Devoxx UA and Devoxx BE 2019

In 2019 I visited Devoxx UA in Kiev and Devoxx BE in Antwerp.
Traveling was actually a little story by itself, so for now we can just assume that I magically was at the locations of DevoxxUA and DevoxxBE.

In Kiew I attended the following talks:

On Wednesday I attended the following talks in Antwerp:

On Thursday I attended the following talks in Antwerp:

On Friday I attended the following talks in Antwerp:

That’s it…
As always, a lot of these topics deserve an article in this blog. And a lot of video recordings from the conference are worth viewing.

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Travelling to Devoxx UA and Devoxx BE 2019

Travelling to this years Devoxx conferences is worth its own short article, even though it is not very IT oriented material…

On the last weekend in October I brought a bicycle to a place near Frankfurt, let’s call it FrankfurtE. I took the train to Karlruhe and then back from FrankfurtE, but cycled from Karlsruhe to FrankfurtE.

On Wednesday evening 2019-11-30 I took a night train from Basel to Hannover and then a day train to some place in North-Rhine-Westphalia for private reasons, then in the evening a flight from Düsseldorf to Vienna and from there to Kiev. There was a problem with the plane, so we returned to Vienna. Austrian Airlines did a good job on rebooking, because they told us that they would find different alternative connections for all of us and send them to our phone, if possible. So there was no need to stand in a line for hours. Plus a decent hotel was booked which was next to the terminal. I had to translate all this information to Russian, because many of the passengers were only comfortable with Ukrainian and Russian languages and the guys in the airport only with German and English.

Then on the 2019-11-31 I flew back from Vienna to Frankfurt and then finally to Kiev, where I could visit the second half of the first day of Devoxx UA and the second day.

On Sunday 2019-11-03 I flew from Kiev to Frankfurt, picked my bicycle in FrankfurtE and took a train to Trier, where I stayed for the night.

On Monday 2019-11-04 I cycled to Marche-en-Famenne.

On Tuesday 2019-11-05 I cycled to Antwerp, where I participated Devoxx Belgium.

On Friday 2019-11-08 I cycled to Lanaken.



On Saturday 2019-11-09 to Bastogne.

And on Sunday 2019-11-10 to Luxemburg, from where I took the train home to Switzerland.

Just to give an idea, it is absolutely possible to use a bicycle as a means of transport on a business trip, but it has to make sense by not consuming more than one or two working days plus weekends, so it is basically necessary to go relatively long distances of 150 to 200 km on a full day and not spend more time than necessary on breaks. And most of the time it is the right choice to use the bigger highways, at least the biggest that are not forbidden to use, because beautiful quite scenic route usually are longer and would be too time consuming. It is not a vacation, but it remains a business trip. Then, on the other hand, this is not such a bad idea, because it really gives some time for thinking about some of the more interesting talks while cycling.

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Company „Skillsmatter“ stops operations

The company Skillsmatter in London has been put „under administration“ and basically stopped its operations. The web site seems to suggest, that everything is still ok, but that is not the case and I have heard so from several sources. The owner Wendy Devolder writes on Twitter and on Linkedin. Or here are some more news from cbronline or from theregister. The adminstrator is Resolve. They had put a deadline on 2019-11-05 for potential buyers and nothing indicates that such a buyer could be found.

There are some hopes expressed, that either 10’000 people will donate 250 GPB each or that someone buys the company and keeps it afloat. Reasonably it is probably not going to happen.

Now it is hard to obtain further reliable information. Have the employees already been layed off? Have all conferences been cancelled, for example Clojure Exchange (ClojureX) and Scala Exchange (ScalaX)?

The websites mention nothing about it, but simply the fact that there is nothing mentioned indicates that the employees, who could update the site, are gone and that the conferences will probably not take place. Otherwise I would expect an update on the site mentioning that it is taking place in spite of the situation. In case of Clojure Exchange I have been informed by other participants that Clojure Exchange has been canceled and that there will probably be a „community conference“ instead. Being a speaker, I volunteered to perform my talk on this community conference instead.

In case of Scala Exchange there was a strange story. A keynote speaker, John de Goes, was „uninvited“ because of „inclusiveness“. As a result, he decided to create a competing conference, Functional Scala, at exactly the same time as Scala Exchange and also in London. Some speakers have reportedly decided to speak at Functional Scala instead of Scala Exchange and speakers were encouraged to do so. In the end this might come out as a good thing, because Functional Scala will probably take place and might be an option for those who have already booked their visit to Scala Exchange.

So what does all of this mean? If we are heading for bankruptcy of Skillsmatter and if the conferences (Clojure X for sure, Scala X probably) are canceled, we as speakers or simply visitors are entitled to refund for our ticket or our non refundable travel expenses as speakers to the extent that Skillsmatter would have covered them. But reasonably there will not be enough money left for this. A company can go bankrupt and still have funds that is hard to access, but in practice banks will help out if these funds can be documented. So in reality bankruptcy usually means that there are many debts and little money already. Now the salaries of the employees get the highest priority. When they have been paid, other open payments can be covered, according to the rules that apply in the country. Possibly the price for the ticket, that has already been paid, is simply lost. Possibly travel expenses are lost if they cannot be redirected to another event.

If you like to Donate 250 GBP and 10’000 people do so too, the company could continue. I do not think that this is going to happen.

I will keep you informed if I learn more about the issue that is interesting to potential conference visitors and speakers of events organized by skillsmatter.

Update 2019-11-12: I got in contact with the administrators. They did not want to confirm or deny that the conferences scheduled in December would take place. They just do not know, but it seems to be depending on finding a buyer. If a magical buyer appears and decides to reactivate the events, they might take place. Meanwhile all web pages of skillsmatter show a text that the company is „under administration“, so I guess each day it is getting less likely that there will be anything a buyer can reactivate. I know for sure that at least some employees have already been asked to leave.

Now the good news: The replacements for Scala Exchange and Clojure Exchange are already in place, meaning a conference about the same programming language at the same date and also in London. So if you have booked your hotel and your trip to London already, you might want to check them out:

Update 2019-12-09:
Scala Exchange is not going to happen. See web page.
And since so much time has passed, it is becoming unlikely that a buyer turns up, so the company will be gone.

Update 2020-02-12:
The company found a buyer and will start working again. (see comment)

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Checked Exceptions in Java

In Java it is possible to declare a method with a „throws“-clause. For certain exceptions, that are not extending „RuntimeException“ or „Error“, this is actually required.

What looked like a good idea 25 years ago has proven to be a dead end. I do not know of any other major programming language that opts for declaring exceptions in this way. Slightly newer frameworks extend all their exceptions from RuntimeException, thus avoiding the need to declare them. Even in relatively early Java there was a weird way of working with exceptions in EJB, when it was required to write an interface and an implementation for the EJB. But it was strongly discouraged to let the implementation implement the interface, because it threw different exceptions. It was not the only weird thing about early EJB, of course. But without checked exceptions it would at least have been possible to let the implementation implement its interface.

We are now able to use Java 13 and as of Java 8 lambdas were introduced. With the introduction of lambdas the declared exceptions became especially painful and for this reason even Oracle has created twins for some essential exceptions that derive from RuntimeException, especially IOException.

We should face it: The throws clause has turned out to be a mistake and we should avoid this mistake by just using exceptions that do not have to be declared, at least in our APIs. It is not the only mistake, see Criticism of Java. Some of my other favorites are the lack of operator overloading for numeric types, the weird concept of Serializable and the lack of natively immutable collections and the lack of a convenient way to write some collections as code. But these issues are being worked on and we will eventually see some progress.

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