The Magic of Elixir, a quick chat with Gabriele Lana

Codemotion Milan 2015 is getting closer and the agenda it’s already filled up with interesting talks.
Today we are going to have a quick interview with one of our speakers: Gabriele Lana.

Gabriele is a well known italian developer and speaker, he also gave several talks and workshops in the past Codemotion events.
He is definitely a “Software Craftsman”- as he likes to call himself – and to sum up he has more than 15 years of professional experience in many fields such as: industrial automation (soft realtime), medical, banks, insurance, monitoring, servers for MMO realtime games, distributed systems, mobile games, online/mobile payment platform and others. He loves to develop with different technologies, and most of the time he is a pioneer when new technologies come out, such as Ruby on Rails, nodejs, Couchdb, Mongodb and Elixir to name a few.

Hi Gabriele, could you give us a quick introduction to your talk?
Hi! In this talk I’ll introduce a programming language called Elixir. We’ll see why this language is so attractive and why it gained so much attention in such a short period of time. Some code will also be involved, code that made me fall in love with the language. Viewer discretion is advised.

Why Elixir? Is it (again) another new Buzzword?
Elixir is a relatively new programming language but it’s built upon Erlang and the BEAM (Erlang Virtual Machine), a super solid, super stable piece of software that is almost 30 years old, I don’t think that here the word “Buzzword” would apply. Erlang was born to develop software for telecommunications products that have to deal with millions of concurrent users. Today the Web is start facing the same problems of those telecommunication products. Luckily for us those problems have already been solved. Elixir could be the bridge between the web and Erlang ecosystem.

What’s the relationship between Erlang and Elixir?
Erlang is much more than just a language, it’s a platform (BEAM) and a way to organize your code to be scalable, distributable and fault tolerant. Compared to that the language is almost a detail, but we all know that a nice syntax helps a language adoption and Erlang is not known for its beautiful syntax. Elixir lets you write code in a nicer and more productive way, without losing anything from the Erlang world.

It seems that compiled languages are getting momentum again (Elixir, go), what do you think about that?
A few years ago the goal was run-time speed, today for me the goal is feedback. It’s cool to get faster and quicker feedbacks. A compiler with a reasonable type system can help you with that but it’s not the only choice, you can do static analysis on all languages, even the mistreated Javascript has, among the other, JSHint. Elixir is compiled and dynamically typed but it has something called type annotations: you can annotate functions with type informations that can be used to statically check your code.

We are expecting to draw about 2000 people at Codemotion Milan, what’s your feeling about it?
I’m really glad to be part of it, it’s one of the most important events of its kind in Italy. 2000 people it’s huge even for a UK/US conference, in Italy it’s really massive! 2k people also means an opportunity to have a more diverse audience which is important.

If you could improve one thing in tech conferences, what would it be?
In two words “more interactivity”. Right now you can watch almost all the talks from all the conferences around the word on YouTube a few days after the conference, so, why should I pay to go to a conference? The talks? I don’t think so. I think the real value of a conference are the people: speakers, organizers, attendees and the face to face interaction between them. In the future I would like to see more places and activities for people to interact with each other.

What do you do outside work/coding?
I spend my free time with my beautiful girlfriend, we watch a lot of TV shows, we love to eat good food and walk around the city. In the remaining free time (not much) I try to keep my body in shape, you know, I’m not 20 anymore.

What is the favourite soundtrack of your coding sessions?
Everything without voices. Human voices distracts me. To be more specific, it depends on my mood. Sometimes I need to wake up so I’ll go with electronic music with a high tempo, sometimes I need to chill out with classical music, sometimes I need to focus deep with nature sound. Also I really like chiptunes, remember that I’m a geek from the 80’s.

One tip to the youngsters interested in coding?
When I was a kid it was really simple and really slow, it was ok to take months to see a few pixels moving around the screen. Today the expectations are very high, there’s a lot of free and accessible material to study but that could represent a problem to step in. You ask yourself: where should I start? My advice is to find someone that does what you would like to do and ask him what you should do. In a nutshell: find a mentor.

Totally random: What’s your favourite OST?

That’s easy: “Tron: Legacy” by Daft Punk, a masterpiece.

What do want to be when you grow up?
I love to be a developer and I don’t wish to change. I think that it’s really wrong to think that coaching or management jobs are an healthy evolution for someone like me. It’s like saying that a writer after a certain age should switch to an editor or a marketer, it’s insane. That’s a career change (BTW no shame on that), not a career step.

Thanks Gabriele, we can’t wait for you to rock on stage, see you at Codemotion Milan 2015!

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