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Mikołaj Koziarkiewicz

Impressions after ScalaSphere

8 April 2016 | Mikołaj Koziarkiewicz

ScalaSphere by VirtusLab happened well over one-and-a-half months ago, so it's high time for some sort of summary.

A "DevTools Summit" is an uncommon theme for a conference. Typically, tooling presentation given during programming-related events focus on the "shiny-shiny", i.e. user-facing, prominent features. ScalaSphere aimed at providing a more holistic view of various tools, featuring a pronounced focus on the tool developer's perspective.

Before we get into the details, let me dispel a probable misconception about the subject matter - in the context of topics presented, "tools" was not a synonym for "IDEs". Rather, the talks covered a wide variety of meta level technologies and concepts, from learning environments, through IDEs, to license models.

The agenda can be found on the conference's website (along with slides and recordings). That being given, I will list several subjectively more intriguing highlights.

Matthias Langer shared his experiences during The Scala Refactoring Library: Problems and Perspectives, providing a very representative set of examples of problems that refactoring lib developer must deal with, especially in a language as syntactically and semantically complex as Scala.

Eugene Burmako's immediately following up What we learned in scala.meta? tied in nicely with the theme of its predecessor, going down to the language design level. Included was a very valuable discussion of various problems that crop up when dealing with the high (syntactic sugar)/low level representation mismatch.

Rory Graves, in Scalanator.io - Building a training platform on compiler tools, had announced a new Scala learning tool initiative. Apart from said announcement, the talk included an interesting overview of design and implementation choices during the creation of such a platform.

Sam Halliday refreshed everyone's memory on the oft-neglected topic of OS licensing in How to be Free, Libre and Open Source. The talk also discussed several important legal aspects of various licensing schemes, so if you just spam GPL or BSD into your projects, I very much recommend taking a look at it (even forgiving being coerced to speak German).

Lukas Wegmann's Scaps – Type-directed API Search for Scala is still in the early stages of development, but looks very promising in the context of addressing Scala's perennial problem of API discoverability.

Alexandre Archambault presented his Scala-native tool in Easy dependency management with coursier. The improved resolution features, and the impressive processing speed were certainly a sight to behold.

Additionally, several talks provided an intriguing sneak peak into the internals of the currently dominant IDEs - ENSIME, Scala IDE and IntelliJ's Scala plugin.

In general, the quality of talks remained solid throughout, and - despite being unfortunately pre-fatigued while attending the conference - I found no problem with following the talks, nor maintaining an interest during any of them.

Organizationally speaking, everything was well. The logistics were well prepared and executed, especially for a first edition of a conference.

I can definitely say that the conference was a success, recommend to check out the videos, and keep a lookout for a future installment.