Zed Shaw’s Writeup of CUSEC 2008

by Joey deVilla on January 28, 2008

Zed’s “Zed playing guitar graphic” laid over the CUSEC 2008 banner

Zed Shaw’s title for his writeup of the CUSEC 2008 conference sums up his opinions: CUSEC 2008 Rocked Hard!. It’s a telling sign when the master of over-the-top condemnation has nothing but praise for your endeavour.

Here’s a quick summary of his points:

  • “The first thing I’d say about this conference, and many of the other small regional conferences is just how well organized they are compared to the professional and larger conferences. The CUSEC organizers are all volunteers from universities, yet they were better planned, had their act together, and really knew how to put on a show.”
  • Montreal however reminded me of what Canada is supposed to be: friendly, cool, relaxed, and open. The sexy French accents helped push this perception, but also the food, the fact that strip clubs were everywhere, the streets were clean, people smiled at me (nobody in Vancouver smiled) and everyone seemed to be having a good time.
  • Tim Bray’s presentation: “It was a decent talk, and I think the audience got some valuable information out of it…I liked Tim’s talk since it was perfect for students starting out, and it dovetailed well with a talk by Dr. Peter Grogono on the same subject.”
  • Kate Hollenbach’s presentation: “What she demonstrated is a way to do simple visualizations using a Python simplification wrapper to most OpenGL primitives. What impressed me the most is she did live demos of large scale 3D visualizations based on information from internet services like Facebook. She did this live right off the internet and it didn’t tank on her. If the project already can survive the demo effect then it’s doing pretty damn good.”
  • Zed’s keynote: “I did my keynote in Factor using a neat presentation DSL that Slava wrote up for another presentation he did. You can grab the source to it here. Then go grab the 0.91 release, put the file in extra/cusec2008/ in the Factor directory, and then just start factor and type: “cusec2008” run to start it. Yes, I make it hard to read through on purpose you bastards. Learn something for a change.” (That crazy Zed, always working that “Magnificent Bastard” persona…)
  • The points from Zed’s keynote:
    • I work at a stupid bank on a cool project.
    • They’re bureaucracy almost crushed the project.
    • They tried to push through a product we couldn’t use due to a major theoretical limitation in how ACLs work: they aren’t turing complete.
    • Steak And Strippers! The sales guy’s dirty bomb.
    • After months of wasted effort on the project and fighting stupid politics we finally implemented something better.
    • This kind of thing makes being a corporate programmer suck, suck, suck!
    • Don’t be a corporate programmer. They demand all of your creativity and trust none of your judgment.
    • But, you’ve gotta eat so if you do become one, here’s how you survive.
    • Then tons of advice on how to survive and be happy until the moron MBAs who know nothing of technology die off and are replaced with people who get it.
  • “Another thing that impressed the hell out of me about the audience is that many of them actually came up and told me they didn’t agree with all that I said. Other conferences I’ve been to people either don’t speak up when a speaker is being an asshat, or if you do challenge the speaker he gets all pissy.”
  • “What blew me away first off is that the audience asked actual fucking questions. I’ve been to so many conferences where half of the shit the audience spews out of their mouth hole after the talk isn’t a question. They state what they think, talk about their own work (which usually sucks), and just don’t ask a fucking question. The CUSEC attendees rocked because they got up, and not only asked great questions, but asked challenging ones that caught a few speakers off guard, myself included.”
  • “CUSEC was full of great independent thinkers and I hope they never lose that. Always question the people telling you how it should be and demand evidence. If some shit head Haskell moron tells you that software should be stateless, then ask him why there’s monads. If someone says that you should be doing more usability, then ask him why his website sucks shit.”
  • At CUSEC the corporate talks were actually useful and given by non-sales people. They did include pitches to hire folks, but not but based on how cool their product was and how interesting the work is. Additionally, I had managed to inoculate most of the students against stupid sales pitches so most of the people trying to recruit had to throw in, “We don’t suck like Zed says other corporations suck.” I was actually also proud since throughout the rest of the conference students would yell out “Steak and Strippers!” whenever it was funny.
  • Jeffrey Ullman’s keynote: “Pretty neat stuff, and since he’s basically the grandfather of google having been their thesis adviser, it was worth seeing.”
  • Idee’s presentation: “The demos were impressive.”
  • Idee’s as a start-up: “Then they mentioned that the two partners actually had 2.1 million of their own money for the “start-up”. That pretty much killed the talk for me. Technically it was excellent, but if you come to me and say you got your business off the ground by a heavy investment of 2.1 million bones then I don’t call you a start-up. A start-up is Woz and Steve Jobs making circuit boards in their garage on nothing. With that much money you’re just a business.”
  • On Slava Pestov’s no-show: “…he whimped out at the last minute and decided to defend his MSc. in Mathematics instead. Loser. No worries though, because I got Slava’s CUSEC speaker’s plaque and plan to take it on a disgusting traveling gnome style tour of NYC before mailing it to him.”
  • Jeremy Cooperstock’s presentation: “It was a kick ass talk about how the current internet can’t handle the required latency for musicians in different locations to perform together.”
  • On Jon Udell’s talk: “One thing I found annoying about Jon Udell’s talk is that, just like all the other RESTafarians, didn’t have a clue about HTTP. He mentioned that you could use ’;’ in a URL to give people hierarchy, but that’s just dead wrong. It’s the exact same problem that Rails ran into, since ’;’ is a path parameter and isn’t part of a file name at all. It’s right there in the HTTP spec that you can’t do it, and part of the grammar even, but REST people don’t have a clue. They think if they can put the char in a file on their modern file system then it can go in a URL. Not true at all since HTTP was built before most modern file systems…I later had the chance to sit next to Jon and chat with him. He’s a smart guy for sure and very nice. Just wish he wasn’t telling kids how to do REST.”
  • Jeff Atwood’s talk: “Finally I watched Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror fame talk about what a lot of other people have said and why you should blog. I completely agreed with everything Jeff said, except for a tiny bit of hypocrisy he didn’t fess up to until asked…Jeff is a great public speaker too. Even though I disagreed with a few of his points I really liked his talk and would see him speak again any time.”
  • Don’t just fucking blog, but write some software and give it away. While the average person can only read a human language, the people you really need to hit with your message as a programmer are other coders. I’d say that’s the best thing I’ve done for myself, not really the blogging.
  • I have a policy of not naming people on my blog since it’s normally a pretty fucked up place to get named. I’ll just keep it short however and say all of the organizers kicked major ass. They were all nice, awesome people that I’d hang out with any day. I’m glad they invited me to the conference and I’d come to the next one any time.

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