Friday, March 24, 2006

Dynamic Typing in the Strangest Places

One of my favorite things in college was the accidental synergy that happened between the collection of classes taken in a single quarter. Sure, compiler theory and automata match one another, but it's even more interesting when a history and computer science class find ways to complement one another. I get some of the same type of cross-pollination of ideas when speaking at conferences -- some of the topics end up complementing each other in odd ways.

It happened recently in St. Louis at No Fluff, Just Stuff. Part of the weekend, I was talking about how document centric messaging in SOA avoids endpoint versioning headaches. Later in the weekend, I was talking about the flexibility afforded by dynamic languages and their loose typing. Then, it occurred to me: SOA and the document centric approach is really just another version of dynamic or loose typing. If you free the plumbing from having to know what types you are passing (in this case, just a blob of XML), you create a more flexible system, able to withstand changes more gracefully. Just like with dynamic languages.

I've been sauteing in this idea for a while: we are building the same kind of application right now on the project I'm on. And, even though it's written in .NET 2, we take advantage of loose typing in the transport layer, which ultimately makes for a more robust application. How do we handle catching version conflicts? The way you should handle all such situations: unit testing. Loose typing + unit testing provides the same security you get with strongly typed languages but much more flexibility

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