Minutes of the 4th meeting of the Scala Center, Q1 2017

Minutes are archived on the Scala Center website.

Summary

The following agenda was distributed to attendees: agenda.

Scala Center activities for the past quarter included progress on MOOCs, Scastie, Zinc, Scalafix, direct-dependency-only compilation, the Scala websites, collections redesign, scalajs-bundler, Scala Native, Scala Platform Process, several Scala Improvement Process proposals, and ecosystem hackathons. Full details in Heather’s report.

One hire is in process, another position is still open.

Nitro has left the board (effective as of the next meeting).

There were no new proposals this quarter.

Date, Time and Location

The meeting took place virtually, via UberConference, at 6:00pm (Lausanne time) on Tuesday, February 28, 2017.

Minutes were taken by Seth Tisue (secretary).

Attendees

Attendees present

The following new board members were present:

Board members and officers present:

For the Scala Center:

Also present:

Not present:

Proceedings

Opening Remarks

As chairperson, Jon Pretty conducted the meeting and made the opening remarks.

Since there were no new proposals this time, Jon expected we’d have plenty of time for discussions that could lead to new proposals in the future. He encourages the board to circulate draft proposals well in advance of the next meeting.

Reports

Scala Center Activities

As Executive Director, Heather Miller summarized Scala Center activities since the last meeting.

Staffing levels at the Scala Center are largely the same as last quarter with the exception of new contractor Travis Lee, working on the Scala language tour on the documentation stie.

Most of Heather’s remarks were based on her detailed report on the Center’s recent activities. The following notes are a supplement to her report.

Scastie: is intended to be useful for beginners as well as more widely in the community, for sharing programs and snippets of code. It’s in beta until the Center is sure sufficient server resources are available for a wider release. 47 Degrees will help replace the existing basic UI with something more usable and attractive.

Zinc: Jorge’s work on this grew out of his direct-dependency-only compilation work (SCP-009). Improvements to zinc will benefit sbt 1.0 as well as other build tools. Stu from Twitter is interested for Pants.

Scalafix: Jon hopes to see libraries start releasing Scalafix fixes along with newer versions of their libraries (when there are API changes).

Websites: Heather believes the big 47 Degrees PR with multiple improvements to scala-lang.org can be merged soon. Work on the Scala language tour and Scala getting-started pages is being done by Travis Lee, a new contractor for the Center.

Scala.js: This is a back-burner project for Julien currently. scalajs-bundler is seeing good uptake.

Scala Native: Back-burnered until new hire Martin Duhem comes on board.

MOOCs: The Spark and capstone project MOOCs are “done”. (They launched, as planned, not long after the meeting.)

Scaladex: A UI rethink is planned, since the UI has gotten cluttered.

Jon thanks 47 Degrees and Lightbend for their work the website and collections projects.

Scala Center Financial Statement

See Heather’s report for details and figures on the Center’s financial situation.

“There’s not a lot to say” about the Center’s finances, there is “no huge difference” since last time. One positive change is that fewer board members still owe money (two, down from four or five).

Heather proposed discussing whether board members who owe money should still get to vote in the meantime. Requiring the money first would be an incentive to pay promptly.

Heather is exploring how to keep Travis Lee on as a contractor. (EPFL has restrictions on how contractors are paid.) He’ll be doing some further work for sure, but for how much longer is unclear.

Jon encourages everyone to try to recruit new board members, for the benefit of all.

Tim asked about the impact if the board grows or shrinks further. Heather explains that at least right now, documentation and website work is likeliest to gain or lose, since that’s currently where the Center is trying to hire and also currently where contractors are being used. MOOC money is a wildcard here, as it still isn’t known how much there will be.

Scala Center Proposals

Jon asked about some early proposals from last year’s advisory board meetings where the numbering and texts of the proposals was unclear, since the proposal process was still taking shape. After some talk about details, Jon, Heather, and Adriaan agreed to sort out the rest later.

For the first time, there were no new proposals this quarter.

Other business

However, community representatives Lars and Bill have been working with community members on potential proposals. Jon invited Lars and Bill to present on that.

Lars has been working with Alastair Johnson on a potential proposal about the Scala community build. The community build has been an initiative of Lightbend’s in recent years. Its primary purpose is to catch regressions and test possible changes to the mainline Scala compiler, by compiling a pool of sbt-based open source projects in tandem, all from source, so binary compatibility isn’t an obstacle. Typelevel is interested in doing something similar for Typelevel Scala, also allowing any other custom Scala version. Including Scala.js and/or Scala Native in this picture is also a possibility. All of this might turn into one or multiple proposals for the next meeting; interested community members and board members should contact Lars and/or Alastair. Also, Martin recommended that Lars contact Felix Mulder, who wants to make a community build for Dotty.

Stu points out that community build work overlaps with any work on source-based distribution, since dbuild and source-distribution based ecosystems work essentially the same way. Tim notes that source distribution has legal implications, since licenses apply differently to sources and binaries.

Lars relayed community interest in the website work the Scala Center and 47 Degrees have been doing, but said that people weren’t necessarily aware of what was already happening, for example the prototype at https://scala-lang-site.herokuapp.com/. Heather acknowledges that knowing about everything that’s going on may require following ever-proliferating GitHub repositories, Gitter rooms, Discourse threads, and so forth. Gitter has great appeal, but keeping abreast of (unthreaded) Gitter-based discussions is especially difficult. So it’s understandable that people miss some news. (There is more below on the topic of communication channels; see below.)

Lars also relayed some suggested improvements to the Scala Center’s own site. For example, it doesn’t show who works at the Scala Center, other than the leadership, unless you can find the meeting minutes, which are rather buried. Heather and Jon suggested that Lars convey this kind of detailed feedback outside of the meeting. But Heather mentioned that there is a Google Doc of proposed website updates, including details about staffing, and they plan to involve 47 Degrees in merging this information onto the main site before much longer. In the meantime, here is the document.

Stu mentioned the direct-dependency-only compilation project as an example where communication from the Center wasn’t good at the start, though that eventually got straightened out. Perhaps proposals should be required to include suggested associated communication? In any case, Heather vowed to have the Center send more news to the advisory board directly, in addition to the broader publicity the Center is already doing via Twitter and other public channels.

Heather returned to the topic of whether board members who haven’t paid their dues yet are officially voting members yet. So far the Center has considered first attendance at an advisory board meeting to be the “starting gun”, even if the paperwork hasn’t cleared yet. That’s how it works and how it will continue to work unless there is agreement that it should change. The rationale is that the membership agreement can often take a long time to clear the legal department at a company, and payment and budgetary cycles can cause delays, too. Certainly the Center wants there to be an incentive to sign and pay promptly, so it can pay its employees. But on the other hand, it doesn’t want to discourage prospective members by being too strict about effectively penalizing understandably slow legal and budgetary processes.

Jon raised the topic of diversity. The computing field generally has work to do here, as does Scala specifically. (He also invited board members to talk about their plans for Dotty migration, if any, and their concerns about tooling, for Jon to bring to ScalaSphere, but the conversation ended up taking other directions.)

Some discussion on diversity followed. There are efforts in this direction such as ScalaBridge; should the Center should be supporting such efforts, and/or doing more in this area? Lars saw Heather’s retweet about spreading ScalaBridge to more cities. Heather has a small fund tentatively set aside to help ScalaBridge if needed. But, they actually seem to be “going strong” on their own for now. Lars suggested that another way for board members to support diversity efforts is to fund scholarships for conference attendance, for people who couldn’t otherwise go. Noel mentioned that 47 Degrees plans to start providing support like that for people from underrepresented groups to attend the conferences they organize, but are still working out the details.

Tim asked: now that a year has passed since the first board meeting, what is the board’s perspective on the overall effectiveness of the Center and the meetings? Is the current format working, are there things that need to improve? Stu described the “output” of the Scala Center as very good, beneficial to the community, and beneficial to Twitter. Jonathan concurred. Stu asked about communications again; both Stu and Tim noted that the advisory board doesn’t communicate much between meetings; is that strange or wrong? A mailing list for this was established a while back, but hasn’t been used much. Heather isn’t sure if that’s good or bad; different members might feel differently about it.

Also, there were no new proposals this time. Jon worries it’s because he didn’t remind the board about it enough, but Jonathan thought it’s just that the Center already has plenty of work to do. Or too much work, even; Tim asks if too many proposals (all of them so far!) are being accepted. In Bill’s view, too, there isn’t a clear need for new proposals right now. Tim also asks for more help from the Center and the board with justifying the expense of Center membership to higher-ups. Martin suggests Scalafix as a very good example of a project that is clearly of direct use at member companies. James and Stu shared their views on how they justify and value their own companies’ memberships. Perhaps this could be discussed further on the mailing list?

There was a consensus (among Martin, James, and others) that the Scala Center ought to regularly send news to the advisory board mailing list, for multiple reasons, but in particularly to help members justify their continued membership.

Closing remarks

It was agreed to hold the Q2 2017 meeting in person at Scala Days Copenhagen, since much of the board will be physically present. Board members may attend remotely as well.