Archive for April, 2009

Old #lisp Logs

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

For reasons which now escape me, I decided at or around ilc09 (how many different abbreviations can I use?) to learn javascript. Someone on #lisp very helpfully said “javascript is scheme”, which was my way in to the language. The baby rhino book from O’Reilly is deeply rubbish. By contrast, the butterfly book, Javascript: The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford, is excellent (thanks, Chris!). And short. Stoyan Stefanov’s Object Oriented Javascript isn’t too bad, either.

So, having discovered the delightful, dynamic, prototype-oriented, functional language hiding inside javascript I have completely ignored what little I’ve learned to scratch an itch of mine – to wit, browsing the #lisp logs from anywhere. After a couple of hours of swearing at $.ajax and mod_rewrite I have oll (see the title of this post) to play with.

ilc11 thoughts

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

I dont know anything about sponsoring (semi)academic conferences, and here is the fruit of my knowledge.

Where the survival of an event depends on its sponsors, then it had better overdeliver to today’s sponsors to ensure there will be some tomorrow. It also helps to be clear about why someone might be interested in becoming (continuing to be) a sponsor. Selling to the people physically at the conference is going to be fairly low down on the list. Making the decision-makers feel good about supporting the lisp community is a perfectly valid reason. So is making employees (current and future) feel good about their employer. This can go further – if competition for talent is tight (think Hyderabad – or the Bay Area – or any top school) a company could distinguish itself as being OK with quirky but seriously powerful stuff by associating itself with Lisp. And if there are other market segments which still have good vibes about Lisp (and let’s face it, a lot of folks think smug lisp weenies have something to be smug about) any organisation interested in those customers would gain from a sponsorship.

As long as the right folks know about the sponsorship. Appearing on the back of the conference program isn’t going to be enough. Of course, much of this is up to the sponsor themselves – they should ‘activate’ the sponsorship by integrating it into their own sales and marketing programs (hence all the ‘a proud sponsor of…’ stuff tacked onto ads). The event can help here by having a nifty logo early enough before the event itself to allow some sort of consumer recognition to develop. The event can also help the sponsors to reach out to (the vast majority of) folks who can’t/won’t attend. A sponsor-recognition strip below the projection screen (and/or on the lectern or the debate table) means all those seeing the talks on youtube (or looking to see what someone they know from irc looks like irl on flikr) will be able to see who supported the event. The AV coverage could even be separately sponsored (“ilc11cast brought to you by NTTDoCoMo, your first choice for a fulfilling engineering career”). And encouraging/providing facilities for podcasts (rooms to interview the celebs etc) would also enable the event to reach out and touch more people than are physically present. (Even something as simple as allowing a sponsor to provide branded lanyards for the badges means that sponsor will appear in every photo and video of the event and its surrounds.)

None of this should be taken as a criticism of ilc09 – I can only imagine the sponsors are very happy to have been associated with such a success. But why keep my ignorance to myself?

Random ilc 2009 thoughts

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

In this age of ubiquitous twitterage a wrap-up of ilc09 (even one as late as this one is) seems not merely self indulgent but positively perverse. In other words, read on!

Overall I thought it was a great success: great venue, great organisation and some great speakers. The only lowlight (for me only) was the banquet, but that was a function of the low price for the event (a good thing in every other way) and the luck of the draw when finding a table.

And now the really random observations. p-cos (Pascal Costanza) is a very good teacher and is posessed of some great insights about the world. In particular he has the ultimate answer to all “how do we make lisp popular” discussions – nobody knows what makes a programming language popular, so all we can do is keep our integrity. (See also William Goldman.) v-diddy (Didier Verna) is also a very entertaining speaker, and someone to keep an eye on. Rich Hickey is a rockstar in spite of himself (who will be next?). I have yet to see an AllegroStore presentation motivated by a real use-case (although I’m sure they exist). The lightning talks were a revelation, kicked off with great energy by Jerry Boetje. Strict time controls, even on longer talks, are vital to keeping the pep in a conference. David Moon was fun. Gerry Sussman would be fun reading the phonebook. The panel session was (predictably) largely a waste of space; the big take-aways for me were (a) Kent Pitman is kinda cool, (b) “let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend” and (c) the steam has run out of the Scheme project. The Great Macro Debate reinforced my feeling that the state of the art in large-systems software engineering practice is to treat programmers as a menace (see also XCVB). The CARMA presentation was a highlight – delivering a desktop app to non-techie end-users by using abcl; no muss, no fuss, it’s good enough so let’s ship. Xach is as good on stage as he is on irc. I couldn’t bear to witness the whole of the ALU meeting. Shriram Krishnamurti is an energetic speaker who almost made me care. It’s a pity Olin Shivers gave a talk he’d given before with exactly the same jokes.