Meet The Champion: Perl Weekly Challenge - 026

Monday, Sep 23, 2019| Tags: Perl, Raku

Welcome to the weekly series “Meet The Champion”.

Last week we spoke to Yet Ebreo, the winner of Perl Weekly Challenge - 025.

Today we are talking to the Perl Weekly Challenge - 026 winner Roger Bell_West. I hope you are going to enjoy the interview.

Mohammad: Tell us about your technical background?

Roger: I was a hobbyist in the early 1980s (along with what seemed like everyone else in the UK in the wake of the BBC Micro), and it gradually developed into something people would pay me for. I still sometimes find myself caring about wasted bytes, when a modern system probably doesn’t care about wasted megabytes. I’ve never had any formal computing training, unless you count the one-day introduction to Cisco routers.

Mohammad: How/When did you start using Perl/Raku?

Roger: In 1998-1999, I’d been noodling around with Awk and Rexx because C was never a good match for the way I think, and my boss at the time suggested I pick up some Perl too. I remember objecting strongly to sigils (why do I need a special character in front of each variable to tell me it’s a variable?) but otherwise it was an excellent fit for me. I still tend to write small command-line programs in the Unix tradition, to do one thing well and then exit, so Perl5 with its relatively short startup time continues to be my language of choice.

Perl6 is another matter entirely. I didn’t touch it until I started doing the Challenges. There are bits of it I like a great deal, like Date, SetHash and Rational, though the virtual machine startup time is stopping me from using it more widely.

Mohammad: How did you come to know about “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Roger: I met Neil Bowers after I moved out of London to near High Wycombe, and read one of his blog posts that mentioned “The Weekly Challenge - 014”.

Mohammad: What do you like the most about “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Roger: A wide range of different problems, sometimes in a field I know something about, sometimes not. I’ve played a little in spoj, but its problems tend to be very mathematically-orientated, which gets samey after a while.

Mohammad: Is there any thing you would like to change?

Roger: In my ideal setup, there’d be a standard interface and a test suite for the code to pass (as it might be, “write a function named X that takes parameters Y, Z and returns the result as a hashref”) – or even an extension of this to executable parameters so that it could be done with different languages too. But obviously that would be a whole bunch more work for you.

Mohammad: How much time you dedicate every week to “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Roger: Usually I get started during the first slack time after I arrive at work on a Monday morning (I work from home but work and non-work time are strictly segmented). The time depends on the problem, but usually an hour or so.

Mohammad: Do you checkout others solutions and who is your favourite?

Roger: One of the reasons I try to do the challenge fairly quickly is to avoid the temptation to see how other people have tackled it – I tend to go for a black box approach. Sometimes I’ll take a look later, though, just to see how people have approached it – especially in Perl6 where I don’t really regard myself as fluent yet.

Mohammad: What do you suggest someone just started the weekly challenge?

Roger: Mostly, have fun. I code because I enjoy coding; it’s nice that people pay me to do it, but I wouldn’t still be in this line of work if I didn’t also like it. If you don’t already know the problem space, don’t be afraid to go out looking for standard algorithmic solutions which you can then implement in your own code.

Mohammad: Do you find the website user friendly? What do you like most?

Roger: I’d really like an RSS feed, and it would be nice if the github instructions were on the site as well as on the github repo, but otherwise it seems fine.

Mohammad: Anything else you would to like share with us?

Roger: Just to say thanks for putting in the work to get this up and running, and continuing to give us interesting problems to solve.

That brings the end of the conversation with Roger Bell_West. Please do let us know your view. We will come back next week with another champion.


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