Published on 02 October 2017

Strange Loop Trip Report

Published on 02 October 2017

Strange Loop is great. A technology conference in St. Louis, vaguely focused on programming languages as tools, that’s grown to 2,000 people. A few things stood out:

Project Alloy

Project Alloy shifts the ratio by sponsoring (and mentoring) underrepresented people to go to conferences. This year, they were able to sponsor 120 (!!!) attendees. It’s great to see conference sessions where the questions asked reflect a diversity of backgrounds.

Haxl

Haxl lets you separate I/O from logic in your program. I’m really receptive to the idea of a “Big Hammer” from the talk: you have to change the way you do things, but once you do, you get all these benefits. MapReduce, TensorFlow, Haxl. We hope Windmill.

I’m back home now, and the spell has worn off, but it’s such a rush to find an idea that can let you reenvision your work.

Caches

My ex-coworker Bonnie Eisenman gave a great talk about how Twitter’s user service caches. But it’s not really a story about one service; it’s about how caching can grow with a service’s needs, and how to think about deploying them for what needs. A talk inspired by real production pain.

The Truth About Mentoring Minorities

The talk started with the statement “if talking about race makes you uncomfortable, get comfortable being uncomfortable.” (I live-tweeted most of this talk, because it was so powerful.)

We want Windmill to be safe, inclusive, diverse. It was good to hear more about how to do this, and a few things in there that I know I need to improve on. (For instance, my hesitation to say things for fear of stereotyping).

Datafun: A Functional Query Language

The speaker “rntz” prefaced the talk: “most talks are ‘we saw problem X, we did work Y, and found improvement Z’; this talk is earlier, it’s just ‘we’re doing work Y’”. Hah! I liked seeing the in-progress thought process.

Also, got a reference to a super relevant paper that confirms my gut intuition about a portion of Windmill (changing inputs to a function is a form of derivative).

Wrap-Up

First, thanks to the organizers of Strange Loop. Great conference, and impressive that the talk videos are already up. And yay for making diversity such a focus (still not perfect, but no one is).

Going to a conference isn’t just seeing talks. It’s also seeing people. Great to meet up with friends old, current, and (hopefully) future. And holding the pre-conference party at City Museum? Incredible! Wikipedia describes it as “a play house museum”. The conference rents it out completely, so your maneuvering through twists and turns is free of fear of kicking seven-year-olds. You should go to Strange Loop next year, and fly in a day early to make the pre-party.


Originally posted on the Windmill Engineering blog on Medium

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