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    Tech takes its conferences seriously.

    Maybe I’m old, but my attitude towards conferences is that they’re a great opportunity to get your boss to pay for a vacation where you drink yourself into a coma while salesbeasts from various vendors gamble that maybe you might be the decision-maker who buys whatever crap they’re shoveling that day, and just to be sure, they’ll throw a few vendor-parties where they get you even drunker, just to get your guard lowered.

    Then again, 90% of the conferences I’ve been have been sponsored by major vendors. I’ve been to a smaller conference or two which had barely any vendors, and also were significantly more sober (but way more board games). I’ve attended lots of talks, but the only two speakers I could mention off the top of my head were Larry Wall (notable because his slide deck was in Vim) and Mohinder (notable because he’s a former co-worker who is doing machine-learning stuff now, which is a nice step up from the crappy LOB apps we wrote together).

    I’m just surprised to hear that conferences are a thing people take seriously.

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      I think it depends a lot on the field. In games, for example, the Game Developers Conference (GDC) has long been important, with a lot of business and hiring done in and on the periphery of the conference. And in graphics, at the industry/academic boundary, SIGGRAPH has been very important; many people got hired at places like Pixar almost entirely on the strength of impressing someone with a SIGGRAPH talk. Usenix is another conference with some influence in its area.

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        I can’t speak to the others but quite a few good papers in my collection have Usenix in them somewhere. I might try to attend it some time.

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        “because his slide deck was in Vim”

        I’m guessing like this:


        That’s original. I’d never have considered it. Great contrast to common styles.

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          In the same way that having extracurriculars will improve your chances of getting into college, having experience outside of work will improve your chances of getting a job. It can be user group stuff, open source contributions, conference speaking, or other stuff. Conference speaking has the added benefit (particularly for independent professionals) of getting your name in front of people who are interested in a topic you have expertise in.

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            The first few conferences I went to out of interest, and the last few I went to get out of the office. I didn’t even attend the full days; I think one day it was really nice outside so I found myself a bar and had a beer in the sun, then went for a walk. I probably got as much out of that as I would have from being stuck in a lecture hall.

            Now I don’t go to conferences, and I’m generally skeptical of their value.

            On the other side, I have some friends involved in the computer vision and machine learning world and they seemed to get something out of their conferences.

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            Learning programming is hard

            I couldn’t agree more with this. It’s really hard. I don’t believe most people actually can learn programming well, and I think a lot of the capability for being a good programmer comes from winning the genetic lottery, and upbringing.

            Being smart, being logical and rational, having the ability to focus for long periods of time, being able to construct complex mental models about very abstract things, and applying all that for years to learn the trade (which you can never stop doing, lest you become outdated and unemployable) - you need most or maybe all of that. I suspect a lot of that stuff is hard or maybe impossible to teach.