Update your petname database

7 views
Skip to first unread message

Christine Lemmer-Webber

unread,
Jul 27, 2021, 3:38:45 PMJul 27
to fr...@googlegroups.com
I haven't been on Friam for a while, and that's been because I've been
busy but also working through some other things. I do hope to appear
again soon though.

As you might guess by the change in the "From:" field on this email,
names and appearances have been adjusted, but the domain of work remains
the same... still hacking on distributed object capability / actor
things, particularly within the domain of social network type things. :)

- Chris[tine]

PS: Pronouns are the popular topic around gender things these days.
Feminine or non-binary pronouns welcome. But I'll take a moment to make
things a bit more Friam'ish, since we like to talk about language
design. Well, crossing between the domains of natural and programming
languages, what purpose, structurally, does a pronoun serve?

I've found Lojban to be a very interesting language in this regard in
its clarity. Pronouns are (mostly) scoped temporary variables! Some do
signify distance, the speaker, or the listener (equivalent to I, you,
this, that). But pronouns also exist as a kind of "let binding" to
which accumulative information about a subject may be attached
(equivalent to it, he, she, they, etc). Neither gender nor plurality is
essential to attach by default, but may be attached. More here:

https://mw.lojban.org/papri/ELG._Pronouns#Assignable_pro-sumti_and_pro-bridi:_the_ko.27a-series_and_the_broda-series

Bill Frantz

unread,
Jul 28, 2021, 8:15:05 PMJul 28
to fr...@googlegroups.com
Christine - Welcome back. I look forward to seeing you again online.

On 7/27/21 at 12:38 PM, cwe...@dustycloud.org (Christine
Lemmer-Webber) wrote:

>Well, crossing between the domains of natural and programming
>languages, what purpose, structurally, does a pronoun serve?

From the point of view of capability security, cryptography,
etc. pronouns simplify the description of protocols. We have our
familiar cast of characters: Alice, Bob, Carol, and Dave. Now
we, after introducing them, we can say, "She sends him a nonce."
or some such. My experience is that using pronouns in these
descriptions, rather than repeating the name, makes the
protocols easier to understand.

Cheers - Bill

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Bill Frantz | I like the farmers' market | Periwinkle
(408)348-7900 | because I can get fruits and | 150
Rivermead Rd #235
www.pwpconsult.com | vegetables without stickers. |
Peterborough, NH 03458

Christine Lemmer-Webber

unread,
Jul 28, 2021, 10:14:32 PMJul 28
to fr...@googlegroups.com, Bill Frantz
Bill Frantz writes:

> Christine - Welcome back. I look forward to seeing you again online.
>
> On 7/27/21 at 12:38 PM, cwe...@dustycloud.org (Christine
> Lemmer-Webber) wrote:
>
>>Well, crossing between the domains of natural and programming
>>languages, what purpose, structurally, does a pronoun serve?
>
> From the point of view of capability security, cryptography,
> etc. pronouns simplify the description of protocols. We have our
> familiar cast of characters: Alice, Bob, Carol, and Dave. Now we,
> after introducing them, we can say, "She sends him a nonce." or some
> such. My experience is that using pronouns in these descriptions,
> rather than repeating the name, makes the protocols easier to
> understand.

I agree that in the Alice-Bob case, this provides significant
compression. Note that "she" becomes ambiguous once Carol is introduced
and lazy reliance on gender as a differentiator might result in
ambiguities.

Note that the Lojban solution I pointed to does possibly a bit better at
this structurally: by binding to a *specific* temporary variable,
compression can be gained.

Of course, we are unlikely to rewrite our protocols in Lojban, but I
think it's an interesting mental exercise for those of us interested in
those sorts of things.

Dale Schumacher

unread,
Jul 30, 2021, 11:37:53 AMJul 30
to fr...@googlegroups.com
Welcome back, Christine!

FWIW, I've used he/they pronouns for years, in recognition of the fact that singular "they" has always been a valid alternative for anyone.

I don't actually see much compression from "Alice/Bob" to "she/he", really only one syllable at most. I agree that pronouns serve as very weak locally-scoped variables, and gender provides a tiny bit of distinction. But I would prefer to downplay any implicit discrimination historically associated with gendered labels.

Identifiers like "Alice", "Bob", "Carol", "Mallory", etc. are _already_ more specific meta-variables for roles in an abstract interaction.


--
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "friam" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to friam+un...@googlegroups.com.
To view this discussion on the web visit https://groups.google.com/d/msgid/friam/874kcdrhmh.fsf%40dustycloud.org.

Raoul Duke

unread,
Jul 30, 2021, 12:01:58 PMJul 30
to fr...@googlegroups.com
from a usability standpoint, i have always found pronouns in 'instructions' (explanations, tutorials, whitepapers, whatever) to kinda just evil because they allow for too much potential confusion. (slight reductions in possible ambiguity from gender are hardly sufficient.) 

Mark S. Miller

unread,
Jul 30, 2021, 2:07:29 PMJul 30
to fr...@googlegroups.com
Verbally, someone in a technical discussion will often start explaining things with pronouns. To the speaker it is always clear which pronoun refers to which entity, so when speaking quickly it is easy to miss how confusing it is to the listeners. At Agoric we often interrupt the speaker with "pronoun alert", forcing them to start over again with names for the roles. It has worked very well.


On Fri, Jul 30, 2021 at 9:01 AM Raoul Duke <rao...@gmail.com> wrote:
from a usability standpoint, i have always found pronouns in 'instructions' (explanations, tutorials, whitepapers, whatever) to kinda just evil because they allow for too much potential confusion. (slight reductions in possible ambiguity from gender are hardly sufficient.) 

--
You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "friam" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to friam+un...@googlegroups.com.

Christine Lemmer-Webber

unread,
Aug 8, 2021, 9:15:42 AMAug 8
to fr...@googlegroups.com
I just wanted to say that I appreciate how welcoming and supportive
everyone has been, both on the mailing list and on the phone call last
Friday. Friam is the last community I have interactions with some
significant regularity and I was nervous about how people would react.
A lot of my work has grown out of nice experiences with this
community... I was afraid that a bad experience could make the
continuation of that difficult. Thankfully everyone was really nice.

So thanks everyone. I do appreciate it.

Now back to talking about programming languages and operating systems
(and whether those two things are even different)! :)

- Christine
Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages