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Code Kata Day

syndicated from on November 25, 2017

Today I was at the DomCode Code Kata Day in Utrecht. Over the course of the day, we were given 4 different code katas with about an hour each to solve the problem. You could either pick a programming language you wanted to learn more about or use the wheel of languages to get a random language. Here's a summary of the day and how it helped me become a better programmer and why I think it worked so well.

Kata 1: 99 bottles of Kotlin

The first kata we got to do was a relatively simple one (with some minor but nasty details): 99 bottles. The idea is to write a piece of code that would "sing" the 99 botles of beer song. I spun the wheel and got Kotlin as the language to use for this kata. Given my experience is about 99.999% PHP, any venture outside of PHP would be an interesting exercise I was quite curious about whether I could solve this. But the problem was relatively easy, so I set out to try it.

Kotlin is a relatively easy language to get started in, especially when you're used to languages such as PHP and Python. The syntax is quite similar and the documentation is pretty good. It didn't take long until I had my first attempt working. Well, almost working. As it turned out I had not taken into account that when there are 2 bottles of beer on the wall and you take one down, there is not 1 bottles of beer on the wall but there is 1 bottle of beer (thanks Ross for pointing that one out). After quickly fixing that, it worked like a charm. Ross gently nudged me to look at the when syntax, and since I had some time left I decided to refactor my first attempt into using when. Success! It looked a lot more readable and it worked like a charm.

Kata 2: OCR

In the second kata we went back to the days of yore when printing fancy stuff required ASCII art. In this case, we get a file with numbers in fancy ASCII and we need to parse it to PHP. I spun the wheel and was told to use Python for this, but to get my head around how to parse stuff like this I started out with a proof of concept in PHP. Unfortunately even getting this to work with PHP took me way too long, so I ended up not being able to finish a Python version. The PHP version works like a charm though. It turns out one of the biggest challenges I had was the fact that ASCII also relies heavily on spaces and my PHP IDE of choice (PHPStorm) strips spaces at the end of a file automatically. My code was working for a long time and I didn't realize the problem was with the file I was trying to parse!

Despite only having done this kata with my regular language of choice this was still a very good exercise in parsing unconvential data structures. Having to think about how to parse characters that are actually 3 lines high is pretty interesting, and I think I found a decent solution given the time constraints I had.

Kata 3: Pig Latin

After lunch it was time for the third kata of the day: Pig Latin. I had never heard of this one before so it was very interesting to first brainstorm about the best way to actually do this. An added difficulty was the fact that the wheel of languages gave me Elixir, a functional language in which everything is immutable. It was quite a paradigm shift for me, since I'm not used to functional programming, so it was quite interesting to combine these two unknowns.

Getting started with Elixer was quite hard. Having to think in such a different way made it extremely hard to get started by searching the web and reading the documentation I eventually got some code up and (nearly) running. Unfortunately I ran out of time before having a fully functional application, so this is one that I need to finish at a later date. I have saved my progress, so I can try and finish it.

Is it a problem that I didn't finish in time? Nope! Failure is the best way of learning, and I surely bumped my head a couple of times trying to implement this in Elixir. But I learned a lot from the experience, so it wa

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