ACCU 2013

2013-04-11, , Comments

ACCU 2013

Brian Marick opened the second day of ACCU 2013 with a keynote presentation entitled: “Cheating Decline: Acting now to let you program well for a really long time”. He drew a distinction between effortful and automatic thinking. For example, we can drive a car along a clear road automatically but it requires considerable concentration to parallel park that same car. By tuning out unwanted signals crickets can locate their mates using minimal brainpower, and cricket players have no need of Newtonian dynamics to track the trajectory of a ball — they apply a simple visual self-calibrating algorithm to catch out batsmen. Tango dancers disturb and re-establish invariants. A robot can walk for hours without thinking about what it’s doing. Actually, if it’s your job to park cars, you can probably do that without thinking; and this was Brian Marick’s main cheat — find the work practices which allow you to lean on your perceptions and so avoid effortful thinking.

Anthony Williams’ talk on C++11 Features and Real World code did require effortful thinking but that was what I’d hoped for. He provided a concise and expert summary of the new language features in action, focusing on the biggest early winners. Leading with auto, lambda, range-for, he went on to talk about concurrency and move semantics. I learned that lambda functions can have a mutable qualifier. Ha!

I couldn’t resist Olve Maudal’s C++11 pub quiz, appropriately held in the Marriot Hotel bar, for which we formed teams and mentally compiled and executed dodgy code, capturing standard output on an answer sheet. Some of the answers may well have have been implementation dependent but Olve specified an implementation: our answers should match this laptop running this software. I was simultaneously appalled by the limits of my knowledge on fundamental subjects such as integral promotion and initialisation order, and surprised by my ability to correctly predict the behaviour of some esoteric and perverse code. I’m chastened and will be studying the answers in the cold light of day. Brian Marick may have advocated programming after a beer or two in his morning session, but the afternoon pub quiz proved that coffee works better for me!

A programmer’s dozen (13, which is 12 counting from zero!) lightning talks kept the day crackling with energy. Ewan Milne chaired the session expertly, adeptly dispatching a birthday cake as proceedings commenced. I wish I could describe all the talks but you really had to be there. Phil Nash’s use of the little known left arrow operator ← got a well deserved response from the audience. Sander Hoogendoorn stuck the boot into “Agile Fluffiness”. James Grenning’s talk on embedded development was a lightning keynote: hilarious, moving and, ultimately, tragic.