I’m not saying that the first day at the 33rd degree conference is a complete failure as far as the presentations are concerned, but am very close at doing so.
I was very keen on listening to Mike West’s presentation about Dart, which was the first one at the conference. I simply couldn’t wait till it’d start. When it begun, my hope faded away very quickly. I ultimately managed to pick some niceties, but they were very rare and I’m quite certain that very few people, if any, will get on with the language. It’s a new kid of the block and the way to introduce a new language should embrace doing it at every possible moment with a great care of not losing attention of the audience and/or doing it right for a single possible shot. Do it early and often or once and great.
I haven’t heard about an introduction to Dart at any conference, meeting or hack-a-thon in Poland and so it was curious how Mike would lead the show (as a matter of fact, I was considering to submit a talk about Dart, but didn’t feel quite comfortable with the tooling ecosystem).
What I learnt so far about how to attract developers with a new, potentially cool, technology is to let them taste how to get started with it, see how to develop simple applications and what abstractions/features it brings to the table. Mike handled the latter very well. He’s a good speaker, and his very friendly voice and the tone invited for listening. But verbal skills and slides only won’t do much good. Neither will HelloWorld-like applications if the Point sample could be classified as such. I learnt it the hard way and am still struggling with presenting Clojure with enough sweeties so they’re as sweet as I believe there are.
I think that the hardest part of a presentation is to engage people so they’re focused on the topic during the entire session and far beyond. The trick is to whet people’s appetite and offer enough guidance so they’re not lost when left alone. I think Mike didn’t attract much attention and if he did, he lost it after a quarter or shortly thereafter. It was not very interactive and people seemed to get bored. I was terribly after half a session.
I later spoke to Mike about my concerns and I think he even suggested to stay in touch so either of us will do the presentation better next time. I’m convinced about it.
The next presentation was about Iteratees in Play Framework by Sadek Drobi. As he pointed out at the very beginning, all the issues with the presentation was due to a jet-lag and I can confirm that he suffered a lot from it. The presentation was a little chaotic with not much code that would support the talking. I could learn a little theory behind Play and noticed that there’s a routes file that closely resembles Compojure’s route macro. I did find a word about Comet, WebSocket and Server-Sent Events very amusing, but unfortunately it lasted for a very short moment which would hardly raise the level of satisfaction from having attended the presentation. It was not worth the time.
At the very end of the presentation line-up there was a BOF: TypeSafe stack 2.0 and Scala Community Talk. I imagined it’d be a more interactive session, a kind of discussion-heavy meeting where people share their experience. It was not, although it could’ve been if people wished. The BOF was led by Rafał Wasielewski and Wojciech Erbetowski with Venkat Subramaniam and Sadek Drobi. It went pretty well. I could ask many questions that bugged me for quite some time about Scala, Akka, actors and functional programming in Scala. I could also contrast it with Clojure to get a better understanding of them and the reasons why both can co-exist. The BOF encouraged me to spend some time on learning Scala to get engaged in discussions about the role of functional programming for developing applications that was so often considered viable candidates for Java or derivatives only because there was no need or care to expand perspective and embrace different languages and paradigms.
Tomorrow’s Lars Vogel with Android 4.x, Venkat with Concurrency in Java, Martin Burlinski with PhoneGap and jQueryMobile and again Venkat with Scala for the Intrigued. Gonna be a busy day around Android and Scala.