Why I attend QCon

Before I write the rest of my conference notes, let me talk about why I attend QConSF for two straight years, and why you should consider doing it too.

Is it to learn some specific technologies?

No. There’s a jokingly formed term “conference driven development”, and there’s a rumor that Twitter adopted Scala because someone learned it really awesome from a conference. You really want to avoid that. Let’s face it: there’s no silver bullet for software engineering. Every scenario needs you, the engineer in the battlefield, to figure out the best strategy to figure out the problem, to find some way to solve it, to have an doable execution plan, and to iterate fast to get signals, tune it, improve it, and keep going.

I can tell you at Facebook we did a fantastic job migrating Messenger data from HBase to MyRocks. But can it be directly copied elsewhere? A clear no. In Netflix’ similar scenario, they used different technologies to migrate their 8TB data (well, not too big) from Oracle to MySQL, because tech stack is different anyway. But the ideas, plans and executions are similar: be very cautious, have extensive monitoring, and move fast.

Is it beneficial?

Definitely! Although I won’t bring a fancy technology back home, I found it quite inspiring. From different talks I realized something we are working on can be done differently, and something we got delayed or stucked can be approached by some ideas we didn’t think of. Again we can’t directly adopt some fancy framework or library and start using it right away, but if I haven’t come to the conference I won’t have such inspiration from purely my own mind.

Is it fun?

Absolutely! Instead of spending 3 days in the same office same chair coding on the same computer just as usual, I gained lot of new experiences, some of them first time. For example, I approached to conference organizer to thank him to make all this happen, I talked to popular speaker to learn what happened behind the scene, I took a selfie with a presidential candidate and had a quick small talk (they are really good at justifying their opinions by the way). Fun fact: I also learned unintentially that YellowCab from SF would charge you 50% more if you ride by more than 15 miles, so even dynamically adjusted fare offered by Uber/Lyft would cost me less, and to make it funnier the cab driver cannot really explain it or get the final amount right. No wonder this industry is disrupted.

After all…

In general, compared to QConSF last year, I found it highly similar in many ways. But I won’t say it’s a waste of my time: it’s exactly opposite. It’s partially because the conference itself aggressively collects feedbacks and incrementally make improvements in many ways, but more importantly, I am doing the same thing to constantly making progress myself.

I will keep posting more notes here about my other takeaways from these 3 days, so stay tuned.


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