Top 10 Resources For Getting Started with Erlang

These are the top ten resources that helped me when I started learning Erlang. I've not ordered them within the list because they complement each other.

These are the top ten resources that helped me when I started learning Erlang.  I've not ordered them within the list because they complement each other. Your mileage may vary.  Other Erlangers opinions may differ. These helped me greatly though. I cannot stress enough that there is no substitute for making.  The below will help you much more if you start out trying to solve with Erlang some problem you know about.  Decompose it into very small pieces and take each piece one at a time.  For some more info on that see the post introducing the concept of Deliberate Practice.

1. Learn You Some Erlang

I started learning Erlang back in 2009 at about the same time Learn You Some Erlang chapters started being posted by Fred Trottier-Hebert.  This is the first place I'd recommend someone go when they are learning Erlang, especially if they have good prior software writing experience.  I found LYWSE easy to understand and packed with detail.  Sometimes it goes into too advanced details for a beginner, but you can skip these and come back to them when you are ready.

2. Joe Armstrong's Thesis

Reading this thesis is drinking direct from the source.  Joe Armstrong is one of the three fathers of Erlang.  The other two are Bjarne Da ̈cker and Robert Virding.  Reading A History of Erlang (PDF) by Joe Armstrong won't teach you Erlang, but it's a very interesting read.

3. The Erlang Web Site has some good examplesthe OTP Design Principles User Guide, the Erlang Reference Manual, the documentation for the Erlang OTP libraries (Erlang's stdlib), and an online self-paced course.

4. The Erlang-Questions Mailing List

The people on this list are very helpful.  Chances are that your question has been asked before, so search the archives first.  As with any mailing list it can take time to get an answer, so I tend to just use the archive.  The FAQ, a link to the archives and instructions for subscribing are on their web site:

5. Free E-Books and Other Web Resources

The following books are good to use for times when you don't have time to get into the coding zone, or when you want to deep dive into a particular topic.

I remember going through some others, but it's been a long time and I don't remember them.  If you read this and know of a good (and legal) e-book link then please post it in the comments and I'll add it below here, with credit.

6. Commercial Books and Podcasts

I bought some of the books on this list, borrowed others.  They are all recommended, but in this economy it's important to stress you don't need them to learn Erlang, but they will make your learning Erlang easier.


7. Online Q&A sites

If you have a question while learning Erlang the chances are someone else has had it as well.  It's also good when you don't have a specific question but you have some time to spend on learning.  When that happens go to one of these Q&A sites and search for unanswered Erlang questions, pick one, and then research it until you have an answer.   Once you have an answer you can go back to the question and post your answer if there isn't one yet.

Stackoverflow is probably the best known Q&A site.  It is a great source for detailed Erlang information in their Erlang questions. They also have a decent number of unanswered Erlang questions at any one time.

Another less well-known site is Quora (requires login via Twitter or Facebook).  They are getting more popular and are more focused on social connections than score, whereas StackOverflow is focused more on the score.  They a tag so you can find Erlang questions, but I've not found a link for unanswered questions, only for open Erlang questions.

8. Twitter

Twitter is always a great source for information, and for a dialogue with people that may be able to answer your questions.  Feel free to follow me and tweet me if you have a problem.  I also try to retweet anything on Erlang that I find interesting.  My Twitter id is BillBarnhill

9. Source Code

The best way to learn a language is by making useful software using that language.  The second best way is to read good code, trace how it runs, and re-read until you understand what it does.  Often this will lead into writing code to get the software to scratch a particular itch you have.  The best source code to read in my opinion is the OTP sources, for the sole reason that they will be what you interact with the most.  The second best is the Github account of Basho and the repos in it, because these folks know their stuff.

10. Erlang Projects I Recommend

This one isn't a resource as much as some recommendations from me on projects to learn about byt looking at the materials the developers publish, the source code, and building.

Web servers and frameworks

For web serving I recommend Cowboy.  I started out on Yaws, then switched to Misultin for most things, Mochiweb for some others.  When Misultin went away I switched to Cowboy and haven't looked back.   There's some caveats though.  Riak uses Webmachine and Mochiweb, and if you want to use Erlang professionally you need to know Riak. So you need to at least be comfortable with WebMachine and Mochiweb.  The web framework Nitrogen lets you use Mochiweb or Yaws, and you should learn Nitrogen.  Once you learn Nitrogen I suggest you learn Zotonic, which is a Content Management System (CMS) like Drupal and is built on top of Nitrogen.  If you are coming from Rails, or want something that feels similar, then I suggest checking out the Chicago Boss web framework.

I'll add subsections here later as I get time.

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10 October 1990 - 10:11:12 10 October 1990