Amsterdam Clojurians – my impression

by Gianluca OrtelliDecember 18, 2012

It was a while ago, but I still wanted to share this my insight from Saturday 27th October, was the first all-day conference of the Amsterdam Clojurians which took place in the offices of Backbase. As a Clojure beginner and recent attendee of the meetup, I joined as it was a great opportunity to find a concentration of passionate people and talks about the Clojure planet.

About the state of my knowledge of the language: I started to study Clojure a few months ago, I’m now reading a book, watching videos, reading articles and checking out code, plus I’m growing my little pet project. I’m grasping the concepts, but can’t yet “get in the flow” while coding because I keep bouncing into many little difficulties, especially with the tooling (masochistically, I decided to code using Emacs, without having any prior experience with that editor!). So, predictably, the conference taught me a lot and some of those experiences, I want to share with you.

The level of the talks (all the slides should be available by now) spanned all the range from complete beginner to seasoned programmer. So you had a talk for a Java programmer who stumbles upon Clojure for the very first time; on the opposite side, the talk on Clojurescript went deep in the details of implementation of data structures, losing me several times along the way!

I enjoyed the presentation on Clojure sequences for its style, even though the topic is not new to me; the “slides” were actually a single Clojure source file, illustrating each concept with a concise expression which could be pasted in the interpreter and evaluated. I regard it as an another example of how easy it is in Clojure to move seamlessly between trying scraps of code, reading documentation/source and actually building your application, thus enabling a working style which is unknown in mainstream languages.

Halfway we had a couple of hours of “chat”:  following the rules of the unconference, people interested in discussing a topic posted a message about it on a board; then, the board was used to schedule the discussions in different parts of the room, with people gathering to the topic they were most interested in, taking active part or just listening, maybe hopping from a group to another. The discussion about tooling was particularly useful to me, as I could peek over the shoulder of someone using the Clojure plugin for Intellij, and hear about experiences of development with Vim, Emacs, Eclipse (and so I’ve listed all the main options for developing with the language).

I left the conference with important hints and directions on how to continue my learning of the language. Study is important, but confrontation with people doing your same stuff is crucial to check that you are on the right road. I’m looking forward to the next Amsterdam Clojurians conference! For now those also interested in Clojure there is the meet up group in Amsterdam that is scheduled to meet again in the new year on January 9th, I’ll be going perhaps I will see you there.