16 October 2013
At the end of August Erudify co-organized, co-sponsored, and hosted the second Haskell Hackathon in Zurich, ZuriHac 2013.
Haskell is one of the core technologies used at Erudify. All our custom back-end software is written in Haskell. This includes the back-ends for learning, course authoring, class management and account management, as well as infrastructure libraries like web-servers, database interfaces, JSON serialization, templating, resource pooling, secure password hashing and many more.
As with almost all commercial software development today, many of the libraries we use are not written by us. In fact, we currently rely directly or indirectly on around 200 open-source Haskell libraries which are maintained by members of the Haskell community. This number is likely to go up in the future.
That’s a lot of Haskell code! We benefit when the maintainers of these libraries fix bugs, add features, optimize their code, and make sure that their libraries work by writing and running test suites.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we value open-source. A healthy Haskell community is especially important to us. We are always thinking of ways to contribute back to the community. We decided that, apart from joining the Industrial Haskell Group, the best way to help now was to bring Haskellers together so that they could meet in person, help each other with their Haskell code and get inspired to start new projects.
In the Haskell community there are periodic events called “Hackathons” that aim to do just this. So we decided to organize one ourselves. To broaden the appeal of this hackathon, we also decided to precede the main event with a half-day mini conference — “Zurich Functional Programming Afternoon”.
We organized these events together with the local Zurich Haskell Meetup group, ETH, and Google. We would especially like to thank ETH for providing a great room for hosting the FP Afternoon and Google for financial support and for providing cool prizes (like a smartphone and tablet) to give away.
The FP Afternoon was a great success with over 90 participants. We were honoured to have Simon Marlow, one of the core contributors to the Glasgow Haskell Compiler (GHC), to give the keynote. GHC is one of the most important tools used at Erudify. It compiles our Haskell code to efficient executables. Simon, who recently switched from Microsoft Research to Facebook, talked about the Haxl Project, a system for managing concurrent access to resources like databases and caches.
A number of other interesting talks followed: Erik Hesselink talked about how Silk uses Haskell in production. Silk is a start-up in Amsterdam developing a semantic wiki. Erudify periodically exchanges
The hackathon that followed was a lot of fun. We hosted ZuriHac at our offices, giving people a chance to see where we work and get a hint of what the atmosphere is like at Erudify. On Saturday afternoon, we organized a BBQ at Lake Zurich to give people a chance to relax after a day of hacking Haskell.
In my opinion the FP Afternoon and ZuriHac 2013 were a great success. I hope that most participants enjoyed these two events as much as I did. I look forward organizing a similar event in the future.