Programming is a vast landscape, though you'd be forgiven to think otherwise. You just might've been sucked into the bubble of Ruby of Rails bonanza for the last 10 years. Or you've been busy solving the halting problem. Or maybe you've been building this language which has types for its type (types) and you have not written a line of it but it's all in your proofs. Or you are upgrading to Angular 5. But lately, you've been having this feeling at the back of your head: is this all there is? Surely not?
But you are in luck, because your friend, the one with the New Relic t-shirt, shouting "BIG DATA BABY" from the corner of the office every Friday afternoon when he makes an Insights query told you about this conference which is all about tapas and programming, but mostly tapas. You check it out and the line-up looks amazing: so many words you don't know. Nothing about tapas, but profunctor optics sound equally tasty. You book and you go.
The Conference, The Tapas
You land, get a sunburn, bin your socks, engage flip-flops and grab your conference plan. But what's this? You open the plan and there is pages and pages and pages of stuff. PLDI, ECOOP, ISMM, DEBS, LCTES and Curry On 2017. Curry on indeed, because these are all programming conferences and they are all together here, at a flip-flop's reach. You have not had had any tapas yet, but this program definitely feels like it. The choice is fantastic and the humble programme hand-holds you through the two days gathering sweat, cookie crumbs, coffee stains until it can say it has been places and seen things.
In the morning hours, fresh after the keynote you watch the PLDI madness, a chance to hear a bunch of 1 minute pitches about papers presented at PLDI. Then the chess-timer talks: speakers get 20 minutes speaking time and the audience gets 20 minutes of discussion time, two budgets used up at any time during the talk. This makes for a very nice mix indeed, though in large this depends on the topic and chattiness of the audience. The divergence from the formula is nice and you feel more conferences should do it. The first day ends with a fantastic party at the Moritz Brewery, and lo-and-behold - there is tapas. You have some and geek out about vector programming with your fellow attendees.
You are flying home, not recollecting when did Ryanair successfully merge the teleshopping experience with commercial flying, put your headphones on and pull out notes about your favourite talks from the conference (in no particular order):
- Brain Goetz, FP is Dead: Long Live FP - quite a big part of the audience consisted of FP programmers so it was very interesting to see a big proponent of OOP (Brian Goetz is a Java Language Architect, yes, all capital letters) at the conference. He talks about communities ("tribes") around paradigms in programming and how these affect our daily jobs, opinions and so on. He takes a stab at some fallacies of FP, but Simon Peyton Jones is in the audience for an excellent follow-up.
- Matt Might, Winning the War on Error: solving the Halting Problem and Curing Cancer - many talks have epic titles, but only a few actually live up to them. Hear Matt talking about App Stores for deployed soldiers, the genome, getting funded by Obama, fighting for his son's life and tackling computability theory.
- Jean Yang, Preventing Information Leaks by Construction - this was a talk I felt fitted very well within the conference; it has a strong academic basis and addresses very modern and common problems. Jean Yang presents the concept of policy-agnostic programming as a way to deal not only with information leaks but also consolidating a big part of complexity of a modern application into a manageable layer.
- Sztefan Edwards, On Being a type-heavy Scheme programer in InfoSec, or, how I learnt to hate everything & love better type systems - this chess timer talk is as entertaining as it is informational. Hear from Sztefan scar stories from the InfoSec industry, see his tools and approaches to penetration testing.
- Chris Ford, Computational Musicology, ????, Profit - I've seen Chris speak now a couple of times and he never disappoints. He's an engaging speaker and his music talks are a must for anybody interested in the intersection of music and programming. In this talk Chris talks about infringing every music copyright ever and suing people for music they have not written yet by generating a sequence that has every possible melody encoded in it. Well worth a watch.
Keep Calm and Curry On
"Did you learn anything?", she asks while refactoring a chunky piece of code. You lean back and think how great it is that people think of all these amazing projects and go all over and share them. And how this messy industry is changing the world everyday and we are able to be right in the middle of this change, as long as we are open to reaching out for ideas coming not only from our own experience, but also from people pushing the edge of what can be done in programming today. "I've learned that I still got a lot of amazing things to learn".
Do you like conferences and tapas? Come work at Red Badger, we don't have tapas, but we have £2000 for a training budget that will let you attend awesome conferences like Curry On. And who knows, maybe they'll have tapas.