School Seminar: Software engineering in a hostile environment – a view from the trenches


I think that the design of good programming languages is vital to allow us to build reliable software. A lot of professional developers I have worked with think that programming languages are "all the same" - I strongly disagree.

However, while I believe that good languages are helpful and bad languages are harmful, over the years, I have come to realise that it's people who are the real problem.
My talk will be in the "practice and experience" style - ie a succession of ghastly stories from the software industry - grisly tales of the awful things that can happen to a developer working on "real projects" in the "real world".

Not for the squeamish.

After a maths degree, Van moved to software development. He has been programming professionally for almost 40 years.
He started in Fortran and has passed through Algol, Pascal, C++, Objective C, Smalltalk, Java, Clojure,  Javascript, Haskell, Scala, Purescript and innumerable scripting and proprietary languages. In fact he has programmed in so many different ones over the years that he is now unable to remember which syntax goes with which language.
He is a functional programming enthusiast, currently working partly in Purescript. He once (foolishly) designed and implemented a functional scripting language for one of his products.

He has worked for software companies in the area of  CAD and object databases and, as a consultant, for Banks, Retail and government (HMRC). He has also worked for a few startups (although he only chooses the unsuccessful ones - normally he is the chief architect, so you could argue it's his own damn fault).
He sometimes works as a business analyst and a scrum master.
One of his (very old, now) open source projects is a library of functional-style  immutable collections (lists, sets, maps, trees, graphs) implemented in Java:
He has written a few articles here and there - mostly for long dead publications. Still extant are the slides of his talk to the Cambridge BCS SPA group a few years ago:
He is currently mixing a consulting career with yet another dodgy start-up, this time based on a server-side web toolkit. An early test of the toolkit is a simple web app that helps groups of people keep track of who should pay when they buy "rounds":

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