QCon is the place I first heard the phrase "the hallway track". They include longer and more frequent breaks to allow the attendees to meet each other and discuss topics arising from talks. The ratio of speakers to attendees is also high, so you can often go deeper on topics that interest you with the presenters.
I've spoken several times on various topics, most recently at QCon San Francisco 2022 on Orchestration vs Choreography interaction patterns between micro-services. After this talk, Dio, president of C4 Media, asked if I'd join the programme committee as a Co-Chair for the first conference in New York since 2019. I jumped at the chance!
QCon puts together its programmes on an invitational basis. The people behind QCon and InfoQ, C4 Media, invite software professionals to form a programme committee. The committee are responsible for creating the tracks and themes for the conference and finding track hosts to lead the speaker curation efforts. The focus is making the content practitioner-led, and we actively try and recruit speakers with a range of experience from diverse backgrounds.
Each co-chair champions two tracks, and this year mine were Architectures You've Always Wondered About and Optimising For Fast Flow: Surviving in the Post-Agile Aftermath. I was lucky to recruit two excellent track hosts in Sergey Fedorov (Netflix) and Katharine Chajka (PlanView), and we worked together to invite speakers to join us to share their stories.
The conference was smaller than in previous years, but this difference didn't affect the experience. With a slightly reduced programme (four tracks per day instead of five), we had good numbers for each session, and the attendees experienced the same high-quality talks we've seen across previous instalments.
The talks I attended were professionally delivered, and the overwhelming feedback from attendees was positive. There is always room for improvement, and we've welcomed suggestions to help make the next conference even more successful.
Each conference includes several experiments, and New York was no exception. The two main changes were recording talks live via Go Pro (to provide an alternative to the pre-recorded version provided by speakers) and a selection of fiddle toys in each room to support attendees with ADHD. I don't know how the recordings have turned out, but I saw the fiddle toys increasingly used throughout the three days.
Talks I saw that I'd recommend to others include:
- Using Traffic Modeling to Load-Balance Netflix Traffic at Global Scale
- Building Sub-Second Latency Video Infrastructure at Cloudflare
- Success Patterns for building Cyber-Physical Systems with Agile
- Offline and Thriving: Building Resilient Applications With Local-first Techniques
- Needle in a 930M Member Haystack: People Search AI @LinkedIn
- Bridging Silos and Overcoming Collaboration Antipatterns in Multidisciplinary Organisations
- Perils, Pitfalls and Pratfalls of Platform Engineering
- All the keynotes! It's unusual for all the headline talks to be hits, but we got lucky this year and had four excellent sessions.
While the conference schedule is themed by design, there are inevitably topics that appear across many tracks and help form the general narrative of the event. The main themes emerging this year were AI and Platform Engineering (both having dedicated tracks and appearing in many other sessions).
It can be easy to forget the typical engineering experience across the wider industry when working in a company like Meta. Hearing some of the challenges teams face trying to find their way through DevOps and agile delivery is a timely reminder of how good our developer infrastructure is, despite some of the friction we feel. Henrique's talk showcasing Meta's development environments inspired many people. I answered nearly as many questions as he did afterwards!
Several people commented that the OpenAI talk (explaining how to use functions with ChatGPT) was one of their highlights. I was less taken with this talk, but the enthusiasm I saw reminded me that learning how to use a tool is still very valuable, even when I wanted to understand how the tool was made in the first place. I should have remembered this from talks I've given about how we used Kafka at PokerStars.
I recognise how privileged I am to have the opportunity to be part of conferences such as QCon. I aim to maximise the value of such opportunities through presence and building relationships with new people each time. New York has felt like a success on both fronts: getting to know colleagues better, learning from other companies, and gaining inspiration.
It would be remiss to not thank Dio, Danny, Morgan, and the whole of C4 Media for the opportunity they gave me through being part of the programme committee. If you're ever asked, don't hesitate to say yes!
To the other Co-Chairs; Sarah, Aysylu, Frank, Michelle, Werner, and Hien, thank you for being a great team! I hope to either work with you again in the future or bump into you at another QCon.