05 Feb 2009

Scala & Wicket London Meet Up

Scala and Wicket

I know next to nothing about the Wicket web framework, but I was intrigued by the jWeekend London Wicket User’s Group meet up last night. The topic was “Scala and Wicket”.

As far as Scala and web frameworks go, the main name is Lift. The problem with Lift… No, let me re-phrase that because it’s not a problem with Lift. The great thing about Lift is that it’s made for Scala, so it’s going a great fit to the language. Learning Lift and Scala at the same time should mean you’re bouncing the framework learning and the language learning off each other, which is going to teach you a lot.

Then again… if you’re learning the language and trying to get your head around a framework, it seems to make the goal of “doing something useful with Scala” just that little bit further away. So how about this: Scala and Java work well together, so why not use a web framework you already know, but just use Scala instead of Java? Start gently, then, when ready, take a look a Lift.

I don’t know which approach is best, but it seems there might be something in the gently-gently approach. There is one other compelling reason for looking at a existing (legacy? :-) web framework: you can dig into the publications on the topic, such as Wicket in Action, or Programming Struts, or Stripes etc. (Obviously this situation will change for Lift: I’ve already expressed my disappointment that none of the big publishers are looking at the practical aspects of Scala, but there is the start of a creative commons text).

Sure, you’re not necessarily going to learn Scala idioms from a non-Scala framework, and you’re going to run into head-scratching issues, but it seems somehow more manageable to at least try it. More so if you’re inserting Scala into an existing project.

Of course, the whole argument falls apart for me in the case of this event, as I don’t know Wicket :-) But I’ve tried Scala in a trivial way with a large existing Struts 1 application, and it was surprisingly painless.

But back to the event and the talks:

  • Daan van Etten gave a lovely “Basic Introduction to Scala With Wicket”. The slides, handouts and code are available. One download and two commands to get the example app up and running was pleasing.

  • Dean Phersson-Chapman spoke about his “Experiences Converting an Existing Wicket Application To Scala”. It seems there are some serialization issues between Wicket and Scala 2.7.3 which are being fixed.

  • Jan Kriesten showed examples of “Real World Scala and Wicket”. If you’d not seen Scala before, this was probably pretty scary stuff in places. Jan clearly knows his Scala and his Wicket very well.

  • Finally, Alastair Maw spoke about the evils of abstraction, which had some fine points about when to avoid it (mostly) and when to embrace it (rarely).

It looks like slides appear over at londonwicket.org.