Andreas Stefik

TUTORIAL: How programming languages impact people: What's the evidence?
The Programming Language Wars
Panel Debate: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

TUTORIAL: How programming languages impact people: What's the evidence?

I will conduct an interactive tutorial describing modern research in the impact of programming language design on human beings. During the session, we will discuss a wide variety of topics, from the design of various type systems, syntax design for DSL writers, concepts like syntactic intuitiveness, and other issues related to developer productivity. Many individuals may have interest, from managers wanting to learn how competing language designs may be impacting their employee's productivity, to developers wanting to learn the evidence behind the tools they use or are interested in. In all cases, the tutorial will emphasize the results of peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials, including an up-to-date look at programming language journals and venues.
  1. Teach participants the state-of-the-art in scientifically verified information on the impact of language design on people.
  2. Give participants a sense of how randomized controlled trials are conducted and how evidence gathering in language design is now taking place
  3. Provide empirical data on a wide variety of modern language design topics, including details on syntax, type system design, and many other issues.

Target audience:
Developers, managers, anyone that uses programming languages

The Programming Language Wars

The discipline of computer science has a long and complicated history with computer programming languages. Historically, inventors have created language products for a wide variety of reasons, from attempts at making domain specific tasks easier, to technical achievements, to economic, social, or political reasons. As a consequence, the modern programming language industry now has a large variety of incompatible programming languages, each of which with unique syntax, semantics, toolsets, and often their own standard libraries, lifetimes, and costs. In this talk, I will discuss the programming language wars, a term which describes the broad divergence of language designs, their impact on the world, and the communities that support them.

Talk objectives: The goal of this talk is to discuss the programming language wars. We will talk about the potential causes, the communities involved, and a variety of questions people might have about them. We will wrap ideas concerning the language wars in the context of the latest rigorous, peer-reviewed, research on how competing language designs impact developers at various skill levels. Finally, we will discuss responsibilities for the community that, if followed, may help us make progress over the next century on one of the most vexing and difficult problems in all of computer science.

Target audience: Anyone that is a stakeholder in the language wars. This includes a wide variety of people (e.g., students, professional developers, academics, development managers).

Panel Debate: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once said that "The only thing we learn from history that we learn nothing from history". While the context and era was different, these wise words can also be applied to the software industry. Why are we repeating the same mistakes done by others decades ago? Why are we reinventing the wheel when tackling problems already researched and solved, and in doing so, reinventing them badly? We are trying to reach nirvana, where programming languages are not only beautiful, but also useful. Compact, easy to maintain and predictable.

But in our quest to do so, we seem to be taking two steps forward and one step back. In this panel debate, representatives from the industry will be discussing and debating with the audience (and language inventors) on the reasons we are in the mess we're in and what we need to do to get out of it.

About Andreas

Andreas Stefik is an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He completed his Ph.D. in computer science at Washington State University in 2008 and also holds a bachelor's degree in music. Stefik's research focuses on computer programming languages and development environments, with an emphasis on how competing language designs impact people in practice. He won the 2011 Java Innovation Award for his work on the National Science Foundation funded Sodbeans programming environment and is the inventor of the Quorum Programming Language.

Twitter: @AndreasStefik

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