An active member of the Scala community since 2008, you could have met Seth Tisue at the Scalawags podcast, the Northeast Scala Symposium, and pretty much any online community around Scala. Having joined the Scala team at Lightbend in 2015, Seth previously used Scala to build the compiler and other tools for NetLogo, an open-source programming language for kids, teachers, and scientists.
In advance of his talk You Are A Scala Contributor at Scala Days in New York on June 20th, we spoke to Seth about his commitment to the open source community, the Scala ecosystem and the future of Scala.
What’s your background and what does your current role involve?
Learning to program in Pascal, back in the day, showed me how elegant and principled coding could be, compared to the BASIC I’d done before. Languages matter!
Later, I took a long detour through artificial intelligence and authoring tools for educational simulations, working mostly in Common Lisp. Getting involved with software for schools led to a job working on NetLogo, a modern dialect of the old turtle graphics language. It finally dawned on me, working on the NetLogo compiler, that programming languages are what I should have been doing all along. I joined the Scala compiler team at Lightbend in 2015.
What’s the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Having a day job writing open source code. For me, coding is so much more satisfying when the code I’m writing is out there in public and I can collaborate on it with anyone in the world.
Why did you pick Scala and what kind of problems does it solve for you?
Scala is both beautiful and practical. That combination solves all problems.
Working in Common Lisp for some years showed me what a really flexible and expressive language was like. Java was a poor substitute in many ways, but my job required the JVM. Java did teach me the value of static types, but when Scala came along, I escaped to it as soon as I could.
What’s the most important challenge Scala developers are facing today?
It’s hard for a language that isn’t directly backed by a giant company to succeed. We’re competing with languages like Swift, Go, and C# that have budgets Lightbend and the Scala Center can only dream about. But independent languages like Python and Ruby have managed to thrive regardless, so there’s hope.
What’s one thing that could address this challenge?
I hope developers will lobby their companies to become Lightbend subscribers or to join the Advisory Board at the Scala Center, to help fund Scala’s future.
Who should attend your talk at Scala Days and why?
Anyone who’d like to help Scala and the ecosystem around it improve and grow. We can do this! People want to help, but they sometimes don’t know how to get started, how to find an issue to work on, how building and testing works, and how to get mentoring. Or their pull request languishes and they get frustrated. I hope my talk can help with all this.
Whom would you like to connect with at the conference?
I’d like to talk to people who want to do open source Scala but need advice, whether it’s general advice, or help with a specific challenge.
I’d also like to hear stories from people who have already tried it. If it went well, what were the crucial factors that enabled you to get involved, learn the ropes, and become effective? How can we help others replicate your success? If it didn’t go well, where did you get stuck, what were the pain points?