Category Archives: conferences

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Is it worth recording videos at Conferences and Meetups?

We’re at the most busy point of organising WebCamp Ljubljana 2016. One of the questions we had to ask ourselves is – should we record the talks? It seemed that in previous years, did it because Kiberpipa and everyone else too. As organizers, we want to question decisions made in previous years. This is why we decided to investigate our decision to record the conference.

The effort required

We have 3 concurrent tracks. That means we need 3 semi-professional cameras with tripods, external mics and all the electricity. To get all of this together, somebody has to prepare and source the equipment. The on the conference day, 3 people are recording and you usually need 1 person extra as a support. Then after everything is over, it has to be edited and published. A few more days of work.

How did we do in previous years?

I looked through the stats for the videos. I didn’t know what to expect, but our most viewed video had 650+ views and the second one over 500. Then it’s slowly dropping off but a number of videos with 50+ or 100+ is still not too bad.

The real impact

One of the questions was – isn’t all this already taught through blogs, books and other conference recordings? And I believe that this just isn’t true. We’re still recording only a small amount of tech content. In addition to that, some speakers resonate well with us, while others we just can’t stand. Numbers show that people are watching and sharing the videos and that we help speakers have longer lasting impact.

So that made it really easy to decide to invest the effort on recording this years WebCamp again.

flickr photo shared by Thomas Hawk under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Creative Corner

3 things I learned at  Creative Corner in London

Last week I gave a talk at Creative Corner in London. Most event attendees were in the creative industries: design and music.
Listening to talks of Simon and Patrick, I learned that our experiences are not so different.

1. Coding process is not much different from creating Music or Designing a book

They all need their own time and focus. We are all distracted by external stimuli. That’s why it’s important that carve out that piece of the day, when create our most important work. Paraphrasing Patrick: “If you’re creating music, that’s your work. Don’t spend all your time, creating marketing content on social media.”

2. We all want to push the boundaries of our work

Simon shared promising designs, that got rejected by his clients. They ended up delivering much more bland and safe options. This is something I see often, when I explain the potential of web sites to my clients. Sometimes it works, but most often they don’t feel like innovating.

3. Our own work matters the most

At the end of the day, we’re most proud of our own work. The one where we could decided that safe, is not an option. It’s also often the case, that this is one of our best work that we end up showing for years to come. But the only way we can do it, is if we ruthlessly make time for it.

I really enjoyed the event and discussions afterwards. Make sure you attend next month!

CC BY - jaime.silva -https://flic.kr/p/aqSpgW

Reflections on MicroConf Europe 2015

I go to conferences. That’s one of my quirks. I think there’s an evolution of a conference goers. You start with big, flashy conferences. Everything is exciting, new city, people, big brands, technology. But then you start noticing the cracks. Talks are just marketing hype for new technology – not too useful in everyday engineering. Big parties and participants that just want more free beer and to party. The stress of it all.

At some point, you start going to smaller events. Targeted, single track, speakers mingle with attendees. These are either a hit of miss. MicrConf was a hit.

MicrConf is a conference that’s targeted towards bootstrapped entrepreneurs. Because the focus it’s not on how to get VC funding, it significantly changes the discussions. 

Christoph already made good notes from the talks, so I won’t publish mine. What follows are more high level ideas that I got at the event.

Being inspired by success of others

It’s possible, the dream is real. People can actually make money by producing content that others want. While I have friends that have done it, it still doesn’t feel real. But talking to 10+ people, that make good money from WordPress plugins made it real for me. You can still make money by selling shareware!

I got a lot of nudges from people, to put all the online advice into practice. Just publishing that first WP plugin and making a paid upgrade is enough. You won’t get rich, but you’ll learn enough to improve on it.

That was an overwhelming theme of a lot of talks. Explaining how they were looking for a product/market fit, how they recognised it and what kind of challenges they faced.

Asking the right questions

At technical conferences, people don’t usually talk about their feelings. It’s easy to be unhappy about customers when you work for somebody else. When you are self employed, you can decide. Did you pick your customers because you want to work with them, or just because they had money?

The other way of thinking about this problem is – what is the natural size of company, that is solving this problem. A small plugin can be done by a single person, while more feature complete software as a service app, requires a team. The decision becomes – do you want to lead your own team, or would you be happier alone.

Forming good habits

It’s easy to dismiss business books as “nice story, but not for me”. Then you hear the stories from people, that actually followed their advice. Going to a retreat, where they rethought their strategy. Started writing down operating procedures. Hired people that actually wanted to do important things, that they were avoiding or were too stressful for them. Understanding your own shortcomings and working around them.

A new world

I think I burned out on startups. All that pressure to raise funding, get insane growth numbers and prove that you can get more funding, isn’t for me. But in this community, the focus is on every single user. Why did they join, what made them select this service and how does our service help them. There is still pressure to deliver, but you don’t the extra stress of unrealistic expectations. 

Talking to attendees of MicroConf, showed me that it’s possible to be an entrepreneur, without having to raise funding. Now to see what I can build in the next 12 months.

PolyConf 2015

Notes from PolyConf 2015 – Conference for developers who code in multiple languages

As developer, I feel that I work inside my technology bubble. I keep using the same tools. Because of this, it takes a lot of effort to learn new development paradigms and languages.
PolyConf was a small conference, less than 300 people in beautiful Poznan, Poland. The breadth of content, participants and organisation made it stand out.

I’ve made some notes on the impressions, that the talks and discussion provided.

Types and Immutable data structures.

Most of the talks were building on top of functional programming paradigms. There are clear benefit of that approach, as we move towards multi-core, distributed computing. I can’t wait to see some of these concept in upcoming Python 3 releases.

In this regard, Facebook’s Flow provides alternative to types in JavaScript. This has benefits over writing your code into TypeScript or ClojureScript.

Language for Every Problem

As we’ve seen in Python community – change is hard. That is why development is happening in new languages. Some decide to build whole ecosystem, while others compile to a common VM or language.

Two of the presented languages – Crystal and Elixir, were both influenced by Ruby. I would like to understand, what is about Ruby syntax that makes it a good basis for language development.

New languages also come with new frameworks. Phoenix for Elixir is one of them. A scalable web framework, that is using streams to keep processes separated and get speed benefits. A year ago, I would be skeptical about using new web framework. But with microservices and Single Page Apps, it looks like there is opportunity to experiment. We’ve offloaded most of the representation and business logic to clients.

Lots of Practical Advice

One of the benefits of being a polyglot is so you can use official libraries. A lot of good things are happening on JVM stack that we can’t just ignore.

Beware of defaults – they are usually not optimal for your use case.

The main benefit if knowing lots of languages, is to be able to borrow different concepts. If you want to explore different concepts, consider:

Data Science

Jupyter Notebook with Pandas looks like the new default for starting with data analysis. Continuum Analytics are sponsoring a powerful ecosystem. I’ve learned that there is a library called PySpark, that introduces out-of-cpu computing supports. This allows Pandas to scale even better.
The demo of Julia language showed power of implicit types and great things they can do for science computing. Worth checking out, especially now that it Juypter supports it.

But wait, there’s more

  • Racket – A programmable programming language
  • miniKanren – embedded Domain Specific Language for logic programming.
  • Emojilisp – because, why not.

Conclusion

I went to the conference without any expectations. For most part I assumed it will be way too complicated for me. But I met a group of passionate people, that were happy to explain in simple words why they love the the languages they work in.

We should figure out how to bring such levels of discussion and participation to our other events.

PolyConf 2016 is already on my conference list for the next year.