This year I am continuing my plan to do a mix of conferences. Last year it was GraphQL Europe and PyData Berlin. I'm starting 2019 with FOSDEM 2019. It's now just over a week since I was there, so it's time to reflect before I forget it all.
First impression: "My god that's a lot of talks". I sought out who'd been before and that impression was confirmed along with a subtle warning that it is a little chaotic.
The whole conference is unticketed so in principle there is no limit to how many can arrive. This means it becomes a little bit of a race to get into talks. My first choice of the day was an introduction to Quantum Computing. I soon realised that the people I had squeezed past weren't just coalesced around the hallway demonstrations, but were also in the queue for my talk. Not only that, it was people waiting to get into an already-full seminar room. Thankfully, next door was a somewhat less busy introduction to Ada (outcome: I'm still not gonna use Ada, but I now have a first-hand summary from an expert).
This ecleticism of subjects is something you struggle to find at other conferences. My strategy became to try to go for a mix of talks on topics I know and others I was far less knowledgeable about, and look for clusters of talks in the same room, back-to-back. I won't go over all the talks, but here's some that stand out for me.
"Java Checkpoint/Restore" from Christine H Flood.
The gist of this is to bring to Java fast startup times based on taking a snapshot of a fully warmed JVM using CRIU, applying bespoke Java minimisations to this snapshot, and re-using this as the starting image of separate JVM's. The presentation is effectively: "I've got a prototype that shows this approach works for Java using CRIU, what do you think?".
Given the audience are also experts into these technologies the Q/A part then becomes a lot more useful e.g. one of the audience members implemented this same thing for Smalltalk so could give direct advice and support for the approach. Combine this with the general egoless stance of the audience and the presenter and you get a short but illuminating talk out of it.
"DNS over HTTPS - the good, the bad and the ugly".
This was weird in that I got more out of the chat about it on the way there with Barney than the talk itself. This talk really suffered from another pattern I noticed at FOSDEM: late arrivals. In minute 25 of this 50 minute talk there were still people arriving through the very clunky fire doors, leading to "scrape, scutter, clunk" noises every 30 seconds. At the end the Q/A was ruined by the noise of people leaving as soon as the talk ended; I have to admit I became one of them as soon as it became obvious it was pointless to remain. This is a shame as this topic is controversial and very impactful to the future of the internet.
Saturday: Open Source .NET / Sunday: Open Source C#, .NET, and Blazor - everywhere PLUS WebAssembly.
Hearing Hanselman speak on Sunday was a nice bookend to my .NET experience which started around the time I last saw him during his visit to Scotland in 2012. I'd newly joined Skyscanner, which was largely a .NET / Python / SQL Server shop. The expectations of my colleagues were in stark constrast to what I was recently used to i.e. Microsoft leads the way with language change and useful libraries might need to be paid for, as opposed to a largely stagnant Java language with most meaningful features coming from open-source libraries or new JVM languages. Fast-forward to 2019: Microsoft have 884 open-source projects and they like Github so much that they bought the company.
Hanselman's talk was entertaining, as always, but the real surprise was the Panel on Sunday. I'd went into it slightly blind and it was only when the chat started that I realised it was Miguel De Icaza doing most of the talking; it was technically a Panel, but probably should have been titled "a conversation with Miguel" ☺.
He's obviously achieved somewhat more than me ☺ over his life but as Miguel and I are around the same age, I personally found it very relevant hearing his history and reflections and tying them back to what I was doing.
It was particularly sad to hear how he ended up turning away from some of his projects due to "GamerGate" style death-threats. I recommend listening to all of this Panel talk, even if you're not in your 40's and have never used .NET.