Tuesday, July 01, 2008

New Conference on Software Language Engineering

This year is special. There is a new and exciting conference: the International Conference on Software Language Engineering (SLE). The deadline for submission of papers is July 14th, which is coming up soon! Before I start raving about the topics covered by this conference, here is the disclaimer: I'm on the program committee of this conference, and as such I believe it's my duty to advertise the conference.

Anyway, if done right, this conference has the potential to become a major and prestigious conference. The conference fills a clear gap: the topics of software language engineering do not exactly fit in major programming language conferences like OOPSLA, PLDI, POPL, and ECOOP. Nor do they fit exactly in the area of compiler construction (CC). CC does typically not accept more engineering or methodology-oriented papers. For OOPSLA and ECOOP the work more or less has to be in the context of object-oriented programming, for POPL it immediately has to be a principle (whatever that is), and for PLDI there are usually just a few slots available for papers that don't do something with memory management, garbage collection, program analysis, or concurrency. Personally, I've been pretty successful at getting papers in the area of software language engineering accepted at OOPSLA, but a full conference devoted to this topic is much better!

Another reason why I think that this conference has a lot of potential is that if I look at the list of topics of interest in the call for papers, then I can only think of one summary: everything that's fun! I'm convinced I'm not the only one who thinks these topics are fun. When talking to colleagues, I notice again and again most of us just love languages. The engineering of those languages is an issue for almost all computer scientists and many programmers in industry, and this conference will be the most obvious target for papers about this!

Also, the formalisms and used for the specification and implementation of (domain-specific) languages are still very much an open research topic. Standardization of languages is still far from perfect, as discussed by many posts on this blog. Also, new language implementation techniques are being proposed all the time, and extensible compilers for developing language extensions are more popular than ever. Not to mention the increasing interest in using domain-specific languages to help solve the software development problems we're facing.

Earlier in this post I wrote that this conference has major potential if done right. There are few risks. First, the conference has been started by two relatively small communities: ATEM and LDTA. I think the conference should attract a much larger community than the union of those two communities. I hope lots of people outside of the ATEM and LDTA communities will consider to submit a paper. Second, this year the conference is co-located with MODELS. Many programming language people are slightly allergic to model-driven engineering. I hope they will realize that this conference is not specifically a model-driven conference. Finally, the whole setup of the conference should be international and varied. I'm sorry to say that at this point I'm not entirely happy with the choice of keynote speakers. This nothing personal: I respect both keynote speakers, but the particular combination of the two speakers is a bit unfortunate. First, they are both Dutch. Second, neither of them is extremely well-known in the communities of OOPSLA, PLDI, or ECOOP. I hope that this will not affect the potential of this interesting conference.

Now go work on your submission!


Alexander Johannesen said...

This sounds like a great conference; I think most geeks are secretly wanting to create Yet Another Programming Language, fixing old problems (and creating new ones). I know I love this stuff.

I read through the CFP, and I can tell there's a massive focus on the technical implementation aspect, but I'm starting to fear that the big problems in software development isn't really about programming languages, but why we have them. There's really not a lot of differences between them, until you get to the API level where everyone does it their way. I'm mostly interested in the communication aspect of programming, something I almost feel we're forgetting as technologists. I guess as such there's the last "misc." item in the CFP that fits into ... :)

Good luck. It's a really good idea.

control valves said...

Thanks for the helpful information. Hope to hear more from you.

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