A Ruby developer goes to YOW! Lambda Jam 2016

As a Ruby developer of 5 years or so, I’m thoroughly well-versed in the Object-Oriented way of thinking. Integers are objects? No problem. Message-passing? Sure! Favour composition over Inheritance? All the way! Applicative Monoids with Higher-Ordered Functor Composition using Semi-Lattices and Propagators?

…wait, what?

Format

The Jam part of LambdaJam comes from interactive workshops that happen during the main conference time. A lot of tech conferences have these as optional extras beforehand, but it was great to be able to get hand-on in a guided way with some of the concepts/languages we’d heard about earlier. I was able to learn about PureScript (Haskell for Javascript), as well as how the Raft protocol makes distributed systems easier to reason about (distributed Minesweeper, anyone?)

Distributed Minesweeper @ LambdaJam 2016

Distributed Minesweeper @ Lambda Jam 2016

Talks

The conference had a big skew towards Haskell, including 2 of the 3 keynotes. There were 2–3 Clojure talks, one Scala, and one guest talk on Rust, but the rest was almost-entirely Haskell/Purescript. One of the presenters told me that that reflected the proportions in the talks submitted. Elixir/Clojure/F#/OCaml/Elm developers, more talks from you next year please!

As a relative new-comer to FP (having done little more than dip my toes in the water at various points), the level of the talks seemed pretty advanced. There was a lot of assumed knowledge (mostly about monads & type theory) that made things less accessible. If the FP community at large wants to get more developers from other schools interested, I think Evan Czaplicki is doing great things with the Elm language & ecosystem.

Venue

I’d never been to a tech conference in Brisbane, and the choice of the Translink Centre for Service Excellence on QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus was a good one. The rooms were spacious, and the catering was the best I’ve seen. The usual bugbear of No Conference WiFi raised its head, so my data allowance took a pounding as I tethered for 2 solid days.

Attendance

Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten used to Ruby conferences, where diversity is pretty good*, but I was a bit disappointed by the lack of diversity in the attendees. A shout out to the organisers: you can do so much better! Whether it’s offering childcare, or sponsored tickets for those who may not otherwise be able to come, it’d be great to see more done for next year.

Will I go next year?

Maybe. I thoroughly enjoyed the Clojure talks, and I sincerely hope there’s more dynamically-typed FP next year. I definitely learned a lot, so there’s a good chance I will.

* I’m a white male, so perhaps I’m not the best person to ask.