June 13th, 2009


Lighting talks and other silliness

Wednesday night I joined a friendly gather of dynamic language fans for an evening of lightning talks at BCS HQ in Central London. It's easy when you're part of a specific language community to lose track of the broader divisions in programming so it was interesting seeing the perspective of Perl, SmallTalk and JavaScript users on many of the issues we battle with in the Ruby community. Some of the Perl code even looked intelligible ;p

I was particularly interested in the coverage of how SmallTalk handles data persistence. Don't get me wrong, Ruby has several powerful ORMs that fulfil the basic database persistence needs of developers adequately, but to be honest I find them all hard work in one way or another. Mostly they require me to do lots of procedural stuff that really ought to be automatic and whilst I suspect the SmallTalk answers will have their own shortcomings they may spark a few ideas. Anyway that's slated for further research when I can grab some down-time, which by the look of things may not be until the autumn.

The most thought-provoking talk of the evening was on genetic algorithms in Perl, and I really wish I could remember the speaker's name as we had a long chat afterwards in the pub. I know a bit about GA from years back, but suddenly it all seems to be in much better focus. Unfortunately I now have this urge to use the technique with function calls in an AST and brew self-evolving applications. I'm not entirely sure how useful that would be, but I suspect a very deep rabbit-hole awaits sometime in the future.

The net.goth posse were pretty well represented. Kitty gave a quick rundown of P5VM, a port of Perl to the JVM, and Zefram run through some of the weird type collision that are possible with Perl's bless function. The latter talk made me glad that in Ruby we use message passing as I imagine DuckTyping in Perl must be a right pain. I'm not sure if Joel counts as one of the collective (truth be told I'm massively out of the loop on that sort of thing) but I'll include his quick rundown of ECMAScript for XML here anyway - just for the cool t-shirt.

My former colleague Tim gave an interesting overview of Shoes, a Ruby GUI I've spoken about previously at RailsConf Europe. Of course being a graphic designer originally he makes it all look incredibly easy.

I gave the five-minute version of my Goruco presentation, with an undue emphasis on writing Ruby code like you would C :) That's not what I actually do with this stuff, but it's always good for cheap laughs.

Later we all retired to the pub where much beer was consumed and then it was off the the N29 back home, arguing drunkenly with Zefram over something or other. All in all a fun evening.
sexy cool

I'm off to Texas in August

The nice folks at Lone Star Ruby Conference accepted my proposal for a tutorial on Ruby and Unix called Things You Really Shouldn't Do With Ruby But Can. I get three hours on a Thursday afternoon to teach all kinds of weird tricks that probably aren't safe to a random assortment of Ruby lovers. The upside of that is that it follows Rich Kilmer's Hot Ruby session so I can hopefully lig my way into that and get a deeper understanding of MacRuby.

I'm kinda nervous as I've never given a three-hour tutorial before - at uni I found the occasional forty-five minute seminar bad enough - but I'm hoping that I can get everything I want to cover into an interesting format.

Still no news though on whether I'll be at Rails Underground next month in London. I'd really like to get on the bill there as it's a chance to do an updated version of the Ruby Plumber's Guide and would be yet more useful experience. Fingers crossed that happens.