Attending XtextCON 2014 in Kiel

Last week I attended the Xtext Conference in Kiel, Germany.  Personally this was my first industry conference. I usually attend scientific conferences and I wasn't even sure what to wear for this one (scientists are very casual on clothing). Luckily for me, the conference was full of programmers who are also very casual on clothing.

The conference started on Tuesday 27th May (there was a workshop for newcomers to Xtext on Monday). The opening was done by Xtext project lead and conference organizer Sven Efftinge. According to the organizers there were 119 attendees and the conference was sold out way before the registration deadline, which shows the great success of the conference and of Xtext in general. There were 27 talks and 2 panels in total, and 2 simultaneous tracks.

The presentations for both days were mostly technical presentations showing how to implement different things using Xtext. From embedding Xtext Editors in SWT forms to an overview of what is possible to do to use Xtext on the web, the talks presented intermediate to advanced level content clearly and with demos. Some advanced Xtext topics like the grammar language, optimizations, Xbase and Xtend were also covered in detail. My personal favorite for the first day was Ed Merks's presentation on EMF & Xcore. It was not particularly technical but it illustrated the philosophy and history behind EMF. In my opinion, this talk would have made an excellent opening keynote for the whole conference. All the talks were recorded by the organizers and will be available eventually.

At the end of each day, there were two discussion panels, one on "Xtext on other platforms" and another on "the future of Xtext". They were both very interesting. The platforms discussed ranged from the web to IntelliJ IDEA, but also Xtext's dependencies on Ecore. It seems to me that most attendees seemed happy with Ecore (except when it comes to parallelizing). For IntelliJ IDEA, the problem seems to be that they have their own model layer (different from EMF) and the challenge is to find the right level of abstraction (I'm not an expert but this is what I understood). In my opinion the attendees weren't really too enthusiast about IntelliJ IDEA (well, I guess that if you decided to use Xtext for your project, then you have some faith in Eclipse).

One subject worth mentioning is the different talks that showed how to integrate your xtext editor into a graphical modeler/form field. There were 4 of them that specifically touched following subjects: embedded editors for SWT, graphical views, graphical modeling and Sirius integration. My personal favorite was the one on Sirius. I've some experience with GMF (see my tutorials here: part 1,  part 2, part 3, part 4), as you probably know if you read this blog, and Sirius looked like a viable alternative to it. I also talked to the speaker, Cédic Brun, and now I'm eager to try the technology. I hope to be able to redo the experience I did with my Petri net editor with Sirius.

On the networking side, there were two receptions: one the day before the conference and the other on the first day of the conference. In both the drinks were sponsored for attendees (thanks Itemis and NumberFour AG :-D). The general ambiance was really cool and I got to meet interesting people in the community (even another PhD student like me!).

Concerning the administrative part, the conference was really well organized. The internet access of the hotel was really bad (for people staying there, i.e. me), but the conference had its own wifi network which worked very well. I guess my only suggestion to the organizers for next year is to include an opening keynote in the same spirit of the Ed Merks talk (yes, I really liked that talk). I hope I'll be able to participate in the conference next year if they redo it.

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