8 Apr 2013 crhodes   » (Master)

Before I forget: I was at what called itself the very first Emacs conference last weekend. The first thing to say is that I had a lot of fun!

I experimented with semi-live-tweeting the thing -- indeed, it was noticed by an external viewer that I was the only live-tweeter on #emacsconf using an emacs-based twitter client. I'm not sure about whether this is a good thing to do or not; certainly, in lectures that I'm giving, it's irritating (and distracting) if students are glued to their ludicrously expensive phones rather than to my perfectly-crafted narrative, but I accept that it happens – and if any of my undergraduate lecturers is reading this: I apologize profusely for reading the newspaper and trying to do the Inquisitor crossword during the Saturday lectures (but I wasn't the only one...). In this instance, I aimed not to create any disturbance, and mostly managed to tweet during breaks rather than during the actual talks.

The actual talks? This had something of the feel of a European Common Lisp Meeting (or its precursors) from about a decade ago: several times I heard the expression of surprise along the lines of “Who would have thought there were so many of us?” Particularly so many who were willing to turn up on the Saturday of an extended weekend to be cooped away from the sunshine all da... no, wait, being in the warm was a bonus. (It snowed on me at lunchtime). The actual talks were a good part of the draw: I had admired Sacha Chua's posts about using org-mode for, well, everything, back when I was picking it up for GTD (Gah, I am a long way off the wagon!) and John Wiegley is a name that has popped up in many a place that I have investigated (emacs obviously, but also Common Lisp and personal accounting), so the fact that they were doing a double-act for the keynote was a great draw (and it made a great start to the day).

The other talks were all interesting, though some were more relevant to me as an emacs outsider than others: highlights for me were the insanity of embedding a gtk-emacs inside another emacs (memories of McCLIM craziness) using Joakim Verona's oddly-named XWidgets; a call to arms on EmacsWiki from Nick Ferrier; Sam Aaron's emacs-based music/live coding system; and John Wiegley's rapid tour through emacs and emacs-lisp productivity enhancers (made me feel like a complete newbie). There was a lot about packaging systems for emacs lisp libraries and applications, about which I expressed a certain amount of skepticism, and Luke Gorrie gave a talk about SLIME, from (almost) the opposite perspective of the talk he gave at ECLM in 2005. (I have got this far without mentioning them, but I can't leave the subject without linking to Sacha Chua's talk sketchnotes; the keynote was excellent, and these notes are icing.)

The conversations between talks were good too; I ducked out of some lunch ones to visit Camden Lock market, but there was plenty of time to socialize. Possibly the weirdest moment for me came when Reuben Thomas showed up between Easter weekend services; I had last seen Reuben in a crazy performance of Handel's Giulio Cesare many, many years ago, and the context-switch that I think both of us had to go through to place the other was lengthy and extended. Small world.

I feel very lucky to have been able to participate. Thanks from me to the organizers, Aleksandar Simic for doing what seemed to be a lot of the heavy lifting and Forward for hosting. And I'll idle a bit more strongly on the emacs IRC channel and attempt to discover more of the London-based hacking community, time permitting...

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