I went to Craft for the second time this year, and it
remains one of the friendlier large conferences I’ve attended. Unlike many tech
conferences, it usually has as many speakers talking about culture and human
factors as it does technical talks. A couple of highlights from the schedule:
This was a clear, practical, and at times quite personal talk about giving and
receiving feedback in the workplace. I often sit and allow conference talks to
wash over me, but after Erika had been speaking for a few minutes I found myself
intently scribbling in my notebook. Here’s what I learned:
- names for types of feedback: affirmative; constructive; and the no-feedback
type of feedback, passive.
- how to receive feedback: say “Thank you,” then shut up.
- the qualities of good feedback: specific, thoughtful, and direct.
- a formula for good feedback: “In <situation>, when you did <behaviour>, the outcome was <impact>.”
I appreciated Erika’s use of repetition (in part through storytelling) to help
the audience learn more effectively, so I’d highly recommend watching the whole
thing rather than relying on my summary.
Anjuan gave an introductory talk on privilege: what it is, how to recognise you
have it, and how those with it can improve inclusiveness in their communities by
lending it to those who do not.
As someone who ticks pretty much every available privilege box (gender, colour,
education, religion, physical ability, parental) this was a particularly
important talk for me as it gave me some new ways to think about how to share my
privilege with others. Anjuan talked about different types of privilege lending:
- sharing credibility (by providing opportunities for individuals from
underrepresented groups to share, take credit for, or be rewarded for their
- sharing access (by making it possible for individuals from underrepresented
groups to make connections that are easy for me to make but might be harder
- sharing expertise (by sharing the fruits of the education or training I or
others might have received with those who might not have had access to it)
- sharing experience (by offering opportunities to gain experience that might
otherwise be difficult to get)
It occurs to me to add at least one item to this list: sharing risk. As a white
man with a great education, I will often have much less to lose from sticking my
neck out in order to fix problems in the workplace. Indeed, the example
Anjuan gave at the start of his talk (of Leonard Nimoy confronting the
when he discovered that Nichelle Nichols was being paid less than George Takei
and Walter Koenig) is very much one of Nimoy knowing that his reputation meant
he had less to lose by raising the issue than Nichols did.
I think it’s safe to say this is the first diversity and inclusion talk I’ve
seen that includes a line from Eric S. Raymond clearly demonstrating his
(Raymond’s) support for inclusion in the software community. Trolling at its
Some of my friends have been unlucky enough to be near me while I rant about
“serverless” and its rather dubious silence on the topic of TCP connection
Sam talked far more eloquently about this problem, and covered a number of other
“serverless” (sorry, it’s staying in scare quotes) failure modes and cautionary
tales. As always, Sam’s dry sense of humour made this very enjoyable to watch.
A wrap-up of Craft 2017 could not be complete without a mention of Damian’s day
one keynote. Between calculating π using PostScript and creating a programming
language based on the rules of Latin grammar, this has to be one of the nerdiest
and most entertaining talks I’ve seen in years. Brilliant.
I have just one piece of feedback for the organisers. The AWS Lambda opening
keynote felt very much like a “vendor pitch”, or possibly an in-depth technology
workshop. It probably would have been fine somewhere else in the schedule, but
putting it as the opening keynote of the conference was energy-sapping and
something of a sour note to start on. In future, I think everyone would be
happier if we could save the opening keynote for a broad and entertaining
culture talk such as the stealth
(video) given by Dan North in the