Last night I attended the Hacker News London meet up event. Not being very experienced in these kind of events, and having a disastrous experience at PHP London a few months earlier I wasn’t sure what to expect.
This time I prepped myself with a beer for confidence and a chili-con-carne for sustenance, before making my way to the venue. Although it turned out I needn’t of worried about either of these things. It was obvious from the beginning this was going to be a completely different type of event.
Walking into the room I was amazed to see how many people were there, the MeetUp invite list stated a max of 500 attendees, but I think that figure must have been surpassed judging by the lack of chairs available at the start of the night.
The water buckets full of beer and soft drinks plus tables ladened with pizza ( all free I might add ) provided a great icebreaker to start conversations with, and I quickly found myself in a small circle of people sharing their ideas, which was great. I absolutely love conversations where people have a great passion for what they’re talking about, and it made the social awkwardness I normally feel at these type of events almost non existent.
My favorite talk of the night was Dan Crow’s from Songkick which talked about managing code in an application which was growing ever more complex. More specifically how to keep a team of developers productive and happy whilst maintaining stability. The main points I took away from Dan’s talk were.
- Keep it simple.
- Keep things separate ( web services / backend / frontend )
- Remove unused features.
- Write concise, practical tests which don’t hold you back.
Other talks included Nic Ferrier’s talk on Elnode which is essentially a web server written in emacs lisp, his live coding/debugging was fun to watch. Nic had the unenviable task of going first. Unfortunately at this point there were still a lot of people turning up and networking which meant hearing Nic ( especially from where I was at the back ) wasn’t very easy, and I fear I didn’t quite get an understanding for the why of what he was building.
Kejia Zhu and Peter Westendorp’s talk on how https://www.foldable.me/ was brought to life was, in one word, excellent. I was particularly impressed with Kejia’s presentation skills. I loved the idea of a company with offices in New York and London combining engineering talent for one weekend to produce side projects. Foldable Me is a fantastic idea and has on the face of it been executed extremely well. I can see Christmas being a very busy time for this company.
Linda Sandvik‘s talk was about making things better, I’m always a bit skeptical of motivational type talks, but it was inspiring to see what she’s achieved in her life, simply by saying yes to things, from the sounds of it, mostly when she’s under the influence of alcohol. I’ve got a lot of admiration for Linda’s latest side project http://www.codeclub.org.uk/ which aims to get primary school children into coding.
The last talk of the night was from John Graham Cumming, who to be honest I had never heard of before, despite signing his partition to get the British government to apologize for the persecution of Alan Turing. The main point of the talk was to get across that even if an idea seems crazy and unobtainable to begin with, stick with it, it might not be as crazy as it first seems.
Overall I think it was a hugely successful evening, my only criticism would be that it was maybe one talk too many, as many people had left before John started his talk, and even I was clock watching at the end, not through boredom but through fear of missing the last train home.
I’d like to thank Dimitiri Grabov, and Steve Buckley for organizing Hacker News London, and look forwards to attending the next one soon.