I spent the first week of November in one massive tech event, the fifth edition of the Web Summit in Dublin with more than 30 000 attendees.
I never really thought about going to Web Summit but on October 14th, shortly after buying tickets for The Next Web Conference next year in Amsterdam, I saw a Facebook Ad offering 100 free tickets to open source contributors. So I logged in with my GitHub account and a week later I got an email announcing that I had won two tickets. I didn’t hesitate much and after contacting my friend Ivan, who works for Google at Dublin, I bought the flight tickets to spend an interesting week in Ireland.
The Web Summit is completely different to any other conference that I’ve ever attended. Talks last 20 or 25 minutes, there is just a single 45 minutes break for lunch and although the content is not that technical, speakers are very big names.
During three days there was 21 focused summits, happening at the same time, in nine different tracks along the two pavilions of the RDS with more than thousand speakers. So even if you try, you can’t be everywhere.
The center stage is were all those big names kept rolling by and therefore is where I spent most of the Tuesday listening to people like Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder of the rapidly growing Slack; Michael Dell founder of Dell in 1984; Mike Schroepfer the CTO at Facebook; or Mike Krieger, co-founder of Instagram, who closed the Tuesday showing us some old code from the application while explaining how they evolved the “suggested users” algorithm.
To the center stage I also went back on Thursday for the closing remarks of the organizer Paddy Cosgrave and the last talk by the founder of Pixar, Edwin Catmull, twenty years after creating Toy Story.
As a sports fan I couldn’t miss the chance of seeing some professional sportsmen at the stage, so I spent the other half of the Tuesday and almost the whole Wednesday at the Sports Summit.
I took a a selfie with Chris Froome after his “Marginal gains” talk which I wrote about for a cycling blog in Spanish. And there I also saw a couple of Irish idols like the Olympic boxer Michael Conlan and the golfer Padraig Harrington.
Some sportsmen talked about how they have already moved from the field to the business after retirement. And there was some talks about fantasy sports that is a hot topic not only in the States, but growing in Europe and specially in the UK.
However the highlight for me was “Building for the future: the interactive stadium” with Jed York, CEO of the 49ers, and John Paul, founder of VenueNext, talking about how they built the new Levi’s Stadium thinking already in the future and giving an interactive experience to the spectator through the WiFi and a mobile phone application, that allows them to enter without a paper ticket, order a beer to their seat or immediately watch game’s actions replays.
All these was possible thanks to high tech and infrastructure, with beacons and routers deployed all around the stadium and 40 gigabits per second of bandwidth. In addition they announced that will be bringing the same technology to the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys stadiums.
The most awaited day for me as a developer was Thursday because of the Code Summit, so I got there early to be on the first row and take notes.
Surprisingly the best speech had nothing to do with code because Jeff Pulver, pioneer of VoIP, gave us some life lessons in a very emotional talk “Remember to breathe” leaving sentences like “Be who you want to be”, “Live life now”, “Sometimes you are your worst enemy”, “Do something that matters” and “Be good to others”.
Another great talk was that of Bryan Liles who works for Digital Ocean and defined himself as an “Urban American Software Developer”. With “Application ops lader” he told us we should understand the operations of our app based in five points:
- Continuos integration
- Continuos deployment
- Error handling
And in a really entertaining way gave us some interesting tips like using immutable infrastructure and not touching what is already deployed.
After lunch talks shifted to the security and privacy field where I would like to highlight Mikko Hypponen with “The online arms race”. He started saying that we’ll never produce a piece of code without bugs and every single Fortune 500 company is being hacked. With an example from the Ashley Madison scandal taught us we shouldn’t jump into conclusions and then left the open question “Who do you trust?”. To finish with a goddam IoT kettle that can be used to gain our credentials as a vector to attack our whole network.
I had high expectations for the Food Summit because they said top Irish chefs would be there, so I thought food would be closer to the high cuisine we got at ngEurope in Paris rather than burgers, sandwiches, pizza or fish and chips. Added to the fact that tokens for three lunches cost 50 € and the venue was a 15 minutes walk from the center stage, it was a bit disappointing.
Night Summit is where the real networking happens and I exchanged more business cards in the first night that on any other morning.
Besides the official parties it was really cool of them organizing for the winners of the open source competition a Pub Crawl, that took us to The Bernard Shaw for beers and pizzas and later for some amazing craft beers to the Against the Grain. And what is even better everything was for free, so we felt really pampered and I have to thank Fionnán Alt for organizing the event, giving us the chance to meet other contributors.
Startups are the other big part of the Web Summit aside from the talks, although they get just one of the three days to exhibit. So if you find one interesting, you must talk to them straight away.
As they are sorted by field (Travel, MedTech, Education, Software, Sports & Fitness, Social, eCommerce, etc.) and placed in a one-meter wide boot side by side with the others, sometimes it’s funny to read the descriptions and check that two different teams are doing the very same thing in two distant countries. So I hope after a long day of talking some of them decided to join forces together with a single goal.
In the same sense it’s cool to see some of your past ideas being developed by other people because, as it’s being said many times, an amazing idea without execution is worth nothing. So just walking through the corridors gave me the desire of finally starting to work on one of my ideas.
The Web Summit is an interesting event and if you have an idea I think it’s the right place to try to sell it. And with sell I mean not only to try to get investor’s money but also users or at least put the word out about your idea/app/startup.
Although to get the most of it you should be prepared beforehand and know exactly to who do you want to talk, which speakers do you want to listen and what startups do you wan to visit. Having the time this can be done with the really good mobile application and a bit of research.
The best moment for me was on Wednesday afternoon while queuing for coffee with my friends and wondering what Riverbed was about. As I don’t drink coffee I was the one who went to ask, talked for a while and left my business card for a GoPro HERO4 Silver raffle. Ten minutes later my card was randomly chosen among at least hundred of them and I won the camera, worthy 359€.
And as any other conference it was a great place to meet new people, see old friends and get some refreshing ideas. So thank you again to the Web Summit team for giving us the chance of joining the event at the very last minute!