Thoughts after Code Europe 2017 Conference in Kraków

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It’s over: 10 hours of lectures and workshops which kept us occupied all day today at Code Europe conference in Kraków. Now it’s evening and I’ve had a chance to rest a bit, I’d like to share my thoughts while they are still fresh in my head.

Overal Impression about Code Europe

The venue for this year’s edition of Code Europe was the ICE Conference Center in the center of Kraków. It’s a substantial building with four levels and a myriad of conference rooms. The organizers did a good job of helping people find their way between lectures by offering maps of the building with all conference rooms clearly marked. Thanks to this, although the schedule was tight (15-minute breaks) it was not a problem to move between various lectures, even if they were on different floors. That said, it was super hard to grab a coffee along the way.

What was interesting was that some of us were given small backpacks with water, a t-shirt, pen, notepad and energy snack, but others weren’t. I’m not sure what was key about this, but it seemed a bit weird that it wasn’t meant for everyone.

Another odd thing was that there was no food option within the venue and the closest restaurant was the hotel next door, which completely failed to support full room. Not only was the food, but it also took us almost two hours to simply have some coffee and a sandwich.

Talks / Lectures

First of all, I wasn’t on all the talks so my opinion may be biased. I decided to go with lectures oriented at Blockchain, Machine Learning, Bots, Code Quality and, for fun, some hacking stories. Here’s my recap of each I attended.

Creating a serverless application with AI capabilities

This was the first lecture of the day, by Tomasz Stachlewski from Amazon Web Services. It was a great start to the day. Arriving too late to grab a coffee, I went straight into the talk, feeling a little grumpy as any caffeine junkie would be in such a rushed, coffee-less situation.

Despite this, my grumpiness quickly passed. The talk was great. It had been marked as Basic, but I found it to be fairly comprehensive. I think someone could have easily re-traced the presented steps to recreate the demo app that Tomasz created in 30 minutes (after 20 minutes’ introduction to the technology stack).

What woke me up? Basically, after the talk Tomasz ended up with a small application deployed fully on the AWS managed services such as Lambda, S3, Polly, Rekognition, DynamoDB and SNS. It was cool to watch and I feel like I learned some stuff about the services I never really read into much details about. I was excited to go to the next one, so much that I forgot to grab coffee on the way 🙂

Introduction to Blockchain Technology

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Since this talk by Laurence Kirk from Extropy.IO took place in the conference room next door, it was a quick transfer between the two. After the initial rush from the first talk I got to thinking that this could go either way. Blockchain is the new hype for geeks, but it’s also a fairly complex subject. I had taken a deeper interest in it a few months back, so I wasn’t sure if a talk marked as Basic was a good idea.

That said, I had never listened to a public talk about blockchain so decided to give it a try and see how it was presented by people actually working with it. I was very pleasantly surprised. Laurence did one hell of a job clarifying the concepts, showing the basic structures, explaining the potential threats and how the networks remedy them. I especially like that his presentation was well organized and nicely enhanced with visuals that helped to explain the subject and its various parts.

Boost your app with Machine Learning APIs

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When I arrived at this talk by Laurent Picard from Google, I hoped for a similar experience as the one I got on the AWS lecture. The subject is very similar, but aimed at promoting various elements of the cloud services offered by Google.

This was the first talk that did not meet my expectations, but only the first.  What I hoped for was to get the similar, almost hands-on experience as I did with the AWS stack. Instead, we received a dry, lengthy introduction to each service with a presentation of a ready demo app afterward. I’m not saying it wasn’t cool, but Tomasz had set the bar really high and I would have loved to see how hard it is to really work with Google services, especially when someone knowing it shows you how to.

That said, this lecture takes the cake as the funniest of the day. When Laurent built his demo app he did not remember to sanitize the user inputs. This became apparent when he asked the audience to send some messages to his app, and people were able to inject JavaScript triggering popups with some rather inappropriate phrases on every page refresh 🙂

Modular Design

I’d love to tell you how this talk was, but it didn’t happen in the slot I had hoped for it to be in. There were some unfortunate technical issues with the speaker laptop. No hard feelings, these things happen. We took this opportunity to try and find something to eat. The quest resulted in the fiasco at the RGB Bar & Grill in the hotel next door. I thought hard about whether I should note their brand, but heck – how else can they improve?

Because of the super long wait in the restaurant we missed the next talk as well 🙁 Here should be some interesting description about the “What is LOP and devbus and why should you care?” talk, but… we were waiting for coffee and the bill 🙂

Blockchain.currentState() and How Will it Impact Your Industry?

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This has been an internal struggle. Should I go for this talk by Ahmad Nabil Gohar from IBM or should I try “Digital Marketing in Big Data world”? I decided to follow up on my morning intro and try out the Advanced talk about Blockchain. I hoped to get some practical knowledge, based on previous examples and extrapolation to how these concrete implementations impact certain industries.

What I got was a repeat of the morning introduction. Sadly it was rushed and not so well presented. Afterwards, there was a long list of potential industries who may be impacted and names of companies doing something in that direction. I think it was very interesting, but due to it being marked as Advanced, I had hoped for fewer details and more in-depth thoughts about specifics. The presentation ended on slide 120 (or close to that) which gives you an idea of how packed it was.

Rise of the Bots

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Bots is a subject that I didn’t do much reading about so I was super interested in getting the overview of the current situation. Bartłomiej Czudek from Capgemini did a great job taking the audience, and yours truly, through the genesis, trends, tools and challenges of working with bots.

This talk was not very technical, but took us through third cloud platform (Azure) as a potential solution for people working with bots implementation. The whole thing was well illustrated and superbly presented – Barłomiej was a great speaker that could keep the audience (or at least me) interested despite the pace he picked up from the first minute. Definitely worth spending 50 minutes on.

Real-Life Hacking Stories

Photo from Code Europe Conference 2017 in Kraków

I picked this one as I thought it would be fun to listen to. I was right. It was a super cool show by Asim Hussain of Microsoft. I wouldn’t say it aimed at teaching us a lot (even by Asim’s own declaration), but it gave another insight into why you should not overlook even small vulnerabilities in the software, libraries or the infrastructure. Maybe I’m a sucker for a good story, but I left the room with the feeling that not only was it great fun, but I had learned some good pointers for the future consideration.

Beyond Clean Code and Code Quality

Patroklos Papapetrou from Elastic took us for a trip through what can and should be done for the code quality in various situations you may encounter on a project, be it a fresh startup or a legacy monster. I think the key point of the talk can be summarized in one sentence: if you can’t make it better, don’t screw it up anymore. There isn’t much more I can tell you about the talk itself. It was the tenth hour of the conference and I had only had one cup of coffee since the morning so I counted it as a success that I didn’t fall asleep 🙂

Summary

Code Europe was a cool conference. I liked the diversity of the talks and enjoyed the fast pace of the schedule. What I’d hope to see in the future are more Advanced / Expert talks that are actually challenging and well executed. The venue itself could use some major re-thinking in terms of food and coffee. I don’t think that relying on the booths to provide easy access to it is such a good advertisement.

Read our summary of the previous edition of Code Europe

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