The idea for Scalathon sprang into my head on a Thursday four months ago. Brian Clapper (organizer of the Philly Area Scala Enthusiasts, and the consultant behind ArdenTex) and Jamie Allen (Chariot Solutions) were quickly on board. By Monday we had a website and were actively looking for sponsors and speakers. My primary motivations were, at first, to simply improve the Scala ecosystem and have some fun. Later on, Scalathon planning took on new dimensions as I learned more about the Scala community and development process.
The event started on Friday with Adriaan Moors' talk to Penn's PL Club on Dependent Object Types. Following the talk we had a lunch with the Scalathon attendees, PL Club, and many Penn professors, including the programming languages group (Benjamin Pierce, Steve Zdancewic and Stephanie Weirich). After lunch we launched into a documentation spree run by Scala's new doc czar Heather Miller. She explained the system for contributing documentation on GitHub. Paul Phillips was on hand to promptly merge pull requests.
Unlike most hackathons, Scalathon wasn't a competition. Well, except for Friday night which had a ferocious functional programming quizzo (Philadelphia pub trivia contest) between groups from Scalathon and Philly Lambda. After the normal four rounds, two teams (Daniel Spiewak, Ricky Nilsson, and Runar Oli Bjaranson on team forall a . a, and Daniel Sobral, Iain McGinniss, Pedro Furlanetto, and Seth Tisue on team _|_) were tied for first place. A tie-break round ensued after which forall a . a emerged victorious by one point. (Winning question, Q: Compositional type inference is assured by the property of what? A: Principal typings).
Saturday and Sunday brought the main events, and over 100 developers from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, the United States, and the United Kingdom). In addition to dozens of representatives from major Scala libraries, Typesafe and EPFL sent several representatives each. The format of the event itself was a hybrid of a Scala Days-style conference and a traditional hackathon. At all times there were presentations in the auditorium (Saturday project talks and Sunday Scala enrichment talks) and hacking outside the auditorium. Many attendees told me they were relieved that no one was forced to sit through any particular talk or hack to the point of exhaustion.
Saturday and Sunday also had a few special lunches: Scala community leaders, Scala commercial users, and MongoDB users. Donald Fischer, CEO of Typesafe, flew in from Boston specifically to meet the community and hear from the commercial users. Minutes from these meetings are being expanded and prepared for discussion with EPFL, Typesafe, and the community. Sneak preview: at the community leaders lunch the documentation situation was extensively discussed with Heather, who will be preparing a new centralized, searchable site for the best Scala documentation on the Internet.
I hope Scalathon's lasting accomplishment will be bridge-building. Bridges between community leaders, industry leaders, Typesafe, and EPFL. Although there were plenty of commits, there were innumerably more conversations, plans, jokes, and business cards exchanged that will influence the Scala ecosystem for years to come.
Photos are already up (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Stay tuned, videos will be up very shortly, to be announced on the scala-announce listserv.