The Mashup Men

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018-02-06 08:00:00-05:00 No comments

I re-read the previous post about creating a new, albeit tiny, programming language, and realized a lot of my ambitions in miniature for such a thing were patterned after the way I've approached many other creative projects. I look at what's out there, and I ask myself: what are the best things from all that I like, and how could they come together to make something new?

Some of the books I've written were in some sense critical responses to the genres that influenced them. Flight Of The Vajra was both a love letter to and a critique of the wide-gauge space opera, for instance. I didn't want to turn my back on any of the ingredients that could be found there, but rather try to do what I felt would be better justice to them than I'd seen elsewhere. Whether or not I succeeded is something I leave up to the reader — my whole feeling was, let's try this and see how it sounds as the next round in that particular conversation.

The same goes for software. Mercury (which runs this blog) was my response to WordPress, and "Aki" (the language I'm mulling now) is my response to Python and a slew of other things in the same vein. They're all meant to be evolutionary by intention and design, if only because I have more faith in my ability to improve incrementally on existing designs than to create something entirely new. Shoulders of giants and all that.

Most of the really amazing, transformative changes in information technology didn't happen because of some big, overarching schema. They tended to involve people making toolsets that could be easily repurposed and combined with each other. Ted Nelson's vision of "Xanadu", and before that Vannevar Bush's "Memex", came about in a more or less ad-hoc way courtesy of Tim Berners-Lee and the protocols of the WWW. Build tools to make things possible; build things so that you can build new tools using those things.

The same goes for storytelling, now that I think about it. When you tell a new story, you're also telling, however incrementally, a new kind of story too. Sometimes it's only new in the most minor of ways; sometimes it's radically new, and not always in a way that author can anticipate. But either way, it can become a base from which to build other things, a learning experience that a future creator-to-be can draw on. Build a good story that people will care about, and they will not only take it to heart as a leisure experience, but as a lesson for how they can go further in their own work.

Tags: creativity programming software technology