GopherCon UK 2023: The Ultimate Review - We're So Back!

GopherCon UK 2023: The Ultimate Review - We're So Back!

Happy Today Y’all. Last Thursday was the beginning of GopherCon UK. I had another swing at hosting this time around and had a little on-stage action, but we’ll get to that.

Reports and rumours are flooding the interneto-sphere, saying that this conference had some of the best content and one of the best goodies one could get from a conference!

However, is that true? Well, look at this outstanding photo collage and decide for yourself! It sums things up better than I ever could.

However, if words are your thing, then don’t worry! I’ve got you covered in spades. Let’s get go-ing!

A Series of Encounters That Totally Happened

The Literal Star of The Show

As my old pal Benny used to say, “The game was rigged from the start”. Nothing at the conference could’ve ever beaten a plushie gopher, wearing drip that would make Sir Topham Hatt blush, in terms of popularity. Even if the Go Team announced Go 4.0, this little cutie-patootie would still be the talk of the town.

To the doubters in the chat you may think, “Oh? They made a cute gopher mascot? Big deal.” False! The GopherCon UK Team made a cute gopher mascot and gave it to everybody at the conference! I own my own little top hat wearin' gopher now!

At least now I know what it felt like to be an audience member on Oprah, that one time. Except, unlike a car, I actually needed this. Anyway, speaking of the team…

The GopherCon UK Team - The Secret Stars of The Show

Congratulations! You did it! It takes a lot of work to put together a conference and I don’t think it would be too polite of me if I didn’t thank those who organised the whole shebang.

I talked about some of the behind the scenes last year so I won’t dwell too much. It’s just as someone who’s now taken part as a guest, a booth person and a host; to have nary heard a complaint about the team and the operations during all these years, is incredibly impressive! Thanks again for the great conference!

Oh yea, if you’re by any chance also interested in Rust, this team handles Rust Nation UK. The Go and Rust London communities teamed up for a Christmas Party last year so I found out about that conference and honestly it was pretty good too, so maybe check it out!

Women Who Go - What’s This? A Community Sponsor?

This was my first time encountering the idea of a ‘community sponsor’ at a conference. This year the GopherCon UK team gave Women Who Go - London (WWGL) a space to have their own booth. I think this is an incredible idea as there were many people who hadn’t heard of WWGL and now can spread the word and possibly even attend future events.

For several organisers of WWGL (Teea, Alice, Adelina Simion and Shehneel), it was their first time running a conference booth, and it looked amazing! I wish I could have signed up to win some prizes (very fancy keyboards), but unfortunately as long as it’s in the London Go space, if I ever win anything, it’s going to look a bit rigged. Anyway, if you’re in London why not check out the Women Who Go - London community?

Robert Grandl - You Ever Wanted To Weave Some Services?

One of the first talks of the day, in the room that I was in, was by Robert Grandl. Monolith or Microservices or Both: Modern application development using Service Weaver.

The idea of splitting your application into components, kind of reminded me of an ‘Entity Component System’, if you’re familiar with that part of game design. Though the only similarity would be the word ‘component’.

I believe Service Weaver was more about making it easier to deploy your applications into the cloud, with all the logging, metrics, tracing, sharding, microservice-ing. You know, all that good stuff. Robert also took part in the ‘UnConference’ track where he ran a Service Weaver workshop on the same day as his talk. Robert was certainly a busy bee!

If you want a much better explanation and you're curious to learn a bit more about Service Weaver I’d point you toward the link I already linked to earlier in this sentence.

Beth Anderson - Graphic Content Warning

Beth’s talk Fun with Algorithms and Data Structures, was a lovely refresher on the bedrock of computer science. As she quoted in her presentation, “Algorithms + Data Structures = Programming - Niklaus Wirth”

Beth covered most of the classic data structures. Stacks, graphs, pelicans, that kinda thing. As well as some algorithms that come along with them, such as Dijkstra's famous little jam session.

If you’ve ever skipped this stuff on your journey into tech, I’d recommend looking into it. Similar to breathing, you don’t really think about these algorithms and data structures all the time, but it really makes life easier

Anyway, hopefully now that I’ve mentioned graphs the paragraph heading makes more sense. This article is pretty PG. PG13 at worst.

Jonathan Amsterdam - Now That’s a Hero Name

Ever heard of structured logging? …Yes? Well, good! Because it’s coming along to Go 1.21. But did you know the happy-go-lucky person featured below was the one responsible? …Also Yes?! Deary-me you're informed aren’t you?

Unfortunately, I was not hosting the room Jonathan's talk was in so I missed out on Jonathan’s talk - Structured Logging for the Standard Library. Though it's definitely a talk that's on my 'one to watch, once the VODs are out' list.

You see, back in my ‘early’ developer days I was a user of the open-source library logrus (which is now in maintenance mode). So, to now see this concept of structured logging now be a part of the standard library, I was quite curious about the journey and technicalities, which I presume is what Jonathan featured in his talk.

Alas, now having met Jonathan, I now feel super guilty for not seeing his talk in person as he has a very warm and bright personality, one that would’ve been really cool to see on the stage live.

Walter Schulze - When I Was Young It Seemed That Life Was So Wonderful

Walter’s talk - Logic Programming in Go, was definitely one where I got a bit lost in the sauce. According to Wikipedia, “Logic programming is a programming paradigm which is largely based on formal logic”. Which does not help me.

For a topic this apparently dense, Walter was a brilliant presenter and the level of work required to implement your own example of logical programming in Go is something I doubt I’d be able to do soon.

The best way I can describe logic programming is that it allows you to convert that Greek medical, math-y, science stuff into code. Which is probably quite useful for those medical, math-y, science people who need computers to run the ones on theories. Though this explanation is probably wrong.

If anything that I’ve hinted towards sounds appealing look at this GitHub repository (gominikanren). It may explain things better than I can.

Damiano Petrungaro - For Context, That’s the Joke

You know how in all these Go programs there are all of these ‘ctx’ variables lying around? Well guess what, they’re not just for decoration.

Damiano’s talk - The Context Package Internals, was a thorough analysis into the internals of the ‘context’ package, obviously. I think when starting out with Go this talk would’ve been useful to me, because although I was jesting before I remember not being sure what to do with all these ‘ctx’ variables. To be honest, I vaguely remember when I started using them ‘properly’. Heck, maybe I’m not?

There is one unrelated thing I might steal from Damiano, during his introduction he mentioned people can come and talk to him, not just about his talk, but also about his interests, such as anime. I might have to copy that as when people approached him after the talk some of the conversation were about just that instead of the normal tech-y stuff.

Sadie Freeman - We Met Last Year, But Now I Do Stuff Like This, Also Adelina is Here Too.

We've had one, yes. But what about a second talk? If you’ve been following the lore, you may remember that last year when I was hosting parts of GopherCon UK, I did not have a job. It was during this time that I bumped into Sadie (right) and she actually helped me with my first international talk in Prague, by agreeing to a brief interview. Which may or may not have been a factor in my eventual employment. The more you know.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to catch up too much, as I was jumping about all over the place, but also because Sadie had the first ever double-decker talk that I’ve ever seen. I mean I didn’t ‘see’ it per se, because I was hosting another room, but I saw it in the event programme and I had to do the ‘rubbing my eyes in disbelief thing’. Till next we meet Sadie.

Adelina (left) was also there at the time, but like, we chat a lot in real life and she’s also in the ‘Women Who Go - London’ part of the article, so… um… check out her book on testing, it’s very good!

Cameron Balahan - The Absolute State of Go

I have a confession. I didn’t get a chance to force Cameron to hold a gopher and pose for a photograph. I know, very sad. Anywho, The State of Go was the first keynote of the second day. It covered Go’s origins, Go’s present and the visions of Go’s future.

One of the big takeaways I got from this talk was Go's continued commitment to compatibility. If you're interested in reading a bit more on this there is this document Go 1 and the Future of Go Programs and a more recent one Backward Compatibility, Go 1.21, and Go 2

As someone who recently tried to resurrect a game, I built in another language back in 2016 and had to give up after hours of not understand what exactly had changed in the framework and package system I was using, I’m very glad the Tetris game I built in Go back in 2018 can still run on modern versions of Go with hardly any fuss.

Adrian Hesketh - To LSP or not to LSP that is the question.

Understanding Language Server Protocol (LSP) - Autocomplete, Formatting. This was another engaging talk going over how to create your own LSPs using Go. Adrian showcased an example using Cooklang. Honestly, after the demonstration I was left feeling that even I could make my own little LSP.

The next time I get asked to work on a .xcf file I might just take the time to see if I can make a linter for it. I mean it’s not happened in a fair number of years, but now I feel ready!

By the way Adrian, between you and me, a little birdie told me that a member of the GoLand team was in the audience too and this talk inspired them. Now unfortunately I can’t be any more specific than that, but just know that you didn’t hear it from me!

Patrycja Wegrzynowicz - Sorry For Not Using Flash On My Camera, but in Fairness You Did Hack Me.

Your honour, I swear when I took this photo it looked so much brighter on my phone. I’m so sorry Patrycja Wegrzynowicz. Please do not take your revenge. My understanding of computer security is terrible. The only thing that’s stopping me from being hacked is my complete lack of popularity.

If you’re wondering where I’m going with my preamble, Patrycja's talk - The Hacker's Guide to JWT Security, was the most interactive and engaging talk on the track I was hosting. No offence to the others, but she literally had an endless amount of questions after the talk. I had to wrestle the microphone away from audience members twice! Word on the street is that Mr Amsterdam himself, walked up after her talk was done and said “best talk of the show.”

Why? Well, I don’t want to spoil too much, so skip this paragraph if you want to watch the VOD blind. Let’s just say that members of the audience literally got hacked. Not only was it entertaining, it was unimaginably informative.

I’m sorry internet, this talk has me too scared! I never wanna see you or your JWT tokens ever again! Stay away from my hypothetical kids! The relationship is over. I’m sticking to passwords on post-it notes. It’s the only way.

Sayani Bhattacharjee - Do You Think This Article Needs A Breakpoint?

Learn how debuggers work by building your own one - was my third to last talk of the conference. It’s not something I’d really thought about, but yea it totally makes sense that someone is building these debuggers we all keep using. Though let me tell ya, it ain’t easy.

The talk itself started high-level, explaining the concept of debugging to all those who like to live life one print statement at a time. Then 'delve'-d into how each of the debugging actions worked and ended with a live demonstration of some home-made debugger code.

If you're someone, like me who lives the ‘print statement’ life or if you're someone who uses debugging but wants to understand a bit more about the magic, I’d give this one a good shout.

Unfortunately, as you can see Sayani is another casualty of, “I forgot to take a gopher photo”, but that’s the way the debugger debugs.

Jesús Espino - Lord of The Compiler, Master of Awesome Stickers

Ok we’ll get to the talk in a bit, but do you see on the top left of the collage? Those really artist gopher stickers? We’ll call them ‘The Flash’, and ‘Clark Kent’ gophers. Jesús had these stickers custom made.

Not only did he give them out at the end of the talk to the audience, (Note: there were more designs than the two I showed) the sticker designs are Creative Commons 0! Anyway, enough about the swag let’s discuss the talk, but that was pretty fire too!

Understanding the Go Compiler, was another high-quality dive into a topic I hadn’t thought about before. Although dense, how Jesús presented it really helped me to grasp just what the hell was going on in there.

Within the talk Jesús mentioned this quote - “Magic's just science that we don't understand yet.” That was the goal of the talk. To demystify the magic of the Go compiler and explain in exact steps, what it does from start to finish and yea I would say Jesús’s talk definitely achieved that goal.

Hila Fish - This is Fine. No Really, It Is.

The final keynote - Incident Management - Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk, discussed an area that can cause a lot of stress. Incidents. You’re woken up at 2am, everything’s on fire, but you're also on-call so you have to make sure you bring your laptop with you as you escape the house.

Hila went over a wide variety of techniques and strategies to reduce the fear factor and pressure that can come with trying to fix a system that has broken down in production and could be affecting potentially millions of customers around the world.

However, it's not just fixing the problem, it’s also what happens next. How do you learn from it? How do you ensure whatever happens, doesn’t happen again? Or if it happens again, how do you expedite getting it fixed? If you’ve reached the point in your career where the word ‘incident’ now exists, I recommend giving this keynote a watch.

Divya Manian - The Luckiest Gopher in London

After the keynote I had the pleasure of announcing the winner of the JetBrains raffle. Divya was lucky number ‘113’. However, it turns out that she was also the winner of the community tickets that were given out to both the Women Who Go - London and London Gophers meetup group.

That’s at least a 1 in 1000 chance of both things happening, surely? Maybe even 10,000! It was a pleasure meeting you Divya and good luck building the robot!

Mat Ryer - I Didn’t Force Mat to Hold a Gopher This Time Round, So Please Enjoy this Slightly Blurred Photo Instead.

Mat was the host of the GopherCon UK main stage, and honestly now that I’ve experienced walking on it, it’s definitely a bit more daunting than the room I was hosting. I got so flustered I left my phone behind, but thanks to Mat’s quick thinking I now have a brand new LinkedIn profile pic.

How he figured out how to activate the camera just proves what I said earlier about not knowing computer security. Well, it was cool catching up again. I’ll probably bump into Mat either at GopherCon EU next year or in the US.

And to you reader, if you’re not already checking out the Go Time Podcast you’re missing out!

Daniela Petruzalek - Complimenter of Non-Generic Hats

Another speaker whose talk I missed was Daniela Petruzalek (right). I’d actually ‘sorta’ met Daniela before at London Gophers back in pre-pandemmy days.

Assuming you count seeing her do a talk as ‘meeting’. However, according to the person on the left, Daniela’s talk - Fun with Generics, was absolutely incredible!

I captured this image just after the genesis of what I’ll call, a really cool first meeting between two gophers. It all started when Daniela complimented the hat of the person on the left. Then just like that they were discussing a bunch of things. Probably generics, but I’m not an eavesdropper so I can only guess. Making new friends with gophers is just that easy.

Stefan Gajic - Greetings Fellow DevRel

Had a couple brief encounters with Stefan who is funnily enough in a position that was similar to where I was a few months ago. Fresh on the Developer Relations scene and trying to figure out the best way to navigate this ocean.

The more we spoke the more I was starting to feel that Stefan was kind of already on the right path. Though one thing I did mention was the idea of always keeping track of and assessing the impact of the things you’re choosing to do, as well as your enjoyment when doing them. If you can find something highly impactful that is also enjoyable, that's a pretty good sweet spot.

But honestly, it felt just like that time Lionel Messi asked me for some football advice. I was just like “Get out of my house, why are you here?” and then I woke up, it was crazy.

Nkechi Anyanwu - Welcome To The Gopher Life!

I actually met Nkechi briefly at the previous Women Who Go - London meetup, I believe it was their first time attending. So, imagine my surprise when I bumped into her again at GopherCon UK! This time round we could have a more in-depth conversation and I discovered she’s on the path that many gophers are taking nowadays, where you pivot from one area of expertise into technology and honestly she’s taking all the right steps.

I believe if anybody were to take the time to listen to Nkechi’s journey into tech, her aspirations, drive and the actions she’s taken so far it’d be very easy to see that she’d be an amazing asset to any team. Watch this space!

Chirag Batra - See You In The Clouds

I met Chirag briefly outside the GoLand booth. As you can see from his t-shirt, you could say he has a flare for the clouds. Though fun fact, Chirag actually knew one of the speakers who came to London Gophers the previous month, so yea, small world.

We kind of ended up talking about my role within JetBrains, being a Go advocate and what that means. However, that’s another article for another day! It was a pleasure meeting you Chirag and I really hope to catch you at London Gophers some time! Maybe as a speaker perhaps...?

Dread It, Run From It, The Gopher Photo Arrives All The Same - Shoutouts To Members of The London Gophers Community!

A year ago I helped to restart the London Gophers meetup. One tradition that has totally not gotten old is that typically during the break I would go round and take pictures of some attendees holding gophers and then make a little collage of the event.

These sets of photos are of members of London Gophers, who at this point are maybe tired of me doing this every single time lol.

I probably won’t keep this tradition up forever, but during the restart I wanted to show those who were perhaps new to the Go community or were coming back from a hiatus that the Go community is not only a fun place to be, but a place where everyone is welcome.

It was also a reminder to me, as it was my first time organising a meetup, that London Gophers would also need to be a place that was not only fun, but welcoming too.

Thank you all for taking part and making London Gophers absolutely brilliant to organise. I couldn’t do it without you! And I super duper promise I’ll stop doing the photos at some point. Pinky swear!

Closing Time

I feel what we’ve learnt today is that I should start using Flash on my camera.

Thanks reader for getting all the way here and this is the photo Mat Ryer took while I was rushing back on stage after forgetting my phone. Please ignore my tucked in necklace, it completely does not ruin the shot.

To conclude, GopherCon UK 2023 was a real bright spot in an otherwise wet and rainy month. (British weather is doing the numbers).

I'm looking forward to next year and I can't wait to check out some of the VODs of the talks I missed.

If you’re interested in reading future articles here are the socials. (LinkedIn, Mastodon, Instagram, Threads (lol))

And feel free to share with others if you wish to. Bye bye for now!