About the last Virtual Meetup: I have done a mess and I am sorry

Hi Community,
Something went wrong because of me and I owe an explanation. Also, I could take advantage of this to state a couple of things about the community.

First mistake… email scheduling

Yesterday we had our Virtual Meetup scheduled. @sergej had his great presentation on Grammar Cells ready to go when he realized the first mistake I made: I did not send the email with the announcement on time. I checked and… I have scheduled it for the wrong day.

So I hurried up to send the email immediately. However because of my mistake, many did not know in advance about this presentation and could not organize to attend. For this reason, I owe an excuse to the participants who did not receive a message early enough and to the presenter, who was not supported as the other speakers were.

Second mistake… Zoombombing!

And then I did the second mistake. I posted the link to Zoom’s meeting on Twitter. Now, I was tired, already feeling bad for my first mistake and I did not reflect well enough. The consequence, obvious in retrospect, was… Zoombombing! People joining to shout obscene things or drawing on the screen while the presenter was trying to share his knowledge.

Luckily Sergej managed to do a great job anyway and the people present were kind enough to bear those annoyances. But because of this, I stopped admitting to the meeting people that I did not recognize. Even worse, Zoom was not giving me a way to identify who was drawing obscenities on the screen so I kicked out of the meeting people I did not recognize. And some of them were genuine participants!

So I owe an excuse to:

  1. Those who were not admitted to the meeting
  2. Those who were unfairly kicked out of the meeting
  3. The attendees
  4. Sergej Koščejev, the presenter

This also means we will need to change the Zoom link for future events!

Why was this presentation great

All of this was particularly bad because… the topic and the presentation were so great! Sergej presented Grammar Cells. What are they? An extension to MPS originally designed by @slisson which permits to create very usable editors. In short, you probably know that MPS is a projectional editing. It means that it saves the AST behind the scene, instead of saving the text you see on that screen. This brings a lot of advantages but it also make awkward to replicate some of the behaviors you like in textual editing. In short with grammar cells you manager to get the best of textual editing combined with the advantages of projectional editing.

And Sergej was the perfect person to deliver this presentation, because of his experience inside the MPS development team and as a consultant building languages using MPS for several clients. While it is no substitute for attending the presentation of yesterday I suggest you take a look at his blog https://specificlanguages.com/ and at the latest MPS plugin he recently released, called Build Script Notifier. If you are using MPS and you get those annoying issues with the build needing to reloading modules, here comes the solution.

A few words about the state of this community

This community is now almost one year old. It really started as an experiment.

I had two goals:

  1. Meet more frequently the kind of person attending LangDev so that I could learn about the cool things they were working on
  2. Make Language Engineering more accessible to a larger group of people. The fact is that few persons have the time and resources to attend conferences and many who are still learning do not feel entitled to participate. So a place where to meet, without barriers, seemed useful

Not everyone agreed with the plan, and when I discussed that on Twitter and LinkedIN, a couple of persons took the effort to explain what a stupid idea it was :smiley:

Now, it turned out it was not a crazy idea, and more people that I expected wanted to join.

At this moment there 418 members of this community.

And then, following an idea of @voelter we started the Virtual Meetups. We have not met probably 30 times, each time with a great presentation and a nice discussion.

A few words about the future of this community

Now, even a niche community like this one proved to be a good amount of work.

These are all small things, but they add up:

  • Managing the forum installation and the website
  • Writing and maintaining the automation which sends invites to the forum
  • Moderating the forum: a couple of people were suspended, we had discussions with others about their behaviors
  • Inviting speakers and managing the scheduling of the presentations
  • Contacting the speakers to write the announcement and send the reminders
  • Moderating the Virtual Meetup (let people in, read questions from the chat, making the announcement)

As a small business owner, it is difficult to find the time, and sometimes I am tired or in a hurry and I do mistakes. To see an example… you can read the first part of this post :slight_smile:

This is one of the reasons why at Strumenta we are looking for a person to hire to help us with a bunch of activities, including the community.

In this way, I hope we can dedicate more energy to this community. You all surprised me with your participation and your contributions, so it is time to invest a bit more on our side and offer a better service to this community.

For me, it is an honor to meet you all in the forum or during the Virtual Meetup. I feel very lucky to hear the ideas you are sharing. I really feel like we got our little niche university :slight_smile: And indeed several professors gave great presentations here!

Final message

So let me say once again that I am sorry about what happened yesterday. We are working to change the organization to make these errors less probable.

I am also very thankful to all of you for joining this community and I think we can build something great here, together.


Also, if you have ideas on how to make Zoom meetings safer or ideas for other technologies to use… please let me know!

Thank you very much for all your effort, @ftomassetti! I thoroughly enjoy our weekly meetings, and learned a lot there.
I hope we can keep this great place. Please don’t hesitate to ask the community for support if you feel we can help in any way.

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The best help is to show up and participate in the conversation or give presentations. You are great at both :smiley:

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Excellent report; we learn a lot when we share such stories. Thanks. And keep up the good work with the community. It’s a great idea, and I know it takes great effort to maintain a community, so thanks again.

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Thank you @jurgen.vinju, I appreciate this message and you being part of this community

I’m sorry to read about the Zoom accident, but these things do happen from time to time, and I’m sure we all experienced similar issues with digital services, especially when worn out by tiredness and repetitive tasks.

@ftomassetti, I want to thank you for all your time and energy invested in keeping the Strumenta community alive. Although I belong to the second category of users types (those who want to learn about the topic) and my contributions and participation has been somewhat limited, I do read all the notifications and emails, and try to learn as much as I can. So, even if I don’t write a lot on the forums, it doesn’t mean I’m not benefiting from them.

If there’s a way in which I might help to actively support with Strumenta’s maintenance, please don’t hesitate to contact me via PM. Maybe I can give something back to this community via maintenance labor, to counterbalance my inability to contribute with knowledge.

Hi Tristano, your contribution is appreciated. I remember a couple of discussions we had. Thank you for your offer, you are very kind!