Over the weekend, I attended !!con, the first all virtual !!con! The event was streamed for free, but if you bought a ticket you got a conference shirt or sweatshirt (ordered via API) and access to virtual spaces and the conference Discord.
I have some other writing I’m working on on virtual gathering, but I just want to say WOW that I was surprised how much of a difference it made to “go to” the event with people online, versus popping a stream onto my TV.
I took some notes about the talks I saw, and I’m just gonna polish it a little ship it [this post]! And note, !!con always publishes their talks online, and all talks are only 10 minutes, so if anything piques your interest, you can probably go watch it!!
Keynote. I left a workout class early to make sure I made it to the keynote and at first I was like ‘what the heck is this, did the speaker not prepare?’ because they kinda walk you around Seoul. However, by the end it was just kind of lovely?? He mentioned a few art collectives I want to check out, particularly PressPress. Also some discussion of time, and how time passes, and mentioning Jenny O’Dell’s book, How to Do Nothing. The speaker is the founder of the School for Poetic Computation (SFPC) which is now going online. As he shared:
SFPC, my school, is going online.. here’s my class on “Teaching as Art” https://sfpc.io/teachingasart-spring2020 and a bunch of rad classes on code, poetry and electronics. https://sfpc.io/participate/ Now you can take one or a few classes, instead of joining full time.
[Note: I skipped a few talks, so I’m just going to leave them out if I skipped them … I’d do this for energy management at an IRL conference, so I figured I ought to do the same for virtual and it turned out to be a wise decision. I also didn’t take notes some sessions. So this is what I have!]
The talk “Little Printing for everyone!!1” was soooo cute. Can we start a group chat, but with tiny fax machines?? You decide, check out https://tinyprinter.club/, and I’d recommend the video of this one, it’s sooo cute. Also I learned someone made their printer public on the Internet and people mostly just sent nice things??
“Obelisk and the Known Unknowns (Or: The Art of Fumbling Through your Side Project to Create Something Incredible!) *” talked about hacking on light panels. Lots of hardware represented at !!con! It makes me wonder what nerdy hardware conferences have as their “weird stuff” for what they do. Cool project link: https://github.com/sachasayan/obelisk
I didn’t take notes for it, but I thought “*Punch Card Love! A (Very!) Personal History of Computer Dating!” was very cute and would recommend the video. I didn’t know computer dating has been around so long!
I love a good history talk and “Let’s implement DNS to learn history!” did not disappoint. A highlight I wrote down was along the lines of: “surely we’ll come up with something better than the internet”.
Photography nerds will love “Recreating Photography of the 1850s in a Digital World: Cowboys, Principal Component Analysis, and One Vengeful Volcano Spirit!!!” You can really see the difference between the start and end, as the presenter goes through developing their process of doing old timey-looking photography. Also led to a cool thing in the chat about photography, and I learned about a camera that takes poems.
“EMAIL!” is one I want to watch again, not just for adorable slides, but also because I felt like the content was really good, but I zoned out a bit by this point on day one. And computerfaith.com is adorable (send Char a message!)
Another one I want to look at again because it uh, might we useful for work, is “Supercharged Dijkstra’s: Computing ‘shortest’ paths on large road graphs in microseconds!” Contraction hierarchies would be a good band name.
The talk on Chinese Morse code was super interesting, and the point of this talk was not about equity in development but it’s all I could think about! Pricing for Morse code centered around Latin script, and sending Chinese was super expensive! This eventually got shaken out but sounds really messed up. This talk also made me think of Parasite (the movie) but I imagine Morse in Korean is quite a different scenario because of the Hangul alphabet. The project is on Glitch: https://translate-chinese-into-morse-code.glitch.me/
MosquitoJS talked about creating a mosquito sound — as in those really really awful and discriminatory objects that emit a high pitched tone. Those hurt my ears! So I was very grateful for !!con providing live captioning, because then I could mute the talk and still watch it, because it was interesting to see the progression of the sound design.
“Using font shaping to put commas in big numbers EVERYWHERE!!” fell into the category of something I knew absolutely nothing about, so this was very very cool! The presenter has a blog post about the project you can check out as well. I just want to share my raw notes here:
Fonts are so complicated??
Fizzbuzz via fonts??
“is this a hack?” No not actually
That’s what font shaping is for??
There was also a very very cool hardware-y talk about building a swipe card jukebox. Associated blog post and GitHub project!
On day two I also got very distracted playing in the spreadsheet party, and now I would very much like to host a spreadsheet party. There was a bonkers sheet in there that generated a website on Glitch (source JS)?? You can view that web page but warning, it may crash your browser.
No notes, but I also want to highlight that I loooved Em’s gamefeel talk (and I used a tool this week that made me think of it! so cool!) as well as the talk about computer-generated scripts that were filmed in the 1960s??
Ok, if it’s not clear from the notes, there was SO MUCH COOL STUFF. SO MANY ??? and !?!? It was great. And I “saw” lots of friends!! Ugh, so lovely. SO much gratitude to organizers who put in so much thought and attention and effort into this event, and for presenters who put so much work into their lovely presentations! And all the lovely attendees who made it really extra fun.