OOPSLA 2005 Reflections

I've just got back from OOPSLA 2005. It was held in a soulless conference center in San Diego that was, strangely, shared with a couple of quite scary fundamentalist christian groups who publicised their predictions about when Jesus was going to return and sit on the British throne in magazines left around the foyer. It was odd to be surrounded by two groups of people who clung zealously to their strange ideas in the face of incomprehension from the general public. But of course there's more to OOPSLA than Smalltalk and Common LISP.

Maybe it was the sessions I picked, but retrospection seemed to be a common theme at this year's conference. Linda Rising ran a retrospective looking back over the last 20 years of OOPSLA conferences. Grady Booch described his architecture archaeology, digging through past and present systems in a mammoth project to create an engineering handbook of software architecture and with the Computer History Museum to preserve the source code of historically interesting software. He likened his work to that of the victorian gentleman scientists who collected and collated large numbers of specimens that allowed future generations of scientists to create and confirm their theories. Martin Fowler similarly described his career as digging through systems finding the essence of what worked in practice and bringing those ideas to a wider audience. In the Onward! lightning talks Dave Thomas gave an impassioned criticism of our community for failing to learn and pass on fundamental ideas and techniques. Brian Foote spoke of the need for pattern paleontology, recoding patterns that are now fossilised within our programming languages and in a talk entitled "I Have Nothing to Declare But My Genius" he looked back over his experience with object oriented languages, particularly Smalltalk, and why it taught him that static typing is not useful for object-oriented programming.

Even in the Scrapheap Challenge workshop winning solutions used a mixture of the old - Unix-style pipes and filters - and the new - Greasemonkey scripts and REST web calls. But more of that in another article.

Of course, there was a lot of new stuff presented as well. I missed Jonathan Edwards' presentation on Subtext which I was told was the highlight of the conference. Instead I attended the dynamic languages symposium where Marcel Weiher gave an engaging presentation of Higher Order Messaging, which I've been experimenting with recently. His presentation had the amusing effect of needling a Common LISP programmer who proclaimed that "messaging is bunk" but that CLOS did it all years ago anyway. Higher Order Messaging was also discussed at RubyConf, or rather in virtual chat that went on during RubyConf over IRC. Other new stuff included a demo of LINQ. Interesting stuff but I'm not completely convinced by the end result. It seems a bit of a mish mash of object orientation, procedural and functional programming and, unfortunately, the new syntax improvements are limited to queries and not opened up for general use by programmers.

That's all for now. I'll summarise the results of the Scrapheap Challenge workshop soon.

Copyright © 2005 Nat Pryce. Posted 2005-10-24. Share it.

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