The late (much) lamented Douglas Adams once famously observed:
"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by".
It's a great quote, but if you compare the date of this post to the date of the event it describes, it is clear that at the moment I seem to share the same approach to deadlines while writing blog posts as Douglas did while writing episodes of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for the BBC.
At least he didn't have to deal with recalcitrant build servers, I suppose. Anyway, back to the subject at hand...
This year's ACCU Conference was held at the Marriott Hotel Bristol on 9th - 13th April. That in itself was rather noteworthy, as for as long as we have been going to this conference (since 2007, amazingly), it has been held in Oxford. Bristol was new territory for us.
The ACCU 2013 foyer and registration desk
The main hallway at ACCU 2013
As ever, Blackwells were offering tempting discounts for ACCU 2013 delegates on their stand
If knowledge reuse is your thing, John Jagger's Bletchley Park fundraising bookstand was the place to be
Beth and I arrived at the conference venue on Monday afternoon, and started setting up on Tuesday. The venue is a good one (and most importantly: one which gives the conference space to grow again!), but obviously after so many years at the previous venue in Oxford there were lots of little things to relearn and adapt to.
Almost all of the usual faces were there, so it was good to see everyone again and catch up with what they've been up to over the last few months.
One minor change for me is that I've finally gone tablet and was taking notes this year in Evernote on a Nexus 7 3G rather than a netbook. The netbook is easier to type on, but being essentially a big phone the Nexus proved to be much more spontaneous in nature (though the lack of undo/redo and not being able to plug in a USB key without adaptors and rooting the device proved to be a bit of a pain). But you can't have everything, right?
Our stand (below) was at the far end of the long hallway in the second photo above, opposite one of the entrances to the main conference room.
Like all of the sponsors we had a tea/coffee point (with expresso machine!!!) next to us, and during the breaks food was served directly from tables directly opposite all along the hallway (so if one catering point was too busy, you could just find another one without any trouble).
The Riverblade stand at ACCU 2013 just after we'd finished setting up
In practice, the layout worked pretty well (catering in particular was less of a bottleneck than at the previous venue), although the hallway did get a little crowded at times.
Eben Upton of the Raspberry Pi Foundation kicked things off in fine style on Wednesday morning with an entertaining keynote during which he described the concepts behind the Raspberry Pi, and some of the more surprising things people are doing with it.
"Shared family computers are not compatible with kids learning to program - installing Python would disturb the viruses" - Eben Upton
Although we saw him give a similar talk at least year's Agile on the Beach, it was a very enlightening and entertaining keynote.
Eben Upton's Raspberry Pi keynote
On Wednesday afternoon I was among those who did a 5 minute stand-up during Pete Goodliffe's "Becoming a Better Programmer" session.
Pete Goodliffe's 'Becoming a Better Programmer' session on Wednesday afternoon
My talk was on the subject of continuous refactoring, and titled "If it ain't broke, do fix it" 1. As luck would have it, I was up last and by the time my turn came I was really nervous and my delivery was all over the place.
I honestly thought I'd completely fluffed it - so when during his Cheating Decline: Acting now to let you program well for a really long time keynote the following morning Brian Marick said that of all of the presenters in that session I was the one who nailed it for him - and them called me up front to present me with a book 2 - you could have knocked me over with a feather (fortunately nobody did, and I made it back to my seat without incident).
The big draw this year was of course Bjarne Strousrup's keynote C++ 11 The Future is Here, and his follow up session on the roadmap for future versions of the standard - notably C++ 14 and C++ 17.
Bjarne Stroustup presenting 'C++ 11: The Future is Here' at ACCU 2013
Bjarne actually stopped by our stand at one point, but rather than talking about our stuff to any great extent we spent most of our conversation talking about arcade games (we have a Space Invaders keyboard on one of the machines on our stand).
Still, to have the opportunity to chat with the author of the C++ programming language about your stuff - however briefy - is pretty damn cool no matter how you look at it!
Thursday afternoon was Olve Maudal's famous (and appropriately titled) C++ 11 Pub Quiz - which of course took place in the bar. The fact that we were all offered a free pint (sadly, bottled as the bar did not have any real ale) made the atmosphere as relaxed and fun as I'm sure you can imagine.
Although some of the questions were obscure (to say the least) the answers were at least subject to a well lubricated peer review!
Olve Maudal's 'C++ 11 Pub Quiz' at ACCU 2013
While on the subject of liquid non-caffeinated refreshments, mention must be made of the astonishing Bloomberg Lounge which featured at this year's conference. For some reason (beer, perhaps?) I didn't take any pictures in there, but if you imagine a fairly bright but relaxed area with bar, retro gaming machines and a pool table you aren't far off the mark.
Bloomberg were obviously showcasing their trading displays, which as a user interface developer I found quite interesting in themselves. Astonishingly, Bloomberg also sponsored a free bar for much of the week - a gesture many delegates took good advantage of as I am sure you can imagine!
ACCU 2013 Lightning Talks
The lightning talks this year were a blast, but for my money the highlight was a talk by Michel Grootjans on the "Ook" programming language:
Michel Grootjans presents 'Ook: A programming language designed for orang-utans' at ACCU 2013
Seriously, some of the stuff you encounter at tech conferences is just comedy gold.
On Thursday evening the conference hosted Bristol Girl Geeks, at which Astrid Byro, Francis Buontempo, Kate Gregory and I all gave short talks. Mine was titled "All alone in a sea of hairdressers", and described our experiences in the nine years since we started Riverblade, and some of the lessons we've learnt along the way.
The title of the talk is a reference to the fact that when we first started in 2004, we seemed to be the only tech startup on the networking circuit in Bournemouth (but there were however a lot of hairdressers and garden designers...).
Jon Jagger and Kevlin Henney closing ACCU 2013
We thoroughly enjoyed the conference, so if you've not been to an ACCU Conference before we can certainly recommend it! Copies of the slides for most of the sessions which took place during the week are available via the ACCU website.
Finally, if you want to get a good feel for the atmosphere at the conference, you can do a lot worse than to check out the photos, videos, tweets and slides on the ACCU 2013 Eventifier page.
See you at #accu2014!