ILoggable

A place to keep my thoughts on programming

July 24, 2010 geek , ,

Public Static Void – Go at OSCON

Rob Pike - Public Static VoidMy favorite Keynote at OSCON was Rob Pike's "Public Static Void", which in a nutshell is "Why we created Go". But it is also a history lesson of how we got from C to C++ to Java and C# and how that spawned a new dynamic language revolutionin against the sometimes ridiculously complex syntax the big static languages have. Rob very succinctly illustrates that this fight has been falsely characterized as static vs. dynamic typing, when it's really more a revolt against repetitive, explicit syntax. Yes, he might be preaching to the converted here, but one of my primary motivators for playing with Promise language design, is that I fundamentally believe in the benefits of strong type systems, but also dislike the overly verbose and restrictive syntax used by the industry leaders.

The reception of this talk was likely the cause for the attendance spike in Rob's Go talk (sorry, can't find a video link for it). It started out in one of the smallest rooms at OSCON, really not a good choice to start. It quickly filled until there wasn't even standing room in the aisles. We then changed rooms to one more than twice as big and when the dust settled there were still people around the edge finding only standing room.

I'd looked at Go when it first came out and again about 6 months ago. It had lots of things I really liked and its interface duck-typing was the primary inspiration for Promise's type system. So I filed it once more in the stack of languages i need to write some simple projects in to get a better feel, but it was behind my current work with Ruby and planned excursions into Scala, Clojure and node.js.

However Rob's talk has moved Go to the top of the stack. It is a language that I philosophically agree with more than any other language. The question is whether this philosophic agreement translates into enjoying its practical use. And that can only be done by writing real code. I currently have an ASP.NET/sqlserver application i'm moving to Ruby/mongo so that i can shut down my remaining win2k8 virtual machine. My plan was to immediately turn around and rewrite it in node.js, Scala and Clojure for comparison. I will have to investigate web.go and gomongo, see how far along they are to turn this around using Go, or whether plumbing is something that still needs be be manually cobbled together.

One of the main things i still need to figure out about Go is how a modern static type system can get away with not having generics. For creating such essentials containers, enumerables, etc. i can't see a way around having generics or templating without needlessly copying code. The FAQ claims that with the use of the empty interface, this is largely not needed. Have to see how this plays out in practice, since i can't visualize it just now.

Overall, despite attending some great javascript talks at Oscon, I am most excited about Go right now. Need to harness that excitement and turn it into experience quickly.

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