The Rest Of The Story

29 Nov 2011

About a week ago, I mentioned in passing to an old co-worker on Twitter that Yammer was moving some of our stack from Scala to Java. A few days later, Donald Fischer (the CEO of Typesafe) emailed me at my personal account, asking for more details. He CC'ed Martin Odersky, the lead designer of Scala and Typesafe’s Chief Architect. Given that the two people best-situated to improve Scala had just asked me about my experience over the past two years of using Scala, I wrote a long, considered, brutally honest response.

In the process of composing that email, I asked a few personal friends to review a draft of it. One of those friends shared that draft with someone else, who shared it with someone else, etc. etc. and today I woke up to find my email to Donald and Martin splashed across Hacker News and Twitter. I deleted the gist, but the cat was out of the bag, and now I find myself having to publicly explain the context of a private conversation.

I wrote that email for a very specific reason: Donald asked me for my opinion. If someone asks me for an honest opinion of them or their work, in private, I feel morally compelled to be as honest as I can with them. The only way we can ever know how we appear to other people is through other people; the only way we can know what others think of what we build is to ask and listen to them. The fundamental asymmetry of consciousness means triangulation is the only path to understanding. Anyone running a business understands this, at some level: what customers say does not by itself constitute objective reality, but does offer critical insight into it that one is essentially incapable of discovering by oneself.

But it’s simplistic and naive to assume that I wrote what I did in an unguarded moment and that somehow this represents a more truthful account of what I’d say in public. The most that you can possibly know about this is the text of my email to Donald and Martin, not the context.

Yes, that email is not what I would say in public. The Scala community needs another giant blog post about ways in which someone doesn’t like Scala like I need a hole in my head, and I’d rather suck a dog’s nose dry than lend a hand to the nerd slapfights on Hacker News. The world has yet to take me aside and ask me for my opinion of it, and in the past few years I’ve found that it’s far more profitable to build things rather than tilt at windmills.

So.

Should you use Scala? Is Java better?

(You’re asking the wrong questions.)