Thursday, November 15, 2007

Andy Hunt: ”How Hard Can it Be?” at Valtech

Today I was at a seminar by Andy Hunt called "How Hard Can It Be?" at Valtech (Stockholm, Sweden).

It was a great and very funny seminar and I recommend anyone that has a chance to go to the next one.

One thing that got to me was the discussion about complexity... that is accidental complexity and essential complexity. One example he used was the way a language like Java could isn't very intuitive for people new to development compared to a language like Ruby due to accidental complexity.

In Java you would need "public static void Main(.... System.out.println(..." for the basic Hello, World example, whereas in Ruby you would type 'puts "Hello, World!"'.

IDE's do us a great disservice in hiding accidental complexity by using macros to autogenerate code that is required by the language, but probably isn't of any value for the task at hand.

The point of it all is that when the domain is complex, we have essential complexity, but we should avoid accidental complexity, extra code that creates noice, making the code less readable without adding any value.

He also hinted on the irony of the waterfall method that it wasn't supposed to be used the way it has and in fact the document describing the method was a example of a flawed, non-working model of development.

Some time ago I found a really nice book that uses this way of avoiding accidental complexity that Ruby does for introducing newcomers to programming, Learn to program (pragmatic bookshelf).

On the way home I listened to a podcast about RoR, the Ruby on Rails Podcast episode featuring Stuart Halloway. I've only listened to one episode so far but it was great :), got me thinking of contributing a bit more to Open Source.

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