Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Programming Throwdown

This podcast has a modest objective: to discuss a different programming language in each episode, or at least in most episodes : but to supplement this already weighty task the presenters also come equipped with their favourite news stories of the day, and a tool that they would like to recommend, a favourite book to discuss, and any other matters they want to get off their chest: in fact Jason and Patrick unselfconsciously invite you into their daily concerns...  James Gosling being hired by Google is news, but so is having your bicycle stolen, and the boys see no reason not to devote equal time to these two topics.

Listening between the lines, so to speak, it is evident that the hosts are pretty smart professionals who could discuss their specialist topic areas in great depth.  However, they see their role as being to report back on diverse areas that might be new to us or even new to them - but which they think will be of interest to the rest of us.  They are out there yelling, hey, guys, come and check this out - we don't understand it yet but it looks totally awesome...

And I for one am grateful for that - I mean, I can't research everything that's going on out there by myself, nobody can, right?

But you might ask, seriously, when they do devote some time to their nominal topic of the day, how much can these two guys teach me about Swift, say, or Haskell, in one hour?  The answer is: exactly enough for me to know whether I need to learn more.  And that knowledge, delivered with fun and warmth, is absolutely worth an hour of my time.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Functional Geekery

Functional Geekery is a series of podcasts on the subject of Functional Programming.  We find discussions of Clojure, Erlang and Scala and much more, with a recognition that whichever functional planet you choose to land on you are still orbiting in the gravitational field of Haskell.

Each podcast takes the form of one-to-one interview with host Proctor happy to take the role of the student asking enlightenment from the master. Right from the start Proctor has been successful in attracting guests who are not only eminent in the field but are also eloquent about their personal experiences.  And because of the focus of the subject matter I find often separate podcasts will shed light on each other.

Proctor and his guests are clear in their message that functional methods offer promising solutions to live, urgent issues in software. Did you realise incidentally that the first version of Haskell was issued in 1990? That makes it older than Java.  Think about that for a second. These are not new techniques that are just being invented, they are old techniques that are just being rediscovered.

But the discussion is not focussed on the technical details, the "geekery" - Proctor is very conscious of programming as a human activity - indeed as a social activity.  His interview revolves around questions on a personal level, such as: how did you discover functional programming?  What motivates you?  What has been your positive experience?  What are the unexpected problems?  His guests bring their practical knowledge on the code cutting issues - how do you introduce functional methods to an object oriented team, for example, or how do you add functional techniques to an existing Java project?

These are considerations for anyone who recognises in principle the need to extend our understanding to embrace the functional world but still wonders where to start and what has happened to those who have gone ahead.

To supplement the podcast Proctor has compiled a web site at with plentiful links for those who wish to follow up on the topics, with an emphasis on ways to get involved through user groups and meetings.