My #confspree continues - this time I've invaded Budapest to participate (as a crowd fodder) in Craft - two-day long conference about software craftsmanship (surprise! surprise!). It was the first edition of Craft, so there was a chance that the whole thing would be a waste of time & money, but the price was affordable, Budapest is not that far away from Warsaw and speaker line-up seriously kicked ass - let me bring some names up (here's the full list):

  • Gojko Adzic
  • Bruce Eckel
  • Douglas Crockford
  • Eric Evans
  • Greg Young
  • Jonas Boner

You've got to admit it looked really well, but how did it actually go?

Who's behind?

It's quite interesting as well - Craft has been organized (AFAIK) mainly due to efforts of two most reknown hungarian start-ups: Ustream and Prezi (just admit, did you know those two are from Hungary? I didn't). Great initiative, great thinking. We have something like that happening in Poland as well - DevDay - and we want even more!

The Whereabouts

Once I've landed, I've discovered the horrible truth - whole city, nah, whole country has suffered from a vicious attack! All the texts (street names, signboards, restaurant menus, ...) have been encrypted! This may sound funny, but I've been in several countries and even if I didn't know the local language, I was always able to figure some stuff out, find words that look the same, etc. Hungarian language looks absolutely unique and resembles absolutely nothing.

Weird. Anyway - their cousine rocks - I had no clue what exactly I was eating, but everything tasted delicious.

The Venue

If you didn't participate in the conf, you'd rather not care about the venue, but I just have to mention that: Balna (The Whale) is awesome and looks absolutely stunning. Big enough to contain 900+ participants, with unique looks (check the pictures on the web), ultra-modern-looking haven in the middle of historical city. Impressive.

The Sessions

Let's get back to software craftsmanship - the main topic of the conference. On one hand, it's capacious enough to make every participant able to find something for himself, but OTOH being such generic forces the level of detail to remain on quite a high level: your listeners work with so many technologies, have so different backgrounds that it's much harder to present any kind of truly advanced topic - that may make some sessions look shallow (if the presenter is not smart enough to cover with entertainment techniques).

I'm not going to review every session I've attended - so I'll just focused on the ones I really liked (or find them noticeable because of some other reason):

  1. "Programming, only better" - the keynote session by Bodil Stokke

    This one was exactly like any other Bodil's session I've seen before - funny, full of mischievous remarks and ... ponies. But even if I usually like listening to her presentations (except the pony part ;>), I don't think it really fit its role as a keynote presentation. It was supposed to kick the whole thing off aloud, bring a lot of energy and wake people up, but this is not Bodil's style.

  2. "How I learned to stop worrying and love the flexible scope" by Gojko Adzic

    Nice, passionate speech. Gojko does not only write good books, but he feels good on stage as well. The topic itself didn't shake my ground, but the content was delivered in a very solid way, so I wasn't bored at all. That's how all the sessions on such conference should look alike.

  3. "Domain Driven Design" by Eric Evans

    As you could expect, the room (actually, the largest of all three) was full of people expectant of words of wisdom, flowing from Eric's mouth. His book got really popular between fellow developers and currently has a status similar to what "Gang of Four" book achieved more than 10 years ago.

    Unfortunately, the session was weak and ... well, uninspired. It's not easy to get people engaged in session about modeling, but IMHO Eric could do far more than he actually did. Too monotonous, too theoretical, too static. 0% entertainment.

  4. "Jackstones: the journey to mastery" by Dan North

    I had no clue who Dan North is - this session was not my primary choice, but as another session has been moved to another timeslot, I've ended up listening to Dan and ... it was a lucky bullseye. Funny, but discerning. Talking at ease, but straight to the point. Usually I'm not the fan of "soft topics" on tech conferences, but this may have been the best session of Day 1.

  5. "Graph Search" by Ian S. Robinson

    I always wanted to learn a bit more about graph databases and Ian from Neo4j team has helped me with filling that gap with his presentation. Very substantial & clear - can't complain really.

  6. "Architecture War Stories" by Stefan Tilkov

    Most likely the best presentation on Craft 2014 - Stefan has shared quite a few nice, real-life architecture decision examples that have caused some unpleasant consequences afterwards. He did it not only with a nice balance of what kind of detail is good enough to keep people enganged, but not having them lost, but also with a sense of humor. I had a great time and I think I was not the only one.

As far as I know, all the sessions have been recorded and you will be able to watch them on-line, so here's a list of some additional presentations I can recommend you to watch:

  • "Going Reactive" by Jonas Boner (if you didn't deal with reactive programming yet)
  • "Vagrant, Packer, Serf" by Mitchell Hashimito (if you haven't heard about those DevOps tools yet -> highly recommended)
  • "Agility and the essence of software architecture" by Simon Brown (quite generic, but worth listening anyway)
  • "Continuous Delivery Cookbook" by Stas Zvinyatskovsky (how does Yahoo do CD in their workshop)
  • "Polyglot Data" by Greg Young (if you haven't heard it earlier)

Unfortunately, there will be also some recordings I'd rather advice you to avoid:

  • "What makes a good development process" by Bruce Eckel (my biggest disappointment - that was a terribly boring session that lacked the overall sense of purpose ...)
  • "Data-driven software engineering" by J. Kabanov (some brave conclusions based on absolutely not credible foundation)

There were also some sessions I didn't attend, but other people have praised them a lot. Namely:

  • "Functional examples from category theory" by Alissa Pajer
  • "Conway's Law and You" by Michael Feathers
  • "Delivering Continuous Delivery Continuously" by Simon Hildrew

The People

As usually at conferences like that - people were a big advantage. I've met plenty of interesting people, heard a lot of good stories and I believe - I've learned a lot in that way. This aspect of conference participation is as important as listening to presentations - honestly. Kudos for orgs for putting a nice effort in the social aspect of Craft as well (like the evening event on Day 1).

The +/-

IMHO: Craft 2014 went very well. And I'm happy that I've decided to attend.

I liked:

  • the venue
  • the idea of collecting the questions on-line (sli.do)
  • the various and rich line-up of speakers (and topics)
  • reasonable ticket prices
  • orgs did a good job (except the delay at the very beginning od Day 1)
  • almost everything went according to plan -> I think that there was just one twist with the roster due to late flight and it was compensated on Day 2 anyway
  • all the sessions were recorded, so I can watch stuff I've missed

I didn't like:

  • the kick-off on Day 1 (before the actual keynote) - it looked like utter chaos
  • there was no official closing ceremony (people just disbanded after last set of sessions)
  • some sessions were definitely too shallow - suprisingly, majority of those were performed by so-called 'big names'

See you (hopefully) at Craft 2015!