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InfoQ Homepage Articles Top Picks for QCon 2019

Top Picks for QCon 2019

In 2019, QCon, the International Software Conference for senior engineers and architects, visited seven cities (San Francisco, London, New York, Sao Paulo, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai). I had the privilege to chair the three English speaking conferences in San Francisco, London, and New York.

For the English QCons alone, 4,175 attendees engaged with talks from some of the leading minds in software. These are people like John Allspaw (one of the original thought leaders in DevOps), Bryan Cantrill (Co-Creator of DTrace, previously CTO Joyent, and now Co-Founder/CTO of Oxide Computer Company), Sarah Wells (Technical Director for Operations and Reliability London’s Financial Times), and Diane Davis (Astrodynamicist and Principle System Engineer NASA). Just under 500 speakers gave talks ranging from implementation practices using Kubernetes to practical lessons building machine learning at some of the most innovative shops in the world. These were the technologies shaping how we create software today.

After each conference, we’re often asked what were the most interesting talks. So each morning during the conference, I make a recommendation on what I thought were the best talks of the previous day. These are sometimes based on ratings and attendance, but more often they are based simply on the buzz around the conference or on social media. There’s no hard checklist that we use to qualify for the list. It’s simply what I felt were the talks you don’t want to miss from that day. The videos for these talks (and all the others) are always immediately available to attendees, but are freely released over several weeks to everyone else on InfoQ.

Below you’ll find the 45 talks (five for each conference day) put together into one list. As I mentioned, you can find all of them available now or in the coming weeks on InfoQ. If you can only watch one talk this holiday season may I suggest you make it Nick Caldwell’s Ignite the Fire - How Managers Can Spark New Leaders. Nick is the Chief Product Officer @LookerData (recently acquired by Google) and was previously VP of Engineering @Reddit. Don’t let management in the title scare you away. This is a talk for leadership at all levels of a company, and it’s packed with incredibly practical advice that you’ll be able to implement the day you watch the talk. While we don’t recommend keynotes in our daily QCon recommendations (since keynotes are already presented to the entire audience), Nick’s talk, in all honesty, is my pick of the year, and it wouldn’t be fair to skip it here.

Other standouts of the incredible 2019 keynote lineup would include Sarah Well’s Mature Microservices and How to Operate Them at QCon London and Pamela Gay’s closing keynote featuring an inspirational plea for citizen scientists at the recent QCon San Franicisco (soon to be published).

If you attended QCon this year, thank you. If you didn’t, I hope to see you next year (we’ll be adding a new English speaking QCon in Munich next year). In the meantime, below are my picks for your holiday watch list. Happy Holidays!

QCon San Francisco

Day 1

Parsing JSON Really Quickly: Lessons Learned
by Daniel Lemire (Professor and Department Chair @TELUQ - Université du Québec)

Mistakes and Discoveries While Cultivating Ownership
by Aaron Blohowiak (Engineering Manager @Netflix in Cloud Infrastructure)

Scaling Patterns for Netflix's Edge
by Justin Ryan (Playback Edge Engineering @Netflix)

Automated Testing for Terraform, Docker, Packer, Kubernetes, and More
by Yevgeniy Brikman (Co-founder @gruntwork_io)

JIT vs AOT Performance With GraalVM
by Alina Yurenko (Developer Advocate for GraalVM @Oracle)

Day 2

Beyond Microservices: Streams, State and Scalability
by Gwen Shapira (Principal Data Architect @Confluent, PMC Member @Kafka, & Committer Apache Sqoop)

Build Your Own WebAssembly Compiler
by Colin Eberhardt (Technology Director @Scott_Logic)

Mapping the Evolution of Socio-Technical Systems
by Cat Swetel (Agile Methods Coach & Advocate for Woman in Tech)

Holistic EdTech & Diversity         
by Antoine Patton (Holistic Tech Coach @unlockacademy)

Practical Change Data Streaming Use Cases With Apache Kafka & Debezium
by Gunnar Morling (Open Source Software Engineer @RedHat)

Day 3

Evolution of Edge @ Netflix
by Vasily Vlasov (Engineering Leader @Netflix)

Optimizing Yourself: Neurodiversity in Tech
by Elizabeth Schneider (Consultant @Microsoft)

Security Culture: Why You Need One and How to Create It
by Masha Sedova (Co-Founder @hello_Elevate)

ML in the Browser: Interactive Experiences with Tensorflow.js
by Victor Dibia (Research Engineer in Machine Learning @cloudera)

How to Invest in Technical Infrastructure
by Will Larson (Foundation Engineering @Stripe)

QCon New York

Day 1

Breaking Hierarchy - How Spotify Enables Engineer Decision Making
by Kristian Lindwall (Site Lead Engineering @Spotify)

The State of Serverless Computing
by Chenggang Wu (CS PhD student at RISELab, UC Berkeley)

PID Loops and the Art of Keeping Systems Stable
by Colm MacCárthaigh (Senior Principal Engineer @awscloud)

Let's talk locks!
by Kavya Joshi (Software Engineer @Samsara)

Machine-Learned Indexes - Research from Google
by Alex Beutel (Senior Research Scientist @Google)

Day 2

Java Futures, 2019 Edition
by Brian Goetz (Java Language Architect @Oracle)

How Much Does It Cost to Attack You?
by Jarrod Overson (Software Engineer @ShapeSecurity)

Robot Social Engineering: Social Engineering Using Physical Robots
by Brittany Postnikoff (Computer Security and Privacy / Human-Robot Interaction Researcher)

Scaling DB Access for Billions of Queries Per Day @PayPal
by Kenneth Kang & Petrica Voicu (Software Engineers @PayPal)

Empathy: A Keystone Habit
by Paul Tevis (Coach & Facilitator at Vigemus)

Day 3

Rust, WebAssembly and Javascript Make Three: an FFI Story
by Ashley Williams (Core Rust & Rust Wasm WG Team Member)

Ignite the Fire - How Managers Can Spark New Leaders
by Nick Caldwell (Chief Product Officer @LookerData, previously VP of Engineering @Reddit)

Making 'npm install' Safe
by Kate Sills (Software Engineer @agoric

Artificial Pancreas System: #WeAreNotWaiting in Healthcare
by Dana Lewis (Principal Investigator & Researcher)

Securing a Multi-Tenant Kubernetes Cluster
by Kirsten Newcomer (OpenShift Senior Principal Product Manager @RedHat)

QCon London

Day 1

Change Is the Only Constant
by Stuart Davidson (Senior Engineering Manager, Developer Enablement @Skyscanner)

Scaling for the Known Unknown
by Suhail Patel (Backend Engineer @Monzo)

Fine-Grained Sandboxing With V8 Isolates
by Kenton Varda (Tech lead @Cloudflare Workers)

Intuition & Use-Cases of Embeddings in NLP & Beyond
by Jay Alammar (VC and Machine Learning Explainer @STVcapital)

Risk of Climate Change and What Tech Can Do
by Jason Box (Climatologist & Professor in Glaciology at The Geologic Survey Denmark)
     Paul Johnston (CEO @roundaboutlabs)

Day 2

Building and Scaling a High-Performance Culture
by Randy Shoup (VP Engineering @WeWork)

Discovering Culture through Artifacts
by Mike McGarr (Engineering Leader, Frontend Infra @Slack)

The Three Faces of DevSecOps
by Guy Podjarny (CEO @SnykSec, previously CTO @Akamai)

Complex Event Flows in Distributed Systems
by Bernd Rücker (Co-founder @Camunda)

WebAssembly and the Future of the Web Platform
by Ashley Williams (Core Rust Team @RustLang)

Day 3

Crossing the River by Feeling the Stones
by Simon Wardley (UK Tech Influencer & Researcher Leading Edge Forum)

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse
by Andy Walker (Senior Director of Engineering @Skyscanner)

Functional Composition
by Chris Ford (Technical Principal @ThoughtWorksESP)

Amplifying Sources of Resilience: What Research Says
by John Allspaw (DevOps/Resilience Engineering Thought Leader, Co-founder of @AdaptiveCLabs, & Previously CTO @Etsy)

Designing an Ethical Chatbot
by Steve Worswick (4 Time Winner of Loebner Prize (Most lifelike AI) & Senior Artificial Intelligence Designer @pandorabots)


This article is part of our 2019/2020 trends overview. The insights come from our editorial team, all of whom are software engineers, who push the barrier of innovation in their professional lives. Read and reflect on their insights to inspire your tech visions and roadmap for 2020.

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