CUSEC 2008

Montreal, Programming

CUSEC 2008

Yesterday marked the end of CUSEC 2008, a three day software engineering conference for Canadian university students. While the conference has been going annually since 2002, this was my first year attending. I had initially planned to be quasi-live blogging the whole thing, but I hadn’t realized how busy the three days were going to be. Instead, here’s a quick recap of some of the terrific people I heard from at CUSEC.

Day One

  • Tim Bray – Hard Problems in Network Computing
    One of the co-editors of XML, he gave a great talk about some of the difficult problems that programmers are having little success in solving. I don’t remember the exact words he used (relying on my brain was a bad idea, I plan to take better notes next year), but the main problems were communication between different programming languages and taking advantage of parallel processing.
  • Dr. Marsha Chechik – Guarding Against Software Accidents
  • Zed Shaw – The ACL is Dead
    Author of the Mongrel web server and notorious blogger, he talked about staying creative in the face of bureaucracy and corporate greed. The part of his keynote that really struck a chord with me was that “managers want all of your creativity, but trust none of your judgement.” I had a chance to talk to Zed later at Brutopia and a little throughout the conference, he was a really cool guy with a lot to say. Here’s hoping he comes again next year.
  • Bruce Miner – Taking Risk

Day Two

  • Sylvain Carle – We Didn’t Start The Fire
    A self-described “venture technologist”, he talked about why we should consider founding or working for startup companies.
  • Michel Martin – The Evolution of Large Scale Business Software
  • Dr. Peter Grogono – Living with Concurrency
    This talk was a bit over my head, but it really made me appreciate what a problem concurrency is and will be in the coming years. Dr. Grogono is one of the most loved computer science teachers at Concordia, and after hearing him speak I can understand why.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Ullman – When Theory Matters
    Prolific textbook writer and Ph.D. advisor of Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google), Dr. Ullman spoke about the theory of how Google’s PageRank system works, as well as variations such as minhashing and locality-sensitive hashing.
  • Jeff Bailey (Google Corporate Speaker) – Hacking on Open Source After Graduation
    He talked about the history of OSS and why major companies like Google and IBM invest millions to develop it. I had always been interested in contributing to an open source project, but after hearing his talk I feel compelled to begin doing so within the next few months.

Day Three

  • Zed Shaw – Factor Tutorial
  • Dr. Jeremy Cooperstock – Music & Games: How Fun Applications Stimulate Core Technologies
    I really enjoyed this presentation, he began by talking about how the video game industry has been accelerating technological progress, which included some of his own research into the “next step” of virtual reality. The meat of his talk, however, was about his research into ways of overcoming network latency to allow people in separate parts of the world to play music and talk together naturally.
  • Jon Udell – Hacking the Noosphere
    Another talk that was a bit over my head, he spoke about keeping the focus of Web 2.0 and information sciences on people, and how we can gather information in a human-centric way.
  • Jeff Atwood – Is Writing More Important than Programming?
    As a big fan of Coding Horror, I had been looking forward to this talk from the beginning. In his keynote, he argued that writing for people was in many ways more important than writing for machines, and that it is crucial to “convince other people that your code, in a world positively overflowing with free code, is worth looking at in the first place.” His talk provided a counterpoint to some of the more technical presentations, and was a fantastic way to close the conference. Better yet, his talk inspired my friend Malini to pick up her abandoned blog again!

I can’t believe how much I learned in three days. Hearing from passionate people and being in a community full of fellow coding geeks has really inspired me to be creative, take chances and really explore the world of software engineering. I’ll definitely be attending CUSEC 2009!

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2 Responses to “CUSEC 2008”

  1. DrSkrud Says:
    January 23rd, 2008 at 4:04 am

    I’m really glad you enjoyed the conference! CUSEC has been my favourite part of my entire university career. ;)

    Say, Matt, would you be interested in being a Head Delegate for Concordia next year? That basically means convincing other people to go, and gives you the chance to peek in on the organizing process.

  2. Matthew Gallant Says:
    January 25th, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I came to CUSEC mostly on your recommendation, so thanks for the tip Skrud.

    I’ll talk to you Monday about this head delegate business.

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