Elm Europe 2017: What can we do better

Last week, I went to my first Elm-only conference ever: Elm Europe 2017 in Paris. At first, I was very excited about it but, in the end, I couldn't help myself but thinking: we can do better next year. Let's discuss why.

The "can do better" part

I've been programming Elm for one year now, when 0.17 came out. I'm far from being an expert, but I've been doing some "real world" projects like The transcriber to ease the correction of automatic transcriptions or Tooty, a Mastodon client. I had mainly two expectations for the conference:

  1. Learn new practical stuff for my real world projects
  2. Get some high level feedback about Elm in general (pain points, life savers, business perspectives, …)

I would say that half of the talks have fulfilled these expectations. To me, the other talks were too much like: "here is the lib I did with Elm, and it's great". Well, ok, you've done something with Elm and you're happy to share it. Cool. But what was the point of your talk? As a conference attendee, what should I remember from your talk? How does your talk profit to me, apart from informing me that the library exists?

I suppose that next year, people organizing the conference should keep this question in mind when choosing speakers: "What will be the benefits/outcome of the talk for the attendees?". This year, I was under the impression that the conference was more about showing all the cool stuff that was made using Elm and less about teaching attendees new knowledge/insights about Elm.

Regarding the subjects of the talks, I think that we (as a community) should be careful about onboarding newcomers to the Elm world. I went to the conference with three "Elm newbies", and the feedback was pretty clear: talks about "why Elm?" were missing. Not especially talks about why Elm is great (they already have ideas about it), but more in the context of the topic of the talk: what was the added value of using Elm for solving your problem?

The famous "Let's be mainstream" talk of Evan should not be forgotten. If we really want to be mainstream, we need a "mainstream" part in our conferences.

The "awesome" part

We were more than 200 people for the first Elm only conference and it was really great to see people coming from all over the world. Having 20 minutes breaks was a good idea to me. It allowed people to have real conversations between the talks. But maybe a pause every two talk would have been enough. I met a lot of great people and had some interesting discussions during these moments.

The talks of Richard and Evan were great, and I think it's a good idea to have such talks to begin the day. I would have loved to have a more "visionary" talk from Evan (and a less technical one), but it was a good moment anyway.

Special mention to my favorites talks were (I've missed the last three of day 2):

  • "ELM from CTO perspective": Was great to have less code and more feeling.
  • "Turning the Elm Narrative Engine inside-out: Inversion of Control at the Framework Level": it was a very informative and accessible talk. Having the demos of the progression of the game was awesome.
  • "Persistent collections: How they work, and when to use them.": clear explanations (even for non-Elmers) about the force and weaknesses of some datastructure.
  • "Date manipulation with Elm": The talk was informative regarding the timezones and was fun :-)

Thibault @tibastral was a great organizer, and what a showman "à la française"! He added a lot of fun to the conference, and it's something that is really important to me.

Was it a good conference? For sure! Will I come back next year? Obviously! See you next year ;-)

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