On 22nd September I went to Elixir.LDN, a conference for the programming language Elixir. Elixir is a language I’d used to build a Github pull request checker with the personality of Samuel L. Jackson, so I was interested to see how the language had progressed and what the Elixir community is talking about.

To make things interesting, I’ll try and summarise each talk in 300 characters or less. Wish me luck…

  • Robert Virding, co-creator of Elixir, presented some pitfalls and curiosities of the Elixir language. It was accessible and useful to beginners like me. I wanted to know why Elixir’s design makes better applications, but it wasn’t really the talk’s purpose.
  • Marni Cohen and Gabriella Chronis from Puppet talked about rewrites of internal tools from Ruby to Elixir. The speakers were entertaining and informative, and the advantages they got were exciting to see.
  • Louis Pilfold (who I used to work with) gave a very dense but extremely interesting talk on building compilers in Elixir. It was confidently presented, and Elixir’s libraries make it look easier to build compilers than in other languages.
  • Gary Rennie gave a talk on refactoring Phoenix applications. Gary was a fun presenter, and although the content wasn’t revolutionary it’s good to see good software design being valued and talked about at conferences.
  • Tetiana Dushenkivska showed how Elixir can work with WebSockets and Arduino by building a glove that checks your touch typing for incorrect finger use. The glove was awesome and the process of building it was well presented and easy to follow.
  • Claudio Ortolina presented a library in the making called GenStage, which makes building asynchronous multi-stage pipelines easier. I’m not sold on its usefulness, but the demo was interesting.
  • Ju Liu used Elixir to turn a Raspberry Pi into an “Intrusion Countermeasures” security system. He went from no code to a working demo in less than 45 minutes, which was very impressive! Ju is an exciting speaker to watch.
  • Consultant and podcaster Johnny Winn closed with a monologue on Elixir’s past, present and future. Johnny is a confident and entertaining presenter. Summarising: “Elixir has a great community; treasure it as it grows, and ignore the haters outside of it.”

As well as the main talks, I found the lightning talks to also be of a high quality, showcasing some of the great things built with Elixir. All of these talks will hopefully end up on the Elixir.LDN website, and I’d encourage you to have a look at them if you’re interested in what this language has to offer.

So after all that, will I be writing more Elixir in the future? It seems well-suited to solving common problems in web development where concurrent, distributed and fault-tolerant systems are required. The language itself looks easy to understand and - as the conference showed - there’s a strong community around it building the tools necessary to make it successful. As a result, I’m likely to consider it for future web applications. (And maybe even a few pet projects with Arduinos and Raspberry Pis…)

What’s your experience of Elixir in the wild: is it the next big thing or should it never be used? Get in touch!