Going to GOTO Berlin

Alex Vidrean
Alex Vidrean
20 Nov 2019

Have you ever been to Berlin, or to a tech conference in Berlin, or at least curious how a tech conference in Berlin would be? Well I'm here to help you with the last one and hopefully, in the process, help you decide on the first two.

That's because I have spent 4 days in Berlin, 3 of which were at the GOTO conference and I would like to share with you my experience, through some of the bestofs from the conference.

Before we dive right into them, I would like to make a few disclaimers: There were a lot of cool presentation, but I won't have time to go through each so I hand picked those which represent different aspects of our working life. And second, I invite you to also have a look at the presentations by yourself and make you own opinion about the subjects presented.

Getting there

My plane landed in Berlin just 2 hours before the opening Keynote, but since there were no delays, thanks to Berlin's great S-Bahn system and a little bit of planning ahead, not only I reached the conference in time, but I also managed to check-in at the hotel, grab a coffee and even some breakfast before the Keynote.

Start with a laugh

Starting off on the right foot, what more could I ask for that day.

Well, everything is better if you start with a laugh, isn't it. Mostly everything. I'm sure a conference is one of those things.

The opening keynote, The importance of Laughter, was held by Aino Vonge Corry, one of the funniest speakers I've seen on a stage, who set the tone for me for the rest of the conference, because I learned a lot while also having a laugh and basically that's exactly why I went to a conference in the first place.

For example I learned which is the funniest joke in the world, scientifically proven (exactly the content you don't expect, but appreciate at a tech conference). Here's the report, but I also recommend you watch Aino's talk on Youtube.

Mob programming

I've been doing solo programming, heard and seen pair programming, but honestly I've never heard about mob programming (and it felt like I was the only one). That's why Woody Zuill's presentation was so great, because it managed to present me with a concept I've never heard of before and made me wanna try it out. For those who, as me, didn't heard about mob programming before, the picture bellow should explain pretty much the whole concept.

This is pretty much my desk at least once a week and not because we're doing mob programming.

But the idea of Mob Programming is much more then fixing issues together, it's actually implementing and delivering features like this. You have your Navigator or Navigators which come up with the ideas and next steps, then your Driver which is doing all the typing and you rotate so that everyone has the chance of being the Driver.

The pros are that you have everyone focusing on the same issue instead of all going at different speeds, waiting one for another, asking around and wasting too much time on communication channels.

As a personal thought of this, I can see this working in most of the projects (even if the teams are remote) for smaller periods of time or per feature (maybe a complex feature) better then the traditional solo programming.

If the manager or programmer super star in you starts screaming, I feel you, but I also invite you to watch Woody Zuill's presentation, because it addresses a lot of the questions your inner you has.

https://gotober.com/2019/sessions/843/mob-programming-and-the-power-of-flow

Kubernetes

Ah, the cool “new” kid on the block with lots of toys, which you see everywhere you go, it's following you until you have no other option but befriend him.

Even if it's almost a decade old I've never had the chance to work with it, but given recent organizational changes and trends, it feels more like I'm on the brink of having to say “hi” pretty soon.

And if that's the case I wanted to find out what working with Kubernetes is really like by joining a talk which presents you with a list of tools you could use in your daily work and what you could do with them. Straight forward, right? Right?

Well, sort of. Ellen Köber really made a good summary of each tool and it's pros and cons (a list you can see in the picture above), but to be honest it was kind of overwhelming. There's no right answer for anything and it all depends on your way of working and you own organizational constraints. So if your like me and you don't already use Kubernetes it might be difficult to see how all the pieces fall together, but then again looking at the picture above you can see a pretty traditional CI pipeline there.

If you are using already Kubernetes then I suggest you take a look at Ellen's talk, you might find out about some tools you didn't know and could use right away. If you are not already using Kubernetes, it's just a matter of time until you will, so you might also want to check it so you can put some aces up your sleeves.

https://gotober.com/2019/sessions/821/kubernetes-day-3-the-state-of-kubernetes-development-tooling

Extreme Digitalization in China

If somebody would to ask me to explain to them how does extreme digitalization really manifests in China, I would tell them this: “Smile to the camera for 60 cm of toilet paper. Oh, and really fast trains.”

Maybe that's not the answer you were waiting for. Of course everybody in the room started laughing when we heard Christina Boutrup present this example, but then it dawned on me, that's one of the best examples for Extreme Digitalization. Because it's not only about having you own Facebook, Whatsapp and Shopping app into one, or you own internet. It's not event about fast trains (.. ok, it's a bit also about having the fastest trains), but mostly it's about digitalizing every basic aspect of you life in such a way that you have to trade you personal data for even the most mundane things.

During the Keynote Christina went into many details about what this means for the people of China and also for the rest of the world, because we must not forget, China has one of the biggest consumer market and everybody wants a piece of it.

I would like to invite you to watch her entertaining and eye opening presentation. I've also added her book to my Goodreads Want to Read list.

https://gotober.com/2019/sessions/1061/extreme-digitalization-in-china
* video also available in the GOTO Play app

Sonic Pi

Now this, for me, was one of the coolest moments from the conference.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you would take programmer and a DJ and not only combine them into one, but also have the put on a show. Well, neither did I, that's why this presentation ( show / set you can call if whatever you like) blew me away, because from the schedule description I didn't really know what to make of it so I went in there with low expectations and boy was I in for a surprise.

This guy, Sam Aaron, built this tool, Sonic Pi, which is basically an IDE for writing music trough code. This started from the desire to try and introduce more entertaining ways for kids and adults to get into coding and evolved in like a full fledged instrument for a DJs to drop some serious beats.

Oh yeah, Sam not only built this piece of software, he is also playing it like a total boss.

He turned the whole conference into a club with live music. There was something for everybody, great music (and I mean it, you wouldn't guess it was live programmed), live programming with proper indenting and naming and also comments, that's just how programmers communicate with their code's audience.

You can imagine that the first thing I did after my hangover was to download Sonic Pi and try it out. I don't have any musical talent, but there are some Soundcloud songs which are described very technically, that you can use to make you very own Hello World debut into the music industry.

Frontend Architecture

Of course there was Frontend at this conference as well. It wasn't only idealistic discussions and entertainment.

Well, it kind of was the same for this discussion as well, I mean, frontend architecture kind of falls into the general direction of idealistic.

But it's not only frontend, we don't want to single out anyone. Architecture in general is associated with a certain unconformable gut feeling that you cannot really put your finger on it.

So Monica tried to break down this “Architecture” stuff and see what really is that makes it so shady. And stuff started coming out, Technical Debt, Dependency Injection, Component Reusability. Scary stuff right there, lucky she is a great and funny speaker, so people didn't just left the room instantly when they've seen yet another person going over same stuff everybody keeps lecturing them about. And she also made some bold, but otherwise good points.

It seems an aspect of good architecture is resilience to changes over time. So yeah, the graph bellow might explain why.

To achieve this here are some things we can consider during development.

Let's start with an easy one. All source code dependencies must point inwards, so from the most outer layer, like Router to the most inner one, like a model or service. That way you avoid a huge intertwined ball of mud. I think that's a reasonable aspect. Let's do another one.

I realize while typing that this contradicts every fiber in me, but, we don't always need to generalize every component which we realize can be used in another place (oh, that hurt). It turns out sometimes you can even copy code and avoid the configurability hell you get in when you encounter small differences between two or more places a component is used in.

I won't go trough the whole presentation stuff here, because, as you already know you can check it out online.

https://gotober.com/2019/sessions/1119/building-resilient-frontend-architecture

Conclusion

As Berlin is, GOTO is also a colorful, diverse, green and progressive conference, situated in one of the most important tech hubs in Germany. I took away with me some important learnings, contacts and experience from it and I can't wait to what future editions will bring.

As I said in the beginning I want to help you decide if you should join GOTO in Berlin, so I'll leave you with a personal rating for the conference:

  • Interesting: 3/5
  • Usefulness or applicability from: 3/5
  • Fun factor: 4/5
  • Schmooz factor: 3/5
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