The Swift Community in Poland: a Developer’s Diary

Or How We Started Organizing the Swift Meetup in Warsaw

It all started on a calm Spring evening, a little over a month ago, after we decided to stay late at our office in Warsaw to watch the livestream of the keynote from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

The two-hour-long presentation, filled to the brim with announcements, was coming to an end. We were all positively surprised by what we were shown, enthusiastic about the new capabilities, and optimistic about the future of the iOS and OS X platforms. So far, it was the best WWDC in years. Then, Craig Federighi returned to the stage with a short segment dedicated specifically to developers…

Out of the blue, Apple revealed Swift — a completely new, general-purpose programming language designed to be the main tool with which to create apps for Apple products. You can watch this almost-historic moment yourself, just fast-forward the keynote video to the 1 h 44 min mark. I had to rewatch it myself, because I couldn’t remember exactly what happened after the announcement — I was that excited. People around me were screaming, cheering, grabbing their heads, and blinking in disbelief. It was quite a shock.

Mildly disoriented, we swiftly left the office to get home and spend the night reading The Swift Programming Language book. In the following days, we held numerous Swift discussions on our internal mailing list, as well as conversations at the blackboard, and even a few short presentations. It was evident that we were all learning from each other and that there is value in establishing and fostering a community of people interested in Swift, especially people coming from different backgrounds who can offer an interesting perspective on new concepts present in the language.

Turns out, we were not the only ones who felt this way.

Swift Crunch — The First-Ever Swift Hackathon

Ten days after WWDC, fellow iOS developers from Base wrote that they were organizing Swift Crunch — a two-day Swift hackathon in Kraków (also the first-ever Swift hackathon). Needless to say, we were excited!

Three weeks went by and a team of five Macoscopians travelling independently in three groups — by train, car, and on a motorcycle — arrived in Kraków on Friday evening, the day before Swift Crunch was to begin. We started Saturday by arriving at the venue early to enjoy a healthy breakfast with the organizers and other attendees.

After we plugged in all the chargers and set up our laptops at one of the many tables and standing desks in a big open space we shared with over 80 other developers, the organizers kicked the event off with a brief introductory talk and a keynote by Ash Furrow.

Ash’s talk was titled “Solving Problems the Swift Way.” It was a good general presentation about Swift and the challenge of avoiding the old, Objective-C approach to solving old problems and embracing features of the new language instead. One important takeaway from this talk was the phrase “Everyone is a beginner” — everyone is just starting their adventure with Swift and no one should shy away from asking questions or talking about their findings and experiences. To the contrary: we can all benefit from the sharing of knowledge.

After the keynote, we got down to code. Unlike other hackathons you may have read about, Swift Crunch didn’t impose any set of strict rules on us, no guidelines that we had to follow — we were free to create anything. For example, we could write a new app in Swift, rewrite an old one, create a library, a website, or even start a documentation project without writing any code at all. Moreover, there were no idea-pitching sessions. Teams formed organically during face-to-face conversations and discussions in the HipChat chat room provided by the organizers.

Some people, including me, decided not to get involved in the bigger projects right away and instead started creating smaller experiments that utilized the more advanced features of Swift. It seems that custom operators and complex generic types were popular choices here.

Around 7pm we started to leave the venue to freshen up and grab something to eat on our way to the Swift Crunch Afterparty (if you are in town, you have to try avo bacon burgers at MoaBurger!). Unfortunately, we had such a good time at the party that getting to the event slated for 11am the next morning proved to be a challenge.

There were two talks on Sunday. Kyle Fuller spoke about Domain-Specific Languages in Swift, demonstrating his QueryKit library as an example. Boris Bügling had a very technical talk about custom playgrounds which shed some light on how some parts of Xcode work internally. All talks were captured on video and should be available online soon.

After the talks, we had an hour and a half to put final touches on our projects before presenting them in front of everybody. Presentations went in a surprisingly timely manner and were followed by a vote for the best project.

I’m happy to congratulate Macoscope’s own Jan Klausa for being a part of the winning team that created FoundationOperators, a set of extensions for Foundation objects making them more pleasant to work with in Swift. Another noteworthy project is Swift In Flux, a documentation project that gathers Swift features that are still in flux and likely to change. The list of all projects is available on GitHub, once again thanks to Jan.

We were leaving Swift Crunch feeling that it was time well spent. We learned something new about Swift, used it in practice, and had a lot of fun. The organizers did a stellar job. We will be happy to return for the second edition!

Also, I really enjoyed the hot sunny weather during my 300-kilometer-long Sunday afternoon motorcycle ride from Kraków to Warsaw.

Swift Warsaw — Monthly Meetup in Warsaw

We returned to Warsaw inspired and hungry for more. We were a little tired but our excitement about all things Swift only grew after the intense weekend.

Soon thereafter, we got in touch with Łukasz Kuczborski. We met in Kraków, and just like us, Łukasz enjoyed the community aspect of Swift Crunch and wanted to organize a regular Swift meeting in Warsaw. Since then, we’ve been working on this idea together.

Today, we are happy to announce Swift Warsaw, a monthly meetup for Swift developers! We want to make it a perfect event for fostering the local community and pushing everyone’s Swift skills forward.

Swift Warsaw is another in a series of initiatives we’re involved with: Mobile Central Europe was a conference we organized last January in Warsaw with over 400 mobile developers and designers in attendance, while Mobile Warsaw is a regular meetup about iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and related technologies.

The first Swift Warsaw meeting will be held at the Macoscope office in a week and a half, on Thursday, July 31st. We plan on having two or three 15-minute presentations, a lightning talk session (aka open mic), and a small party in our garden.

Feel free to come, have a good time, share your knowledge, learn something, and meet fellow developers interested in the new language.

See you at the Macoscope office!

Swift Warsaw #1: Lessons Learned
We like to win!