I participated Concat 2018 at Salzburg this year. I held a four-hour webpack workshop with Tobias Koppers, the author of the tool, and visited the event itself. Overall, it was a great one-day dual-track conference, and I don't regret going.
We held the four-hour workshop from 13:00 to 17:00. It was based on my slide set, Webpack - The Good Parts. I spent a good chunk of the preceding week updating my content to support webpack 4. Having Tobias around was great as he was able to go into more in-depth detail where needed and I also learned a few new things.
After the workshop and a brief break, we headed to the speaker's dinner. It was arranged in an Italian restaurant, de Cesare, and was high quality. I met several people including Rasmus Lerdorf, the creator of PHP. I understand the philosophy behind the language far better now and can appreciate the ecosystem for its achievements.
The conference started with breakfast although to save some time I ate one at my hotel. It is good to note the venue itself was about twenty minutes from the center of Salzburg as it was held at a local technical university. The place itself was amazing and had plenty of space available. The only significant restriction was that you couldn't take alcohol inside, but I didn't mind.
Daniel Clifford had the honor of opening the conference. I consider the keynote of a conference as the talk that sets the tone of the entire day. Daniel's talk was somewhat technical and expertly given. It reminded me of Benedikt Meurer's talks at AgentConf.
User eXperience (UX) is a relevant topic to web developers as when you design a user interface and its functionalities; you also have to consider different types of users. The talk contained theory and quotes behind the topic while there were also examples.
The talk didn't work that well timing-wise as it roughly 30 minutes instead of 20 minutes given to usual talks. A part of this had to do with technical difficulties that weren't due to the organizer. I feel the same message could have been gotten through by putting more emphasis on examples and then justifying the topic through that.
The topic fits the conference, but I feel the execution could have been stronger. But I think most of the audience got the point.
Cory-Ann Joseph's talk was built based on a narrative based on her career so far. The interesting fact is that she was a poker professional once. The central message of her talk was that entire industry can become disrupted fast by emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).
I would have loved to see more examples of how to combine AI with design towards the end. I believe there's a lot of potential in AI aided design where an AI helps a human designer to generate more concepts, faster. I don't think fully generative designs are feasible yet, but if we can push even a part of the work to a machine, we'll get better results, cheaper.
Ola Gasidlo's talk was on the second track, and by the time we arrived there, it was full. We had to stand, but it was still an excellent presentation. The talk discussed the history of the web and how we ended up with what we have right now. She also gave insight on how to get involved with its development.
There wasn't anything particularly surprising in the talk to me, but it was still an excellent recap. It would have been interesting to see Ola's projections for the future of the web.
Jenny Shen's talk on the second track was the highlight of the conference for me. I would have made it the keynote as the topic was relevant and the execution was top class. She discussed the cultural differences you encounter in design through her broad experience. As it happens, the way you design has to take the culture into account as otherwise, you'll end up with a solution that doesn't work well. Different cultures have different expectations.
Interestingly enough Jenny's talk complemented Ivana's one on exclusionary UX but a cultural level. It's not always about race or gender; it can be about culture as well.
Houssein discussed the popular PRPL (Push, Render, Pre-cache, Lazy-loader) pattern made known by Google. Houssein's talk discussed various possibilities in detail, and it fit the conference well. It was right after lunch, so I was ready to focus on the talk and appreciate it fully.
I skipped the next two slots as there was something else to do and continued on Varun's presentation about animation.
Varun discussed the mathematics of animation through various examples. It brought back some memories from my university time. I wish they taught this way as the concepts become intuitive through animation and can be fun to implement this way even. Once you see the applications, you will pick up the ideas as well.
After a coffee break, Max gave an entertaining talk that explained why his Styled Components approach works the way it does. It was an excellent introduction to the topic although I felt it could have gone technically deeper.
I would have approached it by live coding a naïve version on stage. It's essential as few people know the related APIs and find them magical. The magic goes away when you see how it all goes together under the hood. It's a minor gripe, though, and this way the talk was to the point without veering too much from its topic.
The conference had roughly forty minutes for lightning talks. The audience could vote which ones should go on stage and then the presenters did their best. The topics were varied and included ideas related to accessibility, productivity, CSS techniques, and Git. They were entertaining overall, and I wish a couple had been longer as there was potential for something more in-depth. Short talks tend to be more challenging to deliver than long ones.
The conference ended with Sara Soueidan's talk about SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and its capabilities. I knew you could do a lot with SVG, but I didn't think it's possible to do this much. She demonstrated how to implement its generative graphics and texturing capabilities for example.
I feel the talk was a little detail-heavy for the last presentation of a day and I would have been able to appreciate it more had it been earlier. I would have probably swapped her talk with Max's or had an inspirational, lighter talk at the end.
After the last talk, there was still something to eat and drink outside. From there people headed to the afterparty held in Studio 68 and MARK Salzburg. Although the location was remote and little tricky to reach, it was a good choice. I saw both Rasmus and Tobias singing karaoke and even made a few friends, so it wasn't all that bad.
I was positively surprised by Concat. The conference went without any significant hiccups. The content was solid although I might have gone with a different order. The food was excellent, and there was plenty of it. I have never seen a conference with this tasty food yet, and I have seen a lot of events!
Even though the conference venue was slightly remote, I can see why the organizers chose it. The space worked well, and there was enough of it. Compared to the other Austrian conferences (AgentConf, ScriptConf) I have seen this year, I would say Concat had the best space and food. AgentConf was on par when it came to the talks, and ScriptConf was solid as well.
Concat was a great find for me, and I hope more people will discover it. Salzburg itself is worth visiting, and a technical conference like this makes a possible trip even better. I wish I can participate again next year!
You can find more of my Concat 2018 photos at Flickr.