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Strange Loop 2017 in Review – Day 1

It’s a few days since Strange Loop 2017 wrapped up, wonderful as always thanks to the tireless efforts of the herd of organizers (Alex, Bridget, Crystal, Nick, Mario and Ryan!!), volunteers, and thank you sponsors for your 💰.

Strange Loop is one of my favorite technical conferences ever (and I’ve been to quite a few). There’s a focus on systems programming and distributed systems, and also weird computer things that make your brain hurt in a very good way. The organizers and the community they’ve built talk openly and candidly about diversity and activism in addition to fantastic technical content, and make Strange Loop accessible to many groups of people underserved by technical conferences, and by doing so, it’s just plain better than others. If this sounds interesting to you, get on their mailing list (form on the bottom of the web site) so you can know when tickets come out next year.

Strange Loop is a two-day conference, so I’ll go through each of my days, splitting up 1 & 2 in separate posts. Before those though, there was the traditional pre-event at the City Museum, where I had a great time and ripped a hole in the butt of my yoga pants on a slide (it’ll be fine, I can sew). Pro- Strange Loop tip: dress appropriately for the pre-party (sneakers, ditch your backpack and secure your phone, and wear jeans you can get holes in; next level attendees additionally wore knee pads).

Alright, now to the content! Each talk title has a link to its video, should you want to watch yourself!

Day 1

Program Synthesis for Declarative Building Design – video

This was a talk about architecture. Like buildings. This year at Strange Loop, I sketchnoted every talk I went to (not all notes were coherent/Twitter-able), to practice sketchnoting and to also stay focused on the talks. If you’re interested in sketchnotes in general, read Chiu-Ki Chan’s post on writing technical sketchnotes.

In this talk, I learned about one of the many fields that computing has yet to saturate, despite lots of problems conveniently solved by computers doing math, and also learned about boolean satisfiability (SAT) and satisfiability modulo theories (SMT), which is great because I skipped discrete mathematics in college and I’m pretty sure that’s where they covered that.

If you’re interested in checking out theorem provers (such as something you might use to design a building according to constraints), Z3 is an open-source project from Microsoft Research to check out.

Angelina Ballerina learns about Memory Allocationvideo

This was a great explainer talk about understanding memory, using allegories to Angelina Ballerina. It was great! I’ve forgotten most of this even when I talk about memory a lot at work. It’s different to know something vaguely versus having someone go over it soup to nuts. The speaker covered the heap(s) and their relationships, managed memory, and different forms of garbage collection. She also mentioned a reference blog post that points to the resources used to make the talk.

Adventures in vBuffervideo

Just go watch this one. Sarah has a lovely narrative about the classic question “but why is it slow?” in the context of rendering in the browser, with adventures on mountains, visiting witches, and immutable data thrown in. I did share the sketchnote on Twitter, but (especially because it’s illustrated by @emilywithcurls) the talk itself is very worth a watch.

Experimental Creative Writing with the Vectorized Wordvideo

This talk was about using math to generate poetry. That is, you can represent words with vectors, and because that allows you to do math, it’s something to the tune that you can play with that to find words with similar shapes, or to apply a “filter” of a word shape over other words, or calculate the “average” word in a piece, or find the “average” of two color names (which turns out to be weirdly close to accurate).

EoS in Kafka: Listen up, I will only say this once!video

Going to this talk was extremely practical for me – always nice to throw in some of those, right? I’ve been working on exactly once semantics a little bit, working with the difference between “at least once” (hi, that’s what AWS Lambda guarantees), “at most once,” and “exactly once.” This talk went through the way at least onceat most once, and finally exactly once are done, or at least, how that’s built for Kafka. Really interesting!

Closing keynote and thoughts

The closing keynote on Friday was about “Public Interest Technologists.” The speaker talked about how in the 60s, public interest lawyers started emerging, and he believes we are at that time for technology, to use technical skills on social change and activism. He listed off many fellowships and opportunities, but (as I discussed with some people at Lean Coffee the next morning, whose sessions were led by my friend Trevor) I felt that the “help in your local community!” message was completely missed.

I briefly worked in the public interest when I was at AxisPhilly (RIP) doing data journalism on Philadelphia, but what interests me now is how to be a citizen activist, doing some unglamorous not-a-fellowship not-full-time work on bettering my community. This year I’m participating in the Keepers program (ok so it’s clear I’m not down on programs right, they’re great!) for young leaders in Philadelphia. The keynote was good especially because it impacted people enough to spark a discussion, however I wanted to share a little of my own experience and thoughts here on that topic 🙂

After day 1 I dined with Recurse alums and friends and turned in early ’cause I had to look forward to day 2!

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