0 comments

So it’s been a week since I got back from GOTO in Aarhus. All in all I must say that the conference lived up to my expectations.

As I predicted in my pre-conference post, my final schedule ended up being a little different than what I anticipated. Although it did follow the same basic principles of spreading out and seeing a little bit of process-, development- and product-specific talks. Over the next few days I’ll hopefully be able to put together a series of blog posts that reflect on some of my take-aways from the talks. The post you’re reading is mainly a reflection on the conference itself.

Arrival and Registration

It’s always interesting to experience how different venues handle large flows of people arriving at the same time and how they manage to keep the flow going. This was essentially a non-issue for the GOTO organisers. Registration cards were laid out alphabetically and the only thing I had to figure out was whether they were sorted by first or last name. So this went really smoothly. As I picked up my registration card, I was asked whether I would be attending the party and whether I wanted a GOTO bag. Awesome.

Finding my feet and looking around

I arrived about an hour early so I had plenty of time to find my way around the conference venue. This was also a no-brainer since everything was clearly labelled with signs pointing to the different rooms, toilets, cloakroom and so on. One thing I was missing, though, was something to eat. I remember from my experience at Øredev that they had a magnificent breakfast for conference attendees every morning, so I was a bit surprised to find that there was nothing edible (apart from complimentary candy from the booths). I found out a bit later that we bloggers had access to the press room, which indeed did provide us with something to eat and drink. So this too was accounted for.

Welcome, talks and breaks

It was time now to attend the welcome speech and the first keynote. I really liked the fact that the track hosts of each day would spend 5 minutes introducing the day’s speakers and topics. This meant that I had a much better idea of what I was to expect, and also made me change my schedule a few times.

I find that the 50 minute time slots allotted to talks was quite adequate. It is enough time to let the speakers (at least the well-prepared ones) get into enough detail, but still short enough that we listeners can stay sort of concentrated. Especially during the slot straight after lunch.

Keynote Speakers

The keynote speakers were very well picked.
Monday morning,Rickard Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party gave us an interesting insight into his foundations for launching his political campaign. And even though I don’t agree with everything he said, he did have some valid (IMHO) points on how the copyright system is broken and how free speech and the right to privacy is being limited by laws being passed in numerous countries.

The afternoon keynote was by Damian Conway, one of the more prominent members of the PERL community. Damian gave us a brief introduction to the topic of Contra-Temporal Virtual Nanomachine Programming In Topologically Connected Quantum-Relativistic Parallel Space-Times... Made Easy. This was a hilarious talk which took us around a broad range of topics, mostly in the field of quantum physics and how he has used a lot of these theories in implementing quantum computing in PERL. Judging from the laughter and applause during his talk (which he frequently interrupted, noting that he didn’t have time for applause if he was to be able to go through all his material), lots of us were shaken around a bit while watching variables being declared in the future, only to travel back in time to the present to let their values be used. I’m still not sure I completely grasp the concept, but there was something in there about performing zero-time computations, for example for sorting large amounts of data.

Tuesday’s morning keynote was held by Microsoft’s own Scott Hanselman, who gave us an insight into how Microsoft has changed into a much more open source friendly beast, releasing more and more of their software, platforms and products as open source. Scott, as usual, gave us 50 minutes of very well put together entertainment and I’m sure a lot of the non-Microsoft developers watching were surprised to learn how much Microsoft is actually contributing to- and embracing the OSS world. The talk also highlighted how Microsoft’s Azure cloud is in no way Microsoft-centric. You can pretty much host anything in Azure, and this really is “Cloud the way it should be”. I haven’t really looked at Azure in a couple of years and I must say I was impressed with how easy it looked.

After Tuesday’s conference tracks it was time to open the doors to a number of local user groups. I chose to participate in Aarhus .NET User Group (ANUG)’s meeting which featured Anders Hejlsberg himself. I’ve already blogged about what came out of this, and the more I think about it, the more I actually like the position Microsoft have put themselves in with TypeScript.

On the final day of the conference, Dirk Düllmann from CERN told us a little about the challenges they face in handling the absolutely mind-bogglingly large amounts of data generated by the Large Hadron Collider. This was the kind of talk where you just sit there, wide-eyed, listening to big numbers that are extremely hard to relate to your day-to-day job (unless you work in CERN’s IT department, I guess). I’ll put together a blog post later on with some of the really amazing stuff that goes on there. And I thought trading systems were complex to do.

Conference Party

On Monday night it was time for the conference dinner and party. The theme of the night was supposed to be “Viking”. The food was good and the beer kept flowing in generous amounts. At some point during the dinner, we were interrupted by a group of loud, obnoxious “Vikings” who tried hard to put on a show for us. They had a really tough time getting the attention of the audience, who would rather spend time doing what the dinner was all about, namely networking. So apart from some quite impressive real-life sword fights, I wasn’t really drawn in to this experience. The “show” was something about the whole Mac/PC, iPhone/Android battle. But it didn’t really catch the attention of the room. I think it was a bit out-of-place and merely forced the people closest to the stage to stop socialising and instead try to be polite and watch what was going on on stage.

Apart from the intermezzo with the Vikings, I think the party was quite fun. I got to talk to a lot of really interesting people, and it’s always fun to see what happens to geeks once you start pouring beer into them. Most of them actually turn out to be quite out-going and friendly in these situations.

Wrap-up

As I have stated earlier, one of the most important features of a conference is the ability to socialise and hang out with like-minded people. It is the place where you exchange ideas, experiences and thoughts with others and possibly get some instant feed-back on your Next Big Idea. My general feeling was that these needs were catered very well for by the organisers, and there certainly was a lot of talking going on between sessions. I had the opportunity to get together with a couple of others and listen to Stefan Poulsen (@cyberzeddk) talk a little about his experiences with ServiceStack. We gathered around his laptop in the café area and talked for about 30 minutes during the lunch break. One thing I really think we needed here was the possibility of hooking his laptop up to a larger screen so we could all better see what he was doing. If I was to suggest one thing for next year’s conference, it would be to set up a number of “presentation stations” around the venue, where we could simply hook up our laptops to a larger screen to make it easier to do these spontaneous mini-talks. Maybe they would need to be booked a little in advance so as to avoid crowding, but I’m sure something like this could be made to work.

So in conclusion, I’m really happy that GOTO invited me to participate this year, and although I didn’t get a lot of blog posts out during the conference itself, I have a number of topics lined up that I really want to write about.

0 comments

It's been a really hectic first day at GOTO here in Aarhus. Seeing as it's my first time here, I couldn't help observing how well everything seems to be organized.

Firstly though, I noticed a lack of some sort of breakfast. One of the things I remember from Øredev is that they have an absolutely immaculate breakfast for attendees every morning. This was lacking. However, I survived (only because we bloggers had access to a VIP room which had breakfast available. 

The first keynote of today was by Rickard Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party. He held a really interesting talk about the foundations of where the Pirate Party comes from and what their political motivations are. One of the key points was about the whole point of privacy in the postal service. When our parents sent letters, they could choose to be anonymous or to let the receiver know upfront who was the sender - by writing their name on the outside of the envelope. They could also choose to only write their names on the actual letter. The final choice they had was to not identify themselves in any way. The important note here is that in the current day and age, this isn't a possibility. The copyright holders have lobbied enough that we can't move around on the Internet without our every move being logged in some form. The point of the Pirate Party is to work against this threat of anit-privacy. 

Another interesting talk I saw today was a talk by Jesper Boeg which was about the steps many of us have been through in trying to implement the perfect agile process. Right from our first Ceritfied Scrum Master training course, to the point where we realise that the team we are working with actually functions better with a more KANBAN-y approach. What tends to happen is that the teams adapt the process models into something that actually works. But only for them. What is imporatnt to note is that the agile processes that we all want to implement are extremely dependent on the teams that will implement them. So basically, lessons learned on one team in one organisation will hardly ever translate into something useful for another team. 

I participated in a single hardware-based talk today which was about some work being done by Nat Pryce & Steve Freeman on the Raspberry Pi board. This was a really good hands-on look at the problems and challenges about designing user-mode hardware targeted at this platform. As it turns out, a lot of the people buying the Pi these days are actually some of the people who were around when the ZX-81 and C-64 were around. These were the days when hardware was an important piece of knowledge when it came to computers. Since then, hardware has become more of a commodity that we just accept for what it is. This is where the Raspberry Pi comes in. These two guys have developed an interface system to the Pi, which allows pretty much anyone to start experimenting with hardware-based development. 

 A final talk I want to bring up was the closing keynote of today.  

This was probably one of the most high-paced high-energy, high-intellect talks I have ever seen. The way the presentation was put together meant that most people wouldn't have trouble following it (you would simply end up laughing yourself to sleep). The talk was about some of the crazy stuff that Damian Conway has done in the upcoming version of Perl (version 6). This topic touched (and delved quite deeply) into subjects like parallel computing, quantum mechanics, quantum physics and how these topics could relate to one another. The point where my brain melted down completely was when he showed off his "pipe-based" programming language. This is a language entirely made up of the basic boolean constructs like AND, OR, NOT, NAND, but only written using the characters -,_,|,^,v,[ and ] . Ever seen the language "Brainfuck"? This took things to the next level. 

So now, after the conference party/dinner, I'll nod off to sleep and look forward to experiencing tomorrow's schedule. 

0 comments

I always find it hard to create a schedule before going to a conference. And especially one with as many amazing talks as this year's GOTO. However to give myself just a little of a head start, I created a preliminary draft of a schedule a couple of weeks ago. 

I do know for a fact that this schedule will change once I'm actually at the conference. It will all depend on how my mood swings, the vibes I pick up from others, who I end up talking to during breaks/lunch/beertime and probably lots of other outside influences. What's important to me is that by creating this schedule, I forced myself to actually go over the programme in detail. So I have a pretty good general idea of what will be going on where, and who the different speakers are. 

Oh and one more thing! I was one of the lucky winners of the awesome GOTO hoodie competition that ran on Twitter. I'll really be able to blend in with all the other awesome conference-goers now. 

0 comments

I've been invited to participate as a blogger at the GOTO Conference in Aarhus this October. Yay, that means more activity on this blog in the coming weeks/months!

Since I will be there "as a blogger", my main task will of course be to blog about the conference and about topics I find interesting or controversial. 

When attending conferences like this, one can chose to attend talks that are completely related to one's day-to-day work, or one can chose to attend talks that are a long way out of one's comfort zone. I haven't yet decided exactly which conference strategy I will be going for, but one thing is for sure: I'm definitely going for the chance to hang out (maybe have a beer?) with brilliant minds; to become inspired; to become wiser.

Stay tuned for more, I'll be writing another post or two before the conference, as soon the programme is finalized and I know more about which sessions I'm going to attend.

Feel free to check out the awesome speakers list on the website linked above and if you aren't going yourself but have a question you want answered, maybe I can be your proxy. Use the comments field below or send me an email (or Twitter) and I'll see what I can do.