly due to resourcing issues, partly due to having an aint-broke don’t fix rails service that Elixir replaced part of (our CMS, specifically). I think the rails service will stay, the benefit of porting is just too low as we’re a small team.


Functional programming is OK up to a certain degree of complexity... Good if you have a lot of junior developers on your team because it prevents certain kinds of mistakes which juniors tend to make. But many FP projects end up becoming a giant pile of spaghetti code eventually.

I think this is because FP doesn't put emphasis on separation of concerns like OOP does. FP advocates separating state from logic as being more important than separating concerns across components.

With OOP, if some piece of state concerns the same business domain as some piece of logic, then they should be co-located. On the other hand, FP will happily violate this principle in favour of keeping state and logic separate.

Having built highly complex, modular systems with OOP, I don't see how it would have been possible to implement these systems in such a modular way using FP... Co-locating related state and logic is absolutely essential to achieve modularity.

I have yet to see any complex FP system which was not spaghetti code.


Obvious troll is obvious but... I assure you there are many high complexity systems in production today using FP that are not spaghetti code. Just like there are OOP codebases which are spaghetti, abstractions are used or abused. I’ve seen both very bad and very good Ruby projects. OOP wasn’t the direct reason why they were one or the other.


OOP also leads to spaghetti code. Everything turns into a steaming pile of crap if you don’t work to avoid that reality.


Yes, but the difference is that OOP can scale indefinitely but FP cannot.

If you don't co-locate related state and logic, ensuring that each piece of state reaches the correct components becomes a logistical nightmare at scale (either needs to traverse many intermediate components or needs to be exposed globally to all components).

If you don't allow components to mutate state locally, you need a strategy to distribute all your data directly from external stores to the correct components and also a strategy to send state updates back to the relevant stores. When you have multiple components which share some of the same data, this is impossible to do in an efficient and reliable way because of the latency between the external store and the components (components risk overwriting each other's data by sending conflicting updates, for example).

It's a logistical nightmare, because, without co-locating state with logic in some components, you cannot control how state updates are combined and then applied onto the external store. Components have no awareness of each other so they cannot coordinate. Every read and write has to go through the external store which is both inefficient and unreliable when you factor in latency. (The idea of caching violates FP principles).

The advantage of co-located state is that it can be updated synchronously without any latency so there is no possibility of conflicts.


>> If you don't allow components to mutate state locally,

Code mutation is, in my personal experience, a shit show. With Elixir, you I have to worry about some random process mutating your data because it can't, as it's literally immutable. I have never, not a single time, wished I could mutate a data structure in Elixir, because I can think of no case where it makes my life easier. Even quasi-objects, in the C++/Java OOP sense, like GenServers w/ internal state may appear to be mutating data from the outside, but from the inside they still rely on copying the data to update the state. It's so much easier for me to reason about.

Maybe different things simply appeal to different people. I could make arguments for OOP being harder to scale, but maybe that's just true for how my brain works.


State mutations are safe and easy to handle if the state is fully contained inside a blackbox (a class) and you only return copies of the state but never the actual references.

A blackbox should never expose object references (its internal state) to its parent components. It should also avoid passing object references to child components unless it's sure that the child component will never mutate this state in an unexpected way.


Inherited a couple projects. Was interested at first, but now dislike it. At this point I think I'm just done with languages that don't have static typing. I hate having to remember or figure out things that my tools should just be able to tell me. Unproductive waste of time & effort.

We're not using it with Phoenix, but I'm also very, very done with RoR—after many years using it and getting sick of how dependably any long-lived RoR project I encountered turned into an onboarding-hell mess of "WTF does this do even? Which gem is this from? Is it from a gem?"—to which Elixir + Phoenix is often compared, so I don't think that would improve my experience.


Nice question, I'm just starting with Elixir for a side project. Has anyone else find it to have a steep learning curve? Coming from Java/Scala and Python, I find it harder to wrap around then Scala was years ago. Shortcuts with mix like mix phx actually make it a bit more complicated for me because I'm used to understanding what is exactly happening under the hood.


My biggest hurdle was being too impatient to learn how to code with immutable data. I banged my head on the desk for two days to get through what I felt was a trivial problem (something with updating files in S3), which I eventually rewrote in python in less than an hour.

Immutability (and the resulting maintainability and predictability) is really appealing to me, though. When I try it again, I think I'll focus on educating myself around the language upfront and not just learning as I go.

Everything else about the language, Phoenix, and the tooling was really nice.

For the same reasons as others have said, I would not pick Elixir for a business, though.


To answer your question, yes. My background is also primarily in Python (after brief flirtations with other languages during and shortly after college). When trying to learn Elixir (or Scheme, for that matter), my primary hurdle has been thinking in terms of idiomatic Elixir. The struggles aren’t with understanding the syntax (even for Scheme) but rather with understanding the typical patterns used such that I can start a project from scratch without heavy reliance on tutorial materials.

In other phrasing, I’ve quickly mastered the “draw three thin ovals” portion but am now stuck at “draw the rest of the phoenix”. Speaking of Phoenix, I also agree about “mix phx.gen” to be more magical than what I’m used to.


Getting hang of functional programming takes time. Writing code elixir way requires unlearning what you have learning from imperative languages.


I've used ocaml in the past and I not new to functional programming, but the whole Phoenix framework is somewhat confusing.


> Scala

Scala isn't exactly an imperative language. If anything it's the actor model isn't exactly easy to wrap your head around


> Java, Python

I was talking more about Java/Python. Also Scala has inheritance and OOP. Which don’t exist in elixir has only map.Map + additional field is struct in elixir.

Function capture, enumerations, pattern matching, implicit return and tuples returning status is what confuses new people.

Most try to implement some kind of inheritance in elixir.

Actor model is in OTP. Process, supervison, actor and messages are concepts of OTP. Elixir does not have actor in in its language constructs.

There is no replacement/alternative for OTP if you want distributed systems.

Many tried to reimplement Erlang in their languages and failed miserably.


I’m about 18 months in, and I’m still loving Elixir.


I like the pipe syntax a lot. I dislike the fake type system, it some how the worst of both worlds. I regret having an elixir project.


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