Pittsburgh Scala Meetup: my talk "Stop Overusing Regular Expressions!"

So two days ago, Jamie sent email out to the Pittsburgh Scala meetup group saying that our planned speaker Barrett, who was to have talked about his experiences using Akka, was not going to make it, and asked if anyone else could talk about something.

I suddenly stepped in as a substitute speaker

Since I was already supposed to give a talk on Saturday at the 2013 Pittsburgh TechFest, and was in the process of finishing my work on it, I volunteered to give an early version of my Pittsburgh TechFest talk at the Scala meetup, since I actually happen to provide Scala code in the talk. Ha, this meant giving two talks in two successive meetings, because at the last meeting, I gave a talk on property-based testing using ScalaCheck.


My presentation was “Stop overusing regular expressions!”

Here is my abstract as submitted to Pittsburgh TechFest:

Regular expressions are very commonly used to process and validate text data. Unfortunately, they suffer from various limitations. I will discuss the limitations and illustrate how using grammars instead can be an improvement. I will make the examples concrete using parsing libraries in a couple of representative languages, although the ideas are language-independent. (I’ll try to squeeze in, say, Ruby, Python, JavaScript, Scala.)

I will emphasize ease of use, since one reason for the overuse of regular expressions is that they are so easy to pull out of one’s toolbox.


Turnout was small: five people other than myself. By the way, we’ve discovered unsurprisingly predictable pattern: roughly half the people who RSVP “yes” on the meetups show up.

Slides and code

The material for the talk as given is at this tag of my GitHub repository.

My master branch of the GitHub repository will always have my latest revisions.

(Update of 2013-06-01)

I made substantial revisions in the presentation and code before Pittsburgh TechFest. I recommend looking at the latest version. Details in my report on my talk at Pittsburgh TechFest 2013.

Stop overusing regular expressions! from Franklin Chen


There was great feedback after the talk. Some material I went through took quickly, without a smooth transition to relate ideas, and my final page of Scala code that contained dense use of all kinds of operators and idioms was something I stumbled through trying to explain, even as I was feeling that explaining it was a tangent from the main points of the talk.

There was casual discussion of Scala and other topics after the talk as well. I was pretty excited to hear about how useful Akka has become in solving important problems.


Thanks to everyone who came to the talk! I enjoyed sharing my experiences and recommendations, and engaging in discussion about the topics, and getting to make a mental note of things to change in my delivery, slides, and code for Pittsburgh TechFest on Saturday.

Thanks to Justin for arranging a meeting place for the Pittsburgh Scala meetup at M*Modal, and thanks to M*Modal for providing the space!

And thanks to Jamie again for creating the Pittsburgh Scala meetup group, and TypeSafe for being a sponsor now, thanks to Josh (who sadly did not make it to this meeting).

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