A Chat with Alexy Khrabrov, Organizer of Scala by the Bay and SF Scala

4 min Read Time


August 8-9 marks the first-ever Scala By the Bay conference: two days of training, talks and reverie for the San Francisco-area Scala and functional programming community. Scala By the Bay is made possible by Alexy Khrabrov, conference co-organizer (along with Jason Swartz) and founder. Alexy’s also the founder and co-organizer (along with Swartz) of SF Scala, whose +2K members “use Scala to dominate the world.” Exciting! We chatted with Alexy to find out more about next week’s conference–try to go, if you can!

Compared to last year’s Silicon Valley Scala Symposium, which you also organized–and have rebranded as SbtB–what’s different and new about this year’s conference?

This year everything is different. We renamed the conference Scala By the Bay to attract folks from all over the world to our beautiful area. We’ve rented Fort Mason for the location and are holding the conference over two days instead of one. We ran a proper call for proposals, and selected a very competitive program. We decided to do just one track to make the conference more communal, and have a hackathon and an unconference scheduled for the evenings.  

You’re also offering training this year.

Yes, Scala and Spark training sessions; both are filling up rapidly.  My company, By the Bay LLC, is a Typesafe Training Partner, and we offer Spark training jointly with Databricks. After the conference I’ll do training regularly.

In terms of topics in Scala, what’s new or different about this year’s conference?

The Big Data/Scala theme is even more powerful this year, with a separate keynote on Spark in Scala given by Databricks CTO Matei Zaharia, who wrote the original Spark in Scala. The other keynote will be by Marius Eriksen, whose work at Twitter has demonstrated how Scala can power web-scale companies in real time.

How many people submitted talks?

We received nearly 50 proposals for about half that number of speaking slots. Some of the proposals we compressed to halftime. It’s still plenty of time and much more informative than lightning talks, and lets folks get a taste of the tools and approaches (which are hard to pick up on your own, or not as exciting).  We hope folks who didn’t get into the main program will propose their talks to the unconference.

How many proposals came from women?

We do have talks from women, but should work more on the outreach.  I’m personally following up on it, and this work started to pay off.

Did you notice any patterns, trends or similarity topics-wise?

Big Data is ascendant, with Spark a darling of the whole Big Data community at large.  We see people registering to learn Spark, which they then realize is in Scala, and so they join SF Scala next and ramp up on Scala itself. Akka is a perennial favorite, with not one but two proposals showing how to run farms of R servers with it–building a SparkR at home, so to speak. Various aspects of Play and web applications are dominating, showing how Scala-based web apps are taking hold.

Who is traveling the longest distance to speak?

Someone is coming from Hungary, and another from Argentina. 

What surprised you about this year’s proposals?

The sheer strength and depth.  Also the amount of type-related work, which got many votes. Scala folks are intellectually rigorous and efficient at the same time, and that’s why we’ll eventually take over the world.

How has the SF/Bay Area Scala community grown/changed/evolved over the past year? What would a visitor expect to find?

Play, Akka and Spark are growing exponentially and bringing more and more Scala beginners to the community.  The importance of professional training is obvious, hence our offerings.  More startups are relying on Scala, and whole categories of businesses are aligning around it, such as healthcare-related API startups. 

If I’m a Java programmer who’s new to Scala, will I be able to follow along with the talks?

You’ll have a much better time if you begin by taking Fast Track to Scala with Brendan McAdams on August 6-7. Brendan is a bona fide Unix/Scala/Akka longbeard, and he authored both the original and reactive Scala drivers for MongoDB. But our Scala speakers are excellent communicators, so every level of ability will be able to advance to the next one.  See you shortly By the Bay!

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