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Highlights From YOW! Brisbane 2016

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Highlights From YOW! Brisbane 2016

From talks about Uber to talks about the backstory behind BitCoin, YOW! Brisbane 2016 was full of tons of interesting information.

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It was my great privilege to attend this year’s YOW! conference in Brisbane. There were so many great speakers and I learned an incredible amount in just two days.

Below are some thoughts on the talks that really inspired me.

Robert C. Martin: Co-Author of the Agile Manifesto

Uncle Bob regaled us with the history of software development, looking at the changing demographics and how these lead to some of the development practices that we see around us today. He wrapped up with the Scribe's Oath, which was a set of principles all developers should aspire to.

What I found most interesting about this presentation was the realization that the number of software developers is doubling every five years, which means that half of software developers have less than five years experience. This realization puts a whole new emphasis on a culture of continual learning in software engineering departments.

Josh Duck: Facebook

Despite my job title, which says frontend developer, I actually spend most of my time writing backend Java code. Front end development is still something of a mystery to me, and I find myself sitting on the sidelines as wars between React, Angular, Vue, Backbone, etc. rage on.

So, this presentation by Josh Duck was a great insight into the evolution of React. Starting from the days of writing raw PHP, Josh stepped through the various iterations of libraries and development strategies developed by Facebook engineers to deal with the evolving requirements of one of the biggest websites in the world.

The biggest takeaway for me was the realization that these larger than life libraries used by millions of developers all around the world are the result of regular software engineers solving problems in much the same way any group of engineers would. It is easy to see the end result of a library like React and be more than a little intimidated, but Josh did a great job of demystifying one of the most popular JavaScript libraries around today.

Dave Farley: Continuous Delivery, Ltd.

Agile, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery; I hear (and say) these phrases a lot, but actually have only a slim understanding of what they mean for a business. I now understand these terms represent a far bigger idea than just making the life of a developer easier.

Dave’s talk was all about what continuous delivery actually means in practical terms. He compared the experiences of companies that had 57-minute production deployment cycles to those that had cycles stretching over 100 days and then demonstrated a workflow that business could adopt to reduce their own deployment cycles.

What was interesting for me about Dave’s talk was the message that by focusing on Continuous Delivery, you are forced to adopt all those other development strategies like Agile, Continuous Integration, comprehensive testing, and DevOps. You simply can’t be doing dozens of releases a day without also having every other link in the chain operating with high levels of efficiency. Dave’s talk was the first time I appreciated how modern software engineering processes fit together as a whole.

Jan Moller: Chainalysis

I’ve always been curious about BitCoin. The mystery surrounding Satoshi Nakamoto, the as yet unidentified inventor of BitCoin, is fascinating. Even more intriguing is what a decentralized currency means for the future of society.

Jan’s talk described BitCoin from 10,000 feet. He went over the history and the technology of BitCoin, and while he didn’t speculate much on the social aspect of BitCoin, this talk was a great introduction into how BitCoin works. There is far more to BitCoin than can be fit into one presentation, but I feel now that I at least have a high-level understanding of the fundamentals of BitCoin. If nothing else, I now have some insight into why the technology used by a cryptocurrency is being utilized for other seemingly unrelated fields like contract management or healthcare.

Matt Ranney: Uber

Conferences like YOW! can be a little demoralizing. Hearing thought leaders speak about cool products they work as casually as they might describe what they had for dinner last night makes me feel pretty sad that I just spent the last six months working on what amounts to a glorified CRUD based web app.

Matt brought the conference down to earth with his talk on microservices, and how Uber was struggling to maintain their pool of several thousand microservices. He was quite candid about the issues Uber engineers were facing having adopted microservices at such a huge scale and spent a good deal of the talk discussing the various techniques that Uber is investigating as they go beyond microservices.

I enjoyed this talk because it made me realize that conferences like YOW! are the result of (admittedly brilliant) people condensing the highlights of decades of experience and knowledge into an hour long talk, and while they do a great job of making it all sound so much cooler than what you are working on, actually everyone is fighting the same battles. Often it is just a matter of scale.

Josh Long: Pivotal

I’ve saved the best for last. I’ve followed Josh for a long time on Twitter and seen some of his presentations online, so it was a pleasure to see him in person for the first time.

Josh managed to demystify more cloud technologies in one presentation than I could have learned in a year of Googling on my own. Live coding can be painful to watch, but Josh blasted through a half dozen Spring cloud libraries, managing to bring each one to life before our eyes with such ease that I have to wonder why anyone thinks cloud development is hard.

Before I walked into Josh’s presentation, the term “Cloud Native Java” was the kind of hyperbole I would expect to hear from a sales rep. After Josh’s presentation, I feel like Java can keep up with the cool kids on the programming block.

Thanks for making me believe in Java again, Josh.

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