Tech talk

I've been thinking lately about how many of the talks at tech conferences are bizarrely impractical_. For a counter-example, Rands has this seemingly un-radical suggestionseconds.html

This is the presentation I want to see at the next conference: in a room full of people, anyone is welcome to walk up to the mic and plug their laptop in to the projector. They'll be asked to complete three simple tasks:

  1. Send a mail to a friend
  2. Find something on the Internet
  3. Save a bookmark or an image.

I would be fixated.

I'd love that.

If developers are the builders, why don't we talk more about craft? Why are there so many conference presentations about lofty topics, and so few about dispensing with down-to-earth, day-to-day chores?

One of my favorite BarCamp sessions was a group "show-and-tell" — we took turns introducing the rest of the crowd to one tool in our arsenal. I talked about FireBug, someone talked about Google Spreadsheets, someone else talked about Selenium. I'd love to see more of that kind of thing.

If you're planning a conference, and can't squeeze one "practical nuggets" session into the schedule, why not?

Permalink • Posted in: conferences, programming, rantComments (2)


Joshua Jun 17, 2008

There's a tradition in the Ruby/Rails communities of throwing a "tutorial day" on the beginning of a conference. I've never gone, though, because they seem pitched at an introductory level.

I think the difference between "be lectured by a master" and "open discussion with peers" is the key to the variety of the experience. (I much prefer the open discussion, maybe using open spaces.) Not everyone in the crowd will offer you brilliant new insights, but, for me, the ones that *do* are worth the cost of listening to some who don't.

Chris Dolan Jun 20, 2008

At my day job, we make heavy use of Eclipse. A common phenomenon is looking over someone's shoulder in their office and saying "How did you do that?" when they do something awesome with a shortcut or a plugin that the spectator had not seen before.

I've had that experience many, many times over the years with a wide spectrum of tools and platforms. The problem is that the density of "awesome" moments is too low for a conference, IMO, but instead is a positive side effect of pair programming.