YOW! Developer Conference 2016 – How was it? Lanyards, beards, ponytails and matching t-shirts
After losing my seat at one of the biggest Software Developer conferences in Melbourne at the Pullman Hotel. I managed to scrape in for Day Two and it started off with a bang.
I attended the Yow! conference for the first time last year. As a starry eyed graduate, I thought experience was overwhelming. I felt I’d finally made it to a my first proper ‘conference’. Free food, large lanyards and a room full of like minded people. This year was no different. Being hosted in the exact same location, the venue is nothing but perfect. The hotel has rooms for travelers, pickup/drop-off points for attendees and giant function rooms and facilities. I do like the carpet. The staff also do an impressive job making sure the event runs smoothly. I can only guess that the turnout was anywhere around 1000 – 2000 people.
I entered the Keynote talk with coffee in hand. Yes, there was a proper stand and a shoutout to the operators who were flat out all day and the organisers for supplying it – paper cup and all. There was also the dirt stuff you find at these events. After a few chuckles with the introduction (Aino Vonge Corry’s dry sense of humour was a great ice-breaker) we started off.
To my surprise I was welcomed by Robert C. Martin or ‘Uncle Bob’. The name struck a bell with me, and before you scream ‘Agile Manifesto’, it was actually the book ‘Clean Code’. While I hadn’t read it (yet). I recall a few tutors on Pluralsight referring or recommending the book. I’m not talking basic tutes. These were fairly popular (1000+ reviews) and it seemed the authors respected him. So I had a feeling ‘Uncle Bob’ was going to deliver.
And deliver he did with “The Scribes Oath“. I did catch him afterwards to congratulate him on a job well done. Not only did he exhibit great insight into Software Development from day-to-day practices to technical challenges. But his delivery was superb and showed off his ability to communicate to the crowd with ease. I found him both thoroughly enjoyable to listen and easy to relate. As a newcomer to the software development profession, I found the guidance of simple principles from someone experienced like him to be invaluable. His relation of “The Scribes Oath” empowers software developers to grasp and realise the potential we have on humanity and the world. He challenges our role in society and teaches us to stand up, be accountable and proud of the work we produce. After all, software is all around us and we are in control of the keyboards – preferably for good.
Next I sat down to the 10:30, “Bringing Change to Life” with Bill. W Scott. His talk was about the massive task of updating PayPals UI/UX recently. I literally watched it change before my eyes as I was working on the merchant API and even as a customer. Each new piece being added upon a new refresh. I must admit the changes are fantastic and beautiful. I commend PayPal and Bill on the improvements. I always enjoy the talks form the larger ‘Silicon Valley’ speakers. They evoke a glamour of software development that is exciting and grandoise (or am I thinking of the show?). The story of moving from Netflix to PayPal is something someone a kid from country Victoria only dreams of. The challenges they face are (while not dissimilar to most) are on massive scales. I did relate to the challenges he faced, including culturally and getting people to ‘sit’ together. Because you know you have a problem when someone says ‘that’s because XYZ is/are stupid!’.
From then on, things started to taper off. It was a Friday and I had been sick (apologies to anyone who caught it) so perhaps my attentionspan was not so great. I do believe the speakers did a fantastic job. I couldn’t comprehend how any of them could stand in-front of such a large and daunting audience. There must be 500 odd per room. I must admit, the crowds themselves did a superb job as well. There was minimal noise, everyone moved between talks orderly. I was quite surprised there was little heckling.
Thankfully, Yow! has a great rating system. People will stand at the exits of the talks with iPads displaying a Red, Yellow and Green bar on them. As you exit, you get the opportunity to vote by pressing a colour to represent how you felt the talk was. While this tallying will go great lengths to suggesting who people liked or did not like. I feel there is a need for some qualitative feedback. A common theme throughout Yow! was the importance of the ‘feedback loop’. So here comes my feedback.
The problem I felt was that this conference, while fantastically organised, is also extraordinarily expensive. Perhaps I’m running off the back of Tconf I went to earlier. But I expected more from a $1000 ticket (or is that $500 for a day). The other talks I went to did not present new or intriguing concepts or ideas. Something thought provoking and of value. Perhaps they were things I could’ve found out myself or had already seen/done or was not particularly relevant to me. It’s disappointing when you pay a lot of money and time (Okay, so I didn’t pay for my ticket, but that’s beside the point). I even felt one of the speakers was simply riding on the back of Software Development (or developers). Which was really weird.. I don’t know how I felt about it. Like a side-quest or picking up the crumbs left behind. I mean, that’s nice if you’re profiting from someone else’s success it’s just.. Weird, I don’t know.
I mean, one of the talks had absolutely zero to do with Software development. It looked, felt and sounded like it had been done over-and-over since pre-2000 untill it was pummled into a thin piece of stringy meat. There was nothing left of it. The talk was generic and (quick likely) presented/retrofitted to any industry. It was dull and outdated. I didn’t even believe any of the ‘statistics’ which were unsourced (nit picking) and I’m pretty sure everyone knew anyway. I felt offended and sorry for everyone who was there. It was a waste of time. That’s not what I expect from a $1000 conference.
It’s 2016 and this is about Software Development – lets stick to it.
Here’s to hoping the voting system works and trims the fat for next year. I’ll be a jaded old dev in no time. Still, I had a great time none-the-less and I will be looking forward to next year and hoping there are some improvements. Perhaps I just chose some bad talks or they were all on Thursday. In the mean time, I’m going to lookout for other conferences. I heard Web Directions is worth a look.
Date: 1st – 2nd December, 2016
Where: Pullman, Melbourne, Albert Park
Robert C. Martin – What’s going on with the poses Bob?
Bill W. Scott – I think he saw me
Choices – How did I get you all so wrong?
The Pullman Hotel – Note the bollard parking is clearly in the up position.
The carpet – Is lovely, but note the dirt coffee vs THE COFFEE STAND IN THE CORNER YES THAT’S THE LINE
The crowd – Yes, the conference is the perfect opportunity to take gorge yourself with food.
The food – DO NOT sit in the room after the talk checking emails waiting for everyone to leave when it’s lunch. You will miss out. Instead, pop out 5 minutes before the talk before lunch ends to garauntee the girl infront of you does not take the last of the cucumber in the salad. All I had left was leafs bitch! (Disclaimer: the girl in the picture is not the salad theif, if only I took a shot of her, I was unfortunately in too much disgust.)
These legends – Big shoutout to the coffee guy and what appears to be a security guard foaming the milk. You’re the best. Non-stop all day.
On a final note – What was with all the people taking notes? You liars, you’re not writing down anything!