I was invited to HalfStack London 2018 as a guest as we are considering bringing the conference series to Vienna. Therefore it was vital for me to get an idea of the format and how the event runs.
It was my second visit to London. Although the city is a little rugged, I like it, and it's easy to get along. It's famous for having a vibrant technology culture, and it showed positively at the conference.
HalfStack is known for being a cozy conference that's held in a pub environment (a backroom of one) while being limited to one day and roughly 150 attendees. I like the single track format they chose, and I feel the schedule of the conference had been designed well.
The day started with an inspirational talk by Chris Heilmann, then went into technical topics, after which it changed gears into more fun talks and eventually the after party. The progression made sense to me as you tend to get more tired over the day. I might have preferred to have longer breaks and perhaps fewer speakers so this could be something we'll do differently in a Vienna edition.
The conference had a different feel than the others I've visited. It felt communal, and the fact that there were a quiz and other community-building events included mirrored this.
The venue was a little grungy in a pure London style. Some supports were obstructing the view, and the projector wasn't the best although it wasn't the worst one I've seen either. It might make sense to have a television in the back and mirror the slides there as now it was challenging to follow from there although the sofas provided in that section were nice. The venue also contained a bar from which food and drinks were served.
The conference started with a talk by Chris Heilmann. The key point I got out of the session is that we should push as much to tooling as possible. In particular, he mentioned webhint scanner that has been designed to support web development.
I agree with the sentiment, and this is why tools like Prettier gained traction as they allowed us to eliminate entire debates while enabling us to focus on what remains.
Ada Rose Cannon discussed the future of VR in the web. It was nice to see what's coming although it feels like it's still early days with the technology especially given the standards are still emerging. That said, it's the right time to start looking into the topic if you want to be amongst the first to adopt it. Also, it's a good chance to affect the development of technology by participating in the standards development.
Alex Lakatos discussed the emergence of conversational user interfaces. The point was that a UI doesn't have to be static. Instead, we can code fundamental interactions to a bot that behaves in a human-like manner while remembering what we've told it before.
Doing this means we could tell a bot, for example, to book a flight to Berlin for the next Sunday as usual. Based on that it would propose a trip that fits our patterns of booking before and suggests scheduling it. I can see potential in this type of approach as it's also more accessible than the current options when done right.
Anna Migas discussed how to approach user interface performance and to optimize it. The key learning for me was that there's still something for me to learn in-browser developer tools.
Liliana Kastilio discussed the recent security disasters that have happened in the IT sector. Security shouldn't be an afterthought. Instead, it's something to take into account continuously. As we bring packages to our projects, we also increase the possibility for a security breach.
It's in part an awareness issue but also tooling and a process level problem. It's tricky to solve as packages evolve unpredictably. At the same time, the amount of available packages keeps going up.
Andrico Karoulla focused on the new features available in ES2018. The key point I got out of the talk is that finally, we have a way to share memory across multiple processes. Earlier this has been a problem point when parallelizing execution and I am glad to see it has been resolved.
CSS is starting to feel like a complete programming language to me. If you know what you are doing, you can do a lot with it.
Carolyn Stransky focused on the crucial topic of self-care. It's too familiar in the industry for people to push too far and burn out. I felt the talk fit the conference well as it's a topic that requires awareness.
Tom Dye and Dylan Schiemann gave a breather type presentation and figured out whether the audience prefers cats or dogs. There wasn't heavy content included, but the session had its place before more content.
Jani Eväkallio's talk was about shifting perspective to why we are developing. Too often the focus of discussion is on technical details, and we can forget about why we are in the business in the first place. Individual decisions matter and through our personal choices we shape this world.
Joe Hart's presentation was another entertaining one. He discussed the history of games and had several live examples. We played Flappy Bird together and had great fun overall even if the last demonstration failed due to a coding issue.
I like the concept of HalfStack. It's a small community conference that seems to have found its place. I feel it was a great showcase especially for the local community and it was amazing for me to be a part of it for a short while.