Video review: Functional Thinking by Neal Ford, O’Reilly Media

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this video as part of the O’Reilly Blogger Review program. The opinion here is not influenced by that.
It is only my own and honest opinion of this product.

I’ve liked Neal Ford’s freely available talks about functional programming and I’ve attended one of his talks last year at WJAX in Munich. He is a great communicator and has a vast technical knowledge.

Functional Programming is one the rise and in my opinion something every good developer should learn. This new video Functional Thinking is a good way to get started.

In the first part Neal explains why functional programming is something that every developer should now care about. He makes a very good point about why and how functional programming can enrich your toolbox. For example he mentions that Clojure is to concurrency what Java was to garbage collection. While in Java you don’t have to worry much about memory leaks, in Clojure (and of course other functional languages) you don’t have to worry about low level concurrency details like locks.

Neal does a great demonstration showing the beauty of functional code when he transform a verbose Java method from Apache Commons into some beautiful Clojure code and then explains how much better and more general the Clojure version is.

He explains very clearly some of the main concepts of functional programming like laziness, strict evaluation or high-order functions and closures (and it makes you realize how “noisy” Java (before Java 8) is compared to more functional languages like Scala).

Java is used for many examples and when Java doesn’t offer what is needed Neal switches to Groovy most of the time but also shows Scala and Clojure versions. I personally would have preferred more Scala and less Groovy but this is just a personal preference. Functional libraries like Functional Java or totallylazy are also introduced.

I’ve found only one error in the videos: When Option is presented the slide and Neal say that the code is Scala but in fact it is Java.

I really liked Neal’s recommendation to look at the concept of new languages like Clojure instead of just comparing them with Java or C++ or looking at the syntax. Too often programmers ignore the newer languages because the don’t feel familiar at first.

All the code samples are easy to follow and Neal is really great at explaining new concepts to OO programmers who come from a language like Java, Ruby or C++.

This video is a fantastic introduction to functional programming if you come from an object oriented language and now want to learn more about functional programming or just see what it is all about and why so many people are now talking about it.

Even if you’ve already using functional programming concepts and languages for a while you can probably learn something new or get a new perspective on some functional concepts.
So unless you’ve just written your own Haskell compiler, I highly recommend watching this video to get started with functional programming.

The talk also shows how badly Java needs lambda expressions and a more functional collection library! 🙂

After watching that video it is a good idea to download Clojure or Scala and play with it. Neal Ford (together with Stuart Halloway) has recently also released a new almost 6 hour video about Clojure. And Martin Odersky’s free course about Functional Programming Principles in Scala is available online for free (if you don’t want to do the exercises, you can just download the videos).

You can find the video Functional Thinking by Neal Ford here:
Functional Thinking by Neal Ford

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