Yangon Software Programmer Developer Group hosts intro to new language

Yangon’s Google Developer Group (GDG) and the Myanmar Computer Federation hosted a half-day event December 20th that introduced techies to a new way of programming – one that should help them clean up their code.

The Lambda Talks “Seminar on Functional Programming” educated attendants in Myanmar’s most populous city on the fresh tech tack. GDG community manager Ko Ye Lin Aung said the event sought to spur participants to take on functional programming and retrain their brains to include the paradigm when considering possible ways of approaching a coding problem.

The American search engine and advertising company doesn’t have a Myanmar office; rather it has an on-the-ground consultant and the network of community members.

“We are a purely technical community,” he said, distinguishing the Yangon group from other tech networking events or associations. “We mainly focus on the technology around Google to empower the local developers.”

Since this summer, the group has held a few events with the ambition they’ll occur monthly. And though GDG has ties to Google – the global behemoth provides some funding for the network’s events through a consultant and has officially endorsed Yangon’s chapter – they address all kinds of technology.

Ko Ye Lin Aung advocated exploring other programming options. The process helps fill out programmers’ tool kits. “There’s a right tool for the right problem,” he said.

“If you know more, you will know a thousand ways to solve a problem. You can decide which way is better.”

He said that the tech community here lives by a code: one well-executed job per element, just like Google and its search engine.

WhatsApp utilises Erlang, an Ericsson-created “purely functional” language which helps with concurrency, or action that unfolds all at once or asynchronously rather than step-by-step as it does with some other languages, according to Ko Ye Lin Aung.

“Their technology is very solid, very battle-tested,” Ko Ye Lin Aung said, also noting WhatsApp has hundreds of millions of users – around 600 million monthly active users in August – and a small employee team, which played in the latter group’s favour when Facebook acquired the company for US$19 billion.

Functional programming lends itself to a leaner implementation of language, according to Ko Ye Lin Aung.

“The structure of the code that you’ve written comes out a lot cleaner, and it can be more organised and more readable,” he said. Solo coders might comprehend their own code like someone reads their own handwriting; but “when you’re working with someone, they may not understand how you write, so it’s very important that you’ve written is readable and clear and good enough.”

An old programming joke runs two parallel scenarios that end in the same frustration: “Code doesn’t work, don’t know why,” and “Code works, don’t know why”. It speaks to the complexity of coding and the moving parts involved, ticking away like gears in a watch working under an elegant face.

Functional programming treats everything as functions rather than objects, according to Ko Ye Lin Aung. In other coding languages, a variable can switch its value at any moment; whereas in functional programming, once a variable’s value gets assigned, it won’t budge, he explained.

The paradigm restricts certain options, which can clear things up. Its use also results in fewer mistakes. “It forces you in a way, you should write good code,” Ko Ye Lin Aung said. “You just cannot write bad code – but it’s very subjective.” Ko Ye Lin Aung said that though learning functional programming will be challenging, he believes in pushing himself past his comfort zone.

“People should be open-minded … you cannot just sit down in the cave and say my language is the best and I’m just going to do one [thing],” he said. “You have to work on new stuff and be curious.”


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