Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Talk Like a Duck

Last night, my former colleague Rick DeNatale spoke at XP West Michigan. I had invited him to come and give the talk he recently gave at RubyConf.

Rick's talk was titled "The Fall and Rise of Dynamic Languages." It was a fascinating retrospective of language development. Interestingly, dynamic languages like Smalltalk and Ruby have been around for a long time, though you might not know it from their lack of attention until recently. Many people in the audience were Ruby enthusiasts, and I think they really appreciated learning some of the history. Rick has met, known and worked with a lot of the key players in dynamic languages over the years, so he had lots of interesting stories to share with us, too.

In particular, I enjoyed the audio clip he played of an interview with Ward Cunningham. Asked if he thought dynamic languages were inherently less safe than static-typed languages like Java, Ward replied that the problems that static typing helped solve were few in comparison to the problems that dynamic languages could solve just by their improved expressiveness. I'm paraphrasing from memory, of course. It made me eager to start coding in some languages besides Java.

Let me put in a plug for XP West Michigan, since I'm a board member. Our little group has enough funding to fly in speakers and cover their expenses just to come and speak to us for two hours. So if any of you "Eclipse Mafia" types would be interested in speaking to our little group, we can cover your expenses. We even take the speaker out for dinner after the meeting. Last night we took Rick to Tre Cugini. Compilers, virtual machines, Eclipse, whatever your expertise, we'd be interested. So email me if you're willing to consider a trip to Grand Rapids.

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