Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Omaha Dynamic Language Group

The air is warm, the sun is shining bright, and the monitors are glowing. Yes, it's time again for another stupendous Omaha Dynamic Language User's Group meeting! This month we are honored to have Ryan Stille speak on Cold Fusion! If you've ever been curious about this technology, then you need to see this presentation. You may never see the world the same again afterwards!

This month we are also honored to have Concentric sponsor us! They will be providing food, drinks, and much merriment. We are glad for their participation.

I will see you all there for the greatest user group ANYWHERE!

TopicCold Fusion
SpeakerRyan Stille
TimeJune 5, 7-9pm
LocationUNO's Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI) building
1110 South 67th Street
Omaha, NE

Friday, May 11, 2007


I just have to scream, "RIGHT ON!", on this post from Penelope Trunk: What the jargon you use reveals about you. I think this is true for us technologists as well. See my post below about Idea Killers. Stop using jargon and mantras! Think! Wait a minute? Isn't that a mantra?

Idea Killers

Recently, I've loathed hearing the phrases: "YAGNI" (You Ain't Gonna Need It) and "Is that the simplest possible thing?". My gut becomes knotted and disgusted. It makes me not want to be considered agile anymore. Why you ask? I always saw agile as positive forces in the software industry. I welcomed them with open arms because they were a shot of fresh air and made everyone think about how they did things. But, now the mantras are being used to be idea killers.

The mantras were meant to shake your thinking. How could you do this as simple as possible and still work. A nod to good engineering and design to shake the brain to think of another solution. Or ask questions like "Do you really need that huge framework?" But, lately, these mantras have been having the opposite effect. I've been in meetings where they were used to shoot down good ideas. And they work well. It's hard to argue against. You don't want to be the person that doesn't want the simplest solution right? But, when you are at the phase of generating ideas, these critical phrases kill the creative spirit. I say no more.

I say no more mantras. Let's think. Let's generate ten great ideas and then be judgmental of each one. At the idea phase, all ideas cost the same. Crying "It's not the simplest thing" too soon kills good design thoughts dead before they are allowed to grow. I think these phrases have become too common place. They are used to shut off thought and prove you are right. Besides, it's been a rare event when someone meant truly simple and not easiest. The two are confused frequently. Simplicity takes practice and thought. There's a reason why Einstein said it. It took several rewrites to get Smalltalk to its current state of simplicity.

Think about it. Refuse the use of mantras. And let ideas flourish.

Truth, Justice, And The American Way

There's one subtle feature of some languages that keeps causing me pain and in the wrong hands causes more harm than good. What is this feature? Let me show you some Javascript code:

if (transaction.amount) {
} else {

Nothing wrong here, from the looks of it the code is checking if the transaction has an amount defined and then marks the transaction valid or invalid. Simple right? But, what if an amount is defined and it is zero? You would think the transaction is marked valid right? WRONG! It will be marked invalid because anything that's zero, nil, or undefined in Javascript is considered false.

And that's my beef, why not treat booleans with their own type. Why treat any other value as equivalent? Subtle bugs like the one above are infuriating to me. The simple reason is that they can easily be avoided with a few extra characters.

if (transaction.amount == undefined) {
} else {

The moral of this story is to code exactly what you mean. Be specific. Don't rely on arcane language features to save a few key strokes. Java and Smalltalk do the right thing and make you use boolean types.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Can't Stand Pretentiousness

There I said it. I don't care what it is. A programming language, methodology, religion, music, art, coffee, movies, or what have you it doesn't matter. It reeks to me and I'm sorry for anyone who uses it to make themselves feel superior. Somethings I don't understand being pretentious over like wine (angry grapes because they are bitter for being made into that) or scotch (yes, I would like some turpentine please). I've tried them, I didn't like them. But, if you do, then more to you. It's not a reason to think your are better. But, I digress. I'm always running into people that stick their noses up based on what I like. Nothing cuts off a conversation sooner for me than when someone says, "Why do you listen to that Y garbage?" or "How can you stand to program in language X?" I just walk away because you are not worth my breath. I think it blinds your thoughts and makes it impossible to reason. I would rather hear, "Why do you like X?" or "Give me the top greatest pleasures of Y". I like to ask those questions. I'm always amazed at the answers.

I guess it's my southern upbringing. I like simple things, but I also enjoy richer experiences as well. I just hate it when someone is not open to the joys of the simpler things. I listen to all kinds of music, food, or what have you. I will try anything once. And I research any language I can get my hands on. They each have their strengths and pluses.

Now, don't mistake pretentiousness with excitement. I love excitement and a healthy jubilation for your newest discovery. But, when it turns to thumbing your nose at something, then I think the coin has been flipped.

Oh well, I had to get that rant off my chest. I'll probably read it tomorrow and go "What the hell were you thinking?!" Or maybe I was just trying to say, "There's something positive about everything, find it", in a really negative way.

Live Refactoring May 15

I got talked into doing a "live" code refactoring at this month's Omaha Java User's Group with Sam Tesla. It will happen on May 15. Actually, you need to come because we don't know what code we will refactor yet except that it will be horrendous. You will see the ugly come elegant and simple! Sam and I did a similiar "live" refactoring for the local Software Process Improvement Group not too long ago. It went well and was a lot of fun. It's fun collaborating with Sam and our styles compliment each other very well. Of course, the code will be in Java and we'll be showing off what you can do with Eclipse. It's rare you get to see the journey to elegance and this will be an opportunity not to be missed! I hope to see everyone there.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

DSLs: What's the big deal?

I've always wondered what the big deal with DSLs was. Now, i'm not saying they are bad quite the contrary.But, I believe a DSL is a healthy bi-product of a good object-oriented design. So, I was a little annoyed with all of the talk and the tricks. I kept thingking to myself, "But, if you did a good design, you would have this!"

But, I should really be kicking myself. I should be glad that good design is back in vogue. and you know what? I am. I'm not annoyed any long and I relish all of this new talk on DSLs. I even feel guilty. You see, DSLs have always been part of the Smalltalk farbic. It's natural to us because it's the way we have learned to code. I remember having the mantra "Code should read like a conversation" shoved down my throat until it became second nature. The cool thing is that there is a whole new generation finding out about this and doing it. Very cool.

I'm now promising myself to show non-Smalltalkers the other cool things that we have in our fabric and what we take to heart. The power of messages compels thee!

Groovy: Java 7?

Sometimes I wonder why they just don't make Groovy Java 7 (or even 8). I mean, c'mon! I think it makes a lot of sense. Closures and dynamic typing that is still understandable by most Java developers. I think it would be a step in the right direction. I know I enjoy programming in Groovy more than in Java.