ICFP roundup

Well, ICFP 2015 in Vancouver is already two months in the past… I’ve been meaning for a while to write a post reflecting on the experience. Better late than never!

The Place

I had never been to Vancouver before; it seems like a beautiful and fun city. One afternoon I skipped all the talks and went for a long hike—I ended up walking around the entire perimeter of the Stanley Park seawall, which was gorgeous. The banquet was at the (really cool) aquarium—definitely the first time I have eaten dinner while being watched by an octopus.

The People

Instead of staying in the conference hotel, four of us (me, Ryan Yates, Ryan Trinkle, and Michael Sloan) rented an apartment through AirBnB.1 The apartment was really great, it ended up being cheaper per person than sharing two hotel rooms, and it was a lot of fun to have a comfortable place to hang out in the evenings—where we could sit around in our pajamas, and talk, or write code, or whatever, without having to be “on”.

I met some new people, including Aahlad Gogineni from Tufts (along with another Tufts student whose name I unfortunately forget); Zac Slade and Boyd Smith from my new home state of Arkansas; and some folks from Vancouver whose names I am also blanking on at the moment. I also met a few people in person for the first time I had previously only communicated with electronically, like Rein Heinrich and Chris Smith.

I also saw lots of old friends—way too many to list. It once again reminded me how thankful I am to be part of such a great community. Of course, the community is also far from perfect; towards that end I really enjoyed and appreciated the ally skills tutorial taught by Valerie Aurora (which probably deserves its own post).

The Content

Here are just a few of my favorite talks:

I had a lot of great discussions relating to diagrams. For example:

  • I talked with Alan Zimmerman about using his and Matthew Pickering’s great work on ghc-exactprint with an eye towards shipping future diagrams releases along with an automated refactoring tool for updating users’ diagrams code.

  • After talking a bit with Michael Sloan I got a much better sense for the ways stack can support our development and CI testing process.

  • I had a lot of fun talking with Ryan Yates about various things, including projecting diagrams from 3D into 2D, and reworking the semantics and API for diagrams’ paths and trails to be more elegant and consistent. We gave a presentation at FARM which seemed to be well-received.

I got another peek at how well Idris is coming along, including a few personal demonstrations from David Christiansen (thanks David!). I am quite impressed, and plan to look into using it during the last few weeks of my functional programming course this spring (in the past I have used Agda).

If I had written this as soon as I got back, I probably could have remembered a lot more; oh well. All in all, a wonderful week, and I’m looking forward to Japan next year!


  1. Yes, I know that hotel bookings help pay for the conference, and I admit to feeling somewhat conflicted about this.

  2. I asked him afterwards how he made the great animations in his slides, and sadly it seems he tediously constructed them using PowerPoint. Someday, it will be possible to do this with diagrams!

About Brent

Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Hendrix College. Functional programmer, mathematician, teacher, pianist, follower of Jesus.
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2 Responses to ICFP roundup

  1. Alain Cremieux says:

    Probably a typo in note 2 : “Someday”, should be “Some day next year”.

    • Brent says:

      Haha, nice try, but I can’t really commit to having a nice system for making animated slides by next year. There’s a lot of work that has to happen first. =)

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