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Vol.26 No.4

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Volume 25, No.4

BAA Moot 2012

Phil Last (phil.last@ntlworld.com)

“In the proud tradition of APL Mooting from Ray Cannon’s legendary early moots via Paul Mansour’s Kefalonian and Tuscan extravaganzas to Stephen Taylor’s inspired Iverson College in Cambridge we bring you the 2012 BAA AGM and Moot to be held at the YHA Lee Valley Youth Hostel, Cheshunt, on Friday-Sunday, 27-29 April.”

Thus was announced the first Moot to be held under the aegis of the BAA for seven years.

In 2010 BAA-London had been asked to organise the BAA AGM and hosted it in the same venue as our regular meetings. We did the same in 2011 but this year, 2012, in my joint role as chief culprit of BAA-London and activities officer of the BAA I wanted to make a change. Following the precedent of 2009 when the AGM was held as a part of the BAA Conference at Reading, I decided to organise a Moot and have the AGM as the opening event.

Kai Jaeger was kind enough to set up a wiki moot.aplwiki.com so all the planning and propagation of information could take place in one place and in full view.

I was unfortunate enough never to have attended one of the earlier moots that Ray Cannon held in a variety of Village Halls. I did attend both of Paul Mansour’s European adventures and Stephen Taylor’s working week. I assumed that of all of them Ray’s were the events closest in spirit to the workshop meetings I half remembered from among the regular meetings that the BAA used to hold at Imperial College. I hoped to pitch the event somewhere financially and comfortably in the middle. I thought perhaps not too many people would want to camp out or bed down in a barn. A Villa or full board in a Hotel was likely to put it beyond the price range of many, some of whom might also be paying to take themselves to other conferences that year. So a Youth Hostel with conference facilities and catering seemed like a good compromise. There being one not a mile from my house and that in some of the most beautiful Green Belt North of the Thames helped me to decide.

The BAA-London meetings had developed into a random alternation between fairly formal presentations and totally informal discussions. For this I was hoping for more of a workshop atmosphere but the attendees would be the ones to decide what happened.

The concept of a Moot was less universally comprehended than I’d thought. Within a few days of the announcement this appeared in one of the APL discussion forums:[1] Rohan Jayasekera: “You might attract more people if you were to tell them what a moot is. moot.aplwiki.com doesn’t explain it either. (Google didn’t help me either.)” The ensuing discussion continued for a week with many contributors.

Insufficient effort was put in to attract attendees specialising in dialects J, K, Q et cetera but after Devon McCormick’s interjection “Do you think someone who currently works mostly in J would find this useful?” a good contingent of J-users came and contributed greatly to the proceedings.

The weekend began on the Friday afternoon with the BAA AGM after which Jeremy Sutton, one of the head rangers of the Lee Valley Park, the locality of the venue, introduced us to the park and Kai Jaeger gave us a preview of his FiRe utility written in Dyalog APL. This was rounded off with a barbecue that was devoured at tables in the park still wet from the recent rain. The evening was spent renewing old acquaintances, making new ones and discussing recent developments.

The fullest day was Saturday that started out with fifteen people sitting around an inward facing square of tables wondering who was going to start. Most got out laptops and some actually got to work or at least read their mail. Until Dick Bowman suggested that he could have sat and worked in silence more easily at home without the bother of negotiating the public transport system. So he got up and treated us to an interesting introduction to WPF and XAML for generating GUI forms in APL. This was what I hoped it would be like.

Andy Shires and John Daintree of Dyalog Ltd. arrived mid-morning. Andy introduced them and they were then patient enough to sit through a long catalogue of unresolved bugs and interface problems that Kai Jaeger and others had found in the Dyalog APL development environment. A wide ranging discussion about many aspects of the development interface showed above everything else that although we are all in some ways dissatisfied, one person’s requirement would not necessarily please everyone if implemented just so. One of Kai’s points was the lack of a simple way to align trailing comments in the function editor. Among fifteen people there were at least six mutually incompatible suggestions of how to achieve the goal and half-a-dozen of precisely what the goal was. One generally accepted goal being that all comments are left aligned at some minimum distance beyond the longest line of code being commented. Not completely compatible with Jane’s suggestion of right alignment. I liked Dick’s idea to left-align them off the right-hand-side of the screen. John gave us an inkling of the difficulty of pleasing everyone but was pleased to have had such an exposure to ordinary users and left us believing that we might have had some influence on the Dyalog development process.

Fifteen of us attended at least a part of the weekend, including visitors from Switzerland and the USA, listed at moot.aplwiki.com/Attendees. During the rest of the weekend we worked, learned, ate, drank and laughed together. Many of us gave impromptu demonstrations of recent work and I hope all went away on the Sunday afternoon not having wasted their weekend. I thank you all.

 

References

  1. Linked in discussion group: APL – A Programming Language
    http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Invitation-Moot-1805002.S.93876375
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