Meet The Champion: October 2020

Sunday, Nov 29, 2020| Tags: Perl, Raku

Welcome to the monthly series Meet The Champion.

Last month we spoke to Myoungjin Jeon, the winner of September 2020.

Today we are talking to Andrew Shitov, the winner of October 2020 of The Weekly Challenge. I hope you are going to enjoy the interview.

Mohammad: Tell us about your technical background?

Andrew: Well, being a PhD in Physics and Mathematics, I used C++ a lot for computing things happening in nuclear collisions, which in the end turned me to work in the world of programming rather than science. Since then, I was mostly working with the main people driving the Internet and Web in Russia. Perl was the main tool, but I was always having fun with other languages and platform, including programming for microcontrollers when it was not the mainstream yet.

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

Andrew: I started using Perl somewhen about just before 2000. A friend of mine said there’s a language where you can write if either before or after the thing. I believe that was the trigger for me.

By the way, the date is surprisingly close to when Perl 6 was announced, and I followed it since pretty much the beginning. Therefore the frustration mood when it did not go well or when the Perls were battling for the version number, or when it was proposed to be renamed, or when it was finally renamed to the same earlier rejected name, etc. I wonder what to expect in the future :-)

Mohammad: How did you come to know about The Weekly Challenge?

Andrew: It was not a problem to hear about the initiative if you follow the main news sources about Perl and (now) Raku. But I can’t say I was enthusiastic about the project. Neither I could predict it lasts for such a long time already. I am looking forward to the 100th issue.

Mohammad: What do you like the most about The Weekly Challenge?

Andrew: There is no doubt that the main achievement is the number of blog posts that the participants wrote alongside their solutions. The historians should do a research on how that helped Perl and Raku, but it is also obvious that it did not help much to overcome the borders of the echo chamber.

The second thing — rather on a personal development level — I think it really helps people to attend their programming gym regularly and for free. Most of the tasks are compact enough to be solved in a few minutes. While not taking much time, they are helping in refreshing different programming tricks and techniques, which is a huge help for everyone (of all ages).

Mohammad: How much time you dedicate every week to The Weekly Challenge?

Andrew: I started solving the tasks since around Week 65, and then retrospectively solved many assignments from earlier weeks. My original idea was to spend half an hour per task at maximum including writing a blog post about the solution.

Then I decided to make weekly reviews of the Raku solutions, which broke the initial plan, so it now takes a bit more than half an hour, which makes it more difficult to follow the schedule diligently.

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

Andrew: Well, the answer is obvious if you’ve just read the previous answer. But seriously, I mostly never look at the other solutions before I finish (and commit) mine. In most cases, I am interested in Raku solutions only, but I also lurk into Perl solutions occasionally.

Speaking of Raku solutions, I honestly enjoy most of them. There are solutions which I find written in a foreign style for me, but on the other hand, they often demonstrate such great pearls of Raku that you only have your jaw dropped. I am sure that Raku still keeps dozens of tricks that nobody discovered so far. That’s one of the fascinating things about the design of this language.

Mohammad: What do you suggest someone just started The Weekly Challenge?

Andrew: Grab a task that you find simple enough. If there’s none this week, scan the previous weeks and pick one from there. Also keep in mind that the output of the problems is often not strictly defined in the task, so you may freely interpret the details and make your own choice for a simpler program. Yes, I believe that the simplicity and clarity of solutions is the main goal that the participants must seek.

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

Andrew: Complete the rename of the project to ’The Weekly Challenge‘ already and extend the language coverage :-)

That brings the end of the conversation with Andrew Shitov. Please do let us know your view. We will come back next month with another champion.


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