IT Days 2020

Alexandru Pirvu
Alexandru Pirvu
27 Jan 2021

Everything changed due to the pandemic, and the way IT conferences are held is no exception. In this article, I will share my impressions on the IT Days conference and how the presentations were held in this new way of doing things.

First of all, I am going to talk about the organization of the event. There was a physical scene, where the hosts and some speakers resided. Other speakers did not attend physically, but instead they presented remotely with or without screen share.

At every moment, the program was split into four lanes, with topics from AI, leadership, security, testing, programming, HR and some others. As I am a developer, I mainly followed technical topics.

The start of day one was a total mess as the speaker got interrupted every 2 minutes for 1 minute and a half. As you can imagine, the talk could not be followed, and the worst part was the fact that the speaker was not aware of this, so he can fix the issue. Fortunately, this situation was not repeated. Another issue was that some stages were not working, so some presentations got skipped or moved to other rooms, but without notifying anyone. So you needed some luck to find the talk you wanted to follow. On the second day, the situation was a bit better, and it is worth mentioning that most of the talks from both days were recorded and made available to all the participants.

Day 1

The starting keynote of the first day was about how programming reached what it is today and how the finish looks so much like the start. The start was very simple, with just a few commands. With this simplicity also came great limitations, so in order to enable complex problem solving also the tools had to grow in complexity. Finally, after reaching a lot of complexity which indeed let developers complete complex projects, the tools started again to opt for simplicity. So we arrived today, having simple command line instructions designed in such a way to provide the means to build anything a developer is asked by its customer.

The next talks I attended were from the Products & Leadership lane. In The future of Maps and how Augmented Reality is going to change how we navigate the world, the Head of Geo at Grab put on the table the many ways augmented reality can be nicely integrated into maps applications. AR can transform maps applications, from simple apps that you use just when you need them, into immersive applications that fuse the digital into the real world. A first attempt at this was the Google Glasses, and it was not very successful. In the meantime technology advanced a lot. Computer vision, advanced sensors and edge computing can finally make our devices understand the surrounding reality, making introducing AR into maps a real use case scenario.

The next presenter talked about using AI to create video presentations for news articles. It is pretty cool that from only the text of the article, via NLP, the system can create actual meaningful and beautiful video presentations.

Skipping the lunch and some other talks, in the Programming lane, was a very interesting talk putting engineering and craftsmanship head to head. In the vision of the speaker, software craftsmanship is inferior to software engineering. This conclusion comes from a parallel drawn between software engineering and civil engineering. It appears that civil engineering progressed a lot, starting from virtuosos that "just knew" how to build stuff without any science backup, and gradually adding science to the equation to reach a higher level of engineering. This resulted in the conclusion that software engineering is the "good one" as it is more evolved and has a strong science backup. What is most interesting about this talk is that the "master of craftsmanship" followed just after.

It would've been so fun to see Uncle Bob give his arguments about why software craftsmanship is the highest level of software creation you can reach. Unfortunately, all Uncle Bob did was held a simple lesson on software engineering(in a crafting manner), followed by a Q&A session. It seemed that the focus was on the Q&A, as the technical presentation was pretty ordinary. Unfortunately again, the Q&A was only for half an hour so not all questions were answered.

Day 2

The second day started with an overview of how bots affect the internet. Apparently, most BOTs are bad, causing companies to spend a lot of money on infrastructure because a lot of traffic on their websites is due to bots. Infrastructure is not the only resource companies have to spend money with. For example, the sales and marketing sectors can be affected because bots mess up the analytics.

The next three presentations I followed were in the automotive lane.

Secure Integrated Transportation was an interesting talk, which presented the security needs in the future transportation systems. In order to make use of what the digital world brings, there has to be a lot of information coming and going from one piece of the system to the other, and a lot of data gathered and stored. This level of communication represents one big reason why security has to be addressed. The threat does not stop at stealing information. Letting machines in charge of human lives means that if the machines are hijacked, lives can be in danger. There are a few accidents reported when autonomous cars were hijacked and caused accidents. Because all the problems have to be solved somehow, the presentation also contained some high level solutions.

The next talk gave an overview of how the cars reached what they are today, while the last one presented the way Bosch handles video processing for creating autonomous driving modules.

Last thoughts

These lanes pretty much concluded that there are great benefits from having smart transportation systems. A few of the benefits are: improved safety, democratization of mobility, fuel efficiency and reduced congestion.

As far as conferences go, it was not a complete waste of time. The automotive talks were interesting and you had Uncle Bob to answer your questions if you got lucky enough to be picked. Besides the obvious streaming issues, there is not much to improve. I think a virtual board with all the questions visible to everybody, including speakers, would have helped.

Looking forward to next year!

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