I went to UIKonf 2015 in Berlin, and want to share with you in this post what made it magical for me, and what I learned there. This is more about the experience as a whole, and less about technical stuff. I warned you.
Upon arrival in Berlin, I was eager to find out what all the buzz about this city is about. Turns out, Berlin is the type of city that grows on you, slowly and steadily, as you let down your guard. I think many big cities stress you out by being too crowded, and because people are always hurried and a bit hostile to each other. Not in Berlin though - call me nuts, but I felt a lot of freedom and individualism here. Most public spaces are huge and spacious, and there are so many trees there.
The evening before the konf
On Sunday afternoon, attendees got to know each other by joining one of a few socializing events. I had chosen the Berlin music tour, but alas I was a bit late and therefore missed a few POIs. It was still well worth it! We wandered around Berlin Mitte, and our radio-MC-turned-tour-guide showed us the best places: the original Tresor discotheque’s location, a church where Element of Crime gave a concert, hotspots related to Rammstein and the Beatsteaks. And at the end we went to the Ramones museum, which was basically a pub-cafe with interesting exhibits. They told us that even the Ramones themselves had visited it once ;) But more importantly, we received a voucher to get our first beer of the evening.
For dinner, we went to a place called Clärchen’s Ballhaus, a place where you can dance or order Wiener Schnitzel as a side dish. I started to notice a thing about Berlin, at least that was my impression: people don’t care that much about how buildings look inside or out, and instead rather try to make places comfy by decoration, lots of plants, and by being friendly. And I think they got their priorities straight!
After a warm reception at the peculiar Infarm, there was free wine, beer, and gin tonic, and people were having a really great time. I had so many interesting discussions, e.g. about view controllers that fade into each other seamlessly, or functional programming nerdery with the speakers. My head was spinning - or maybe it was just the gin. I had been lucky to get a room in Motel One (where almost all speakers were located), so for me, the discussions continued in the lobby. I went to bed with excitement for the things to come; and probably too much gin in my bloodstream.
I think that the iOS community is unique, in that people help each other out, and that you form actual friendships with the people there. It’s more like being in a family than just having a job in common. And that’s what this conference and the venue really shined at - Standing in a sunlit backyard with some yummy ice cream during the breaks, you have no other choice than being open and letting yourself inspire from other people’s lessons. I think the most stories shared were not even technical, but more of the personal sort.
BTW the ice cream was handmade, and they even had vegan/gluten-free versions of this delicious, burger-like thing called „Zwei dicke Bären“ (Two Fat Bears).
Mike Lee opened with a stern reminder of what happens when we (the human race) cannot improve resource allocation and nothing is done about overpopulation: we’re all gonna die 💀
The talks were mostly just great, with more than a touch of functional programming this year: Haskell style in Swift (Joe Burgess), rolling your own FRP framework / ReactiveCocoa style (Jens Ravens), Functional View Controllers (Chris Eidhof)… Most speakers that talked about this had lots of experience with Haskell or Scala. The "M" word (Monad) was ubiquitous, and I have a feeling that most of the audience still haven't understood it in full - but I think that's ok, because conferences should tickle you into learning new things, and not force-feed all the knowledge.
Just when we were in functional heaven at the end of day two, Graham Lee told us, in a very thorough way, that we should not look at functional programming as a holy grail. And that, 20 years ago, there was this other thing called objective-oriented programming, and it was also thought to be the end-all-be-all solution to everything. And we didn’t ever end up using OOP properly. Bam!
Still, the main technical lesson I’m taking home: I’ll continue learning Haskell, and let FP patterns flow into my day to day Swift routines. Since I've been using ReactiveCocoa for quite a while, this feels really right to me. FP surely is not a silver bullet though.
Another talk that strongly struck a chord with me was by Ash Furrow, and he told us:
Everybody is just winging it. All the time.
And we should not be afraid of mistakes, because people are forgiving. And that we should blog as much as we can. And I couldn't agree more, so I'll do just as Mr. Furrow says, starting with this post :)
(Of course, there were lots of awesome talks that had nothing to do with functional programming or blogging - these are just exactly my topics currently. Please look at other posts (like @noxymo's) if you are interested in more technical details, or watch the recorded sessions once they come out.)
So, many people go to conferences only for the socializing events, and if I were among them, it would still have been worth it.
On the first day, attendees were left on their own to take care of their social life, so we went to various restaurants, and after that to random bars and clubs. The Berlin nightlife is insanely good, and so are the bar names. We (part of the Austrian delegation) went to a place called Die Legende von Paula und Ben, for some more gin tonic (yep). One of us knows some Berlin natives there, and we had some lively conversations about things and stuff. I also noticed then that people in Berlin are allowed to do anything with their outer walls:
Since the second day would be chock full of interesting talks, I hit bed quite early (1 AM).
Second evening, we were all shuffled into Republik Frank und Frei which had everything you need for the perfect evening: open air bar, german sausage and sauerkraut and kartoffelsalat, and a red double-decker-bus-turned-lounge.
There was a very long queue because people were hungry and eager to get a beer, but most waited patiently.
Again, I had lots of conversations with people from all over the world - Italy, Brasil, US, Portugal, Ukraine,... just wonderful. Nerd heaven! It was easily one of my best nights ever.
I went back to the hotel with a bittersweet feeling - there will surely be another UIKonf, but this one was drawing to an end.
My cup of tea
An aside: At the conference venue, there was a menu for both coffee and tea, so people got to try out different cuts in each break. 😇 'Nuff said?
UIKonf 2015 was a special thing to me, and far more than just a tech conference - I’ve made new friends, met awesome people from all around the world, nerded out about functional programming, had lots of fine wine and gin, and breathed the unique Berlin air of individualism and connectedness.
So, see you at UIKonf 2016!