NSConference 2010 - day 1
February 01, 2010

Day 1 of the conference was excellent, though I spent the second half of it feeling absolutely shattered, having had less sleep over the last week than I would have liked through a combination of illness, early morning starts, and perhaps a tad more beer than was wise. Which is why I’m writing this now in my room, when by rights I should be in the bar.

We started in a refreshingly human manner, with talks by Scotty and then Mike Lee, focussing on the big picture rather than the nitty gritty details. Of course the details are our meat and drink, and we’ll get plenty of them this week, but it’s good to have our eyes dragged off the floor and onto the horizon every now and then.

I particularly liked Mike’s talk, as much for the effect that it had on the room by confounding our expectations. It was emotional, and personal, and reminded us that there’s more to life than programming, but also that the skills that we love to use in our programming can be applied to life.

I think it wrong-footed a few of us introverted programmer types, who were expecting nerdery and got philosophy instead. “What is this emotion of which you speak, human? I have no time for this frippery. Take me to your loader (sic)”…

Perhaps it was also just a bit too heartfelt for us cynical Europeans, who get a bit confused when someone is open and honest with us. There’s usually a little voice in the back of our head wondering if we’re having the piss taken out of us in some way which is so fiendishly subtle that we haven’t worked it out yet. Not so in this case. Anyway, good on you Mike, nice job.

Luckily for those in the room teetering on the edge of an existential crisis, this was session was followed by a full on geek fest from Wolf Rentzsch, who gave us a whistle stop tour of the tools and techniques needed to rummage around on the internals of OS X and applications written for it. Hurrah for insanely micro-focussed detail. Now were back on familiar ground. There were some excellent pointers, particularly tantalising for me since there are any number of really irritating things about XCode that I could probably sort out now given sufficient time. Like why the fuck my Data Formatter plug-in only works when there’s a full moon.

Rentzsch’s talk was followed by a session from Dave Dribin on clean code, which I’ve already blogged about (http://www.elegantchaos.com/node/405), so enough said here.

After which was another good lunch, including another far too nice pudding. May have to hire a people carrier to haul me back to the station at the end of the week…

One thing I definitely think that they’ve got right this year is the amount and length of breaks between the sessions, and the overall pacing, with just two sessions in the afternoon. Today these were a talk by Drew McCormack on data presentation, and a brief overview of Core Animation from Marcus Zarra.

Drew’s talk started with an overview of some existing ways to present data, but was interesting to me mostly as an introduction to a framework he’s been involved in creating for graphing and plotting. This looked like a great resource when you’ve got any set of data that you want to display as something better than a big table of numbers.

Marcus’ talk was tantalising, as I felt I knew a bit more about what Core Animation was than he assumed, and was hoping for a little more in the way of code examples or teccy stuff.

To be fair though, it was late by then, and he probably pitched it perfectly for the level of fatigue we were all experiencing at that point. And I guess if I want the details I can buy his book :)

All in all it was an excellent first day. The speakers and the general conversation was of the highest quality - something that came as no surprise after last year, but which still takes a great deal of effort to sustain.

So many thanks to the organisers one and all. I can’t wait for tomorrow.