Montreal hosts global programming event

OOPSLA 2007, an international conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages and Applications bringing together a wide variety of computing professionals, is coming to Montreal next month.

The conference offers demonstration sessions, panel discussions and keynote speeches geared towards industry practitioners, managers and researchers. Speakers will address subjects such as improving programming languages and software development, as well as exploring new programming methods. The event will also host doctoral students who will get the opportunity to interact and present their work to industry researchers.

“We have a fair number of managers from various IT organizations coming to the conference,” Richard Gabriel, OOPSLA 2007 conference chair, said. “This year’s event in particular has a real superstar lineup as we have some keynote speakers that people in the field would try over a ten-year period to see. But, we’ve got them all.”

One such keynote speaker is Gregor Kiczales, a professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia. Kiczales is known for his work on Aspect-oriented programming (AOP) and helped lead the Xerox PARC team that developed the AspectJ programming language. He intends to talk about how people work together toward building and using complicated systems.

“We have these very scientific and technical theories that account for how people work together versus the social factors that account for how people work together, and everybody knows that the middle is where the action is,” Kiczales said.

“The thing I want to claim our field should work on over the next 10 years is that theory in the middle of how people work and how technology works and I think that could have a dramatic impact on what we do.”

Kiczales said that AOP, which is what he’s most known for, touches on these same issues. He said it’s about how different people see the same thing in different ways.

“I’ve been working with AOP a little over 10 years now and what I’m trying to do now is go back to this set of intuitions that produced AOP and fish out the next idea,” Kiczales said.

Because the OOPSLA conference is so diverse, he said, both technologists and methodologists will have the opportunity to hear these ideas together; something the specialized nature of most conferences fail to address.

“OOPSLA is really about this mix of people from our field trying to see the ideas that are going to be breaking in about five or 10 years from now,” Kiczales said. “The thing that truly makes OOPSLA unique is the mix it brings together with practitioners, managers, consultants and researchers. You have people who believe that technology is the answer, people who believe that methods are the answer, and people who believe that management is the answer. And when you mix these sorts of people together you tend to produce insight.”

Another notable speaker is John McCarthy, an Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) Turing Award winner, whose credits include coining the term “Artificial Intelligence” as well as inventing the Lisp programming language. McCarthy also did work in computer time-sharing technology and suggested it might lead to a future in which computing power and programs could be sold as a utility.

“This is going to be a talk from one of the most famous computer scientists ever at the tail-end of his career,” Gabriel said, adding that McCarthy is expected to discuss his work on a programming language called Elephant 2000.

“He’s been working on it for about 15 years now, but he doesn’t talk about it much and has not released many papers on it, so it should be an interesting discussion,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel said what he knows thus far about McCarthy’s proposed programming language is that it’s designed for writing and verifying programs that facilitate commercial transactions such as online airline bookings.

Frederick Brooke, another ACM Turing Award winner, is also speaking at the event and will discuss how companies can collaborate and “telecollaborate” to achieve conceptual integrity.

“He’s going to deal with the issue of groups of people who are designing systems together, but aren’t situated in the same place,” Gabriel said. “A lot of his current research deals around the issue of virtual reality.”

And speaking of virtual reality, two other notable speakers include Jim Purbrick and Mark Lentczner, who are software engineers behind the virtual world of Second Life.

The two will deliver keynotes on the event’s Onward, which is about trying to look to the future, Gabriel said. “Large companies like IBM and Sun Microsystems have presences in Second Life, so we’re hoping some of the higher level, business-type people who attend will be the target of this keynote.”

OOPSLA organizers expect roughly 1,200 IT and computing professionals to attend the conference, now in its twenty-second year. The event runs from October 21 to 25, at the Palais des congr

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