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OSCON: Secret Lab dives into programming with Swift 2

At OSCON, Secret Lab's Paris Buttfield-Addison will be delivering a talk on using Apple’s newest programming language, Swift 2. We caught up with him.


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Next month’s OSCON will see developers, designers, and startups descend on Amsterdam from a wide variety of countries, not just from Europe. Australia’s Secret Lab develops mobile games and apps and will be making the trek. One of the startup’s producers, Paris Buttfield-Addison, will be delivering a talk on using Apple’s newest programming language, Swift 2. spoke with Paris to learn more about the talk and what delegates can expect.

What is Secret Lab and what do you do at the company?

Secret Lab is an Australian game and app development company. We’ve been around eight years now, which is quite a while for both a game development company and an app development company.

I am a producer at Secret Lab. We’re a very small company, between five and eight people depending on the day and the project. As a producer, I do everything from game design and software design through to actually occasionally coding but I mostly manage resources and allocate how things work and plan projects, sort of between a project manager and a software manager.

You’re based in Hobart, Tasmania. What’s that like for a tech startup?

Tasmania is the island state at the bottom of Australia. It’s really small and it’s relatively remote. It has a small but quite strong tech and startup scene. There are monthly meetups between 30 and 70 people on all manner of things for a variety of tech topics, web development meetups, designer meetups, game developer meetups, stuff like that so it’s really quite flourishing.

We’re quite lucky as far as Australian states go, the two major cities in the state have ubiquitous fibre internet to the premises everywhere, which means that combined with cheap rent, the tech scene has kind of flourished down here. It’s obviously still quite small but the trend is upwards.

Tell us about the talk you will be giving in Amsterdam at OSCON.

At OSCON in Amsterdam we’ll be talking about Swift 2. Swift 2 is Apple’s newest programming language and was announced in June at WWDC, Apple’s developer conference, and became essentially public when iOS 9 came out and became the preferred language for building iOS apps.

Swift was announced last year at WWDC and Apple enhanced and improved it in the time since with Switch 2, which is an evolution of the language. It’s a very cool, very modern programming language that essentially takes all the best bits of both academic research into how programming should work as well as real life languages like Rust and Python and things like that and merged them all into one new language. It’s designed to be very safe and very easy to write and very hard to make a mistake in because it enforces a lot of the things that cause common bugs in programming.

We’ll be exploring what it takes to use Swift 2 and how you can use it build apps for the platforms that Swift 2 currently supports. Right now they’re Apple’s platforms so they’re OS X, iOS, watchOS, and also tvOS but Apple has also said that they’ll be making Swift open source after Swift 2 came out, which should happen sometime in the future and they’ll be releasing the stack for Windows and Linux, which theoretically means we’ll get a wider adoption of Swift because it really is quite an interesting language that potentially has a lot of cool applications.

In our talk at OSCON we’ll basically be teaching people what they need to know about Swift as long as they’re some sort of existing programmer, they’ll get everything they need to work with Swift.

Why should attendees check out your talk?

Because Swift is really brand new. It’s interesting because it’s currently only an Apple thing and Apple will be open sourcing it, which means learning Swift now will put you in a good position to build stuff in the future. Apple’s previous default language, which was Objective-C, went from being an obscure language that nobody used except Apple and previously NeXT to being one of the top five languages by various measures in a very short space of time, mostly to do with the popularity of Apple’s new platforms.

Swift is already climbing that list; I think Swift is already in the top 10 or top 15 depending on where you look. It’s a highly marketable language and knowing Swift at the moment can make you very employable or capable depending on what you’re aiming to do.

Have you attended OSCON before?

We’ve been speaking at OSCON in the US, which has traditionally been in Portland, for five or six years now and it’s a great conference, full of interesting people. It’s evolved over the years from having streams around programming languages, which it doesn’t do so much anymore, to having streams around what you can do with open technology and I think that’s a really great trend.

What makes a conference, focused on open source like this, important and worth attending?

When OSCON started in the US originally, open source wasn’t an underdog but it wasn’t the default for a lot of technology. Now I think it’s kind of everywhere, which means the objective of a conference that supports open source technology like OSCON is not to encourage people to adopt open source, because they kind of already have, but it’s more to facilitate the way in which people can use open source and how to do it properly, why and how you should adopt different licenses or work with different parts of open source rather than pushing open source and a specific language.

I think it’s evolved a lot over the years and its composition is a really good spot because there are a lot of language-specific siloed conferences that are really open source-focused but they’re tied to the various languages or they’re tied to a specific technology stack. OSCON embraces them all and lets you meet, work with and talk to people that are actually doing things with open source across all these different technologies and stacks.

Finally, what is Secret Lab currently working on?

We’re working on a bunch of books on Swift. One’s called Learning Swift, which covers Swift 2, the language we’re talking about at OSCON. It’s just been early released and will be published in the coming months. We’re also working on a whole bunch of games. We’re hoping to release a game for the new Apple TV once that comes out. We’re really hustling to finish a multi-player shooter for that particular platform and we’re hoping to get it done in time. The European edition of the open source conference OSCON will be taking place in Amsterdam between October 26 and 28, bringing together some of the biggest players and budding startups from the open source community.

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