I’ve just returned (and my liver is recovering) from 3 days this week at the GOTO:Copenhagen conference. Those of you who have followed me on twitter will have had a virtual barrage of tweets from me to contend with, which normally I would apologise for but in this case all I can say is that in my opinion the experience thoroughly justified my tweet-diarrhea. Besides, if I’m boring anyone they can always ignore me!
I don’t often write up my thoughts from conferences. I find that the back-patting nature of these things, especially from a speaker, can get a bit self-congratulatory and tiresome. However this conference was such a wonderful and compelling experience for me that sharing some of the highlights is just not something I feel I have a choice about.
For the impatient, in a nutshell this conference was an absolute gem!
Irreverence, humor, honesty and Iconoclasm
To try to convey all of the experiences that I had at this conference would be an impossible task. If anyone sees me out and about and fancies buying me a beer (mine’s a Carlsberg Classic if we can find it) then I’ll probably recall, through the wonder of associated memory, a lot more of the details that I’ll forget to mention here.
From meeting the inspiring fire-brand John Nolan; the friendly, funny but oh-so-direct rational thinking of Brian Foote; the pragmatic and valuable story-telling of Dan North and Chris Read; the engaging and interactive (not to mention chocolate depositing) Sarah Taraporewalla; the thoughtful and incisive reasoning on architecture from Simon Brown; and, last but never least, the awesome intellect of Dave Thomas; this was three days of wonderfully irreverent and honest dialogue amongst the smartest minds that I’ve ever encountered, and that’s including the attendees!
The entire conference was chock full of these sorts of highlights brought to life through each of the talks. However the standout highlight of this conference for me wasn’t a talk, it was in fact a whole track! Sadly missing its inspirational track host in Steve Freeman the Iconoclasts track was, I have no other words, just freakishly wonderful! All the speakers on the track just upped the honestly and fun levels through the roof, which on its own would have been enough but to couple that with strong, well-thought-out and valuable messages as well!? It truly was a joy to behold.
My place in this heady mix
I was proud and slightly daunted at speaking after wonderfully engaging talks from Sarah Tarraporewalla and Dan North. Then to find I was to be followed by the genius of Dave Thomas, that raised the nerves just that little higher I can tell you. There is nothing that is more nerve-wracking and essentially rewarding than speaking in front of those you consider your peers, mentors, and friends. They’re the ones who know your faults and gaps in knowledge, but to have such great feedback after delivering my “Why don’t we learn!?” talk made soldiering through the daunting experience that much more worth it.
That feedback and having given a talk on the same stage that Jimi Hendrix played… well, in the next talk in this series I intend to present in detail a lot more concrete steps and experiences that drive continuous learning within the software development process, and now I can’t wait to have that talk ready to deliver!
Sadly, it had to come to an end
I was very sad to have to leave the conference early on Friday to make my flight back to the UK. There was a wonderfully egalitarian feel and solidarity to this conference, with many of the talks (including mine) trying to break the restrictive dogmatism that is plaguing software development (currently agilism?). Thinking, learning, Socratic method and People featured as heavily as I could ever hope they would.
The wonderful talks and resulting dialogue with attendees and the speakers (once again, this mix being wonderfully orchestrated by Geeta, Liv, and all the wonderful folks from Trifork!) rendered the need for me to be back to London on Friday absolutely tragic.
I don’t have many regrets from this conference, but if I had to choose two it would be a) missing the Eigenharp demo from John Nolan and b) wishing I could have the pleasure of meeting up with these smart and irreverent people (attendees and speakers) much more often. There’s something essentially therapeutic, and optimistic even in the face of painful reality, to hang around people who are truly dedicated to making things better at the sacrifice of any and all false idols.
In a nutshell, a truly refreshing, thought-provoking and dialogue-creating conference. You can’t ask for much more than that!
Roll on the next one!