Some thoughts on the Erlang User Conference 2011

It seems I'm really getting too lazy to update this blog more frequently, which is a pity. Last week I was in Stockholm attending the Erlang User Conference 2011. This was the first Erlang conference I ever went to, and it was the first conference in many, many years where I was not speaking but merely a normal attendee.

Some of the readers of this blog will already have noticed my microblogging updates on and Twitter that I made during the conference. They were not overly excited about the conference. Let me write some more details here. I have no idea how many technical conferences I have attended, but I am typically speaking at something like 10 to 14 every year, which I believe qualifies me as a "professional conference participant" ;)

Let me start with some positive feedback: There have been excellent and technical presentations, particularly by Kostis Sagonas (PropEr), Melinda Toth (Change impact analysis) and also the talk on Hashes/Frames/Structs as new built-in Erlang data types by Kenneth Lundin.

However, apart from those, i have quite a bit of criticism:

  • Some presentations ended way ahead of their schedule.
    This is a pity, as it means that some hundred-odd highly paid software developers are then sitting in a room and wasting time. If you hold a presentation at a conference, you should make sure that this time is used in the most efficient way. If you have been allocated a 45 minute slot, please don't make a 15 minute presentation + 5 minute questions session. That's not what the audience expects!
  • Keynote presentation by Ulf Wiger contained lots of hot air
    If I go to a technical conference aimed at Erlang users (i.e. software developers who write programs using the Erlang language, libraries and runtime system), then I expect it to be loaded with brilliant, technical content. I want to get excited about new developments, Erlang software projects, etc. The last thing that I'd want is having a real Erlang guru on stage talking about superficial, trivial aspects of embedded computing. Of course I respect the commercial decision of Ulf and/or Erlang Solutions to try to create a market for Erlang in the embedded sphere. But what is the technical relevance of this to the Erlang community? Ulf did not talk about great new schemes of optimizing the Erlang VM for battery-powered CPUs, or how he has extended powertop to give function or line-level accuracy on which of your Erlang code lines burn most CPU cycles or cause the highest number of CPU wake-ups from low power mode. That would have been exciting.
  • Erlang/OTP Road-map presentation without much technical details
    When I see a slide with "Some SCTP improvements" then I want to see what exactly are those improvements. I think there was more than enough time to go into more details, if Kenneth would have spoken faster and put more content into the available time. Once again, the audience is a room full of intelligent, highly-paid professional software engineers. If you get their attention for whatever amount of time, I believe you should pack it as full with information as possible, rather than bore them with slowly and carefully reading each line from a slide...
  • No Internet available at the Tutorials Can you believe it? In 2011, a technical conference aimed at software developers hosts tutorials inside a facility owned by one of the largest communications equipment suppliers (Ericsson) and then there is no provision for Internet access. It's really ironic, especially since at least some of the tutorial trainers expected the attendees would be able to clone git repositories on their laptops during the workshops.

In my hallway conversations with other attendees (who also have a background outside of Erlang and are more familiar with other conferences in the FOSS community), they independently observed those very same issues and agreed with my assessment.

All in all, the conference was a good trigger for me to finally sit down and start to use dialyzer on the various Osmcoom Erlang-language projects such as osmo_ss7, osmo_sscp and signerl. I'm already adding type specifications all over the code and am looking forward to soon starting with some PropEr test cases in the next couple of days.