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Strange Loop 2014

By Abadi Kurniawan

A couple of developers (Joshua Bradley, Brian Dukes, and I) from Engage went to a conference here in St. Louis called Strange Loop on September 18 and 19, 2014. I have been a big fan of the Strange Loop conference, and have attended 4 times before. If you don't know what Strange Loop is, here's a description from their website:

Strange Loop is a multi-disciplinary conference that aims to bring together the developers and thinkers building tomorrow's technology in fields such as emerging languages, alternative databases, concurrency, distributed systems, mobile development, and the web.

Strange Loop has always been a place for me to learn about new technology in software development, and helps seeing what the future is going to look like. There are tons of new stuff that I learnt from Strange Loop this year. It was a really fun conference, and a good break from our day to day work with DNN.

The conference had 3 keynotes, and some noteable speakers. The first keynote was The Mess we're in by Joe Armstrong, the designer of the Erlang programming language. This was a really interesting talk and gave a new perspective on how difficult programming is.

Joe Armstrong

Another interesting keynote was Inside the Wolfram Language by Stephen Wolfram, the creator of Mathematica, and Wolfram|Alpha. In this keynote, he introduced his new language called Wolfram Language, a language that he had been working on for about 35 years. He demoed some of the cool features in Wolfram Language. I think Wolfram Language is a really impressive language that harness the vast knowledge of Wolfram Alpha. I'm looking forward to see what kind of things people can build using this language. Stephen Wolfram

Another noteable speaker from this conference is Rich Hickey, the creator of Clojure, where he talked about Transducers.

The conference was closed with a talk about Our Shared Joy of Programming by Carin Meier and Sam Aaron. A very inspiring talk which reminded me on why I love programming and why I chose to be become a programmer in the first place. Oh, and also, there was this awesome robot dance party

Here are summaries from some of the talks that I really like:

Democratizing Hardware

Chris Williams

This was a talk by Chris Williams (@voodotikigod). He is the creator of node-serialport which makes developer able to use JavaScript to control hardware, such as arduino. He is also an advocate for teaching hardware programming to kids in school. On his talks, he mentioned about the importance of making hardware programming available to general public, including the danger if only some group of people have control of the future technology, for example this programmable matters technology. Another important point from his talk was the importance of community and open source in making hardware programming more accessible to general public. Open source Maker community such as Makerspace or Makerfaire is a great place where you can share hardware design, print your robot design for free, or showcase your robot design.

Web Apps without Web Servers

This was a talk by Richard Feldman (@rtfeldman). On this talk, he demonstrated a web app called Dreamwriter that can run completely offline, and is built completely using browser Web APIs (Application Cache, FileReader API, IndexedDB)

React: RESTful UI Rendering

This talk was presented by Pete Hunt (@floydophone), he is a developer from Instagram, and a contributor to reactjs. React is a relatively new web framework developed by Instagram and is being used by Instagram and Facebook. It's using a virtual DOM diff implementation, which can also be rendered on the server using node.js. You can use an optional syntax called JSX (which is an XML-like syntax) to build and render your DOM. It's an interesting framework for sure, and I'm planning keep my eye on this framework and see how well the adoptation of this framework is compared to other frameworks such as angular.js or ember.js.

Spreadsheets for Developers

Felienne Hermans

The next talk was a very awesome and fun talk by Felienne Hermans. In her talk, she explained that spreadsheets (in this case Microsoft Excel) are actually a programming language and passed the Turing Test. She demoed writing a selection sort algorithm just using Excel, which is very mind blowing. She didn't use macros or VBA, only pure Excel functions and formulas. One of my favorite quotes from the talk is

By thinking of spreadsheets as a programming language, we help spreadsheet users to think as programmers.

I highly recommend that you watch this talk.

PureScript or, what if brendan had been SPJ

The next talk was presented by Bodil Stokke (@bodil). It was about Purescript, a Haskell-like language that compiles into JavaScript. If you really love Haskell syntax and wish JavaScript could be more like Haskell, than you should definitely give Purescript a try.

That's all I have on Strange Loop 2014. You can read my full notes from Strange Loop on my github page (Warning: I'm not a really good note taker). You can also watch all of the talks on their Youtube channel. Strange Loop is still one of my favorite conference, and I would recommend you to register for this conference next year. I'll see you at Strange Loop in 2015!

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