gears

This fall, I went to Strange Loop for the first time. This wildly creative, wonderful, and surprising software development conference has stuck with me. Here are some of the talks that I am still thinking about.

But, before we get to that, let me give you some background on Strange Loop. This year, as in past years, Strange Loop was held in St. Louis, Missouri. From September 29th - 30th, some 2000 developers of all stripes descended on the Peabody Opera House and Union Station to hear a collection of language-agnostic, innovative talks. Started in 2009, Strange Loop has sold out every year since it’s inception. I’ve been dying to go to this conference for a long time and was super excited that PromptWorks was able to get me a ticket, since Strange Loop has a reputation for attracting industry-leading developers that are doing fascinating things with technology.

It’s been a few weeks since I was at the conference and I often find myself thinking about the talks that were presented. A lot of the presentations expanded the boundaries of my thinking and continue to inspire me. Here are some of my favorite talks from the conference, enjoy!


Kevin Shekleton: “The Security of Classic Game Consoles”

The title alone got me, but the talk really delivered. Kevin cleverly presented security vulnerabilities and attacks on classic game consoles. As consoles became better able to prevent physical attacks, hackers had to resort to software hacks to modify consoles; it’s not a far jump from there to identifying vulnerabilities in the software we write and how it could be exploited. Kevin’s talk was a great mixture of style and substance, with a heavy dose of nostalgia for the consoles many of us grew up with.

Charity Majors: “Observability for Emerging Infra: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”

If you’ve never heard of Charity Majors before, you are in for a treat. Charity is a co-founder of honeycomb.io, a dev ops startup that builds system observation tools that help users dig into gnarly, distributed systems problems. In this talk, she gives some battle-tested advice on what to instrument and when for complex systems, among other sage points. After hearing her speak, I wound up reading her blog and reading her articles on her company’s blog. Check her out.

Robby Kraft: “Origami Software from Scratch”

I am sure that my family and friends are tired of hearing me talk about this presentation. It was just so mind-blowing. Here, Robby Kraft talks about using software as a way to contribute to the art form he has been pursuing since he was 6 years old. In an effort to invent new designs and help others solve their unfinished patterns, he wrote his own origami pattern solving application. If you don’t have time to watch this video, at the very least check out his Instagram. Robby’s work is amazing!

Emil Stolarsky: “Incident insights from NASA, NTSB, and the CDC”

I found this talk to be super practical. Here, Emil advocates that we learn from established practices and procedures in other disciples that deal with critical infrastructure failures. We can use these mature practices to create a cross-disciplinary approach to incident handling within software development. Pro tip from this talk: be more like Waffle House :)


Allison Parrish: “Experimental Creative Writing with the Vectorized Word”

As an English major in another life, I loved this talk. This was such an interesting mashup of art and programming. By assigning a value to words and quantifying their meaning in relation to other words, Allison is able to decompose texts and generate entirely new ones. At one point, Allison vectorized portions of Frankenstein and Genesis, then blended their calculated meanings together to create a new, strangely unfamiliar amalgam of these familiar texts. How. Cool. Is. That.


But Wait! There’s More

Seriously, this was a great conference and, to do it justice, I should mention that there’s a YouTube playlist for all of this year’s talks. Go check it out!