Major webapps driven by speech impediment

More proof that I should’ve done more Emacs hacking way back when…a couple of years-old articles on Paul Graham’s website (Beating the Averages and Carl de Marcken: Inside Orbitz reveal that a couple of high-profile web apps are driven by Lisp engines.
I’m a bit surprised that there’s not a massively tuned SQL engine driving Orbitz, but I should have known better. The flight search problem, though a computationally intense one, is pretty well bounded – you don’t need the flexibility of an ad-hoc query language, you need raw speed.
This also drives home the point that the cost-benefit crossover point between algorithmic improvments and more/faster hardware is pretty far to the right, by which I mean that when faced with a choice you had better spend the first pile of money on engineering time rather than bigger iron.

2 thoughts on “Major webapps driven by speech impediment

  1. Netcraft confirms: LISP is dead
    My favorite Paul Graham article is the one where he talks about how to hire the best programmers. He starts out kind of general, but by the end you start to realize that all the best programmers are actually Paul Graham.

  2. Eric Sink posted a nice counterpoint to that one, stating what is obvious to me: great hackers don’t necessarily make great hires. (see I think they’re using two very different sets of premises. Graham’s world is that of heavy algorithms and hairy problems. Such exeptional situations require the far right tail of the talent curve, and I’d venture to say that the problems are so hairy that potential users are thrilled with any potential solution. Sink runs an ISV that makes version control software. User focus is a lot more important, productivity is important, but (again I venture to say) that the hacker nature takes a back seat to more mundane developer talents.
    This is a paradox I bump into regularly – innovative solutions often come from playing around, but if we play around long enough to get something good, we’ve just ignored a raft of mundane but productive and user-important stuff we should have been doing.

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