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@ryanmr ryanmr/osn2019.md
Last active May 23, 2019

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Hey everyone,

I am living without a blog right now, but that has been on my mind over the last couple weeks. Setting up a blog tonight is definitely not workable, but setting up a simple blog-like gist is no problem at all.

I wanted to share here by Open Source North 2019 thoughts!

A brief preamble

In 2016, I learned of Open Source North and was lucky enough to receive a ticket from a friend. I attended that OSN as my first conference ever. Since then, I have promoted the idea of OSN being the best introduction conference for those new to the field. It's a local event, it's not too big, it's priced right (either inexpensive enough to be self-purchased as a student or pre-work, or cheap enough for a new hire to jump into without raising red flags at work for cost). I also say this is also a wonderfully well-rounded conference, ranging from frontend, to backend, to devops and more. Everything that intersects the software engineering technology space is covered in some way. Since then, I have been unable to attend so it was nice finally making it back.

Open Source North 2019

Session 1: SharePoint to Gatsby

This was one of the weaker talks due to my misinterpretation of the material. I was hoping to hear how someone could enhance the usability and experience of SharePoint (infamously unusable) with converting programmatically that content with Gatsby. I know Gatsby at a rudimentary level today, and the talk was broadly an introduction of the history of content presentation layers. No SharePoint really, to be seen.

Other talks: I would have gone to "Using Our Collected Consumer Data for GOOD, not EVIL" if I had understood better the aims fo the Gatsby talk. I hold privacy and data collection near and dear, and hearing industry perspectives about that would have been worth while. I also heard the What's new in C# v8 and Testing Lessons Learned from Failed Projects were awesome talks.

Session 2: NodeJS Application Security

One of the best talks of the day, with Yolonda Smith, a Lead Infosec Analyst at Target, was all about security. I love security and the method in which to subvert poor security. Yolonda talked about threat vectors in a broad sense. My favorite part was her perspective on the entire topic: "maybe we are still making this too hard". As an engineer, I want to make this product as secure as I can, but not know exactly everything to do so. Her argument was, together, engineers and infosec ops need to work towards making tools and patterns and awareness. While not a formal developer herself, Yolonda did make a cool package _spartan which demonstrates a model to integrate security practice directly into an application rather than just around it.

Other talks: The Cypress talk was interesting from a product perspective, but I am very shy tester - it's not my strong place and I enjoy thinking in security more. I heard the Elasticsearch as a datastore talk was good and the Navigating frontend Architecture was great.

Session 3: Beyond Microservices - with Kafka

This year at OSN, there were a couple shorter timeslots so there could be some varied lengths in case people needed to dip in and out near lunch for work reasons, and also to give smaller talks a place to grow. I thought that approach was great. I attended the Beyond Microservices - with Kafka talk. It covered the pros and cons of microservices today, and what came before, and what are the significant downsides with using them today (mountains of complexity). Event sourcing, of course, to the rescue! This talk was not so much about Kafka, a tool which will increasingly become important and core to many more modern services, whether they are complex or simple.

Other talks: I opted to not visit the Power of React Hooks talk - I use hooks everyday so I felt okay skipping that one. The Chaos Engineering talk would have been interesting, but it was cancelled.

Session 4: Location based AR

One of my good friends and podcast buddies, Brandon Johnson, presented his Location based AR talk! It was awesome to see the progression of idea, to investigation, to learning (trig and calc), and putting that together with technical techniques and tools. VR today is so far away from where we were two years ago when I last looked into these tools. Not only have we needed time for the technology to grow to find its purpose, but also time for the tooling to mature.

Other talks: I skipped the Vue talk. I remember in 2016, I was on the Vue train and I listened to a talk about Vue and it was pretty close to awful. I know plenty of Vue, and it's not in my day to day development cycle anymore. There was another security talk in this session time. Based on the synopsis I was familiar with the concept of scanning your JavaScript node dependencies so I skipped that one as well.

Session 5: Invest in Yourself, Others Will Follow

I love this title and you cannot stop me. One of my desires is to help others grow. Amplify comes to mind. This talk was actually a panel of four folks that have had interesting career paths into the industry, in different ways. One is a technical recruiter, another formerly a developer and now manager, another was a school district custodian (I guess...?) and suddenly turned into a Linux expert and open source creator, and another pivoted from BA to SE! What a journey. The talk was also open to frequent audience Q&A. During that hour, we heard from many about their short stories about relevant topics. They mentioned mentorship, getting your foot in the door, learning continuously, and finding the job you dreamed of. I thought this would be more management oriented, but it was more, as the talk's title suggests, focused on creating a better you.

Other talks: I thought the GraphQL via Envoy Proxy could be interesting from an Enterprise Solutions Architecture™️ perspective. I skipped it this time. GraphQL in Enterprise can relieve the ails of existing and older systems. Full migration is almost never an option in this world. Besides that, I also heard the JWT talk from Auth0 was awesome.

Session 6: Knative, Bringing Serverless to K8S

This talk turned out to be nothing like what I had been thinking. For the most part, it was a very successful talk. I had thought Knative was OpenFaaS but they are quite different. Knative is more of a set of foundational components to build custom FaaS platforms. I still have many more questions than answers about this topic. Attending was my method exploring this topic so that I could discuss this better (or try to) with the team at large when it came up.

Other talks: The "Better everyday talk" from Target might have been great. It's a promising model and I resonate with that one. There are many organizations that can also share in the success, if they can thaw enough. I heard the Code Reviews talk was also great. Code review often underused, and sometimes a formality to get code out the door and not used for learning as much as disgruntling.


OSN is awesome. It's a day, 6 talks out of 42 (math; it's hard). But it's enough to get you, no matter your stage in career, tangential relationship to engineering or development, excited about the field and the future.

For me, I often say to friends, I dislike watching videos about technical topics because I can read about them faster. Talks are like that in person too, there's either too little or too much content, not enough context or not enough relevance.

Despite that, joining 700+ to go and learn things is great. I really do enjoy chatting with the people that visit from the sponsors. They're the ones helping the industry be more than people sitting in offices sweat-shopping away at keyboard. They're the ones trying to help make this industry make industry as a whole better. Sure, and yes, there are bad actors today in tech and in industry. But this event makes me think it can change, and we can help change it.

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