The week of Strange Loop

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I was at St.Louis last week to attend Strange Loop, thanks to a generous diversity scholarship by all it's awesome sponsors. Strange Loop is definitely the most exhilarating, informative and inclusive programming conference that I've been to.


One highlight of Strange Loop for me was that there were so many Hacker Schoolers there, past and present, attending, talking or running workshops. It's my first ever conference in the US and the first time I was out of New York, and it felt super nice to have familiar faces all around.

I reached St.Louis on Tuesday, 16th, and got together with Pablo and Lita, my W'14 batchmates for dinner at Pi's Pizza. We did some exploring and walking around, and it was super fun catching up with them.

Dinner with Pablo and Lita

Wednesday evening, before the preconference party, there was a small meetup where over 50 women attending the conference came - Lambda Ladies go bowling, at Flamingo Bowl. It was awesome fun to bowl, and by some twisted luck I tied at the top of my team bowling :'D It was also great connecting with everyone there.

Flamingo Bowl

And then the best party ever happened at the City Museum St.Louis. It's the singular best museum ever and has amazing slides, caves, climbable art, airplanes you climb into and sit on the cockpit, ferrous wheels 10 stories atop. You can only walk out of it feeling like a kid. I've been to geek conference parties before, and outside of ones at Hacker School, never has one been this fun and inclusive, considering I don't even drink!

City Museum Party

The conference happened on Thursday and Friday, and I'll get to that later, but both days in the evenings, I went to dinners put together by Hacker Schoolers/people at the conference. On thursday I went to one organized by the awesome folks at TwoSigma, at 1111 Mississipi, to which over 40 people came, and we thoroughly took the restaurant folks by storm! Friday evening was a small dinner at a nice Thai place with Hacker School folks.

Hacker School Dinner

I also went to a baseball game between the Cardinals and Reds on Friday evening, with Pablo and Denise, and except for the fact we din't understand the game and clapped and cheered whenever the rest of the crowd did, it was super great :D

Baseball game


If you were thinking after reading all the above, did you go to the conference or not? Oh yes I totally did. And it's surprising as I write this that despite all the activity, I actually went to so many talks and learnt so much that my mind was blown.

All talks are here

Some of the favorites among talks I went to, in no particular order were:

Where Kyle Kingsbury enthusiastically talks about Jepsen, the unlimited grant he got from Comcast, what he did with it, and his experiments on RabbitMQ, etcd, and ElasticSearch, with drawn slides.

Where Rich Hickey talks excellently about how ridiculous it is that when we program, processes on data in our code don't happen in steps like in the real world, but happen like do something, make a copy of the data, do something to the copy, and so on. Transducers introduced in Clojure changes that, where a process can be defined as a series of steps, like a real world recipe.

Where Joe Armstrong, one of the co creators of Erlang, tells you how we've bloated the world of code with tons of code, and his dream for a compressor machine that can just eat away duplicate code and make it smaller, with the ideas of distributed hash tables like in Bittorrent, and hashing as in Git - Gittorrent may be?

Where Will Wilson, an engineer at FoundationDB talks how they built a simulation framework that uses a single threaded concurrency system and simulate network, disk, and all kinds of possible failures and exhaustively, and deterministically test a distributed system.

Where Peter Bourgon, distributed systems engineer talks in detail about how they built an AP system compliant to ACID 2.0 using Redis shards at its core at SoundCloud, with eventual consistency using CRDTs.

Being the most spirited speaker ever, Julia Evans (Hacker Schooler :D) talks about whys and hows for kernel hacking, demos and explains a fun kernel module that rickrolls every time you open a file, and how she built her own little OS than can now read input from the keyboard and display it.

Where Ian Davis, engineer at Prismatic talks about how they moved to using ClojureScript, and Om, a cljs wrapper around React, the frontend JS framework, and what was hard and the great benefits they reaped out of the shift.

And, of course when Sam Aaron and Carin Meier in the final keynote, made robots dance to live music by writing Clojure!!!

Robots dance


Learning and all the fun aside, the best part of Strange Loop for me was to actually meet and talk to some of my favorite programmers and people who I look up to, like Rich Hickey, Kyle Kingsbury and Joe Armstrong. I definitely left there starstruck :D (Disclaimer: This para is over 10 notches toned down on the level of excitement I actually feel for this!)

So, best programming conference ever, and I'm already looking forward to going next year. If you missed it this year, I have one word for you, Go!

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