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Lead Developer London 2018

The opening of The Lead Developer London conference.

The opening of The Lead Developer London conference.

Last week, I attended The Lead Developer conference in London. It’s a conference about being a technical lead. The talks were a mix of general leadership advice (it’s all about feedback!), tech lead specifics (focus on the high-impact stuff in code reviews!), tech (ReasonML is cool!), and self-help (remember to exercise and meditate!).

I decided to attend the conference because I’ve ended up taking on some tech lead responsibilities and I’ve felt that I don’t know what I’m doing. Spending two days listening to talks about tech leadership seemed like a good idea.

The talks repeated the fundamentals: getting and giving good feedback is a key activity, you need to have empathy, and you need to be able to articulate why you’re doing things in addition to how. The hard part, of course, is putting these ideas in action.

The most interesting talks

I have this taxonomy of conference talks that I like. It subjective since it depends on what you already know. Here it is anyway:

  1. Clarifying talks. These do not necessarily teach you new things, but they make you see the things you already know more clearly and connect them to other ideas.
  2. Inspiring talks. These make you want to do things and do them well.
  3. Toolbox talks. These talks give you actionable ideas to use in your work. Great if the ideas are new to you, potentially boring otherwise.
  4. Tour talks. These talks walk you through a topic by covering a lot of ground with way too many details in way too little time. The audience might get confused, but I like that.

Here are my highlights from the conference in each of the categories. Unfortunately the videos haven’t been published yet.

Clarifying talks:

Inspiring talks:

Toolbox talks:

Tour talks:

On the event

Usually the conferences I go to have been organized by people who are not professional event organizers. The Lead Developer conference is organized by an event organizing company and it showed in a good way: everything was smooth.

My only complaint is about the venue. The lobby was so noisy during the breaks that it was hard for me to hear what people were saying. This obviously makes having a conversation hard and so I didn’t get much of talking to people. Otherwise the Barbican Arts Centre was a pretty good venue. Even though there were something like 1100 attendees, it didn’t feel crowded at all.

Some nice touches that would be cool to see at other conferences:

In general, I’d recommend the conference if you’re the kind of person who likes conferences, you’re interested in this topic, and your employer foots the bill.

A night in Nuuksio

My hammock by the lake. The cliff on the other side of lake is great for broadcasting your opinions to all the campers.

My hammock by the lake. The cliff on the other side of lake is great for broadcasting your opinions to all the campers.

Last summer, inspired by Rich Hickey and the general trends, I bought a hammock. I didn’t end up using it much: I only slept half a night in it. I had pitched it in the attic of a summer cottage, but there was no sleeping pad or underquilt. Even indoors the convection was so bad that my butt froze. I spent the rest of night in a bed.

Still, I wanted to get a full night’s sleep in the hammock outdoors! I don’t have a tarp and the EN13537 lower limit for my sleeping bag is 9 degrees Celsius (basically it’s a summer-only sleeping bag) so the weather would need to be perfect: warm, no rain, not too much wind.

Last weekend, the weather forecast promised exactly that! The night temperature would be balmy 8 degrees Celsius, the sky would be clear and there wouldn’t be any wind. I’ve never spent a night alone in the forest, but it was time to cross that off my bucket list.

I left home in the evening and after taking a metro, a train, and a bus, and hiking a couple of kilometers, I arrived to the northern Iso-Holma campsite in Nuuksio. It was already past eight o’clock and the sun would set at 21:48. I set up my hammock by the nice little lake and cooked some dinner.

Turns out that the a Trangia lid (at least a one that got bent) sucks for frying eggs. The eggs is stick to it and cook unevenly. I forgot the spatula home and the one I improvised from a piece of wood sucked as well. A lesson learned for the next time: either bring a spatula or learn to carve.

After the dinner, I settled in the hammock to read and to listen to the birds. There were cuckoos, woodpeckers, and woodcocks. I heard some raptors that I couldn’t identify and a black grouse, which I haven’t recognized before! A couple of whooper swans visited the lake, but luckily they didn’t spend the night there – they were extremely loud. And in the morning I heard what must have been a fox. All in all, it was a pretty good night for observing wildlife by ear.

Camping in Nuuksio on a warm spring weekend is not exactly a unique idea. In the national park, you’re only allowed to camp on the designated camping sites and each one I passed was full of people. I’m not sure if it counts as being alone when there are dozen tents in your vicinity. In addition to the birds, I got to listen to a computer science student praising CS and weed on the other side of the lake.

Sleeping in the hammock was… okay. While I didn’t freeze, my sleeping bag was clearly a bit too cold for the weather. They say that you should sleep in a slight angle in the hammock to avoid the banana shape. It was hard to get the inflatable sleeping pad nicely in that angle, so I ended up as a banana anyway. Next time I will try a foam pad - it’s more practical anyway.

Still, it was cool to sleep under the stars1. I’ve always felt that you have to have a tent to sleep in the forest, but that’s just not true.

  1. I didn’t see any stars.

Edit clipboard contents in Vim

Wouldn’t it be handy to be able to edit the contents of the clipboard in a text editor? Yes, it would, or at least I do it all the time. For example, I do it when I want to copy text from one website to another website, but I need to reformat it a bit first. For macOS, I have a script called pbedit. It is super-simple:

pbpaste | vipe | pbcopy

vipe is a small program that launches $EDITOR and allows you to edit the data piped between two programs. It’s part of moreutils, which Homebrew users can install with brew install moreutils. pbpaste and pbcopy are the built-in macOS command-line tools for pasting and copying the clipboard.

Try this, or if you’re a Linux user, fashion its equivalent with xclip. Soon you’ll find yourself using it all the time.

For more posts, see archive.