EuroClojure - My first Clojure conference

In the last week of October I went to Bratislava to attend EuroClojure, an important Clojure event organised by Cognitect. I took the week off, and paid the registration with my own money. Functional programming is too far from my day job, I practice it on my spare time, so that’s normal.

I spent the week end in Vienna, lovely city, I walked a lot and visited some museums. I saw one Vermeer, that’s one more to the list. I also saw the tower of Babel from Bruegel the Elder, which is still relevant, especially in software engineering! There is one from his son in Rotterdam in Boijmans that I like to watch too, that’s quite inspiring actually.

On Monday I headed to Bratislava. The conference was on Tuesday and Wednesday. I met some of the participants already in a big bar, where Juxt sponsored an ice breaker. Everyone happy to see new faces and to discuss about a variety of topics, from clojure.spec to cheers in Finnish which sounds like chicken piss in Dutch. I already felt at ease, I mean, more than usual. That’s what I expected from the community, for what I had experienced online, and it delivered.

It would take too long to talk about all that happened there, so here are some observations, random and uncategorised.

It was the first Clojure conference for most of the participants. That’s a good sign. The community is growing and eager to meet its peers. Experienced clojure developers were easily reachable through the companies who had a booth, or simply by talking to people.

Four persons looking for a job against half of the participants hiring. Let’s make it 15% if you account for the companies that brought several employees, but let’s make it 20% for the companies that have more than one vacancy. Over 300 participants, that’s still around 60 jobs against 4 candidates. Roughly, but you get the picture.

People were surprised to hear that Fortran is still alive and that I like programming in it every day. Yes, I do, and I was pleased to see that the people I talked to understood that it’s still one of the best tools for the job and that it makes lot of sense to use it for that reason.

A strong emphasis on diversity, via ClojureBridge in particular. That’s good. I have to contact the folks in Amsterdam to propose myself as a coach, that can be a fulfilling experience. I’m only getting into Clojure, but heck I’ll work on the training material, I’ll learn some nice stuff on the way, and explaining it will make it understand even more concepts. Other more experienced coaches will have my back when I don’t know the answer anyway. But more importantly, the human experience is what interests me most; I have also far too many friends thinking that they can’t program where they would just shine.

One presentation track was okay — in any case the venue wouldn’t have allowed parallel ones — but I would have prefered shorter talks for more presentations. With more speakers you get more engagement amongst the participants, it’s easier to break the ice and to find people. About paying lodging and travelling to speakers, I am sure a reasonable compromise could be found.

Many consulting companies, product companies, and small companies who are using clojure as their primary language; few academics. That’s not surprising, considering that it’s one of the reasons why Clojure targets the JVM.

A lot of traction for ClojureScript. Also as a first language for applications targetting the browser, skipping javascript entirely.

The scientific conferences I attend are actually better than I thought, because they are more focused and as reasearch conferences, a lot of discussions are going on to find new approaches and solutions to new or old problems. EuroClojure is a general conference, there had to be some for each of us and I don’t criticise this. It’s just that I feel I get more out of these conferences because they are more focused, the participants probably more prepared and expecting to get more out of it.

You can argue about dynamic typing versus static typing until late in the night.

I went back home completely pumped. About clojure, functional programming, and numerry. Exactly like when I get back from a research conference, for other topics. That’s really good.

My main take-away from this conference, is that despite being a clojure hobbyist, I am more relevant than I thought. All I lack is more experience in real world applications, an experience I cannot get at my current job, and that’s well understood. However, being genuinely interested in functional programming is already a sign of curiosity and enthusiasm. Working on numerry makes me think in terms of systems, get experience with full stack development and UI/UX, even if it’s not that visible at the moment. Just working on such a project, which has more relevance than I thought, has broken the ice, or even the barrier to entry. I am a peer, I feel I belong. I also understand a lot during the presentations and the conversations; I am not lost in technicalities. That’s really encouraging. Now I just need to make time to work more on it.

All in all, it was a really good experience. I don’t regret the money nor the time there, I’m glad I went. So yeah, basically, if you haven’t been to one yet, you should!