Code Europe Conference 2017 Warsaw - Some Random Thoughts

# Code Europe Conference 2017 Warsaw - Some Random Thoughts

20:54
Sun
10
Dec 2017

2017-12-07 I've been on Code Europe conference in Warsaw, Poland. Despite happening in just one day, it was a big event, with many talks at the same time, so I needed to choose the ones which seemed most interesting. Some of them were great, some... not that good.

The one that I liked the most was Adam Tornhill talking about "A Crystal Ball To Prioritize Technical Debt". He started by discussing technical debt in general, especially how "interest" accumulates over time, where time could be defined best as a frequency in which developers modify particular file or function. He stated that all metrics for measuring code complexity are equally bad, so the simplest one - number of lines of code - can be successfully used. He then presented a very cool way of visualizing "hot spots" - places that are the biggest pain points and that would benefit most from refactoring. If every circle represents a source file, its radius is its complexity (number of LOC), and the circle is more red the more frequently it was modified, then the files that are both big and red are the clearly visible hotspots.

But then a thought came to my mind: What if an external, well-paid consultant comes in to a software company to do such analysis? He then writes in his report: "After gathering all the data about your project and using sophisticated software tools I found that this particular file and function is very big, sophisticated, modified frequently by developers from different teams and so you should refactor it." Then all the developers of that company are like:

Possibly one of the developers could have a courage to tell the consultant: "You know what? We work with this code every day. We all know it better than you do. Maybe you go speak will our manager and convince him to give us time for that refactoring instead of requesting more and more features implemented or bugs fixed ASAP, which introduces even more hacks to the code. That would be actual useful work."

I liked the presentation of Roel Ezendam from RageSquid about "Applying the programmer mindset throughout your entire game studio". There was a lot about game development, but this talk could be seen in more general context. People tend to look at management, marketing, and other positions as something separate of even opposite to being a developer - a technical person. He showed that running a small company while still being a developer can lead to innovative way of doing things, like developing custom tools to automate certain tasks or make them more convenient (e.g. using Slack webhooks).

I didn't like the presentation of Ahmad Nabil Gohar from IBM "Blockchain.currentState() and How Will it Impact Your Industry?" The content was OK - he mostly explained the idea of blockchain (which I already knew), after which he enumerated many industries that could benefit from using it. But the slides were not prepared in a good way, in my opinion. First of all, there were 120 of them, and they contained a lot of text. Obviously he couldn't explain each one of them to finish his presentation is less than one hour, so he was going very quickly and even skipping some. The slides were also not very readable due to e.g. putting blue text on blue background.

This presentation, as well as some other inspired me to think that there a whole spectrum of types of presentations. I'm talking about both the slides and the speech together. On one end, there is urge to convey as much information as possible, so there are many slides, lots of text, they seem quite boring, the speaker goes very fast and so it's hard to follow him and to remember all of this. It happens when the speaker wants to actually teach people some new subject - a thing impossible to do in just one hour talk, because that's what university courses and books are for.

On the other end there are talks which are more like "shows" - easy and nice, speaker telling a lot of stories and conveying emotions, slides drawing attention thanks to using a lot of pictures and single words. Such presentations are fun, but they don't carry any information - they just leave people feeling good without anything new to take out. It happens especially if a very famous person is invited to talk about anything he wants - it doesn't matter what he says because it's only his name in the agenda that matters.

In my opinion, a good talk is something in between. It should express some idea and communicate it clearly, provide just enough information to understand it, with amount of content and pace of delivery slow enough so it's easy to keep up. Slides should show some meaningful text and pictures, while the speech should augment them with additional information and context.

Besides talks there was also quite big expo with many companies advertising their job offers for developers. Most of them were looking for Java or .NET developers, sometimes also PHP or Node.js. I could feel there how exotic my specialization is. There was one game company, but they make their games in Unity. I found only one company that was looking for a C++ developer - it was Ericsson.

I could feel the difference between high-performance, native code development and what are now the most popular programming technologies even more during Srushtika Neelakantam's talk "How we invented our own realtime protocol to make the world work faster!" I was hoping to see some really low level, high performance technology there. What I saw instead was a web-based protocol implemented in JavaScript. By realtime she ment data sent to web browser app to be updated without full page reload, like positions of Uber cars on a map.

She started from explaining WebSockets. My thought was: "Wow, so it's actually possible to have a persistent connection and use it to send any data, any time, in any direction, without text-based request-response protocol? Then desktop applications are so hipster! They did it before it was cool. Actually they did it like... forever."

But the most shocking for me was hearing that their RPC (Remote Procedure Call) "happens so fast almost like having the function locally". Yeah, right, by sending parameters and receiving results over Internet, where the best latency you can get is few milliseconds... While last week I reinstalled my whole system just because a system function was taking 2.5 microseconds instead of 22 nanoseconds, which was ruining my program.

I'm sorry, I didn't want to sound so negative. I just have a bad mood recently. Overall the conference was very inspiring and though-provoking, which is good. I can recommend it to any developer, no matter what programming language you use.

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