Monads – Asking the Right Question, with Pawel Szulc

On Monday, 1st June, I went to an evening presentation given by Pawel Szulc at Skillmatter regarding Monads in Scala (the videocast of it is here).

It’s an obscure subject and not one I really understand, and this presentation didn’t help much (too many cognative leaps, like reading a technical book with most of the pages stuck together).

Monads are a kind of contract or pattern, encapsulating a data type in a consistant interface. The interface consists of two functions: a “bind” or “flatMap” function that, given a translation function, allows another monad to be created from the first; and a unit function which creates the monad from the original type in the first place.

Pavel’s got a thing about monads and tried to explain how they can be used as a design technique, but I think it’s something that going to take a bit more than a presentation to explain. A monograph on the subject, perhaps. Clever bloke, though.

Scaling Business Application Development with Play and Scala

Yesterday evening, I went to see a presentation by Peter Hilton at Skills Matter on using Scala and Play for small-scale development.

In an affable and down-to-earth manner, Peter went through two case studies that his company had handled, both  web developments in Holland, where he is based. This is somewhat unusual for Scala in particular and any JVM-based language in general: normally much “lighter” technologies, such as ASP.Net or PHP, are used.

He highlighted the use of a stack of technologies, Play, Scala, Slick (for database connectivity and access), PostgreSQL and MySQL for the database and Bootstrap for the website layout. In particular, he went through the use of Slick, which he recommended, as it has an unusual, more SQL, feel compared to other ORM’s.

He also emphasised the speed of development and that the amount of code needed was much smaller than previous applications he’d developed: the first application was ~4000 lines and the second ~2000, which are both a lot smaller than the applications I’ve worked on. It was interesting to see how his team short-cutted: using social media for security (why not?) and Excel spreadsheet integration for record maintenance.

Overall, it was a good presentation about using Scala in a different way.