Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Journeyman weeks - week two @ vaamo.de

Wonder what happened last week?

My travel continued as I left Berlin behind and headed out to Frankfurt. During SoCraTes 2013 I spent some time talking about my little journeyman project with Benjamin Reitzammer. He was one of the first that came to my mind as someone I could be working with and learning from. He had recently started working at a start-up called vaamo and so all of that seemed like a good fit and thankfully he was willing to organise getting me there.


I had spent the weekend at my parents' house in Düsseldorf and so the short Monday morning train ride to Frankfurt went by pretty quickly. I had good directions and easily found vaamo's offices in the university campus' "House of Finance". Everyone was quick to welcome me and it was a matter of minutes to get set up for GitHub, Travis and HipChat. It took a little bit of installing random stuff (like a JDK... ahem) and I was up and running. I was able to reuse my postgres docker image from the week before, which I thought was pretty cool.

Goethe University Frankfurt

Vaamo is working on an interesting product around making saving money more accessible. I say interesting because it is something I can probably make use of, once it gets released. The tech stack is based on Scala & the Play framework. There's already quite a few people working on the product, including another of my SoCraTes buddies, Johannes Seitz. During the week I stayed in the huge apartment of one of the founders, conveniently located in walking distance of the office. 


I am happy I finally had some time to actually work with a JVM language other than Java. I've had some basic idea of how Scala works but now I could actually write useful code in it.

I especially enjoyed having Johannes show me a few ways to solve common web app problems in a more functional way. We made heavy use of Option (and Either) monads, which felt a lot more straight-forward in Scala than anything I had experimented with in Java, quite some time ago. (Hopefully it was also easier because I've learned a bit more since that time. :))

"Show me"

In terms of tooling, I was less impressed. IntelliJ was struggling very much on my (admittedly underpowered) laptop while adding very little benefit in terms of refactoring support. Being used to how well the JetBrains stuff works for other languages I have hope that this will improve but was very disappointed with the current state. Working with vim or sublime might have been the better option.

I'm also pretty skeptical about the Play framework (and maybe sbt, if that's what's under the covers). Opinionated frameworks are good for the 80% case but then seem to always end up fighting you when you trail off the beaten path. In this particular case I was unable to get jasmine tests integrated into the build. (I'm certain it's possible to do that if you invest time or know more about Scala/Play/sbt but it shouldn't be this hard to get started.) This was sad because the support for TDD in Play seems to otherwise be pretty excellent.

I did enjoy a different set of tooling very much though. Vaamo uses Travis for continuous integration and I really loved the integration of that with git(hub) and HipChat. As I mentioned here I really like chat rooms to keep a history of ephemeral status information. It's easy to find when you need the information and it's easy to ignore if you don't. And it also makes it viable to have people work in a distributed fashion.

Extra curricular activities

I also enjoyed hanging out with people and seeing more of Frankfurt. Due to a prior bad experience I had a pretty low opinion of the city and I was glad to find out that it's actually not really that bad. :)

Team Vaamo (with Lasers!)
I enjoyed philosophizing about our industry with Benjamin and similarly I was also lucky to run into Olaf Lewitz and Meike Mertsch who just happened to be in Frankfurt at the same time. Once again I feel extremely grateful for the opportunities that make these serendipitous encounters possible!

This is of course also still the case for the overall journeyman weeks tour. I'm really glad I get to be able to do this. Although I did wake up very disoriented on Tuesday morning, not knowing where I was. :)

Next up

As I'm finally finishing up this post I'm sitting in the offices of Mozaic Works in Bucharest. My old friend Adi Bolboaca was kind enough to host me and show me around this beautiful city. In the end it was a little bit too short notice to find someone to pair with for two days but I'm enjoying having some time to walk around the city. And starting tomorrow I'll be busy enjoying catching up with people and hopefully meeting new ones during this year's ALE conference.

Down the street from Mozaic Works
Next week I will be returning to Berlin again to work with Duana Stanley at Soundcloud. They use some pretty interesting and diverse technologies so I'm sure that will be another great week for learning. For my final journeyman week (as of now) I will head south to msgGillardon in Bretten, where Nicole Rauch and Andreas Leidig are kind enough to host me.

Read about my week at SoundCloud here.

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