First Impressions: goto; Copenhagen

It's November and that means conference season - people from all around the world are travelling to speak at, attend or organise tech conferences. This week I've been at my first goto; event in Copenhagen held at the Bella Sky Center in Denmark. I'll write a bit about my experiences over the last few days.

My connection to goto; was through my friend Adam Herzog who works for Trifork - the organisers of the goto events. I've known Adam since he was working at Docker in the community outreach and marketing team. One of the things I really like about his style is his live-tweeting from sessions. I've learnt a lot from him over the past few years so this post is going to feature Tweets and photos from the event to give you a first-person view of my week away.

First impressions CPH

Copenhagen has a great conference center and hotel connected by sky-bridge called Bella Sky. Since I live in the UK I flew in from London and the first thing I noticed in the airport was just how big it is! It feels like a 2km+/- walk from the Ryanair terminal to baggage collection. Since I was here last - they've added a Pret A Manger cafe that we're used to seeing across the UK.
There's a shuttle bus that leaves from Terminal 2 straight to the Bella Sky hotel. I was the only person on the bus and it was already almost dark at just 3pm in the afternoon.

On arrival the staff at the hotel were very welcoming and professional. The rooms are modern and clean with good views and facilities. I have stayed both at the Bella before and in the city. I liked the city for exploring during the evenings and free-time, but being close to the conference is great for convenience.

The conference days

This goto; event was three days long with two additional workshop days, so for some people it really is an action-packed week. The keynotes kick-off at 9am and are followed by talks throughout the day. The content at the keynotes was compelling, but at the same time wasn't always focused on software development. For instance the opening session was called The future of high-speed transportation by rocket-scientist Anita Sengupta.

Unlike most conferences I've attended there were morning, afternoon and evening keynotes. This does make for quite long days, but also means the attendees are together most of the day rather than having to make their own plans.

One of my favourite keynote sessions was On the Road to Artificial General Intelligence by Danny Lange from Unity.

First we found out what AI was not:

Then we saw AI in action - trained on GCP with TensorFlow to give a personality to the wireframe of a pet dog. That was then replicated into a race course with a behaviour that made the dog chase after a bone.

My talk

On the first day I also gave my talk on Serverless Beyond the Hype.

There was an artist doing a live-sketch of my talk. I've seen this done a few times at meet-ups and I always find it fascinating to see how they capture the talk so well in pictures.

My talk started off looking at Gartner's Hype Cycle - explored ThoughtWorks' opinions on multi-cloud and lock-in before covering RedMonk's advice to adopt Kubernetes. After that I looked at the leading projects available that enable Serverless with Kubernetes and then gave some live demos and described case-studies of how various companies are leveraging OpenFaaS.

Vision Bank is one of our production users who are benefiting from the automation, monitoring and self-healing, scaling infrastructure offered by containers.

And of course - no talk of mine is complete without live-demos:

In my final demo the audience donated my personal money to a local children's charity in Copenhagen using the Monzo bank API and OpenFaaS Cloud functions.


Later in the day Adam mentioned that my talk was well rated and that the recording would be made available in the goto play app. That means you can check it out any time.

Throughout the week I heard a lot about ratings and voting for sessions. The audience are able to give anonymous feedback to the speakers and the average rating given is taken seriously by the organisers. I've not seen such an emphasis put on feedback from attendees before and to start with it may seem off-putting, but I think getting feedback in this way can help speakers know their audience better. The audience seemed to be made up largely of enterprise developers and many had a background in Java development - a talk that would get a 5/5 rating at KubeCon may get a completely different rating here and visa-versa.

One of the tips I heard from the organisers was that speakers should clearly "set expectations" about their session in the first few minutes and in the abstract so that the audience are more likely to rate the session based upon the content delivered vs. the content they would have liked to have seen instead.

Hearing from RedMonk

I really enjoyed the talk by James Governer from RedMonk where James walked us through what he saw as trends in the industry relating to cloud, serverless and engineering practices. I set about live-tweeting the talk and you can find the start of the thread here:

One of the salient points for me was where James suggested that the C-Level of tech companies have a harder time finding talent than capital. He then went on to talk about how developers are now the new "King Makers" for software. I'd recommend finding the recording when it becomes available on YouTube.

Hallway track

The hallway track basically means talking to people, ad-hoc meetings and the conversations you get to have because you're physically at the event with like-minded people.

I met Kenny Bastani for the first time who's a Field CTO at Pivotal and he asked me for a demo of OpenFaaS. Here it is - the Function Store that helps developers collaborate and share their functions with one another (in 42 seconds):

Letting your hair down

My experience this week compared to some other large conferences showed that the Trifork team really know how to do things well. There were dozens of crew ready to help out, clear away and herd the 1600 attendees around to where they needed to be. This conference felt calm and relaxed depsite being packed with action and some very long days going on into the late evening.

Party time

We attended an all-attendee party on site where there was a "techno-rave" with DJ Sam Aaron from the SonicPi project. This is music generated by writing code and really well-known in the Raspberry Pi and maker community.

At the back of the room there was the chance to don a VR headset and enter another world - walking the plank off a sky-scraper or experiencing an under-water dive in a shark-cage.

Speakers' dinner

I felt that the speakers were well looked after and the organisers helped with any technical issues that may have come up. The dinner organised for the Wednesday night was in an old theatre with Danish Christmas games and professional singers serenading us between courses. This was a good time to get to know other speakers really well and to have some fun.

Workshop - Serverless OpenFaaS with Python

On Thursday after the three days of the conference talks we held a workshop called Serverless OpenFaaS with Python. My colleague Ivana Yocheva joined me from Sofia to help facilitate a workshop to a packed room of developers from varying backgrounds.

Feedback was very positive and I tried to make the day more engaging by introducing demos after we came back from lunch and the coffee breaks. We even introduced a little bit of competition to give away some t-shirts and beanies which went down well in the group.

Wrapping up

As I wrap up my post I want to say that I really enjoyed the experience and would highly recommend a visit to one of the goto conferences.

Despite only knowing around half a dozen people when I arrived, I made lots of new friends and contacts and am looking forward to keeping in touch and being part of the wider community. I'll leave you with this really cute photo from Kasper Nissen the local CNCF Ambassador and community leader.

My next speaking session is at KubeCon North America in December speaking on Digital Transformation of Vision Banco Paraguay with Serverless Functions with Patricio Diaz.

Let's meet up there for a coffee? Follow me on Twitter @alexellisuk

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