A look back at “why OCaml”

My post describing why I was interested in OCaml was originally intended as an internal document at my office arguing that we should invest in an AltJS project. The failure of that effort was unfortunate, but the post opened up a gold mine of support. Not just once, but twice (we’ll get to that in a moment).

I saw confusion from people who hadn’t heard of OCaml, and some attackers, but plenty of people defending it. It was a fairly normal programming language discussion, to be honest, which struck me as impressive for a language that wasn’t mainstream and vindicated my choice.

Writing up my thoughts on this would’ve been a good idea three years ago, and certainly two years ago after the second traffic bump, but despite the probable lack of value in these links now I still want to get these thoughts out on record.

So let’s start with the morning after the post went up (due to time zones most of the discussion happened while I was asleep). I saw wordpress notifications that my stats were booming, most referrals pointing to this reddit thread. A coworker captured a screen shot of the hacker news front page for me, with discussion happening in this Hacker News thread. More than 15000 views on that single day.

hacker news blog post pos5.png

That was unbelievably cool. I found a discussion on lobsters, Erik Meijer tweeted about it, I enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame and participated in what remained of the discussion as best I could.

But almost a year later, in February 2015, it happened again:

blog view stats.png

Thanks to someone else posting it to Hacker News:

hacker news pos7.png

The total stats are what I really want to highlight. 18309 views in March 2014, plus another 15101 in February 2015, have raised this post to great exposure. It has legs, too, continuing to drive 100-200 views a month.

And yet I’ve been silent since then. Looking back at the two hacker news threads now, I don’t think I even read the 2015 comments in great detail. The failure of my efforts in 2014 pretty much lead to burnout on all coding outside of work hours. I didn’t even celebrate the 10th anniversary of creating this blog (November 2015). It was all just… nothing.

I was very excited about all of this in 2014. Thanks to some prompting from Jordan Walke on twitter, who gave me a really interesting gist link to the ocaml-based API that he was hoping to use for react, I embarked on creating a good quality ocaml-js wrapper. One that maintained pure ocaml as much as possible, unlike later efforts. I have kept it private all this time due to the embarrassing lack of progress since burning out, but it’s relevant now so here we go.


Note the distinct lack of commits after about a month. I am very proud however that the MyComponent file makes no reference to js_of_ocaml, and the example code only uses it to pass a DOM element to the render function. This is how web coding should be, and I’m very happy to see that it is the direction we’re headed.

So why am I surfacing now? In a similar parallel to last time, it’s because discussions at work have finally returned to AltJS. I have a new post brewing in my head about the current state of OCaml and JS, but I wanted to get this one out first. I’m doing it for my own record and for posterity, but feel free to get the discussions rolling again 😀

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