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Making QCon better

This post is my rant on how to make QCon a better conference or any developer conference for that matter. I’ve attended it for my first time in 2012 and was expecting a great deal since it’s probably the best there is with opening keynotes from people like Martin Fowler.

Quality Over Quantity

In my eyes it’s much better to have 1 day worth of talks with exclusive speakers than three days with lots of very average content with average presenters. QCon had 3 days, 7 parallel lanes and 6 presentations in each one of them. That’s 18 presentations in total for one visitor to see. Or over a hundred presentations in total. However it seems to me from following twitter that only ~10 of them were very well accepted. Some were so good that there was not even a spot to stand.

This leads me to suggest that the conference should be more strict who can attend these massive conferences. I would suggest that it only accepts speakers who have spoken in smaller conferences at least 5 times. There could be selective early bird invites to review the talks before they get accepted. Maybe you could get a discount if you agree to do so. The author would obviously have to make a recording of his talk.

Talk Titles Descriptions

So many times I have felt fooled and lured by a catchy title just to try to stay awake during the talk. I guess there’s nothing wrong to have a catchy title. However I would suggest that each accepted speaker has an introductory video on who he is and what he’s going to speak about. That way you can get a feel of a person before you go see him. Also if the above suggestions have been followed then links to his previous speeches in video should be included so viewers could review how good the speaker is.

Another great addition would be to mark how advanced the talk is. Just add a simple tag: introduction, advanced, expert. However I would argue that QCon should not have any introductions to topics like NoSQL.

Hack Fest Anyone?

My colleague suggested a somewhat crazy idea. To organize a hackfest so that people could do some coding together, solve some challenges, get to know each other, compete, get EXCITED. Have you seen the movie Social Network where devs were competing for a job at facebook and had to hack a linux box while drinking vodka shots during the challenge. Something in that direction maybe?

A conference for everyone

This is an experimental thought also suggested by my colleague. There’s a pattern that developers love talks which talk about organizational changes. It’s weird but they applaud more the talks on how to have a great team, great processes rather than a new tool. However when they go back to their organization it’s very difficult to apply these ideas at your workplace because most of the time you’ll be met with outright scepticism and denial. What if your product managers, your QA’s, your sysadmins and maybe even your CEO would find it worthwhile to go to such a conference. How awesome would it have been if all these different roles could haven seen the Github talk together with you? Or would you be interested to hear from CEO’s who were developers once and how they became who they are and what they’ve learned along the way.

Sponsor Giveaways

Always organise giveaways at the end of the conference in one big go rather than at random times during the conference. This will keep people from going home and staying in the main hall, getting a few beers, maybe meeting someone and it will also make it more convenient for the visitors.

Don’t kill the messenger

This whole rant might make me sound like an ungrateful bastard but it’s not like that. I do appreciate people trying and doing what they do. The QCon that is right now is still infinitely better than no QCon at all. However as everything else it can be even greater.

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My top 5 QCon London 2012 talks

I was attending the conference for the first time and wanted to share my top list of talks. There might have been other good ones but I didn’t get a chance to see them therefore can’t comment on them. All of these talks will be released on InfoQ in the next 6 months for your viewing.

#1 Lock-free Algorithms for Ultimate Performance

by Martin Thompson and Michael Barker. Talk Download slides

This has to be my favourite talk. These guys know they’re hardware well. They showed how it’s possible to create lock free algorithms which run in nanoseconds if you apply some mechanical sympathy to your code.

#2 Decisions, decisions

by Dan North Talk Download slides

A really entertaining, insightful and somewhat shocking talk. Not an unusual talk by Dan North in anyway. He talks about decisions (obviously) and that each one of them is a trade-off. Sometimes we forget to weigh these trade-off’s.

#3 How GitHub Works

by Zach Holman Talk Slides will be available later.

A great talk and visually beautiful as well. Even has some singing in it! Zach is a wonderful presenter and explains how github does what it does so well. Their approach is very unusual and alien from the one we see in the corporate world yet it works so well.

#4 Developers Have a Mental Disorder

by Greg Young Talk This guy does not need slides!

A non technical talk by a very technical person. It was Greg’s comeback to the QCon stage and a great one. He delivers a speech on many of the disorders developers carry with them in their work. The best one so far being: solving problems no one has.

#5 Concurrent Programming Using The Disruptor

by Trisha Gee Talk Download slides

It would be enough to say this talk was delivered by a beautiful lady packed with a room of geeks but it deserves more praise. It’s a quite technical talk on an innovative and great piece of software or rather a framework: The Disruptor a concurrent programming framework. If you’e unfamiliar with it or even more so unfamiliar with concurrent programming you might find it interesting.

Special Mention - Scalable Internet Architectures

by Theo Schlossnagle Talk Slides will be available later.

Haven’t attended this one myself but have heard that it was great. Managed to only see a few minutes of it where the author said: “Don’t be a fucking idiot!”. This sentence alone makes a talk good.

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PHP Anti Patterns

Another talk I’ve atended at PHPUK 2010 was AntiPHPatterns by Stefan Priebsch. While design patterns are core implementation independent solutions to problems that occur over and over again which also serve as a great vocabulary, anti patterns are software patterns that are ineffective or counterproductive. In his presentation Stefan describes some of these anti patterns:

1. Constantitis. Excessive use of global constants is considered to be a code smell. Global constants can be defined anywhere in the code base, there is a risk of name clashes if a constant is already defined, global constants make the code more coupled, testing gets more complicated since constants have to be known beforehand and defined explicitly which might be even more troubling if a constant has to change it’s value for another test. Since class constants are not global it’s OK to use them. Cure for constantitis is not to use global constants and instead use dependency injection.

2. Globalomania. Global variables share the same problems as global constants. Because global variables can be changed it makes them more dangerous than global constants since a change in one part of the codebase can affect the other without anyone noticing. Global variables can be cured by using dependency injection.

3. Singletonitis. Singleton is one of the most popular design patterns. It’s wide success is due to the fact that singletons by implementation are available globally in the entire application. The problem that singleton design pattern tries to solve is to prevent having multiple instances of the same class. This is rarely the problem in most applications and most singletons are being used as global variables instead. Singletons share the same problems as global constants and global variables and therefore should be avoided. Singletonitis has the same cure as constantitis and globalomania.

4. God classes. According to object oriented best practices classes should do one thing only and do it well. Classes should be refined and granular. One of the ways to think about this is to ask yourself what are the responsibilities of this class. In an ideal case you will be able to describe it in one sentence without any “and’s”. When classes start having too many  responsibilities they become god classes. Usually the whole application relies on one of the god classes which makes the application tight coupled and therefore more difficult to maintain. To cure god classes minimize class responsibilities so that objects know everything about themselves and little about others.

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PHP London Conference 2010

I’m pleased to say that I will be attending the PHP UK conference 2010 in London. Last year I attended PHPNW 2009 which was great and I hope PHP London to be even better. It will be certainly interesting to listen to famous PHP speakers such as Stefan Priebsch, Fabien Potencier author of Symfony. The conference schedule has been announced and these are the talks that I’m going to attend:

  • The lost art of simplicity
  • AntiPHPatterns
  • PHP 5.3 in practice
  • PHPillow & CouchDB & PHP
  • ‘In search of…’ - integrating site search systems
  • PHP on the D-BUS

The keynote talk about lost art of simplicity sounds very promising. Also very eager to see Fabien’s presentation on how PHP 5.3 can be used in practice.

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PHPNW09 Conference

This is my summary of PHPNW09 conference that I was lucky to attend. This was my first real conference and I was blown away. Talks that I enjoyed most are the keynote about the uncertainty principle, Lorna’s talk about the Joel Test and Rob Alen’s talk about project management. It was also very interesting to hear about the state of the PHP project and it’s internal development teams. Did you know that PHP has only about 100 active developers of whom only ~10 are core developers?

The event itself was perfectly organised. I don’t have a single complaint. Timings were perfect and don’t get me started about the food. It was delicious!

I also had an epic opportunity to see how Microsoft fails to demo their flowchart software which was highly amusing. Though I feel highly thankful to these guys because they were the major sponsors of the event not to mention their help on PHP windows builds.

In the evening we were invited to a SUN sponsored bar where I had an opportunity to meet and chat with really interesting people. Met a PHP star Derick Rethans, had a really great conversation with the event’s organizer Jeremy Coates and even met people from my own homeland.

All in all this was a great experience and I’m definitely coming back next year. There are also other conferences coming up in Barcelona and London which I hope to attend.

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