Pragmatic Automation

All of a sudden, in the past week or so, a bunch of cats have been let out of their bags. Several of my friends are doing cool things that I haven’t felt free to talk about … and they’re all going public at once. Here’s the first of a few upcoming blog entries about cats on the loose.

If you haven’t read Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt’s Pragmatic Starter Kit books–Pragmatic Version Control and Pragmatic Unit Testing–you definitely should. (They’ve just released a new edition of the unit testing book, covering C# and NUnit. Now that I think of it, that counts as yet another cat recently out of the bag. But since they haven’t sent me a copy, I can’t really write about it, can I? Ahem. :-)

But all along, the book I’ve really wanted to read is the third one in the series: Pragmatic Automation. The one that hasn’t been written yet. Isn’t that typical?

Here’s the breaking news that I can finally talk about: I noticed that it’s now being proclaimed from the Pragmatic Programmer’s website that the author of Pragmatic Automation is Mike Clark.

Now, by way of full disclosure, I have to admit what I’ve already admitted to Mike: when he first told me that he might be doing this, my first thought was, “But I wanted to read Dave and Andy’s automation book!” But that gut reaction was wrong, and it didn’t take me long to realize it. Mike is the right guy to write this book.

Dave and Andy will still be actively involved, of course, and they’ll make sure Mike covers their favorite tricks. But you’ll also get to read about Mike’s tricks. On this topic, more heads are definitely better. Automation is an open-ended topic. Mike is an aggressive automatorhe loves to let the computer take over the drudgery for him. And Mike understands that automation is as much about consistency as it is about efficiency.

Mike’s still writing, and the book isn’t scheduled to be available until June. But you may as well set your money aside now. More than ever, Pragmatic Automation is the starter-kit book I’m dying to read.

Java as Baby Step

James Robertson thinks that Java is an interruption in the forward progress of software development. It’s nice to see this meme spread a bit; I’ve thought the same thing since 1996 or so. During ‘95 and ‘96, watching Java start to gain traction, I was amazed by the ignorance and ire surrounding many of what I considered Java’s best features:

  • the virtual machine
  • garbage collection
  • methods “virtual” (in C++ parlance) by default
  • a singly-rooted class hierarchy

I came to view Java as a baby step that would serve primarily to soften up developers’ attitudes toward these things, thus shortening the leap required to adopt even better languages like Lisp, Smalltalk, and their ilk. I don’t think I was alone in believing that, but I didn’t hear anyone else saying it for a while.

It is nice to see people returning to serious language research again. Efforts like the Feyerabend Project and more practically focused offshoots like OOPSLA’s Onward! track and the Post-Java Workshops (as well as increasing grass-roots interest in languages like Ruby, Haskell, Squeak, Oz, and even an ongoing Lisp revival) give me hope that we’ll be ready to take a larger step soon.

The Hacks Book I Want

(Thanks to James for the bit-smithery to realize my idea.)

Happy Birthday, Mike

I just realized my childhood friend Mike Datwyler would have been 40 today. (He didn’t make it to 20.)

I still miss you, Mike.

Yip’s Law

Brian Marick drew my attention to Jason Yip’s take on Gilb’s Law: “Anything can be made measurable in a way that is inferior to not measuring it at all.” I agree that this corollary deserves equal status.

(Yip’s comment is also a fabulous demonstration of the power of few words. Compare it to my blog from last year on roughly the same topic. Yip uses less than 20 words to say the same thing, more powerfully, that I said in about 300. *sigh*. Must remember: minimalism.)

subscribe via RSS or JSON Feed