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Memories from Code Europe Cracow 2016: Voice Recognition, Bots and Big Data

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This December, I had the pleasure of attending the largest programming conference in Poland. Code Europe took place for the first time in ICE Cracow Congress Centre. The Absolvent.pl group organized the event to include the most topical programming fields such as Back-end, Front-end, Mobile, and Big Data. The schedule was composed of extraordinary lectures and workshops given by world-class IT experts and practitioners. The admission was entirely free and anyone who felt passionate about coding could join.

Some of the most prominent IT leaders attended the conference as well, including Douglas Crockford, who is a legend of JavaScript, a FrontEnd guru, and is currently a senior JavaScript architect at PayPal. Lars Klint, who is the current Microsoft MVP, an authority on all things Windows Platform, and is heavily involved in the space of HoloLens and mixed reality, also attended the conference.

Meet Cortana – Using Voice Recognition in Your Apps

One presentation that caught my attention was by Lars Klint, who was an experienced and humorous speaker. Apart from a great presentation about a mixed reality created by interactive holographic images, Lars also focused on voice recognition and introduced a broad area of possibilities of Cortana, an intelligent personal assistant application created by Microsoft.

Starting with simple things such as running programmes, Lars then showed that Cortana can do many more complicated tasks. Based on a weather forecast, the personal assistant advised the audience what kind of clothes they should wear that day. Cortana can also tell you how far is to get to a chosen destination and how much travel time is needed for a departure.

Lars also raised the issue of making computer usage easier for disabled people with the help of Cortana. Besides showcasing some of Cortana’s possibilities, Lars allowed us to dive into his code a little bit and explained how to start programming with this kind of technology. Unfortunately, the technology is still not well-developed, especially in Poland. However, Lars claimed that it has the potential to be popular in the future. So… “Hey Cortana. Tell me how to get to the coffee machine.”

See how to speak with Cortana:

So, how do Google, Bing, and Yahoo work?

Another intriguing presentation was made by Allen O’Neill, a consulting engineer with a background in enterprise systems who is obsessed with IoT and Machine Learning. He runs his own company that specializes in systems architecture, optimization, and scaling. This enthusiastic speaker informed us that most network traffic is not generated by people, but by bots that can imitate human behavior. He categorized them into good bots, bad bots, and those we cannot easily define. Allen stressed that bots can be both a threat and serve an important role at the same time.

Based on several examples, he convinced us that searching staff isn’t that hard and showed how a search engine works by comparing it to a sieve system. Imagine we want to find a red cat in a huge data set. The first thing we should do is reduce a set to consist of animals only, and then to all small animals, and then to cats, and then finally to cats with red hair. Maybe that sounds a little corny, but if you think about the amount of information a search engine has to control, it makes a lot of sense.

Interesting issue mentioned by Allen was also parsing html tree. He explained it’s necessary to change information displayed by the search engines in a user-friendly way so the computers could more easily manipulate the content and did a quick overview of techniques and tools that can be useful to achieve this.

Your database is not your applications

Hubert Łępnicki, who is a co-founder of AmberBit, a software developer, and a system architect, gave a presentation related to Rails applications. Hubert showed us a different perspective on building apps architecture. Most of us live with conviction that database schema is a principle of well-written application and is the first thing we have to create.

However, there is also a different approach to use object-oriented design to focus on framework abilities and to treat databases more marginally. The speaker also pointed out the possibility of using NoSql databases in our applications and told us briefly about Elixir language basics, which joins the benefits both Erlang and Ruby.

Spotify – music streaming at scale

Niklas Gustavsson, the principal engineer at Spotify and an open source hacker, discussed how one of the most popular music services works. Although the subject was interesting, the presentation material wasn’t appealing to me. However, I was able to draw several valuable conclusions from the talk.

Niklas explained how to provide a high-speed service all over the world that allows users to get music immediately, without buffering. The speaker also admitted they are forced to use external solutions through CND (Content Delivery Network) and cloud services. Because their company is so large, they can’t afford to have as many data centers as they need to. He also went on to emphasize the significant role that people have within the process.

Other attractions

The Code Europe event was not only a series of lectures and workshops. You could also check out development prospects offered by prestigious employers in Poland and speak with them personally in the professional development zone.

Some companies organized competitions with cool gifts that you could win and even gamers were entertained with old-school game consoles such as Prince of Persia or Pacman. There were also augmented reality games for those who were interested in cutting-edge technology. Of course, this was all topped by the flavorful coffee that was served throughout the event.

What do you think about these kind of events? In my opinion, it’s a great way to develop yourself, meet others who are passionate about the IT field, and draw inspiration from the leaders of our industry.

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