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)

Scala Exchange 2017

I have visited Scala Exchange („#ScalaX“) in London on 2017-12-14 and 2017-12-15. It was great, better than 2015 in my opinion. In 2016 I missed Scala Exchange in favor of Clojure Exchange.

This time there were really many talks about category theory and of course its application to Scala. Spark, Big Data and Slick were less heavily covered this time. Lightbend (former Typesafe), the company behind Scala, did show some presence, but less than in other years. But 800 attendees are a number by itself and some talks about category theory were really great.

While I have always had a hard time accepting why we need this „Über-Mathematics“ like category theory for such a finite task as programming, I start seeing its point and usefulness. While functors and categories provide a meta layer that is actually accessible in Scala there are actually quite rich theories that can even be useful when constrained to a less infinite universe. This helps understanding things in Java. I will leave details to another post. Or forget about it until we have the next Scala conference.

So the talks that I visited were:

• Keynote: The Maths Behind Types [Bartosz Milewski]
• Free Monad or Tagless Final? How Not to Commit to a Monad Too Early [Adam Warski]
• A Pragmatic Introduction to Category Theory [Daniela Sfregola]
• Keynote: Architectural patterns in Building Modular Domain Models [Debasish Ghosh]
• Automatic Parallelisation and Batching of Scala Code [James Belsey and Gjeta Gjyshinca]
• The Path to Generic Endpoints Using Shapeless [Maria-Livia Chiorean]
• Lightning talk – Optic Algebras: Beyond Immutable Data Structures [Jesus Lopez Gonzalez]
• Lightning Talk – Exploring Phantom Types: Compile-Time Checking of Resource Patterns [Joey Capper]
• Lightning Talk – Leave Jala Behind: Better Exception Handling in Just 15 Mins [Netta Doron]
• Keynote: The Magic Behind Spark [Holden Karau]
• A Practical Introduction to Reactive Streams with Monix [Jacek Kunicki]
• Building Scalable, Back Pressured Services with Akka [Christopher Batey]
• Deep Learning data pipeline with TensorFlow, Apache Beam and Scio [Vincent Van Steenbergen]
• Serialization Protocols in Scala: a Shootout [Christian Uhl]
• Don’t Call Me Frontend Framework! A Quick Ride on Akka.Js [Andrea Peruffo]
• Keynote: Composing Programs [Rúnar Bjarnason]

Scala Exchange 2015

It was possible to arrange a visit of Scala Exchange 2015 in London, short #ScalaX.

I visited the following events:

• day 1:
• day 2:
• day 3:
• It was great. I hope that I can make it again 2016.

Scala Exchange 2014

Deutsch

I have been visiting the conference Scala eXchange ( #scalaX ) organized by Skillsmatter in London.

Here is some information about the talks that I have attended and the highlights:

The Binary Compatibility Challenge

Martin Odersky

Examples can be constructed for each of the four combinations of binary and source code compatibility.
We wish more of both. The talk is mostly about binary compatibility.
For Scala the conflict is innovation vs compatibility. Java chose one extreme to retain compatibility at any cost, which is considered more like a constraint then a restriction by the Java developers. It is easier for them because they control the JVM which is again close to the Java language. Clojure, Ruby, JRuby, Perl, Python, PHP and some others have less problems with this issue because the software is distributed as source code and compiled when run, just in time.
Reproducible builds are hard to achieve in Scala, just think of the many build tools like ivy, gradle, maven, sbt, ant, make (yes, I have seen it),…
The idea is to split the around 30 steps of compilation of scala into two groups. The first group could yield an intermediate format after around 10 internal compilation steps, which might be stored as tree of the program in a clever binary format. This could be a good compromise and address some of the issues, if kept stable. More likely will programs be combinable compatibly with this format than with binary or source only. It would also save time during compilation, which is a desirable improvement for scala.

REST on Akka: Connect to the world

Mathias Doenitz

Akka-http is the spray 2.0 or successor of spray. It follows the lines of spray, but improves on some of the shortcomings.
It should be used for reactive streams in Akka and is important enough to be part of core Akka.
TCP-flow-control can be used to implement „back pressure“.

Bootstrapping the Scala.js Ecosystem

Haoyi Li

Scala shall be compiled to as second alternative instead of JVM. The target is the browser, not so much server side JavaScript, where the JVM is available and better.
Advantage for applications: Some code can be used on both sides, for example HTML-tag-generation, validation etc. This is more elegant than using two languages. Also Scala might be considered a more sane language for the browser than JavaScript, although JavaScript is not such a bad language, but suffers like PHP and VBA from being used by non-developers who come from web design side and try a little JavaScript as part of their work, tripping into each of the pitfalls that we developers have already had some time ago when we had our first experience.
Libraries prove to be hard. They are huge and it is hard to transfer them. Optimization is needed to deal with this, like for Android development.
Reflection is not available on scala.js. Many things do not work because of that, but enough things to make it useful do work.
Serialization is another challenge, because many frameworks rely on reflection, but there seems to be a solution for that.
Integer types are a little bit crappy. JS only has double which can do 53 bit integers. Long has to be built from two doubles.

Introduction to Lambda Calculus

Maciek Makowski

Very theoretical talk. Lamba calculus is pure math or even more theoretical, pure theoretical informatics, but it can be made a complete programming language with some thinking. It can be used for dealing with issues like computability. Many nice proofs are possible. The theoretical essence of functional programming languages is there. Some key words: „Church Rosser Theorem“, „Programming with Lambda-Calculus“, „numbers as lambda expressions“ (church encoding), „y combinator“, „fixed point combinator“, „lambda cube“, „fourth dimension for Subtypes“, ….
Very small language, great for proofs, not relevant or applicable for practical purposes.

State of the Typelevel

Lars Hupel

Typelevel is inpired by Haskell. Libraries by them are scalaz, shapeless, spire, scalaz-stream, monocle and more.
We should strive to get correct programs and optimize where the needs arises.
The JVM integers are not good. Think of the silent overflow. Floats (float and double) are good for numerical mathematicians and scientists with knowledge in this area, who can deal with error propagation an numerical inaccuracy.
Off course numbers can be seen as functions, like this:
$x=f(.)$ mit $\bigwedge_{n \in \Bbb N: n>0} \frac{f(n)-1}{n} < x < \frac{f(n)+1}{n}$ Equality of real numbers cannot be decided in finite time. What is "Costate command coalgebra"? Monocle provides "lenses" and similar stuff known from Haskell... Good binary serialization formats are rare in the JVM world. How should the fear of scalaZ and monads be overcome? Remember: "A monad is a monoid in the category of endofunctors. So what is the problem?" as could be read on Bodil Stokke’s T-shirt.

Slick: Bringing Scala’s Powerful Features to Your Database Access

Rebecca Grenier

Slick is a library that generates and executes SQL queries. The conceptional weaknesses of JPA and Hibernate are avoided.
It has drivers for the five major DBs (PostgreSQL, mySQL/mariaDB, Oracle, MS-SQL-Server and DB2) and some minor DBs, but it is not free for the three commercial DBs.
Inner and outer joins are possible and can be written in a decent way.
With database dictionaries slick is now even able to generate code. Which I have done, btw. a lot using Perl scripts running on the DDL-SQL-script. But this is better, off course…

Upcoming in Slick 2.2

Jan Christopher Vogt

Monads haunt us everywhere, even here. Time to learn what they are. I will be giving a talk in the Ruby-on-Rails user group in Zürich, which will force me to learn it.
Sessions in conjunction with futures are the best guarantee for all kinds of nightmares, because the SQL is sometimes executed when the session is no longer valid or the transaction is already over. When dealing with transactional databases a lot of cool programming patterns become harder. Just think of the cool java guys who execute stuff by letting a EJB-method return an instance of an inner class with the DB-session implicitely included there and calling a method which via JPA indirectly and implicitely does DB-access long after the EJB-method is over. Have fun when debugging this stuff. But we know about it and address it here.
At least Slick is theoretically correct, other than JPA which I conject to be theoretically incorrect, apart from the shortcomings of the concrete implementations.
Several statements can be combined with andThen or a for-comprehension. Be careful, by default this uses separate sessions and transactions, with very funny effects. But threads and sessions are expensive and must not be withheld during non-running non-SQL-activities by default. Reactiveness is so important. Futures and thread pools look promising, but this fails miserably when we have blocking operations involved, that will occupy our threads for nothing.
We would like to have assynchronous SQL-access, which can be done on DB- and OS-level, but JDBC cannot. So we have to work around on top of JDBC. Apart from using a reasonably low number of additional threads this approach seems to be viable.
Statically type checked SQL becomes possible in the future.

No more Regular Expressions

Phil Wills

I love the regex of Perl. Really. So why do effort to give up something so cool, even in non-perl-languages?
It is not as bad as it sounds. We retain regular expressions as a concept, just do not call them like that (for marketing reasons I assume) and write them differently. Writing them as strings between // is very natural in Perl, but it breaks the flow of the language in Scala. A typical programmatical scala-like approach is more natural and more type safe. And more robust in case of errors. org.paraboiled2 can be used. Capture is unfortunately positional, unlike in newer Perl-regex, where captures can be named. But it hurts less here.

Scala eXchange – Q&A Panel

Jon Pretty, Kingsley Davies, Lars Hupel, Martin Odersky, and Miles Sabin

Interesting discussions…

Why Scala is Taking Over the Big Data World

Dean Wampler

‚“Hadoop“ is the „EJB“ of our time.‘
MapReduce is conceptionally already functional programming. So why use Java and not Scala?
Some keywords: „Scalding“, „Storm“, „Summing bird“, „Spark“.
Scala can be more performant than python, which is so popular in this area, but migration has to be done carefully.

Case classes a la carte with shapeless, now!

Miles Sabin

Example: tree structure with backlinks. Hard to do in strict immutabilty. Shapeless helps.

Reactive Programming with Algebra

André Van Delft

Algebra can be fun and useful for programming. Algebraic interpretations were introduced.
Page is subscript-lang.org.
Algebra of communicationg processes. It is very powerful and can even be applied to other targets, for example operation of railroad systems.
Every program that deals with inpout is in its way a parser. So ideas from yacc and bison apply to them.

High Performance Linear Algebra in Scala

Sam Halliday

Lineare Algebra has been addressed extremely well already, so the wheel should not be reinvented.
TL;D, Netflix and Breeze.
Example for usage of that stuff: Kalman Filter.
netlib has reference implementation in Fortran, a well defined interface and a reliable set of automatic tests. How do we take this into the scala world?
Fortran with C-Wrapper for JNI. (cblas)
compile Fortran to Java. really.
Alternate implementations of the same test suite in C.
High-Performance is not only about speed and memory alone, but about those under the given requirements concerning correctness, precision and stability.
Hardware is very interesting. The CPU-manufacturers are talking with the netlib team.
Can GPU be used? Off course, but some difficulties are involved, for example transfer of data.
FPGA? maybe soon? Or something like GPU, without graphics and operating on the normal RAM?
We will see such stuff working in the future.

An invitation to functional programming

Rúnar Bjarnason

Referential transparency, something like compatibility with the memoize pattern.
Pure functions…
Parallelization..
Comprehensiveness.. The all time promise, will it be kept this time?
Functional programming is not good for the trenches of real life project, but for getting out of the trenches. This should be our dream. Make love not war, get rid of trenches…

Building a Secure Distributed Social Web using Scala & Scala-JS

Henry Story

Spargl is like SQL for the „semantic web“.
Developed with support from Oracle.
We can have relativiity of of truth while retaining the absolute truth. The speech was quite philosophical, in a good way.
Graphs can be isomorphic, but have a different level of trust, depending on where the copy lies.
How is spam and abuse avoided? WebID?
We are not dealing with „Big Data“ but with massively parallel and distributed „small data“.

TableDiff – a library for showing the difference between the data in 2 tables

Sue Carter

What is the right semantics for a diff?
What do we want to see? How are numbers and strings compared when occurring in fields?
Leave timestamps that obviously differ but do not carry much information out.

Evolving Identifiers and Total Maps

Patrick Premont

Idea is to have a map where get always returns something non-null. Smart type concepts avoid the compilation of a get call that would not return something.
Very interesting idea, but I find it more useful as theoretical concept rather than for practical purposes. The overhead seems to be big.

Summary

Overall it was a great conference.

Scala Exchange 2013

Deutsch

I have visited the conference ScalaX 2013 in London on the beginning of December.

It was really fun. The talks were quite challenging, maybe even a little bit more than on other conferences I have visited, but that was really fun to listen to. About 400 participants were there and three tracks were available. So it was possible to learn a lot about advanced concepts in functional programming and software architecture with a focus on Scala, but also some Haskell and Clojure.

Some interesting talks were: