Buildstuff 2016 recap

Last week I attended Buildstuff in Vilnius. I was my first time there, but after hearing very positive things about it for the last couple of years I thought it was time to go. And I was not disappointed!

It was a great conference, with great people organizing, speaking and attending. I can only encourage everyone (software developers at least) to try it.

Day 0

Buildstuff had arranged a small appetizer event the day before the conference started with 2 sessions. I had nothing better to do, so I attended them both. :-)

The first one was Chris Condron taking about how to get C# to be fast when you really need it. I was outside off my normal interest, but got some great examples on how to write unsafe C# - something that very much looks like C++.

Next up was Dan North talking event storming. I’ve participated in a few event stormings myself with varying degrees of success. But some of the of the points he made differently made me want to try it again. Apart from being a topic of interest Dan is a great speaker and always interesting to hear talk.

That day ended with a few local beers

Day 1

The highlights of the day was Rob Asthon drinking whisky and talking about Elm and Dan North ending the talks of the day talking about making software.

I had never really considered Elm before but I really like it. Both the strongly typed parts, the error message and some of the syntax. Not a big fan of the way to make HTML, but I could live with it. Should try to use it some time, even though it still sounded a bit unstable between versions. I recall Rob saying something to the tune of “All the examples on the net is version 0.16. My code is 0.17. 0.18 have just been released and my codes does not work there.” The wonders of being an early adopter.

Dan North ended the day with another quite interesting talk about writing and delivering software. Nothing ground breaking, but really liked his idea of a Dancing Skeleton. Just a step up from a Walking Skeleton so you can see your if idea is working, but have not invested a lot into it.

Dancing skeleton with ghost

Day 2

Mathias Brandewinder did a quite interesting talk about machine learning. I saw it primarily because of the mentioning of functional in the title, but it was the machine learning part that I found most interesting. I like the notion that opposed to normal code you don’t write test for the code, because your dataset is the test.

Mark Seemann had a talk about the wonders of functional programming and how it natively prevents a lot of the pitfalls that your have to guard against in object orientated programming. E.g. the natural way you’ll use ports and adapters. I like the talk a lot and even wanted to learn Haskell afterwards! The IO keyword used to decorate non-pure functions makes a lot of sense, it seems quite wonderful to have compiler errors if you have introduced a side effect without declaring it.

Day 3

The most technical interesting talk was Vagif Abilov story about migrating a project from C# to F#. As i might be obvious from my previous comments I really like the functional thinking and all the features functional languages have, like immutability, non-nullable types and the way the lend themselves to small composable functions.

Paul Stack did a fun talk ranting about devops, CI/CD and other fads of the industry. There was not a lot of new information in it, but if was fun.

Finally Michael Feathers did a talk about hardening the edges of your programs to allow the core to be softer. I kind like the notion of validating inputs from users or files very well and the not being to defensive in the rest of the code.

Workshops

I had also signed up for workshops the following 2 days, but unfortunately, I was feeling quite sick the first day, so I went to bed after the first half. The workshop was held by Kevlin Henney and was about where some of the so-called new ideas come from. It was very interesting, and Kevlin is very good at speaking to an audience, so I was sad that I had to leave early.

The day after I felt a bit better and managed to stay to the whole workshop. It was primarily about Packer and Terraform - hosted be Paul Stack and James Nugent. Especially Terraform was very interesting for my current project, and I got a lot of useful information. It was very heavy on examples and demos - and it worked very well for me. I have already started pestering them on twitter for follow up questions :-) James and Paul seems like very nice persons who love the software they write and to tell others about it. After being a bit down the day before due to illness it was a perfect way to end the week.

Misc.

All in all it was a great week. I got a lot of new inspiration and had some great conversations with both people I knew beforehand and someone I didn’t.

Tame Baristas setup

Rob Asthon deserves another huge shout out for bringing Tame Baristas to the conference. I tend to think that I’m a bit of a coffee connoisseur myself, but compared to Rob I could as well drink instant coffee. I was wonderful to be able to get great coffee throughout the conference (I didn’t drink any other coffee while they were there). Also, fun to taste the 3 different coffees they brought along. The only sad part was that they were not there for the workshop days.

Tame Baristas output

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About Michael Skarum
I'm Michael Skarum, an independent software developer, architect and consultant.