Githens and LISP and the Code Critiquer

So I was talking to Steve Githens at a bar in St. Paul two weeks ago. He was showing me Sash running as a Sakai tool, which I have to admit I didn’t appreciate to the degree Steve expected. The conversation turned (I forget how, beer was involved) to the fact that I used to program in LISP. My street-cred went way up in Githens’ eyes, which is very cool for me (now that I’m a pointy-haired manager).

The next morning I was able to find some code I helped write in 1992 that is still available free of charge on the web (there is no open source license associated with it). It’s for providing access to QuickTime for the Macintosh in LISP. While the code is currently likely to be worthless, I was happy to see that contributions were still being made in 1997. My contributions appear to have been relatively narrow (if I can’t remember my conversation with Steve 2 weeks ago, how do you expect me to remember stuff that happened back when Bill Clinton was first elected?), but I’m impressed to see that there is even some (minimal) test code. I also appear to have found a fundamental problem with the class organization and declined to fix it :-(. One other interesting thing to note is that the code is a collaboration between developers at Northwestern and MIT.

Now, the really crazy thing…

The next night Steve and I were having dinner together and conversation turned to the fact that we both worked at Northwestern. It turns out we actually worked on the same project nearly 15 years apart! The project is called the Code Critiquer (or some such) and is the brainchild of Professor Chris Riesbeck (a great guy and excellent teacher, by the way) and provides automatic critiquing of code submitted in response to assigned exercises. This was a class project for a group of grad students back in the mid-nineties (I can swear to the year) and was a fun, practical way to learn better programming technique. All of this in and for LISP, of course. Well, apparently last summer Steve got some sort of work on a continuation of this project, which is now critiquing code in Java.

Neither Steve nor I could believe it–Lock it down! Our opinions of each other reached new heights. Our dinner companions’ opinions of us reached new depths.

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