FP Conference Update

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A few days ago I posted a poll about interest in a functional programming conference. I wanted to share some of the data and my intentions. I have had a total of 313 responses to the survey (as of now) – if you still want to respond please do! [Update: now updated with info from 349 responses.]

Language Interest

The language question allowed multi-select, so below are the percentage of respondents that marked interest in coverage for each language:

  • 77% – Haskell!
  • 68% – Clojure
  • 51% – Scala
  • 46% – Erlang
  • 44% – FP in non-FP langs
  • 38% – OCaml
  • 37% – Lisp
  • 35% – F#
  • 23% – other FP langs I didn’t mention

There are certainly some effects from my own network bias included here – for example, I’m assuming the Clojure result is higher than it should be vs the others.

I expected to see Clojure, Scala, and Erlang near the top but I was surprised at the strength of the Haskell response. I know there were some encouraging posts on the Haskell mailing lists to answer the poll that drove some late surges in the results but I also suspect that lots of people are interested in both the language they’re using *and* Haskell, so it might have been a common second choice. Just a theory. Feel free to speculate amongst yourselves.

I think the “FP in non-FP langs” strength is an interesting signal and something I’d like to support in an FP conference. Specifically, how can developers in non-FP languages get some of the benefits (immutable state, referential transparency, etc) OR how do new developers in an FP language figure out how to build systems coming from a non-FP background.

Topics

The topics question was also multi-response and I’m not going to list all of the results as they’re not that interesting. Every result was selected by 30-80% of people.

The top interests were: system design, techniques (features, idioms), data structures, and concurrency. I read that as a real interest in basic topics in how to build real applications with FP langs. The three least selected were numerical programming, parsing, and libraries.

Conference style

Nothing surprising here to me – 91% were interested in traditional 1 hr sessions, 73% were interested in multi-hour workshops, and about 40% were interested in personal skills, project work, and unconference styles.

Location

There were a lot of votes for all of the proposed cities. The clear leaders were Chicago, NYC, and San Francisco with Seattle a strong 4th. There was a very strong Portland response. I love Portland but I’m tentatively planning to do Clojure/West there this year instead. Other strong responses were St. Louis (network bias), Austin, DC, Atlanta, Minneapolis, LA, and Dallas. All good info.

Price

I need to spend some more time analyzing this data – it was multi-select so in some cases the data may be overemphasizing lower levels when people selected a range of possibilities. But it’s clear most people expected costs in the $200-400 range for a 2 day conf and $300-500 for a 3 day conf.

Suggested speakers and other comments

There was an overwhelming response here and a really fantastic set of speakers suggested. I don’t think it would be fair or useful to try to repeat or characterize the list but have no doubt that I will mine it heavily.

There were also a number of dead people suggested – Edsger Dijkstra, Haskell Curry, John McCarthy, and Mitch Hedberg (wat?). I can do a lot but resurrecting the dead is probably beyond what I can pull off.

What next?

I’m satisfied that there is demand for a commercial FP conference and I am moving forward with it for 2013 (or on a very outside chance, late 2012). Being a multi-language conference that hits several communities with vital language-specific conferences, finding a good date is going to be challenging. If anyone wants to leak me some dates for Erlang or Scala conferences in 2013, I’m all ears. :)

For a variety of reasons (my own contacts, proximity for me, international airport, poll results) I’m tentatively planning on Chicago as the first year location but I would very much like it to be a traveling conference with a new destination each year. If you have suggestions for a favorite conference location in Chicago, shoot me an email or leave a comment.

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I look forward to making this happen!

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