Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review: Pragmatic Clojure Studio

Executive Summary: If you are a developer looking to get into Clojure programming, attend this studio.

Executive Summary (for executives): If a developer who reports to you wants to attend this studio -- let him.

Even if you're at a shop that doesn't allow development in anything as exotic as Clojure -- yet -- you will benefit from this view of a language that embraces the JVM-as-a-platform as richly and effectively as Clojure does. You will learn what Java-the-language could (should?) have been capable of. You will even learn what Java-the-language actually *is* capable of. Much of Clojure is implemented in Clojure itself (homoiconicity FTW!), but a good chunk of it is implemented in Java.

The value of this studio is not the standard nuts-'n'-bolts / grammar / syntax / now-do-some-labs dance of most technical training. The value of this studio is that it's co-taught by Rich Hickey, the creator of Clojure. You will get to hear him talk about the design decisions he made in the evolution of Clojure. More importantly, you will get to hear him talk about the design decisions he *avoided*. You may not agree with all of those decisions, but you have to respect the man's process. Language philosophy aside, Rich's talks on "State and Identity", "Modeling State and Time", and "Protocols, Reify, and Datatypes" will blow your mind, and cause you to think differently about the act of programming whether or not you ever write a line of Clojure outside the studio.

Other not-quite-as-mind-blowing-but-still-pretty-cool topics include functional programming, web development with Compojure, Java interoperability, macros, and method dispatch.

And it's not just Rich who is fun to watch. The studio is co-taught by Stuart Halloway, owner of Relevance, LLC -- a working Clojure shop -- and author of the Pragmatic Programmers' "Programming Clojure". The two complement each other nicely. Stuart is very impassioned, a bundle of energy when it's his turn at the projector. Rich is much more laid back (though still impassioned), and expresses volumes with the arch of an eyebrow or a quirky half-smile at Stuart's antics. Both are eminently accessible and happy to answer questions and interact with students during breaks.

Remember Java in 1995? Ruby in 2005? I went into this studio a skeptic, and I came out convinced that Clojure is going to have a place -- and ultimately a prominent one -- in the landscape of our profession.

Go to this studio. Spend a few days learning from the masters. You'll be glad you did.

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