Dynamic Stockholm

22 Oct 2010

There was a mini-conference a couple of days ago called Dynamic Stockholm, which was about dynamic programming languages.

It started at four o’clock, and I missed the first presentation by Mikael Kindborg. I guess it was similar to the one I have heard before.

I arrived at the venue at Kastellholmen (an islet close to the city center), midway through Niklas Björnerstedt’s talk about agile software releases. It didn’t seem that connected to the theme, but Niklas’s Twitter handle is smalltalk80, so I guess that’s his connection to the event.

Julian Fitzell’s talk about Seaside was interesting, because it’s a web framework with a different approach, using a programming language with a different approach; Smalltalk.

The most interesting talk this day was about Groovy. I didn’t expect much, but Niklas Lindström’s presentation convinced me that Groovy is a much more powerful language than I had wrongly assumed. If you’re in a Java environment, it’s definitely worth a look.

Henrik Hjelte spoke about Common Lisp. I was hoping to get an understanding about what’s so great about it, because some people are so in love with it. Sure, macros seem great, but if it comes at the price of unreadable code, I’m not so sure that it’s worth it. Unfortunately Henrik’s speedy presentation didn’t help improving this picture much, as in my eyes and ears it was difficult to follow. The audiovisual presentation style, using heavy metal music and images, was a fun though.

I think Jonas Beckman’s talk would have been difficult to follow too if I hadn’t been very familiar with Python already. Python is a difficult language to impress people with since it doesn’t have one single feature that’s really cool. Instead, Python is a pragmatic language that is well designed, has great standard and third party libraries, is easy to learn and has lots of useful features. Jonas still made a heroic attempt at showing one specific cool feature of Python: generators. It was interesting since it made me think about generators a little differently. I’m not so sure that it “sold” the language to the other attendees though.

Björn Eiderbäck’s final talk about Smalltalk was inspiring. Smalltalk is a nice language. For good or bad, it has the idea that it is not only a programming language, but a complete environment. You don’t just edit Smalltalk in a text editor and compile it on the command line. The development environment and the runtime is tightly coupled in a way that provides some very nice dynamic features for development and debugging. At the same time, you’re very much tied to the environment, so if you don’t like its text editor for example, you’re not going to be happy. The whole idea is perhaps too different, especially if you’re a text editor and command-line person. For example, Björn briefly showed the built-in version control of the Smalltalk environment, something that I would prefer to use an external tool for. (Here I admittedly express the kind of conservatism that suppresses progress.)

Unfortunately there is no web page for the event, so it’s difficult to tell if there will be more of them. I hope so, because it’s always fun to hear about ideas and views from like-minded people.

Thanks to froderik’s post about the event for helping me remembering people’s names.

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