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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I look forward to making this happen!