Lang.NET Highlights

Thu 31 January 2008

Jason Bock and Ted Neward did a good job summarizing specific talks, so I won't duplicate that effort. Overall, I loved the conference, it was revitalizing for me. The speakers varied greatly in their presentation skills, but I actually liked the "texture" that gave the conference; you definitely didn't have the feeling of homogenized content. There were only two talks that struck me as near-useless and, from me, that's high praise. Most impressive technologies:

  • Newspeak by Gilad Bracha. I was utterly blown away by this. I never thought I'd think "Wow, that looks better than LISP for building languages!"
  • \<a href=""" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intentional Software as presented (and explained at the bar) by Magnus Christerson. I think I finally "get" intentional programming and, with that epiphany, reverse from being extraordinarily skeptical of its value to being extraordinarily impatient about getting my hands on it.

Most impressive application:

  • ResolverOne from Giles Thomas and Resolver Systems. Hands-down brilliant. The top half of the screen is a spreadsheet, something familiar to 100,000,000 users. The bottom half of the screen is a programming editor. Click in the programming editor, type:
  def foo(v) : 
 return v + 1

Click on the spreadsheet, put "1" in A1, and in A2 "=foo(A1)" and see the results of your Python function. Look back in the programming editor and see your spreadsheet expressed programmatically. I intend to write more about Resolver soon. Like OneNote, this is one of those applications that give you a shock of recognition -- "Yes! This is what I want!" -- and makes you lament how much effort we spend gilding lilies in our industry when we ought to be spending our time out trying to come up with this kind of real innovation. (Plus: it's a fascinating development story... More tk.)

Stupidest Thing I Said: "Why did the OLPC choose to emphasize Python when it ships with Smalltalk and Smalltalk is clearly a better--" At which point I was struck by a sock filled with quarters. Now, in defense, the sentence I'd intended to complete was not, as my assailants later asserted, "--language" (Hey, I'm the one wrote wrote "The myth of better programming languages") but "-- learning environment?" But even so, after Jim Hugunin's talk (in which it took him three lines of code to import the XNA framework, XBox controller library, and Microsoft Robotics Studio connection) and Giles Thomas' talk (Resolver), I withdraw from the field.

Second-Stupidest Thing I Said: "Intentional Software? Simonyi's galley slaves? Those guys are the Duke Nukem 3D of programming -- they'll never ship!" "Well... actually we're in beta now, and have you seen the boat? It's quite nice."

P.S. I had to leave at mid-day Friday, meaning that I missed several talks that might have been highlights -- I was very much hoping to hear Chuck Esterbrook's talk on \<a href=""" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cobra, which takes Eiffel-style Contracts and extends them with integrated test-specification (finally!).