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Strangeloop 2017 notes

STRANGELOOP 2017, St. Louis, Missouri

Note: most talks are already on YouTube, with supplementary material on GitHub

This is a writeup of the talks I attended. There are some gems I'm yet to watch the recordings of, but I'll list them at the end based on the things I heard about while chatting to other attendees feel free to use them as a jumping off point for discovering the talks.

Day 1

Opening keynote: Measuring & Optimising Tail Latency

How to reduce the pesky long tail of queries using various approaches. It's all about that CFD curve. A googler discusses the amount of work they put into generating meaningful metrics [such as dedicating a single core on multicore CPUS to timing tasks to minimize blocking] and then figuring out how to identify and optimise longer running queries. Sometimes it's worth increasing the lower bound of response times if it means serving the 99th percentile in a much more timely manner.

Inside Twitter's Realtime Delivery of Tweets for Enterprise Customers

Hey look! It's the BOF! And they use Kafka! Really heartening to see a company as large as Twitter approaching a scale problem in similar ways to us. Worth a watch for the high level architecture overview and a description of their filtering

A software engineer describes the trials and troubles of bringing hackathons to a traditionally nontechnical organization.

"It Me": Under the Hood of Web Authentication

A dive into various authentication mechanisms and frameworks in common use today. A very useful overview on common authorisation implementation pitfalls and how to avoid them. Talks about timing attacks, SMS authentication vulnerabilities, session management pitfalls, and more.

Narrated Reality

The creative technologist well known for his two computer generated screenplays Discusses how he got started training LSTM [Long Short-Term Memory] Neural Networks with works of literature, in an attempt to generate a running commentary on his life. Eventually led to three separate devices - a camera, a clock and a compass, each using the input to provide a piece of descriptive text. Nothing really technical here but it's always good to see creative minded people using technology to delight and inspire just for the sake of it.

Addressing the Parallelism Gap in Replicated Server Systems

A talk about minimising the replication lag in distributed replicated normalised databases. I need to rewatch this, it was post-food and very dense.

EoS in Kafka: Listen up, I Will Only Say this Once!

An accessible introduction to how Kafka implements its Exactly Once Semantics mechanism to guarantee exactly once message delivery. Worth a watch if only to increase your understanding of some of the underlying kafka magic.

Closing Keynote: Public Interest Technologists [no recording]

Matt Mitchell talks about his work in CryptoHarlem and other places, teaching people to take control of their digital privacy. Tries [by the sound of the audience reaction, successfully] to persuade everyone in attendance to take a sabbatical and go work for a nonprofit.

Day 2

Opening Keynote: Rebuilding the Cathedral

A talk addressing the imbalance of mantainers to contributors in open source software and managing the sheer volume of interactions required in making, and keeping, a project successful.

Biomaterials: Designing new User Experiences

A speculative talk which gave an overview of the state of the art in biologically engineered materials [thermoregulating dynamicaly vented clothes! mushroom bricks! silkworm geodesic domes! stem cells for, basically everything!] and asks the question: We are entering an era where more and more people are making everyday objects smarter. What will these new building blocks enable?

Keeping Time in Real Systems

A talk discussing how to resolve update conflicts in distributed DBs through having an accurate understanding of time. It compares Spanner's TrueTime, an augmentation of [very accurate, globally synchronised] with an uncertainty window, with vector clocks – a purely logical representation of time. Introduces the idea of hybrid logical clocks, which CockroachDB is using [and that's where the talk ends].

How to *be* a Compiler

This was amazing. As described: "An introduction to compilers for people who knit, made by people who knit". Worth a watch just for the analogy alone and a great example of explaining a nontrivial concept using an unorthodox analogy.

The Security of Classic Game Consoles

Another infosec talk! This time the speaker does a good job of highlighting the similarities between the hardware exploits used in classic game consoles and how it should inform your software design.

Closing Keynote: Adam Savage [No recording, looking for a transcript]

The Mythbusters star spends an hour talking about his days at ILM, his workspace ["I do everything in order to let me work as fast as I can think"] and how he dealt with impostor syndrome. The thrust of the talk really was that people should take the time out to focus on their mental wellbeing, which in turn helps them grow and teach and help others.

Talks with buzz:

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