PolyConf 17 recap

PolyConf 17 recap

Came back way too late from my first PolyConf in Paris last night, it was really fantastic.

Some general thoughts:

There wasn’t enough time between talks to chat with people (this is my only real complaint). I guess alternating blocks of (2 talks, 20min break) instead of (talk, break, talk, break) might have helped there. I don’t usually go to ‘normal’ conferences, so maybe my expectation was a bit skewed. Yes, I do love unconferences and the ‘chatting with people’ was the best part of the always excellent Hamburg PHP Unconf when I attended. But maybe it was a bit easier there for me as I ran into people I knew already all the time, be it from other conferences, IRC, or mailing lists. I’d say PolyConf is more on the informal end of the spectrum of paid conferences (I absolutely do not mean ‘unprofessional’) but it’s not one where the speakers are ferried off to a VIP area, or that cost thousands of dollars, etc. - so I think removing some communication barriers are encouraged.

The venue was really cool but a bit annoying to navigate, I guess that’s why some people never took the 10min breaks and just stayed sitting.

Selection of talks was very nicely spread out over topics and languages (and paradigms :]). I would have liked some more technical depth in some of them, though, but I do know that’s very hard to achieve (and maybe detrimental) when you have such a broad topic. There was not a single bad talk, but why strive for less than only really great ones? :) Some people said they found it a bit web dev-heavy, and I agree - but I was also expecting that.

Some short comments about talks:

  • Ada 99 - very entertaining, and I can relate to this exercise, as I’ve done it a few times myself
  • Going Serverless - interesting, but I still need the right problem
  • Lua/LuaJIT - sadly hardly anything new for me, been using it too much I guess, yay Lua
  • Pinterest + React - funny how ‘serverside rendering’ is in fashion again :P
  • Creating Your Own Language - awesome intro and caveats, should be a blog post
  • Homoiconicity - IMHO a very nice introduction
  • Prometheus - awesome presentation, interesting topic, so many WTFs though :)
  • Blockchain - wasn’t expecting much due to the topic, but I really enjoyed it. Still not sold on BTC though.
  • Benchmarking - very solid talk. I don’t want to call it unexciting, but best practices talks are rarely exciting, more ‘important and useful’
  • One VM to rule them all - this was exciting, very much so that I asked poor Gilles a million questions afterwards
  • Polymorphism - again very solid (SOLID? :P)
  • Web Apis for Desktop - Well, ScreenHero. If I wasn’t so bitter about lack of Linux support… interesting
  • Servo - It wasn’t really about Servo, but it was. Very interesting
  • I would’ve expected at least one or two talks mostly from academia, but apparently I misjudged there

The after-conf parties I attended were nice, close to the venue, would’ve loved to see some more people though (see above, not so much time to meet new people and talk to them), but of course everyone’s free to spend the evening how they prefer. I’d say the amount of people was great, there could be a few more, but with twice as many it might be hard to find someone, but I don’t really know.

I think every single conversation I had was very interesting and fun (maybe not so much educational when we didn’t talk about computery things).

I know it’s all too easy to be the armchair organizer who never did an actual conference, but I’d love to fix two things: More time and space between talks for conversations and some form of discoverability. The badges were great (I’ve had some in the past that always twisted and you could never read the names. Yes I know that’s a silly detail, but it’s annoying) but maybe there should be some freeform fields to put projects and languages you work in. I know, I know, you could just go to people, introduce yourself and ask questions, but conversation starters are really helpful - I’m using dozens of projects and unless person X is a speaker I usually don’t know from their name if they are involved and I might miss a nice conversation. (Like all the Clojure people.)

Some people were unsure if 3 days might be too long, I found it just perfect, but wouldn’t mind it being 2 full days. In my case I took the earliest flight on Friday morning, did some quick sightseeing and arrived just in time for the registration. As I was kind of sleep-deprived and had a bit of a headache I didn’t really start to engage (annoy) people until it was time for dinner and also didn’t know anyone, so I felt a little alone until I decided to fix that. (see above for conversation starters, in my case I saw a tweet and went to ask a few questions and got dragged along for dinner. Also I seemed to be the only person who left for a 9pm flight on Sunday, everyone else was already gone on Saturday or stayed until Monday.

I’ll definitely try to come back next year, I think it’s my second favorite conf after FOSDEM now. But it’s close. :)

That’s enough random thoughts I guess, so thank you and a shout out to Zaiste and team, sponsors, speakers, animated GIF connoisseurs, groups of people who just dragged me along for stuff, people who answered my questions, and everyone else who attended.

PS: (I really love PS in electronic texts, maybe I should’ve written more letters in the 90s.)

Stuff I’d really like to take a deeper look at in the near future, or general todos:

  • serverless, this time with properly measuring exec time and costs
  • creating a language
  • handing in talk proposals again after a multi-year break
  • have a lightning talk handy for the next conf I visit, just in case
  • look at ZetaVM
  • install and play with GraalVM + Clojure + Java 9
  • write more Rust

PPS: Thanks to wywy for letting me go :)