Greetings from SPA

I’ve been meaning to post since Sunday night, but I don’t think I’ve had a single minute of down time since I’ve gotten here. Even just hanging out after dinner I’ve either been in discussions with people or hacking on code. Or drumming.

So, greetings from SPA – the Software Practice Advancement conference.


I got here on Sunday and went to a session on “Functional Finance”. The idea for the session was to introduce the functional language O’Caml, introduce a problem in the financial domain, then solve the problem in the language. As I work in financial software and have developed a renewed interest in functional programming as of late, it seemed like a great choice.

First, let me say that I’ve been doing some Haskell programming as of late, so I figured O’Caml wouldn’t be that hard – I’d just focus on the ‘finance’ side of the coin. However, what I ended up doing was continuously trying to write Haskell in O’Caml. Which almost works for a little bit. Then you get into what I think is one of the wackier syntaxes I think I’ve encountered. And then you start cursing at the screen.

I think this session would have been better if it had been longer. The functional paradigm is new to a lot of people, and O’Caml is sufficiently weird, so I think they maybe needed more time to really get a handle on things. Also, while the domain problem was interesting, I think it was really over the heads of most people there (me most definitely included). So when we implemented part of the problem based on some C/Python source, I didn’t really understand what I was implementing did, I just translated C into O’Caml. And while I did clean up that code a bit, I didn’t really feel like what I produced on the other side was really ‘better’. Though after a half hour of pulling out hair trying to get it to compile, it did work on the first try.

I’ll post more soon.