On June 6 and 7 2019, the 5th WeAreDevelopers Conference (@WeAreDevs) took place, which – according to them – is the largest developer conference in the world. The venue was in Berlin for the first time, in the CityCube located on the Berlin exhibition grounds to be exact. The multi-purpose hall had enough space for the approx. 10,000 visitors and over 200 speakers, some prominent, from all over the world. In addition to the lectures and workshops, there were numerous opportunities to make contact with other developers and companies. The best-known companies present were Volkswagen, BMW, Deutsche Telekom, Google, Slack, TomTom, and Palo Alto Networks. In the exhibition area, they gave information on their projects as well as the technical requirements and hurdles.
Getting to the WeAreDevelopers Conference 2019
On the train ride from Cologne to Berlin, I used the conference app to choose some of the talks I wanted to attend. Unfortunately, there were overlaps between the sessions which were unavoidable.
Arriving in Berlin on time, I joined the queue for the conference pre-check-in at the main station. There I was given a lanyard and admission wristbands allowing me to enter the conference location the next day without having to wait too long. At the S-Bahn (local transport) station, some Eastern European conference visitors recognized that I was a participant by my lanyard and asked me the way to the pre-check-in. I probably directed them in my stammering English to platform 9 ¾. I hoped they wouldn’t recognize me at the conference!
At the entrance area of the conference, the participants received goodie bags containing, among other things, a charging cable, a notepad, and a T-shirt. Allegedly, the shirts were available in different sizes. But the goodie bags hadn’t been sorted and I ended up with Code Couture in “S”. Hello?! I thought developers were kept in basements with Pizza and Club Mate?! They don’t wear size S!
If you wanted drinks, you could queue up with other thirsty people for 30-40 minutes. With over 30 degrees in Berlin, water was highly popular and you had to pay 3,90 € per 500ml – almost the price of printer ink!
With the opening of the main stage, the conference finally began. A gigantic screen in the background showed the slides of the respective speaker and live pictures of the participants. The presenter’s welcome to the audience and her slightly over-motivated way of livening them up was met with restrained enthusiasm. The audience consisted mainly of Germans and Austrians. Of course, there were also participants from other European countries and from all over the world.
We weren’t allowed to ask direct questions during the talks. Instead, the participants could take part in live online surveys and ask questions which were later answered by the respective speaker after selection.
Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) gave the opening keynote speech on the main stage. Kasparov was well known to the general public – apparently even to the younger millennials. In 1997, the reigning world chess champion of the time was defeated by a computer for the first time in a match which attracted a lot of media attention. His opponent was the most powerful chess computer at that time, “Deep Blue”, a parallel computer with over 400 cores. It was able to calculate up to 200 million positions per second – nowadays this is done by free chess apps on mobile phones. Kasparov was so deeply impressed, he began to work on artificial intelligence and since then has written books about AI, as well as held public discussions. In keeping with this, his talk focused on the future of creative people in a world of smart machines. Things aren’t looking too bad for us since computers will remain quite uncreative for some time to come, and will keep on doing what humans tell them to do. So, we nerds are still in demand 😉 “AI is augmented. We aren’t being replaced. We’re being promoted!” Nevertheless, the digital tin cans have somewhat demystified the game of chess – or does anyone know the current world chess champion? In the afternoon, Garry Kasparov put ten voluntary opponents in their place, winning 10-0, in a game of simultaneous chess.
After Garry Kasparov, Dorothee Baer (@DoroBaer) entered the stage. The German Minister for Digitization didn’t seem too popular with the audience – or was she perhaps simply too unknown to the international guests? In any case, easily half of those present at the beginning left the hall during her talk. Bär lauded Germany as an immigration country for digital nomads and praised our digital infrastructure. Brave!
One of the best talks was held by Rasmus Lerdorf (@rasmus), the inventor of the PHP programming language. In his talk, the native Greenlander explained the genesis of PHP and gave insights into his private life. The main motivation for developing his own programming language was because it used to be incredibly complicated to write the simplest programs with pure text output. Lerdorf also wanted to lower the hurdle for getting into code. Other requirements were scalability, security and performance. As expected, upscaling was easy, but downscaling was surprisingly difficult – and to enable both together is rocket science.
As an example of something which he was very proud of, Lerdorf cited the website for finding missing persons following the earthquake in New Zealand in 2011. It was built and put online in a very short time by a Christchurch City Council employee without much previous knowledge. Besides the reviews, there were also some glimpses into the future of the new PHP version 7.4, which is scheduled for release in November 2019. Included are short closures, typed properties, preloading and much more. Of course, Lerdorf, in the meantime has also become a kind of “Messiah”, and so his advice was to do something meaningful with your programming skills – and for yourself. He doesn’t want programmers to just be nerds, but to be aware of the world around them and find a good balance between coding, hacking, and dreaming.
Other talks were about Micro Services, Serverless Applications, Kafka (data streams), Redis, Mutation Testing (e.g. with infection), and Blockchain.
Not to forget: Catering at the WeAreDevelopers Conference 2019
During the lunch break, you could get food and drinks at StreetFood cars outside the City Cube. The queues at the stands were quite long and after spending loads of money and with a lot of patience, you eventually came into the possession of a small burger, a piece of pizza, or Thai noodles. As a proud calorie owner, all hope of joy soon disappeared as there was nowhere near enough seating!
There was a barrage of complaints about the bad organization in terms of food on Twitter and in the congress app. The organizer promised a speedy improvement but the weather god put an end to this. Due to a storm warning the entire outdoor area had to be cleared. When the bad news broke out, just two people were standing in line in front of me at the coffee stand – and so the long-awaited brown gold disappeared once and for all.
After two days of the WeAreDevelopers Conference 2019, we had warm beer, lovingly served on euro-pallets. After three beers, I was done and it was back to Cologne for me.
The WeAreDevelopers Conference 2019 was a very interesting and exciting event, which, on the whole, was professionally organized and had a wide range of topics on offer – solely in terms of catering is there clearly room for improvement. In 2020, the conference will be held in Berlin again, with at least as many developers as this year. Maybe Avenga will once again be a small part of the conference?