The creator of Apple’s Swift programming language stayed involved in the Swift core team and Evolution community… until this week. Though he’d left Apple more than five years ago, “Swift is important to me, so I’ve been happy to spend a significant amount of time to help improve and steer it,” Lattner wrote in an explanatory comment on the Swift community forum. “This included the ~weekly core team meetings (initially in person, then over WebEx)…”
The tech news site DevClass notes Lattner is also “the mind behind compiler infrastructure project LLVM,” but reports that “Apparently, Lattner hasn’t been part of the [Swift] core team since autumn 2021, when he tried discussing what he perceived as a toxic meeting environment with project leadership after an especially noteworthy call made him take a break in summer.”
“[…] after avoiding dealing with it, they made excuses, and made it clear they weren’t planning to do anything about it. As such, I decided not to return,” Lattner wrote in his explanation post. Back then, he planned to keep participating via the Swift Evolution community “but after several discussions generating more heat than light, when my formal proposal review comments and concerns were ignored by the unilateral accepts, and the general challenges with transparency working with core team, I decided that my effort was triggering the same friction with the same people, and thus I was just wasting my time.”
Lattner had been the steering force behind Swift since the language’s inception in 2010. However, after leaving Apple in 2017 and handing over his project lead role, design premises like “single things that compose” seem to have fallen by the wayside, making the decision to move on completely easier for language-creator Lattner.
The article points out Lattner’s latest endeavour is AI infrastructure company Modular.AI.
And Lattner wrote in his comment that Swift’s leadership “reassures me they ‘want to make sure things are better for others in the future based on what we talked about’ though….”
Swift has a ton of well meaning and super talented people involved in and driving it. They are trying to be doing the best they can with a complicated situation and many pressures (including lofty goals, fixed schedules, deep bug queues to clear, internal folks that want to review/design things before the public has access to them, and pressures outside their team) that induce odd interactions with the community. By the time things get out to us, the plans are already very far along and sometimes the individuals are attached to the designs they’ve put a lot of energy into. This leads to a challenging dynamic for everyone involved.
I think that Swift is a phenomenal language and has a long and successful future ahead, but it certainly isn’t a community designed language, and this isn’t ambiguous. The new ideas on how to improve things sounds promising — I hope they address the fundamental incentive system challenges that the engineers/leaders face that cause the symptoms we see. I think that a healthy and inclusive community will continue to benefit the design and evolution of Swift.
DevClass also reported on the aftermath:
Probably as a consequence of the move, the Swift core team is currently looking to restructure project leadership. According to Swift project lead Ted Kremenek… “The intent is to free the core team to invest more in overall project stewardship and create a larger language workgroup that can incorporate more community members in language decisions.”
Kremenek also used the announcement to thank Lattner for his leadership throughout the formative years of the project, writing “it has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to work with Chris on Swift.”
In 2017 Chris Lattner answered questions from Slashdot’s readers.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.