Random ilc 2009 thoughts

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.

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