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InfoQ Editors' Recommended Talks from 2019

Key Takeaways

  • Many of the InfoQ editor-recommended presentations focus on the organizational and people aspects of software engineering.
  • InfoQ editors enjoy presentations that provide insight into industry trends and direction as to where technologies and processes are evolving.
  • A good conference talk connects with attendees emotionally, as well as providing good information.
  • Popular technical topics recommended by the InfoQ editors include: Rust, WebAssembly, and Microprofile
  • In the DevOps space, InfoQ editors recommend learning about building systems that are resilient, from both technical and organizational aspects.

All of the InfoQ editorial team contribute to the website in a part-time capacity, as one of our core shared values is that our content is created for and by practicing senior software engineers and technical leaders. In addition to their day jobs, many editors like to attend software development and delivery conferences, and also to watch online recordings from talks available via InfoQ and YouTube. As part of the 2019 end-of-year-summary content, this article collects together a list of recommended presentation recordings from the InfoQ editorial team.

Charles Humble Editor in Chief at InfoQ

How Do We Heal
Alex Qin

Alex Qin explores why current approaches to tackling issues with diversity and inclusion in the tech industry are yet to produce meaningful change, and offers an alternative approach drawing inspiration from restorative justice practices and her work with the Code Cooperative, as well as her personal healing journey. It is an extraordinary talk; raw, deeply personal, and emotional, but ultimately offering a hopeful vision.

Crossing the River by Feeling the Stones
Simon Wardley

"I used to work for this company", began Simon Wardley in his QCon Talk.

"Fotango is an online photo service, 16 different lines of business. Many millions of users—small by today’s scale, but quite big back then. Revenue rapidly growing, very profitable. I had a problem though, and it was the CEO. The CEO was a fake CEO who didn’t have a clue what he was doing. I know this because I was the CEO, I wasn’t some sort of chess player, I was more the alchemist making it up as I went along."

His solution, now known as Wardley mapping, or value chain mapping, is becoming something of a phenomenon and more and more people I meet and talk to are applying it successfully. The third annual Map Camp took place in the beautiful Sadlers Wells Theatre in London with 660 people in attendance, and we filmed the event. But this talk, which was my introduction to Wardley mapping, is wonderful and if you’ve not seen it before you really should.

Why Culture Change Can Blow Up in Your Face, and How to Prevent It
Katherine Kirk

"Thank you for having me here today, because the last time I was on this stage I did a pretty bad job. My brain was infected with a parasite at the time ... and halfway through the presentation I was giving on this stage, all of a sudden I couldn’t connect concepts together. And people were very kind, but then I never was invited back for like three years. So this is a big one for me."

Culture change is notoriously hard.  During this talk Kirk explores reasons why changing culture is so difficult,  and why anyone trying to turn culture around can rapidly burnout.  She also explores reasons why every work culture eventually seems to degrade and dysfunction over time, and suggests approaches to help implement real cultural change.

It is also so lovely to see Katherine back and she completely smashed it with this talk.

Ben Linders Independent Consultant in Agile, Lean, Quality, and Continuous Improvement

A New Generation of Anti-Pattern: Self-Diagnosis as Solution
Raji Bhamidipati

Raji Bhamidipati discusses A New Generation of Anti-Pattern: Self-Diagnosis as Solution at in London. Many people in the room recognize the anti-patterns that she presents, and welcome her insights and ideas to deal with them.

Who Broke Prod?—Growing Teams Who Can Fail without Fear
Emma Button

At QCon London, Emma Button presents Who Broke Prod? -- Growing Teams Who Can Fail without Fear. It’s a great case study that shows the benefits of doing blameless post-mortems and what it takes to establish a culture where people feel safe to speak up.

Creating Cultures of Empathy
Sharon Steed

In the opening keynote at ACE Conference Creating Cultures of Empathy, Sharon Steed explains that as people we’re all different, which is actually an advantage if we’re brave enough to accept that by having empathy for each other.

Arthur Casals AI Researcher, Computer Engineer, Entrepreneur

Hackers Gotta Eat: Building a Company around an Open Source Project
Kohsuke Kawagushi

Kohsuke Kawagushi talks about the history of Jenkins, examining the cultural dynamics of the project and the challenges from both the corporate and open source perspectives. It’s a great insight on balancing a day job with a role in a community-based project. Presented at FOSDEM 2019.

Next-Paradigm Programming Languages: What Will They Look like and What Changes Will They Bring?
Yannis Smaragdakis

Yannis Smaragdakis presents a very interesting exercise on the future of programming languages, advocating that high-productivity languages are inevitable. In this talk, the researcher explores the common principles behind such languages, and how they will change everyday program development. Presented at SPLASH 2019.

Speed without Shenanigans: How Rust and WebAssembly is Changing the Web as We Know It
Szmozsansky Istvan

In this talk, Szmozsánsky István ("Flaki") introduces WebAssembly from a historical perspective, tracing its origins since the earliest efforts of compiling JavaScript and making web applications compatible across different browsers. The presentation also features an overview of how WebAssembly works and how it fits into the current and future web development scenarios, including its relationship with Javascript, Rust, and existing web browsers. This was presented at FOSDEM 2019.

Manuel Pais DevOps and Delivery Consultant

DevOps & Modernization: An Engineering Excellence Story
Scott Prugh

Scott Prugh takes us through a journey of modernization in a large enterprise. Fighting byzantine vendor practices and pointless CABs, while keeping a pragmatic focus on continuous delivery practices like feature toggles and the strangler pattern to modernize their application stack while supporting billions of transactions per year. "Don’t be legacy, be heritage" is one of the key phrases I take away from 2019.

Where Cloud Native Meets the Sporting Goods Industry
Fernando Cornago & Benjamin Grimm

Adidas went from being a company mostly outsourcing IT work and suffering from internal power struggles to a fast-paced digital competitor with a growing engineering force. In this talk they present their cloud-native approach, especially how they set up a bleeding edge platform that engineers actually love to use. And you can see the passion that they have for their code and their engineers!

Lightning Talk
Jon Smart

This brilliantly funny 5m talk from Jon Smart exposes all the cargo culting around Agile, DevOps, certification programs, and everything that ends up as wrong incentives rather than actually promoting better work environments and more engaged people. Don’t miss this proper Monty Pythons-level satire!

Erik Costlow Software Security Expert at Contrast Security

Practical DevSecOps: The Simple Free Pipeline Anyone Can Create
Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams discusses an easily-followed path of integrating security checks into development without requiring a slow reliance on manual experts. This talk explains why it’s important to integrate security into pipelines and how to move from manual verification to something that is continuous and automated. The benefit of including this talk for InfoQ readers is that it plots ways they can improve the security of their own applications even if they do not work at a large firm with a dedicated security team. For readers who have a security team, this talk helps them streamline the process.

Shane Hastie Director of Community Development for ICAgile

Agile Nation: New Zealand’s Response to Terrorism
Rashina Hoda | TEDxAuckland

In response to the terrorist attack on Christchurch on March 15, 2019, Dr. Rashina Hoda brings the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto and reinterprets them for what it means to be an agile nation. She shows how this could be an example for the rest of the world in adopting humanistic policies and becoming agile societies in order to tackle global challenges.

Futurework: Managing Complexity with Simplicity
Doug Kirkpatrick

Doug Kirkpatrick at Agile India talks about how self-management creates environments where people thrive, organizations are sustainable, and customers are delighted. He tackles the problems facing organizations today and shows how simple design and simple approaches based on self-organization and self-management are the most effective ways to tackle the complex environment we find ourselves in.

Big Data’s Ethical Drought: The Thirst for More Data Has Led to a Lapse in Ethics and Privacy
Katharine Jarmul

Katharine Jarmul explores how the advent of big data has enabled and empowered unethical behavior in many different areas. She provides examples of how this has happened and the impact it has had on society. She exposes the costs of ethics failures and provides advice on what we need to do to prevent breeches and improve the outcomes for society.

Shaaron A Alvares Agile Enterprise Transformation Manager at T-Mobile

Re-engineering Inclusion
Jill Wetzler

Companies still focus on diversity and not enough on inclusiveness. Jill Wetzler explores how people managers can create more opportunities to make inclusion a reality in career development, and how they can engage leaders to prioritize and act on inclusion. Wetzler offers practical takeaways that are applicable to any company.

You Don’t Own the Voice of the Customer
Tricia Wang

Wang states that "in theory we have user-centered design, but in practice we have me-centered design" because product and research work in silos and each believe that they are the best people in the organization to capture the voice of the customer. She then explores actions these roles and product organizations can do to give the voice of the customer back to the customers. Continuous collaboration is foundational in building the best products for end users.

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Results
Marty Cagan

Another extraordinary talk by Cagan about product mindset, the product manager role and responsibilities, and about the importance of truly empowered teams in achieving great product cultures. Cagan shares a wealth of information about what elite companies do, and what their leaders and managers do differently to empower their product teams.

Srini Penchikala Senior Software Architect

How Managers Can Spark New Leaders
Nick Caldwell

This is my favorite leadership talk from this year’s QCon New York 2019 Conference. Nick talks about high performing teams and the difference between growth vs. performance and delivery vs. discovery. He also talks about how to scale leadership and how leaders make new leaders. Some memorable quotes from this talk: "Your Network is your Net Worth" and "Code is a depreciating asset."

How Did Things Go Right? Learning More from Incidents
Ryan Kitchens

This is another great talk from QCon New York 2019 Conference. As new trends like Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) and Chaos Engineering at organizations like Google and Netflix become more mainstream processes in delivering quality software, embracing failures becomes critical to the success. Ryan says that failure is the normal state of software systems. Success isn’t absence of failures, but presence of adaptiveness. He suggests that the teams should ask more questions on "how" rather than "why", to learn more from incidents in production. Incidents are unplanned investments and how we respond to them is very important. He also talked about the "Learning Teams" concept that helps with continuously learning from the incidents.

Empowering People in the World of Modern Technology
Leah McGowan-Hare

Leah McGowan-Hare was one of the main stage speakers at this year’s SpringOne Platform 2019 Conference. In her keynote presentation, Leah talks about intelligence as the fourth industrial revolution (steam, electricity, and computing being the first three). Physical technologies like 3D printing and Internet of Things (IoT), and digital technologies like blockchain, AI, virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) are transforming the world we live in. The degree to which an organization or individual embraces or resists the technologies will determine their trajectory. She concludes the talk by encouraging everyone to volunteer their time and resources at local non-profit organizations.

Michael Redlich Senior Research Technician at ExxonMobil Research & Engineering

Live Coding Jakarta EE and MicroProfile
Adam Bien

At the recent JakartaOne conference, Adam Bien, Java SE/EE freelancer, author of several books and host of Airhacks, presents a full hour on how to get started using MicroProfile and Jakarta EE. He starts with a basic application generated with a Maven archetype. From there, he adds onto the application using MicroProfile and Jakarta EE APIs. He also introduces his own utility, Watch & Deploy (WAD) that scans a project for code changes and automatically deploys a newly created WAR file to defined Java runtimes such as Open Liberty, Payara, etc. This is a must-see for every developer.

Richard Seroter VP of Product Marketing at Pivotal

What Breaks Our Systems: A Taxonomy of Black Swans
Laura Nolan

We’re building more complex (and complicated) systems. More powerful, sure, but messier. Talks like this help you think through the unexpected. The speaker, Laura Nolan, goes through a series of Black Swan categories, with examples from real life scenarios. Watch this together with your team over lunch!

Building Resilient Serverless Systems
John Chapin

I feel like "serverless computing" is the first cloud paradigm that doesn’t allow cheating. Unlike with cloud VMs, PaaS, or container platforms, serverless environments rarely take your existing apps unchanged. No, you need to re-architect. This talk by John Chapin does a nice job of laying out the considerations for building serverless systems that handle failures.

Baby Got Feedback: How to Give and Take Feedback like a Boss
Sarah Hagan

I’ve spent the past year trying to get better at providing and receiving feedback, and liked this talk on the topic by Sarah Hagan. Sometimes we want to avoid giving feedback to not hurt someone’s feelings (including our own!). But the impact of high quality feedback isn’t up for debate. Watch this video and pick up some advice that you can apply immediately.

Steef-Jan Wiggers Azure Technology Consultant, Microsoft Azure MVP

Automated Testing for Terraform, Docker, Packer, Kubernetes, and More
Yevgeniy Brikman

Yevgeniy Brikman gave an interesting perspective on testing for infrastructure as code for Docker and Kubernetes. Moreover, the concepts of the test pyramid could also be applied when building cloud solutions using a different set of tools. I definitely recommend listening to this recording to learn about the tools available for automation of infrastructure as code and testing of it.

Stateful Programming Models in Serverless Functions
Chris Gillum

Chris Gillum, principal engineer speaks at QCon SF about stateful programming with Azure Functions. The general view on Serverless Functions is that they should be stateless, run isolated and not calling other functions, and only do one thing. With so-called "Durable Functions", developers can also create functions that run stateful and can support the workflow and actor programming model. I love this talk because of its depth, code, and demo’s.

The Future of Data Engineering
Chris Riccomini

This presentation is a great overview of the state of data engineering given by Chris Riccomini, software engineer at WePay. His definition of data engineering is: "A data engineer’s job is to help an organization move and process data." Based on that definition he goes through the stages an organization can go through to reach the end goal of "microdatawarehouses" -- decentralized and automated. A great talk if one is interested in data engineering and its future.

Daniel Bryant Product Architect at Datawire, and News Manager of InfoQ

Amplifying Sources of Resilience: What Research Says
John Allspaw

At QCon London, John Allspaw presents "Amplifying Sources of Resilience: What Research Says." Key takeaways from the talk include: resilience is something a system does, not what a system has; creating and sustaining "adaptive capacity" within an organization (while being unable to justify doing it specifically) is resilient action; and learning about how people cope with surprise is the path to finding sources of resilience.

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