A few weeks ago, I attended the 2018 European Lisp Symposium.
If you were at the 2017 iteration, you might (as I do) have been left with an abiding image of greyness. That was not at all to fault the location (Brussels) or the organization (co-located with ) of the symposium; however, the weather was unkind, and that didn't help with my own personal low-energy mood at the time.
This year, the event was organized
by Ravenpack in Marbella. And the first
thing that I noticed on landing was the warmth. (Perhaps the only
“perk” of low-cost airlines is that it is most likely that one will
disembark on to terra firma rather than a passenger boarding bridge.
And after quite a miserable winter in the UK, the warmth and the
sunshine at the bus stop, while waiting for the bus from Malagá
airport to Marbella, was very welcome indeed. The sense of community
was strong too; while waiting for the bus, I hopped on to
#lisp IRC and Nic Hafner volunteered to meet me at the Marbella bus
station and walk with me to my hotel; we ended up going for drinks at
a beachside bar that evening with Dimitri Fontaine, Christian
Schafmeister, Mikhail Raskin and others – and while we were sitting
there, enjoying the setting, I saw other faces I recognised walking
past along the beach promenade.
The setting for the conference itself, the Centro Cultural Cortijo de Miraflores, was charming. We had the use of a room, just about big enough for the 90ish delegates; the centre is the seat of the Marbella Historical Archives, and our room was next to the olive oil exhibition.
We also had an inside courtyard for the breaks; sun, shade, water and
coffee were available in equal measure, and there was space for good
conversations – I spoke with many people, and it was great to catch up
and reminisce with old friends, and to discuss the finer points of
language implementation and release management with new ones. (I
continue to maintain that the SBCL time-boxed monthly release cadence
master, initiated by Bill Newman way back in the SBCL 0.7 days in
2002 [!], has two distinct advantages, for our situation, compared
with other possible choices, and I said so more than once over
The formal programme, curated by Dave Cooper, was great too. Zach's written about his highlights; I enjoyed hearing Jim Newton's latest on being smarter about typecase, and Robert Smith's presentation about quantum computing, including a walkthrough of a quantum computing simulator. As well as quantum computing, application areas mentioned in talks this year included computational chemistry, data parallel processing, pedagogy, fluid dynamics, architecture, sentiment analysis and enterprise resource planning – and there were some implementation talks in there too, not least from R. “it’s part of the brand” Matthew Emerson, who gave a paean to Clozure Common Lisp. Highly non-scientific SBCL user feedback from ELS presenters: most of the speakers with CL-related talks or applications at least mentioned SBCL; most of those mentions by speaker were complimentary, but it's possible that most by raw count referred to bugs – solely due to Didier Verna's presentation about method combinations (more on this in a future blog post).
Overall, I found this year's event energising. I couldn't be there any earlier than the Sunday evening, nor could I stay beyond Wednesday morning, so I missed at least the organized social event, but the two days I had were full and stress-free (even when chairing sessions and for my own talk). The local organization was excellent; Andrew Lawson, Nick Levine and our hosts at the foundation did us proud; we had a great conference dinner, and the general location was marvellous.
Next year's event will once again be co-located with <Programming>, this time in Genova (sunny!) on 1st-2nd April 2019. Put it in your calendar now!