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Heart of Clojure and Tea Garden

Dear friend of Clojure,

You are receiving this email because you indicated, probably quite some time back, to be interested in receiving news about Lambda Island, the screencast series about Clojure.

But Lambda Island has been in archive mode for a number of years now, all videos are free to watch online, and I’m not planning to make any new ones. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any news. It’s been five years since I started Gaiwan, a Clojure focused consultancy, and the team and myself have been very busy indeed.

Heart of Clojure

The biggest news is that we are organizing a second edition of Heart of Clojure. Heart of Clojure is a conference in Leuven, Belgium, happening September 18 & 19. It’s a truly unique event, organized with oodles of love and care, with great talks, but also lots of interactive sessions and extracurricular activities. We got overwhelmingly positive responses after the first edition, and are really excited to bring it back.

Yesterday tickets went on sale, and as I write this only a few Early Bird tickets are left, which is great validation that there is a real desire for more events like this.

The CFP should launch within the next one or two weeks. To be notified when that happens, you should sign up for the Heart of Clojure mailing list. You can expect between a handful and a dozen emails between now and September, through which you’ll find out about all the wonderful things we have in store for the event.

Tea Leaves by Gaiwan

When you do that, there’s a checkbox to also sign up for the Gaiwan mailing list. This is a new initiative we’re launching soon, codenamed Tea Leaves. We want to share more of our knowledge, experience, and ways of working. How do we choose which libraries to use? How do we tackle specific problems? Why did we develop a given open source library? For this we’ll borrow heavily from the “Pattern Language” concept pioneered by Christopher Alexander, documenting the language we use to talk and reason about our work.

When talking to potential clients they don’t always understand what the benefits are of working with a consultancy like Gaiwan, compared to hiring people directly. After all, isn’t it just a matter of filling a seat? Not really. We bring institutional knowledge and process that can take years to develop in-house. With Tea Leaves we want to be more open about how we work, on a technical as well as on an organizational and social level.

Lambda Island Open Source

While Lambda Island “the screencast” is in archive mode, the name lives on in our vast collection of open source libraries and projects, like Kaocha, URI, Ornament, Launchpad, and over a dozen others.

Most recently we launched Launchpad and CLI, and I did a video to demonstrate Launchpad. It’s been a bit hard to really explain what the benefit of Launchpad is, it’s one of those things you have to see in action and try for yourself. But since making that video more people have been trying it out, and the response has been very positive.

The best way to support our open source efforts is through small, focused pull requests. The second best way is by making a financial contribution on our OpenCollective page.

People sometimes assume that since there’s a company backing these projects, it’s enough to report an issue and it will magically get fixed. But Gaiwan is a small operation running on slim margins. We do continually invest in these projects, but that’s mainly driven by the needs of ourselves and our clients. These projects can only truly thrive through community contributions.

A Personal Note

If you are on this mailing list, chances are you have been following my work for a number of years. Thank you for sticking around! It means a lot to me to know there are people who appreciate all the effort and love I pour into this community.

It hasn’t always been an easy ride. I know my videos helped a lot of people, and I’m grateful for that, but financially Lambda Island was a failure, and I burned out hard on it.

Bootstrapping a consultancy has gone a little bit better. I’m no longer going it alone, I’m very grateful for my amazing colleagues. We get to work with good people doing interesting work. I’ve had a stable income at a time when IT jobs are increasingly unreliable. But none of us are making the big bucks. Certainly not in this economy.

I love to do Open Source and Community organizing, but it’s not grateful work. There’s always an expectation that those who contribute the most give even more of themselves. You made library that people like? Surely now you will fix their issues. You helped organize an event? Surely you are available to help out with another event. Luckily age has brought some wisdom in that regard, and I’ve developed strong boundaries for what I do and don’t commit to, so that I may continue enjoying it.

A lot has been happening on a personal level as well, I moved back from Berlin to my native Belgium two years ago, and recently managed to buy a house in my home town. I think the added stability will do me good, and I’m excited for the future, both personally and professionally.

Overtone and

One thing I did add to my workload is Overtone. If you don’t know, Overtone is a sound and music production system for Clojure. Sam Aaron (of Sonic Pi fame) and Jeff Ross created it over a decade ago, and it’s the thing that really got me hooked on Clojure. I friggin love Overtone!

It’s timeless software, it sits on top of the SuperCollider sound engine, which has been around for decades, and together with Quil I see it as an essential part of the Clojure ecosystem, providing an easy and convenient way for people to get creative with code.

So you can imagine my disappointment when I revisited Overtone last year, and found that the project was in a very sorry state. There hadn’t been a release in ages, even though the repo did contain some important fixes. There were issues with newer JVMs, issues with the latest Clojure, and in many scenarios the basic getting started instructions simply did not work, often crashing the JVM.

So I took it upon myself to beat the project back into shape. There have been three releases since November, and things are much better now. People who never managed to get Overtone running in the past are now successfully exploring their own musical creativity, and there’s modest traffic again on the mailing list and slack channel.

This is a labor of love, it’s very personal. This is not something I’m linking to Gaiwan or Lambda Island. These are the first steps in me myself wanting to do more creative work again, to make time for that, and work towards it.

To make that clear I’ve released a few spin-off libraries under a new moniker, I also started a PeerTube channel, where I want to share Overtone and other creative coding. These are slow-burn projects that I want to develop over the coming decade. I hope you’ll come along for the ride. Give Overtone a try, why don’t you?


Thank you for reading this far, I really just wanted to make people aware of Heart of Clojure, but once I was here it seemed right to give a more complete update.

I am no longer active on “X”, to receive daily banter and the occasional shitpost from me, you can follow me on the Fediverse: Or feel free to email me directly.

All the best - Arne