Like so many others I felt sad when I heard the news Skill Matter had gone into administration. Many words have been exchange on twitter about what tragedy it was, so rather than add to that, I thought I’d share some of happy memories of them.
I can’t remember the exact date I first started working with Skills Matter, but it seems likely it was around 10 years ago. I remember the occasion very well.
I was invited to speak at ‘Progressive .NET’, running a tutorial on F# for them. Skills Matter hadn’t yet moved to their lovely venue at Goswell Road and the company had a small office in Clarkenwell and ran all events in external venues.
That year Progressive .NET was hosted at The Old Sessions House which is – I believe – a masonic lodge and masonic activities carried on around us. The event was great and the fact that a few talks on interrupted by the ring of bells or mail voice chanting in a nearby room, added a great deal of fun. It was my first and only chance to observe the masons close at hand, I enjoyed catching a glimpse of their robes and ceremonial swords.
We were able to have a drink at The Old Sessions House bar with the masons. Even in their ordinary clothes, there seemed to have a uniform, soba black suite, white shirt, dark tie. Many of them speaking with cockney / east London accent, I was surprised I didn’t think you could be working class and a mason.
I remember the Skill Matter team having some issues with the DSL line used for the conference Wi-Fi, after frustrating morning on the phone to BT Nick told me “if the masons can’t get good service, what hope is there for the rest of us?”
Why the big digression about the mason in a Skill Matter article? That is my first memory of them, but also because I think it illustrates the point that the team worked hard to bring a fantastic conference together whatever the circumstance.
One evening, at the Progressive .NET conference party that first year I went, I got talking to Wendy the Skill Matter founder and CEO. We were just having a beer and chatting, upstairs at The Crown Tavern. We talked a bit about my tutorial and how F# fitted in with .NET and the wider world of functional programming. I can’t remember who suggested it, but by the end of our chat we’d agreed to start Functional Programming eXchange conference.
I wasn’t entirely sure Wendy would follow though the conference idea. Had it just been one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time in the pub. A few days later she got in touch and we started organizing the conference. I was very happy that she followed though and very impressed with the freedom skills matter gave me organizing the conference. Did I like someone’s work? Well, let’s invite them to the conference.
Functional Programming eXchange ran for a good few years then closed. I have many happy memories of the conference and I think we had some speakers that I would consider legendary. Why did it close? I changed jobs and had less free time to organize the conference. Also, it had helped inspire F# eXchange, Progressive F# and Haskell eXchange, possibly others, so we felt there was less need for a general functional programming conference at Skill Matter as the community was already being well served.
That’s only a brief over view of why I thought Skills Matter were great, but I think it illustrates what I liked about them. They enabled to the community to organize great invites and where very supportive of new ideas. They were always warm friendly and open.
I could include many more stories of people I’ve met and fun that I’ve had at conferences over the years - I may even have managed to learn a thing or two - but I'll leave it there for now.
I think Wendy and Nick did a great job of surrounding themselves with a lovely team of people who made organizing and attending lots of fun. I wish them all well in there future adventures.