The Art of the Nothingburger

Originally published at:

I have been very busy with my other main interest, my attempt to resuscitate the venerable JavaCC project, so progress on resuscitating FreeMarker is rather stalled right now. A while back, I wrote a history of the JavaCC project, and in so doing, I realized that there was a concept that I certainly understood (by…

Nothingburger Status Confirmed for JavaCC
I was reading “Instantiating JavaCC Tokenizers/Parsers to Read from Unicode Source Files” by Kenneth R. Beesley (Feb 2005) and noticed how many times he complained about the “lamentable” state of JavaCC’s documentation. He goes on to state, “I have urged that this file be removed from the distribution, but without success.” And later says, “The out-of-date documentation files…refer to the four stream classes … which have also been obsolete since JavaCC 2.1.”
I am impressed Almost two decades of Nothingburger status!
Thanks for all your hard work on JavaCC21!

Hi, thanks for the comment!

I think the most extreme manifestation of their nothingburgerism is here:

I think that’s quite entertaining, albeit in a rather cruel, cynical way maybe. Laughter in the dark kinda… I suppose some people react negatively to me writing a blog post like that. After all, there is the old homily about: “If you have nothing good to say…”

But finally, I think these things just have to be said. This is actually a kind of plague out there, these people who sit on well known open source projects and act as gatekeepers, never letting anybody competent come in and do anything. I don’t know why these people do that really. I guess the project “maintainers” believe there is some sort of “prestige” in that role and that it is some sort of viable self-promotion platform for them. Maybe it is. I don’t know.

But the other thing is that, for some reason, people won’t call these things out. On the one hand, I see no reason to even try to conceal the extent to which I despise those people. On the other hand, I also feel pity for them. Being a nothingburger artist is such a pathetic, wretched thing.

It’s more understandable in a corporate or bureaucratic context – that there are these incompetent people who have to go through the motions and pretend that they are doing some meaningful work. That’s understandable because it’s a paid job and so on. But it’s such a depressing, wretched sort of way to make a living surely… but okay, one can understand it.

But then why people would enter an all-volunteer project that is unpaid to behave like this… that is really very hard for me to understand. Granted, if they aren’t going to ever really do anything meaningful, it is not such a huge time commitment, but they still spend some time on this.

But that legacy JavaCC project is really a kind of uber-nothingburger. It was open-sourced by Sun back in 2003. And it was a nothingburger project from day one. One can see that in the commit log. So, in 17 years (!) they went through 4 or 5 whole point release cycles, from 3.x to 7.x and none of that “activity” introduces a single new feature! None of it embodies a single new idea! And there are longstanding bugs, like the one in “A Bug’s Life” that must have been in the code for over 2 decades and the fix is a single character!

Frankly, I think it’s hard to characterize the whole thing as anything other than a fraud. That said, I have the sense that, in their own minds, they are not perpetrating a fraud. This relates to the human mind’s capacity for self-delusion. Also, I have to guess that they think that being associated with such a “project” enhances their professional reputations. Maybe it does even, but in a sane world, it wouldn’t!

Well, anyway, that’s just me ranting. It’s hard to resist the temptation sometimes! I’ll answer your other question about ATTEMPT/RECOVER now…