TITLE: OOPSLA, Day 1 AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 26, 2004 11:08 PM DESC: A day of lower highs and lower lows than I had expected ----- BODY: The first day of OOPSLA has been seen highs and lows, though the highs weren't as high as I'd expected and the lows were lower. Rick Rashid gave the keynote address to open the conference. A good keynote inspires a conference's participants to think interesting thoughts, to respond to some challenge, or to interpret what follows in a particular context. Sometimes, a keynote is spectacular in its scope or challenge. Christopher Alexander did that at OOPSLA a few years back, even though I didn't like the talk as much as many. But keynoters don't have to be spectacular. But they should at least provide a theme for the conference that threads through all the conversations that make it up, as Brian Marick explained last summer. Sadly, Rashid's talk didn't do either. He opened with 20 minutes or so of promising ideas, about how the future of computing lies in pervasive computing, with its attendant need for situating people and their computers in place and time. The interesting part of this discussion focused on Microsoft's serving up of geographical information and providing a way for programmers to integrate such information into apps. Check out especially http://terraserver.microsoft.com/, and also http://skyserver.sdss.org/, http://skyquery.net/, and http://gpgpu.com/. But soon after the talk lost its steam, ran out of the ideas that are the fuel of a good keynote. Rashid announced the upcoming web release of VisualStudio.Net 2005 and then called up a project engineer to demo a piece of the new tool. If this new tool had something new in it, that might be fodder for a keynote, but in this case the content is new only to the MSDN crew and pedestrian otherwise. After the demo, the talk never returned to intellectual currency, and it ended with a much smaller audience than it began with. Robert Biddle and James Noble opened the Onward! track with their "Notes on Notes on Postmodernism" (NoNoPoMo), a self-referential peek back at their groundbreaking 2002 "Notes on Postmodernism" in the inaugural Onward! Robert and James do wonderful theater -- as entertaining as anything you will find at any computing conference -- that points out an essential truth: We don't need to have one overarching unifying story to guide computing; lots of little stories, told by smaller communities to guide their work, can be enough. We can build software in this way, too. They passionately declare that, contrary to the fiction our own industry has created and nursed for 35 years, there is no software crisis; software development has actually been a prolific and wide-reaching success. We should admit that and move on to do our next good work. After lunch came Ward Cunningham's talk on systems of names. I have been looking forward to this talk for a couple of months, and Ward didn't let me down. He told a story, which is what Ward does. The story wove together the many ideas and contributions from his career -- including objects, CRC cards, patterns, wikis, and XP -- and drew out a theme that captures Ward's magic. It's not magic, though; it's an outlook on life, an attitude:
Be Receptive to Discovery
Ward even drew out some sub-themes to help us adopt this attitude. I was going to comment on each, but my words don't add to what Ward said, so: My last event from the day's main schedule was Brian Marick's talk on software methodology as ontology. If you read Brian's blog, you know that he has a peculiar philosophical attitude toward software development. This attitude probably follows a bit from Brian's having been an English major in school, but I suspect that it's mostly just who he is. Brian takes a unique perspective on software development, one which I find both enlightening and challenging. I'm a sucker for this kind of this stuff. Today's talk started with Ralph Waldo Emerson (who will almost certainly show up in my blog some day soon, for different reasons), whose fundamentally optimistic outlook on the world and human nature so differs from the software world's fear of change and complexity and failure; moved onto ontology as world view; and finally applied Imre Lakatos's view on the progress of science to the idea of software development methodology. I will save the real discussion of Brian's talk for a post later this week, to give it its due in a separate discussion. Suffice it to say that I found this talk both enlightening and challenging. The rest of the day has been special events. At dinner time Alan Kay gave his Turing Award lecture. I will also blog on Alan's talks later this week when I can give them full attention, but for now I will say this: Alan's keynote to the Educators' Symposium was the better talk. Perhaps it was nerves, or a smaller time window, or just the effects of giving very similar talks on consecutive days. But we really lucked out with our 90+-minute talk and 30-minute Q-n-A session. Finally, as I write this, I'm sitting in on the GoF 10th Anniversary Commemorative event. Solveig Haugland, author of the hilarious spoof Dating Design Patterns, is leading a fun session on her book, replete with skits about the untold story of the Gang of Four. So far, it's mentioned Trojan Proxies, Encapsulated Big Fat Openings, Half Bad Boy Plus Protocol, and leather magazines. I had the opportunity to meet Solveig before the talk, and she is a lot of fun. The session is a nice way to end the day. -----