EuroClojure 2016 Retrospective

I’ve been wanting to go to a Clojure conference for a long while. Partly to get to know the international Clojure community better, and partly to experience first hand the diversity of talks that these conferences offer. EuroClojure was a natural choice for me this year, as I could not make it to its bigger brother in the US, Clojure/conj.  

Set in the scenic, historical Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, I spent two days listening to many interesting talks, chatting to Clojure developers and roaming the city’s many open-till-late coffee shops, thinking about what I’d learned and enjoying the atmosphere.

The venue for the conference was Stará tržnica, an old market hall and towards the weekend after the conference, it would make way for fresh fruit and veg sellers. The open space encouraged the informal atmosphere, enabling people to observe the talks from the balconies or downstairs, as well as being a great space for Unsessions and some board gaming (!) at the end of the first day.

The two days were filled to the brim with talks, which started a bit later in the morning (9:50am) and ended early evening (6:00pm), which I think is great because it makes for a more relaxed start to the day. There were plenty of breaks, but there didn’t seem to be enough food/coffee at times. Thankfully, the venue’s neighbourhood provided more than enough opportunities for these. I found it a bit strange that there was no real MC, although most talks finished/started on time, there were a few times people rushed to their seats because they didn’t realise a talk was starting (sometimes this happened to the speakers too, who waited for few awkward minutes for somebody to let them know that they should start). But these are really minor complaints in the grand scheme of things. What mattered is that there was a great, informal atmosphere and the venue allowed for easy dipping in and out of the talks, which I know many people, including me, enjoyed.

The topics of the talks varied wildly (which I enjoyed), though there were no-less than three clojure.spec talks, approaching the library from quite different angles. My most memorable talks are:

  • Making Machines that Make Music” by Srihari Sriraman: a beautiful talk on the intersection of two of the speaker's passions: Carnatic music and programming. Srihari showed us his journey to generate this music, or rather evoke the feeling of the genre and it was absolutely riveting. 
  • Communicating Risk Reactively” by Mike Pearson: an end-to-end talk by all means, Mike talked about communicating statistics about child heart surgery in the UK. The project he worked on went through many iterations and is a great example of a continuous, feedback-loop based approach to projects, and also how tools like Clojure can support it.
  • Automating Resilience Testing with Clojure and Docker” by Daniel Lebrero: Daniel presented a familiar story, where a rigid environment makes it incredibly hard to test services. He showed how we can leverage property based testing and Docker to build automated resilience testing and the pros and cons to that approach.
  • Genetic Programming with clojure.spec” by Carin Meier: What if programs are creatures that we can generate and mutate with clojure.spec? What if we could use similar concepts to create self-healing code? It was fascinating to see (not only in this talk) the plethora of places in which clojure.spec is useful and can be used creatively.

It was also great to see a talk about ClojureBridge Berlin by Malwine Gier and Arne Brassuer, an initiative to help underrepresented groups in software development to either start programming or provide support in their career development. I was very impressed how well organised and thoughtful these events are. They are happening in London too, so if you are interested in coaching/attending check out the ClojureBridge website.

I’ve enjoyed Euroclojure and my stay greatly and it definitely inspired me to explore Clojure(Script) and it’s community further. Thanks Cognitect for organizing this fantastic conference and Red Badger for providing a generous training budget enabling my trip to Bratislava.

Dominik Piatek
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