The year 2012 was a significant year for Metosin; for more than one reason. In addition to starting the company operations in January 2012, we also started an important new project for our client using Clojure. At the time, this was quite a controversial decision. The general consensus at the time was that proper software projects were always done using Java and Spring framework.
The project turned out to be a major success for our customer, but in 2012 this was in no way inevitable. One critical risk in our decision to use Clojure was the availability of skilled Clojure programmers.
In May 2012 I and my colleague and co-conspirator Tommi Reiman attended the very first EuroClojure in London (the original site is long gone, but thanks to the Wayback machine, we can find it here). We were thrilled to hear the presentations and meet many great Clojure luminaries like Zach Tellman, Stuart Halloway, Christophe Grand, Malcolm Sparks, Rich Hickey, and many more. The community around Clojure was vibrant, energetic, and amazingly welcoming for total newbies like us.
On our way home, we were convinced we needed to organize a small get-together focused on Clojure in Finland. We hoped to bootstrap the Clojure community in Finland with the same energy and friendliness we witnessed in London. Maybe this would help give Clojure more visibility and reduce the risk of not having enough skilled Clojure programmers.
Clojure conference we must have, this much was clear.
We needed speakers, preferably from abroad, to give our conference a glorious international feeling. We told our CEO, Mikko Heikkilä, to figure this out: "There's no hurry; you have two weeks". Mikko contacted Bruce Durling, who had just given a presentation in EuroClojure.
Unfortunately, Bruce could not make it, but he promised to help us by using his contacts in the London Clojure community.
This worked well, and very soon, Sam Aaron contacted Mikko and told him that he had never been to Finland and would like to give a presentation about the Clojure interactive programming for generating music. Soon we also had confirmations from the local software industry; Lasse Rasinen from Zenrobotics and Markku Rontu from NitorCreations agreed to give presentations.
So this is happening. We need a web page.
ClojuTRE 2012 web-page
The web page for ClojuTRE was quickly hacked together by yours truly. In hindsight, it's hard to say if the limiting factor for the aesthetic aspects of the page were the lack of time, lack of skill, or the general absence of taste. The most likely combination of all three.
Our principal motivation was to bring together people who share our enthusiasm for Clojure to talk, share ideas, and, since this is Finland, have a few beers and enjoy the sauna.
We understood that most of the interested people don't use Clojure in their work and would most likely be unable to get financial support from their employers. So, a free conference it is.
Fortunately, we got NitorCreations to sponsor the conference and share the bill. The bill was not very impressive; the venue for 25 persons, sauna, few beers and pizzas, travel and hotel for Sam, we're not talking big bucks here.
The Friday 12th of October 2012 was at hand much sooner than we realized. After hectic last-minute errands, the first ClojuTRE was in progress.
Sam setting up his presentation in ClojuTRE 2012
It was informative; it was inspirational, and, most importantly, it was fun. After the presentations, we had pizza, beer, and a sauna. Sam enjoyed the sauna a lot.
Unlike Sam, Christophe Grand had a different opinion of the whole sauna experience. Next year, in connection with ClojuTRE 2013, we organized a public Clojure training with Christophe, Sam, and Meikel Brandmeyer as teachers. After the event we had, again, pizza, a few beers and sauna. Christophe reported to his friends back in France about our "attempt to steam-cook him alive". Guess sauna is not for everyone.
With a new project, ClojuTRE, and the training, the year 2012 was quite busy for Metosin. When the year was ending, we started to make plans for 2013. One thing was clear; "We need to do this ClojuTRE thing again."
Meikel Brandmeyer preparing for ClojuTRE 2014 in Metosin HQ
Fast-forward seven years, and we get to ClojuTRE 2019. What started in 2012 as a low-key, ad hoc get-together for 25 local Clojure programmers had grown to a two-day international conference with ~400 attendees each day. In 2019 we had more speakers than we had attendees in 2012!
ClojuTRE goes Helsinki, 2018
Although the size of ClojuTRE was different, we wanted to maintain the sense of homegrown, down-to-earth, warm personal feeling of the first ClojuTRE. That meant we needed to find a way to source the arrangements for some other company. This meant that we (and I mean mostly Mikko here) spent a lot of time making ClojuTRE the event we wanted.
Even with the generous support from our sponsors and 75€ ticket price, the financial impact of ClojuTRE was no longer a footnote in accounting for a small software consulting. The expenses were over 70k€, even without counting all the hours our people put into this.
Don't get me wrong; we have benefitted from ClojuTRE greatly. Although we have not emphasized our role as the organizer and instead promoted the community as a whole, ClojuTRE has given us a lot of visibility and a good reputation far more significant than any marketing effort could have ever accomplished.
Still, from a purely financial point of view, ClojuTRE had become really expensive for us. However, we felt that ClojuTRE was more important than just us or money; we were doing something we were really proud of.
It seems that people liked the concept and the execution: Here's some feedback we have had over the years.
The conference was very well organised. One of the best organisations I've seen, as a matter of fact
Fantastic conference guys! Truly top drawer stuff. Top name speakers, good venue, free food and drink and all for 0€ - amazing. I just can't compliment you enough! :)
ClojuTRE is the best conference I have attended. Love to all the people organizing it <3
Many people have liked the short talks:
The event was very well organised. What a splendid idea to keep presentations short – the pace of it worked great for preventing sleep throughout the day!
I think you guys pretty much nailed the format and execution for the perfect conference. ClojuTre has definitely become my favourite conf.
Top notch organization of the conference, the venue and food was pretty amazing.
The quality of presentations and the variance of topics has also been well received:
Atmosphere was great as it has been every year since 2012. Good mix of talks with different kind of topics and seriosity
Exceptional speakers! Absolutely fabulous set of topics in talks. It covered very wide area and opened my eyes
I loved Clojutre, and it is by far the most excellent technical conference I have ever been to, from the atmosphere and spirit, to the quality and topic range of talks
Friendly, open, and welcoming atmosphere has been our top priority right from the start.
A wonderful conference with a very friendly atmosphere
I love that you care about diversity and inclusion! And thank you for the great event, can't wait until next year!
I guess something from our local culture has given the event a bit of flavor:
Thank you arranging Clojutre. It is a fantastic conference that I will be recommending to all Clojurists I meet. Don't give into any pressure to change the concept and your special Finish approach
It was amazing, and Finland rocks – thank you for the work you put in!
Right after the 2019 event, the ClojuTRE 2020 planning kicked in full swing.
Then Covid-19 happened, and all plans were trashed. Suddenly nobody was able to make any commitments to travel anywhere in any time soon. So ClojuTRE 2020 was postponed, then again in 2021, and yet still in 2022.
Now we're in the final stages of 2022 and starting to look at 2023. Although the shadow of the pandemic seems to be lifted, the world's safety and financial situation is far from certain. The outrageous war with senseless destruction and murder of civilians in Ukraine has put the whole continent on uneven footing. With a future that can be described as uncertain at best, what should a small company with a big dream do?
Organizing ClojuTRE requires a lot of work, money, and commitment. We want to maintain the idea and the soul of ClojuTRE, and at this time we're not ready to make the commitment that ClojuTRE deserves.
So, with a heavy heart, I must pronounce yet another postponement for ClojuTRE.
While our beloved conference is in a deep sleep at R'lyeh, we're not going to be idle. We hope to serve the local community best by helping to organize a set of small Clojure meetups throughout 2023. In fact, we already started the Oulu Clojure meetup just last week. That is part of our super secret plan to open an office in Oulu, but more about that later.
Another thing we're committed to is our continued efforts on open-source projects, ours and others too. Check out the latest blog posts by Tommi and Juho. Tommi will probably write more about that soon, so stay tuned.
So what's with the weird heading captions?
If you figure it out, let me know at Clojurians slack, I go by handle
@jarppe. The first person to do so wins a ticket to the next ClojuTRE, whenever that happens!