Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bootstrap your Scala skills


I recently decided to take a swing at learning Scala. The following summarizes why I found the language interesting enough to look at and some excellent learning resources.

Why scala?
  • Type inference. When the type for an element is obvious, the Scala compiler is able to automatically make the inference. No need for any additional type annotations. Less typing is great (pun intended).
  • Strong Static typing. As fun as dynamic typing can be, I'm sick of running into type mismatch related bugs in rails. Coupled with inference, you can catch the bugs early with the compiler and write less code.
  • Flexible approach to immutability. Mutable & immutable variants of all collections conveniently provided. Bootstrap your way to functional programming.
  • Higher order functions. Allows the definition of functions that take other functions as input. Makes for very concise and expressive code.
  • Multiple inheritance. Sort of. With traits.
  • Pattern matching. Case statements on steroids. See here for some neat example applications.
  • A JVM language. Can interoperate with Java libraries easily.
  • Increasing enterprise adoption. Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare(to name a few) make active use of Scala. It's been claimed to be an active ingredient in the secret sauce that helps them scale.
Learning Resources

Scalatron



I find the premise here brilliant. Scalatron teaches you Scala while you program the AI to compete in a virtual arena game. Play against the computer or other people's bots as you level up your Scala skills.

Coursera



If you prefer the classroom based approach to learning and you have the time to dedicate, coursera is always a great option. Learn about programming the functional way in Scala.

Scala School



Scala school started as a series of lectures at Twitter to prepare experienced engineers to be productive Scala programmers. Geared towards seasoned programmers, it does a great job of exposing the various aspects of the language through concrete examples. It's comprised of 13 lessons, start with the basics and you'll be building a distributed search engine by the end.

Learn in small bites



I ran across this blog and was impressed by the clear and concise nature of the examples provided. Each well-commented "bite" demonstrates a different facet of Scala.

References 


The Scala API


http://www.scala-lang.org/api/current/index.html#package
When in doubt, go to the source. Useful for understanding and discovering methods of common classes.

Effective Scala



The unofficial "best practices" guide for Scala. Definitely worth a look once you've gone over the basics.


Wish me luck as I learn! What has your experience with Scala been? What resources do you rely on for reference and learning?

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