YOW Sydney

I won a ticket to this year’s YOW conference in Sydney – thanks to Girl Geek Dinners!

I really enjoyed the talks by places doing Big Scale things, especially talks by Adrian Cockcroft (Cloud Native Architecture at Netflix), Ben Christensen (Creating Observable APIs with Rx) and Joel Pobar’s insight into Facebook’s culture (“Move Fast and Ship Things”). Both of these companies have hit limits in hardware, architecture, processing power, and general demand which have forced them to engineer new and creative solutions to meet those limits. In Netflix’s case, they have ported Microsoft’s Rx library into Java, and have some brilliant automation around deployment. Facebook has written their own PHP virtual machine to improve performance, up to nine times faster than traditionally interpreted PHP. They have also been introducing types into PHP, so that in future they can optimise their runtime engine even further.

The level of autonomy given to developers, and the sophistication of the toolsets in use daily sounds phenomenal in both companies. I am a huge admirer of engineering teams which have internal teams & tools focusing on making other developers more productive; it’s a sign of team focus, maturity, and investment in quality.

Jim Webber’s A Little Graph Theory for the Busy Developer was a great talk, particularly as someone who has recently re-learned graph theory since I wasn’t as lost as I normally might be. His slides are definitely up there as some of the most entertaining, with the inclusion of a Dr Who graph and slides illustrating via graphs why World War II was predictable. Jim has also authored REST in Practice, a good read for anyone interested in API design.

Live Coding for Creative Performances, aka “algo-rave” by Andrew Sorensen is actually more appreciated when you watch the video. I thoroughly enjoyed this session! Andrew demonstrated how he could use language features in Lisp to generate a music track. Starting with a blank slate, he gradually added beats, track sampling and evolved it into an increasingly complex algorithm/track, programming it in real time.

Jared Wyles Tuning for Web Performance had some interesting suggestions on using Chrome’s memory and performance benchmarking and putting that in a build pipeline, so that you can measure historical which I will definitely be investigating for our future projects at work.

I also very much enjoyed Stewart Gleadow’s No App is an Island, a discussion on the benefits of REST/hypermedia backed up by a case study of the realestate.com.au iOS app. Great takeaways included using links as remote feature toggles (i.e. if the link is in the response, the feature is live, otherwise hide it!); minimising network calls by sending larger gzipped payloads of potential next requests; and letting your application’s API do some of the heavy lifting in terms of formatting/sorting if your client language (e.g. iOS/Objective C) is not efficient at those tasks.

Scott Hanselman’s keynote was basically an excuse to show off Azure. It was very entertaining. He’s a pretty hilarious guy.

General observations

  • Some conference-provided wifi would be great. No self respecting tech conference goes without wifi these days 🙂
  • More than normal, I found there were often two or three talks I’d wanted to attend simultaneously (e.g. Trisha Gee’s Career Advice for Programmers), and sometimes zero talks that I was interested in across the tracks
  • I’ve attended a lot of conferences in the UK, and the community seems to be a lot less active on twitter
  • I liked that there was good accessibility to the speakers, especially on the first day they seemed to be floating around all the drinks and events throughout the day.