RocketNIA.com: Virtual Index of Ross Angle

I'm Ross Angle, otherwise known as rocketnia or Nia. Some people might know me from the Racket programming language community's Slack or Discord channels, or from the Arc Forum. Some people might know me from being a casual onlooker in the interactive fiction world. I consider myself a fan of character-centric tomfoolery fiction and colorful platform games, and yet I often enjoy these things for the plot. I love discovering ways to combine things that brings out the unique advantages they all have, so it's no surprise that I'm a fan of obscure combo decks in Magic: The Gathering.

I have many of my own creative projects, like story and game ideas, that I occasionally tinker on. Many of them are so ambitious that I don't know if I'll ever finish them. I spend a lot of my time working not directly on these projects, but on reusable tools that can facilitate many creative works all at once. Many of my dream projects have extensionality as a central feature, like a rules-enforcing tabletop game engine where people can add their own new cards or house rules, so coming up with languages or APIs for those extension facilities is an essential part of the project.

For these reasons and more, I've devoted a lot of my hobby energy to designing and developing new programming languages. (I've actually been doodling language designs ever since I first learned programming, so perhaps I like it for its own sake.)

Most programming ecosystems rely on tools that have complex, unspecified behavior that's only implemented for one platform. Many of those tools don't offer realistic paths to gradually improve or replace them without starting over. I consider a simple internal representation, a deterministic module system, and modularity-respecting language extension (e.g. a hygienic macro system) to be essential ways to let programmers upgrade and replace the language they're using. Unfortunately, module systems are usually ad hoc and full of global namespaces (such as search paths) and opportunities for side effects that interfere with deterministic module composition. Macro systems, meanwhile, are rarely hygienic and rarely facilitate good error messages or incremental compilation.

The lambda calculus is capable of being given higher-dimensional semantics for (space-indexed) distributed programming, (time-indexed) reactive programming, and (homotopic path-indexed) mechanized proofs of program compatibility. In spite of this, most programming languages have unsound type systems and allow the pervasive use of imperative side effects, which impedes their ability to take advantage of this design space.

There are amazing developments in programming languages all the time, but there's a lot of room to improve.

The languages I've made aren't silver bullets. Not yet, anyway! :-p I am just one person, and for most of my time designing these, I've been content with low-quality error messages and highly unconventional workflows that I don't expect others to care for. For instance, I've written many of my compilers in JavaScript so that I could run them from an HTML page on a mobile device. Even the static site generator I built for this website can be run that way, using inter-frame communication as a makeshift module system.

I've been spending the past few years polishing up my practices (and continuing to explore). The compiler for my language Cene can be installed from npm and run from the command line, which makes it a lot more like other programming languages and makes it easier to integrate into continuous integration and deployment setups. I've been doing an extensive rewrite of Cene to improve the provenance-tracking of error messages and to give it a module system with separate compilation support. In the process of doing this, I've untangled many of my programming language ideas into individual Racket libraries and written documentation for them so that they can be understood independently from each other.

One of the most intense projects from late 2016 to early 2021 has been Punctaffy. What started out as an idea for factoring out parts of a string template DSL language into individual libraries turned out to require quite a few concepts from category theory before I could be confident in the design approach and implement it with the generality I expected it to have. The basic idea is that, like a "program with holes in it," we might think about having a "program-with-holes-in-it with (program-with-holes-in-it)-shaped holes in it" and so on. See the intro page for a more practical introduction and the motivation page for several places I think this concept will come in handy in the future.

Now that Punctaffy is working, I'm excited to get back to some more creative projects.

How you can find me

Feel free to contact me over email at rokitna?hotmail.???.

If you want to read programming discussions I've participated in, there are several old posts I've made on the Arc Forum as rocketnia and Lambda the Ultimate as Ross Angle. Lately I've been participating in the Racket community's Slack and Discord, which aren't as easy to link to.

Occasionally I update my open source repos, my programming blog, and (least frequently) this website.

My open source repositories are actually split into a few places:

  • My own GitHub profile.
  • The Era platform organization on GitHub, which I made to collect my general-purpose language projects into one place. The two main languages are Era (still little more than scattered notes at this point) and Cene.
  • The Lathe organization on GitHub, which I made to collect the various libraries I'm building to serve as demonstrations and infrastructure for the ideas in the Era language projects.

Watching my commits to these repos is probably the best way to find out about my latest progress and ideas.

About Me
In-Browser Utilities
Libraries for Racket
  • Punctaffy: Higher-dimensional parentheses
  • Interconfection: Deterministic concurrency for module systems
  • Lathe Ordinals: Ordinal numbers
  • Parendown: Indentation reduction
  • Lathe Comforts: Various utilities
Various Experiments
Me on the Web

© 2005–2010, 2012, 2017, 2021 Ross Angle (rocketnia)

This page was last updated 7-Mar-2021.