Why go to a Prolog talk?

I’m famous!* At this year’s CodeMash conference, O’Reilly Media interviewed CodeMash attendees about our languages and technologies of interest, and I’m in it. Now take note of my face starting at 1:15, when I’m asked what programming language I’d like to learn. My excitement is palpable, and I’m still that excited, and working on it, two months later. (Come play with us at Polyglot Programmers of Austin, any language you like.)

I work in C# all day every day. Why go to a talk on Prolog? (And one on Erlang, and one on Ruby, and…)

Whenever I go to a conference, I feel a tension between “sessions that are good for my job” (broccoli) and “sessions that just sound fun” (ice cream). Happiness lies in striking a balance. Just as your palate thrives on diversity (and ice cream), here are some benefits of attending those odd-ball sessions at conferences.

  1. You encounter new ideas and new approaches which might, in fact, apply to your every-day language.
  2. It adds a tool to your workbench, a new way to solve a problem. And even if you choose to stick with your typical language instead of that new tool, now you’ve made a choice.
  3. You meet another camp of developers. Be the slice in the Venn diagram of programmer communities. Untold synergies open up when you know a diverse crowd.
  4. It’s invigorating. The beach ball of your programmer motivation is batted back into the air again.
  5. You learn what your language does by contrasting it with the choices made in another language. Like with human languages; prepositions such as “on” and “in” might seem like fundamental truths of the universe, until you learn that they’re just a quirk of English and other languages don’t have analogous concepts.
  6. You might be inspired to start something like Polyglot Programmers, which arose out of my desire to be a member of such a group. I wanted it to exist, so I made it exist. Other people apparently want it to exist, too, so now it’s a collaboration; even better. (Thanks in particular to Todd Wood and to Headspring.)
  7. Look at that cool O’Reilly video again. Being interested in a variety of things makes you more interesting.
  8. It gives me something to share with Dad.

Balance, as has been stated, is key. One cannot live on ice cream alone, and I attended a number of superlative C# sessions at CodeMash, including talks from Jon Skeet, Bill Wagner, Mark Rendle, and Keith Elder, that gave me plenty to think about. I just want to tell you, if you’re subjecting yourself to a strict code of austerity: It’s okay to have dessert.

* for certain values of famous

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About Sharon Cichelli

I am a Headspring Senior Consultant, developing custom enterprise software for our clients and leading training classes on the latest Microsoft technologies. I blog about .NET development, best practices in agile software development, and my nerdy hobbies.
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  • Paco

     Is there ever written any prolog code outside a university building?

  • http://www.daedtech.com/blog Erik

    I think the point about gaining a broader perspective than the one one’s own language (or even style of language like functional/oo/procedural/etc) is an important one.  It’s not just a matter of how to choose a technology for a particular project, but a matter of what sorts of common abstractions of concepts and algorithms are available to you in one language, but not another.  

    • Anonymous

      Yes! Thanks for saying. :)

  • Alper

    Great write up.  Loved the metaphors