The Chronicles of Greach 2011

Last Friday (Nov 4th 2011) I participated in the Greach conference, as audience and speaker. Greach was the first Spanish conference dedicated exclusively to Groovy programming language and its ecosystem (mainly Grails and Griffon). It was organized by Alberto Vilches, supported by Abraham Otero and Sergi Almar and Bonillaware/Atlassian crew (David B. and Jeroclo the Spartan). The day was long – I arrived at 8:30 in the morning and left almost at 9 pm.

What did I do during more that twelve hours?

  • I helped Rafa and Ruth to prepare the Osoco stand. We – as an established Groovy/Grails shop – were the main sponsors of the conference. Arturo Herrero and I had two sessions: Arturo’s was about funcional programming with Groovy and mine was a workshop of Groovy Metakoans. In the hallway we were demonstrating a product which development we participated in – BKOOL. BKOOL is a bicycle trainer connected to your PC and operated through a videogame and a social network for bike riders. The web part is developed in Groovy and Grails and has an impressive codebase (ca. 160k LOC). Participants could give it a try (we had an MTB mounted on the trainer) and do some tracks backed by realtime videos (e.g. some legs from Vuelta de España).
  • I watched the keynote held by Guillaume Laforge “What’s new in Groovy 1.8 and beyond”. The second part about Groovy 1.9 (currently in beta) was extremely interesting. I learnt that Groovy compiler would get a static type checking mode and Java 7 support (language features and use of the new JVM invokeDynamic opcode what should lead to a better performance).
  • I attended two highly interesting talks by Hamlet Darcy: “New Ideas for Old Code” and “Groovy Code Generation”. The first one was about techniques for working with legacy code (they sound familiar to those who read the WEWL book by Michael Feathers), how to apply Groovy for getting rid of legacy crap mixed with a pinch of Hamlet’s personal experience in this subject. The second session was about AST transformations and other ways of generating executable code. For me the biggest discovery was the Mirah language, with a syntax borrowed from Ruby but statically typed.
  • I has an occasion to talk to Hamlet and sort out some issues with AST transformations in my Groovy Metakoans projects
  • I met Andres Almiray; I was positively surprised that Griffon project led by him works not only with Swing but also with SWT and other view technologies
  • I learned about Cloud Foundry (and its micro local companion) as a promising fire-and-forget deployment alternative to Heroku (although with some limitations now). The best thing about Cloud Foundry is that actually there are two things called Cloud Foundry: an open-source backbone and VMWare hosting service. It is possible to create your own cloud infrastructure based on the Cloud Foundry project on host it on Amazon EC2 or in your datacenter.
  • And finally I got an opportunity to present my Groovy Metakoans and to hold an official premiere of Metakoans. After a short introduction to metaprogramming, about fifteen Groovy monkeys, despite late hours (my workshop began at 6 pm) started sweating on their way to meta-enlightment. At the outset I thought it would be a big fail – participants were required to download the source code, Groovy and Gant from the internet, and the WiFi network of the university was totally crappy (worked one minute every twenty). However, with a few USB sticks and an efficient human chain we could distribute the code among the participants. Those who stayed until the end completed about the half of the exercises. It takes about four hours to finish them and to approach enlightment.

Retrospective

  • the conference was perfectly organized; all sessions
  • IMO there was too few workshops; I’d like to have a separate workshop track for developers with different experience levels (from beginners to pros)
  • workshops should be held in a classroom with desks and chairs; fifteen persons in my workshop were too dispersed in classroom for more that 100 persons
  • more talks in English to attract international audience
  • two days with after party – twelve hours on the same day was too much

And zum Schluss: huge, galactic kudos to Alberto Vilches

  • for the idea
  • for the effort
  • for the heart and soul

he put in this awesome conference!

See you next year!

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