GopherCon Israel 2023: A Totally Comprehensive Review

GopherCon Israel 2023: A Totally Comprehensive Review

Last Tuesday I checked out GopherCon Israel, live and in person! It was pretty exciting, as it was my first time representing JetBrains at a Go conference. If you’re curious about the comings and goings of the event, look no further than here. I promise by the end of this article it will feel as if you had missed nothing, unless I missed it, in which case, yes you will have missed that!

I have split this article into two parts, at this point in time.

  • Part One is a very brief overview of the event.
  • Part Two is a slap-dash rundown of all the fun, interesting or miscellaneous encounters that occurred while I was there.

Doesn't that sound totally comprehensive? Good! Let's Go!

Part One - The Briefest of Overviews

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so this collage should save me some time.” - Benjamin Bryant

GopherCon Israel 2023, took place in the city of Tel Aviv at, well, Expo Tel Aviv. And you’ll notice that somewhere in the above collage I forgot to take a picture of the outside of the venue.

It spanned one day and boasted around 400 attendees, 16 speakers, and two tracks. Some talks were in Hebrew, some were in English, but the lineup seemed to have a good balance of experienced speakers and new or upcoming ones.

The booths were quite creative as well; I believe there was an arcade machine and a giant mascot! If you’re interested in seeing more professional looking photos, the full official album is up and available here, as mentioned in this tweet.

Anywho, on to Part Two!

Part Two - A Series Of Fortunate Encounters

Debugging Derek Parker

Derek Parker (Twitter, GitHub) was the keynote speaker for the event and kicked it off with his talk - Go: The Languages of Dreamers

Derek Parker holding a gopher plushie

Derek is most known for having created Delve: the debugger for the Go programming language. He’s somebody I probably should’ve already known about before, considering Delve is almost everywhere, but I never claimed to be good at my job.

I ambushed Derek when he was heading out for a walk and we ended up talking about how we each got into Go. It was his first-time in Tel Aviv as well, and he had just flown in from FOSDEM. It was also Derek’s first time doing a keynote at a Go Conference and once the video is out, I’d highly recommend checking out his talk.

It was a higher-level talk that covered the benefits and advantages of using Go, not just as a technology, but how its design helps with building its community and easily allows ideas and dreams to be brought into reality. “Simplicity is Powerful”. I won’t spoil any more but it was worth the watch!

Liri Sokol and The Diversion Team

Liri Sokol (GitHub) is a Tech Lead for Diversion and was a speaker at the event. Unfortunately, her talk was on another track, so I missed it.

Liri Sokor and the Diversion Team holding Gopher plushies

However, her team was the first group who I walked up to and interrupted while they were in the middle of a conversation, to convince them to take a picture with cuddly toys.

And they said yes! So a 10/10 to this bunch of folks for making a person like me feel all the more welcome. Also, it turns out that Liri had actually written a few plugins for JetBrains Space. SummIt and getEmoji. I recommend checking them out!

Amit Lichtenberg, Generics In Go and Women In Tech

Amit Lichtenberg is a Lead Architect Lead for Otterize. Her talk was called - Generics are a Gopher's Best Friend

Amit Lichtenberg holding a gopher plushie

It was through this talk I discovered that there now exist open-source libraries in Go for common generic functions (Filter, Map, Reduce, etc) such as Lo - a Lodash-style Go library based on Go 1.18+ Generics.

We ended up discussing the current landscape of women in tech. Amit is a program manager at Baot - Israel's largest community of experienced women in software engineering and data science - where she co-manages Baot’s “Architects and Tech-Leads forum” and volunteers as a mentor at the Baot “finding your next job” programme.

As with a lot of places in the world, things are improving, but slowly and there is still a sizable gap in numbers between men and women in tech. We obviously didn't solve the issue in our brief discussion, but I appreciated being informed about the differences and similarities between the Tel Aviv and London tech scene.

Natalie Pistunovich, AI and A Quick Hi

I recognised Natalie (Twitter, GitHub) from GoTime, one of the more popular Go podcasts, as she is a regular guest on the show.

Natalie is also a Developer Ambassador for OpenAI and her talk was called: AI-Assisted Go: Up Your Game and Have More Fun. It focussed on debunking the buzz words currently populating the AI landscape and explained actionable… actions that could be done with the tools currently available.

We didn’t have too much time to chat as Natalie had a flight to catch, I think. It was definitely something urgent, but I got distracted by a booth. Alas, perhaps we shall meet another day so I can find out more about this so-called AI. Or, you know, we could just talk about TV.

Adrian Cole, WebAssembly for Newbies?

I had a brief chat with Adrian Cole (Twitter, GitHub), who, according to their speaker description, “spends most of his time on wazero: the zero dependency WebAssembly runtime for Go developers, as well”

Adrian Cole holding a gopher plushie

I know nothing about WebAssembly (WASM) so I ambushed Adrian after his talk to find out how a newcomer could get involved with it. Or where typically, you’d encounter WASM in your career.

Adrian mentioned that right now, it isn’t straightforward. As in, if you were to compare it to starting Go, which is usually just going through the tour, WASM doesn’t have that ease of introduction yet.

As WASM increases in adoption and use, this will probably change, and it will be interesting to see how the on-ramp changes. For now, the best bet may be to muddle through the docs and any easy-to-understand open-source projects and try to get stuck in.

Shay Nehmad, Cup o’ Yo!

Had a super brief encounter with Shay Nehmad (Twitter, Website), who has recently started a weekly podcast with Johnathan Hall called Cup o’ Go! It was kind of fun because he seemed genuinely happy when I asked him about his podcast in the wild.

Shey Nehmad holding a gopher plushie

I recommend giving it a listen! It has a different flavour to Go Time and focuses on the week by week changes in Go!

Miki Tebeka

Miki Tebeka (Twitter, Website) is the head organiser of GopherCon Israel and was kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes to discuss what it takes to create your own community and where a good starting point could be.

Miki Tebeka holding a gopher plushie

He mentioned a good first step which is to get involved in what’s currently happening. Depending on where you're based, there may already be a meetup that you can take part in. From there, you could learn how to run a meetup, see what they’re doing and take inspiration, or even offer to help out. From my own experience with London Gophers, that last point is essentially what I did.

He also mentioned that when it’s time to start something new, it’s important to give it the best chance of success by inviting people you know from your circles or network, as not too many people want to join a party of one, but a party of 5 has a better chance of attracting more attention.

Finally, make it fun for yourself. Miki runs GopherCon Israel with his family and sees it more as a fun get together or outing with friends instead of an international tech conference. If something isn’t bringing you joy, try to find those pain points and figure out how to address them.

That resonated with me, as since the restart of London Gophers, we’ve been trying to make it as smooth as possible for both the organisers and attendees. Instead of trying to rush to get it back to where it was pre-pandemic, we’re sort of focussing on experimenting and having a bit of fun with it too.

Thanks again for your time Miki, and you certainly put on an excellent show!

Dzmitry Tsitavets and Unknown

After the conference was over, I had to brave a park to get back to my hotel. Thankfully I had Dzmitry Tsitavets as company and along the way we bumped into Unknown (the person with the umbrella). They told me their name, but I’m writing this article almost a week later and I’m currently cursing myself for not writing Unknown’s name down.

Unknown holding an umbrella in the rain

Ah well, the way back was crazy! We ended up getting caught in a teeny tiny thunderstorm. For the first time in what seems like years, I saw lightning! As in, big chunky monkey lightning. As a city boy, lightning is usually covered up by buildings so you only really hear the thunder, but this time I saw this stuff streak across the sky and shake the heavens!

Sure it was a bit scary, because we were in an open field… buuut I lived! So it’s now exciting. That’s how the world works.

Friends, Funda and Fosters

The night didn’t end there. Sonny Downes (LinkedIn), reached out to me on LinkedIn, as I briefly encountered both him and Fraser Williams (LinkedIn) at GopherCon Israel. I met them both at London Gophers, back in October, so it was nice seeing a few familiar faces.

Unfortunately, the bar they were headed to was around an hour from my hotel, and it was chucking it down with the aforementioned teeny tiny thunderstorm. Still, I never like to turn down an invitation, unless it’s yours, and I did want to experience the city a bit more…..

Fraser Williams, Sonny Downes, Me, ???, ???, Hagai Dayan (Left To Right) in a pub
Fraser Williams, Sonny Downes, Me, ???, ???, Hagai Dayan (Left To Right)

So, a soaking wet hour later, there I was, in a pub, drinking lemonade. Here I re-met Hagai Dayan, who is an Engineering Team Lead, was a speaker at the event and very good at doing impressions of different accents! Seriously, ask him about it! Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the names of the remaining two people in the photo, but they were really cool too.

Finally, as I was so close to the beach, and the beach was so far from my hotel, I decided to Go for it before midnight. There I was, in Tel Aviv, in the middle of the storm, chilling on the beach, and slowly coming to the realisation that I was probably going to catch a cold the next day.

And I did.

Part 3 - Congratulations on Reaching The Conclusion. Statistically, This Is Quite Unlikely. Well Done!

After spending the better half of two days putting this article together, I’ve come to realise I don’t actually know how to write a totally comprehensive review. As in, I’m not too sure what to put here. I assume I need some kind of rating?

Did I enjoy myself? Yes!

Did I meet some cool people? Yep!

Did I learn some things? Yup!

Did I like the food? Yap!

Did I not die? Apparently.

So, there we go, 5 questions out of 5! We did it!

Big shout outs to the organisers and all the people at the conference who made me feel welcome, some of whom I’ve already mentioned above.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the GopherCon Israel may change over the coming years and who knows, perhaps I’ll be back again as a speaker?

Thank you for reading and if you’re interested in reading future articles, I'd recommend refreshing the main page every two weeks or so, or you can follow me on Mastodon or LinkedIn.

Have a cool day!