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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.

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