Peeking into the latest ISO C++ Standard Meeting for a half-day

Posted: November 26, 2016 in Seeds

The last few weeks were positively demanding for me…

At the end of October we organized the C++ Day, an event entirely dedicated to C++, made by the Italian C++ Community that I lead and coordinate. If you feel like reading some lines about the event, have a look here. It was a great day!

C++ Day

C++ Day 2016 ~ Florence

Some days after, I left for Seattle, to attend the Microsoft MVP Summit at the Microsoft Campus in Redmond. An awesome experience!

14947822_10154149337022149_3563183436919340327_n

Italian Microsoft MVPs at the MVP Global Summit 2016

Casually, the ISO C++ Standard meeting was happening exactly the same week I was in Redmond. I couldn’t miss it! Then, at the end of the Summit, a few other MVPs (like Marius Bancila and Raffaele Rialdi) and I went to Issaquah to attend the meeting half a day. The game was afoot.

The experience was really amazing. First of all we added our names on the attendance sheet to get our names immortalized in the minutes  🙂 That’s was suggested by Herb, who was very kind with all of us.

issaquah-sutter

From left: Marco Arena, Herb Sutter, Raffaele Rialdi, Marius Bancila

Then I am glad we met many members of the committee. They were really gentle and welcoming.

I think attending one of such meetings is a must for whoever cares about the C++ language and also wants to understand how things are discussed and evolved.

You probably know that the committee is divided into a few working and study groups – WG and SG. The working groups are Evolution, Library Evolution, Library, and Core. We were sitting in the Evolution Working Group (EWG), where we heard discussions about a few proposals for C++17 and C++20.

A proposal presentation starts with the author(s) of a proposal defending the idea, going through the paper and showing examples. For what I attended, that part was quick (10′) and other people eventually interrupted only for little clarifications.

Then the discussion starts. It is coordinated by a guy who goes around the room and moderates the discussion. Each member who wants to say something just raises her hand and politely waits to take the floor. Too many times I attend meetings where people just interrupt others. That was exactly the opposite!

Speaking with some guys of the committee, I discovered that some (crucial) discussions are instead plenary (they involve the whole committee and not only a certain working group) and they take place in another – bigger – room.

The discussions I was present in ended with a poll. Something like “how many people agree? How many disagree? How many strongly disagree? Etc.”. It also happened that a discussion was simply postponed because the co-author – Bjarne Stroustrup – was not there.

Each proposal is deeply inspected by bringing out lots of detail, counter examples and observations. That part was the most instructive for me.

On that point, I realized that one thing is particularly vital for the committee: heterogeneity. People have a different background/interests and they use C++ in different ways. The details that come out from discussions reflect this heterogeneity. Without that we would lose many details and observations.

For example, at some point Peter Sommerlad took the floor and asked something like “so, if we accept this proposal we should start teaching people to stop doing X”. Peter made that observation because he is a professor and his point of view is often influenced by his main job.

Other examples were concerns about legacy and old code, which a certain proposal could break under some circumstances that a few people were working on daily. Interesting also the observations made by compiler implementers, because they often already see how complicated would be to code a certain new C++ feature.

The experience was definitely worth it. Thanks to Herb and Andrew Pardoe for their hospitality.

Sometimes such meetings take place in Europe so if you cannot go to USA then just wait for one happening on this side of the World and attend! I’ll do it again.

The week next I went to Berlin for Meeting C++ 2016. I am happy I was part of the staff. There I had the opportunity to meet Bjarne Stroustrup and to dine with him and  with other special people.

with-bjarne

From Left: Michele Adduci, Valentino Picotti, Marco Arena, Bjarne Stroustrup, Jens Weller, Gian Lorenzo Meocci, Marco Foco

This amazing experience concludes my “C++ & friends weeks”.

My short-term plans constist mostly in blogging – I want to write a new “C++ in Competitive Programming” installment, as well as a couple of posts I have had in mind for months – and planning next events and activities. In 2017 my spare time won’t be more than in 2016 but I hope to be more active.

In June I want to make a new C++ event in Italy. If you feel like supporting/sponsoring/helping please get in touch with me.

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