Month: August 2008

Compendium of Beginner Erlang Resources

Posted by on August 30, 2008

It seems like just yesterday I was just starting to dive into Erlang. Actually, it was only a few months ago, and Erlang resources were hard to come by! In addition to the lack of resources, there were a lack of blogs to help me along the way. The main purpose of this blog is to track my findings with Erlang, especially using it in a professional world, and help others learn what I have learned. As an added bonus, I’ll probably learn things from readers along the way, too.

To kick this blog off, I’ve compiled a list of resources that I used to jump into Erlang, and some additional resources I’ve found recently. They are in order of difficulty based on my personal opinion, to help you climb the Erlang mountain!

Before we even get started, you must watch Erlang: The Movie. Maybe its just because I’m such a nerd, but that movie hyped me up about Erlang. Once you have finished watching that… moving on…

The Resource List

The first two resources are not free, but if you are going to spend any money on learning Erlang, please keep in mind that you’re investing in a very powerful, unique language which fills a much needed role in the computing world. As for personal opinion, I highly recommend Joe Armstrong’s book. It is very broad and introduces you to the whole spectrum of Erlang which will provide you with a solid foundation that can jump-start your Erlang career.

At this time I’d like to point out that you should have a complete understanding of the syntax and general workings of Erlang the language. But learning the syntax is fairly useless if you don’t know the powerful tools Erlang gives you out of the box, and the general conventions you should follow while programming in Erlang. The following resources begin this journey…

  • Official Programming Examples - Gives a few examples of how to achieve common tasks. At the very least, you should try to write these yourself to get used to the style of Erlang.
  • OTP Design Principles - You will use the OTP behaviors and modules a lot so you should take your time to learn the right way to use them.
  • Erlang Man Pages - Okay… don’t actually read the entire thing. But bookmark this page! And at least read the big-name modules through, such as the OTP modules, application, erlang, etc. This is an invaluable resource while you’re working in Erlang trying to remember a method or lookup a method you don’t recognize.
  • Paul Nelson’s EUnit-Based Tutorials - Based on comments of this post, I’ve looked through and recommend Paul Nelson’s tutorials. He teaches Erlang through EUnit-focused tutorials. A great way to get acquainted with both the language and unit testing in Erlang.

Now you know Erlang syntax, general OTP usage, and you should have an idea of what Erlang programming “style” is. You should also know how to use EUnit to test your code.

Unfortunately, those are really all the useful beginner readable resources… really. If you know anymore that are useful, please comment and I’ll gladly add them to the list.

“What do I do now?”

You know the syntax, you know the basic modules, you know basic OTP, and you know some style, what do you do now? Easy! Check out some open source applications:

  • ejabberd - A jabber chat server. It will take a couple hours to really understand the source but my first job was hacking up ejabberd and I learned more than I ever thought possibly by reading only through this application. You should too!
  • RabbitMQ - Another messaging server, this time written on top of AMQP. Again, takes a few hours to dive in, but once you’re in, the knowledge you’ll gain is priceless.

That’s all I’ve got! If you have any questions, comments, or have any additions to make to the list, comment and I’ll gladly add them. Good luck!