MPS Meetup, April 2018, Munich

On April 19 and 20 the first ever MPS Meetup was organized by JetBrains in their office in Munich. The room was filled with about 50 persons, quite a good turnout for a first meetup. Although I wasn’t there, I have been told that there were about forty (different) persons following a special MPS introduction in the evening.

Don’t know MPS? I wrote a very short overview, and in my opinion it is probably the most advanced language workbench, allowing you to write your own DSLs, including editors, type-checking, validation rules, etc.

The keynote was, who else, Markus Voelter. An important message he gave is that all reusable MPS extensions that have been part of mbeddr, are in the process of being bundled separately as MPS extensions, in collaboration with JetBrains. The goal is to make them more easily available to MPS users, and also to invite other MPS users to contribute to them. I first started using mbeddr MPS extensions in 2014, and it is good to finally see them evolve into independent components.

Apart from discussing many MPS details, Markus also mentioned he started an initiative to develop training material to teach business users the basics of programming. This is meant as a starter course for business people getting involved in using Domain Specific Languages. A good initiative.

There were more stories from quite large scale MPS users like Oce and Siemens. One interesting large scale MPS user is the Dutch tax Office (De Belastingdienst in Dutch). Where other large users mainly focus on DSLs for engineers, the Dutch Tax Office has the focus on Business DSLs where tax experts create the models. For this they use a formalized natural language like notation, so people can simply read a model.

Another interesting presentation was about research in usability of MPS based DSLs. The research used two groups, one using a traditional textual language, the other group using an MPS Projectional editor. In the first exercise MPS was seen as being more difficult to use, but after an hour of exercises it turned out that the use of an MPS projectional editor was on par with the use of a text editor. If you keep in mind that the users have many years of practice with textual editor, it seems that the learning curve for a projectional editor is not that steep, even for people used to textual editors.

Want to know more? You can find another report on the MPS Meetup, with different highlight on the blog from Meinte Boersma.