Sunday, January 19, 2020
This week I travelled to Montreal to deliver a keynote at CUSEC 2020, the Canadian University Software Engineering Conference. Everything was nicely arranged and I happily took the train from Oshawa to Montreal, then a short all-inside walk to the hotel where I checked in, told the organizers I was there, and settled in for an early night. I got a light dinner from room service but oddly could only eat half of it. Ah well, I thought, they fed us really well on the train, I'm probably just full. No big deal. I went to sleep.
About 10:30 I woke up and realized I needed to throw up. So I did. And did. And did. All night. For an extended part of the night it was every 45 minutes. It was bad. And then it got worse. Now I am not telling you this to gross you out or to overshare, but to get you, as a possible speaker or conference organizer, to consider this possibility if you have not done so before (I had not.) I felt perfectly normal when I left home, and even when I first arrived in town. Whatever food poisoning or virus got me, it hit fast and hard. When the sun finally dragged itself up over the Montreal horizon and into my eyes, I was exhausted, having not slept all night, and pretty sure I was not done throwing up (which it turns out I was not.) I got on Slack with my organizers and told them I could handle being tired but actually vomiting while on stage was a bridge too far for me. Could we switch with someone scheduled for Day 2?
Of course we could. They did that lovely duck trick, where above the water it all looks smooth and simple and you have no idea what amount of paddling and ruddering is happening underwater. Someone else did an opening keynote; my keynote moved to 11 am Day 2. A much needed bottle of ginger ale appeared at my door. I spent the day in bed and slowly returned to normal. I slept that night and did the keynote the next day, and very much enjoyed the rest of the conference. I didn't shake hands with anyone in case I was contagious. When the AV people started touching my laptop I gave them hand sanitizer.
So, if this happened to you, would you be able to come up with a plan B? Do you travel with anti-nausea meds? (I do, for airsickness, and took some to help me sleep during the day since they sedate me. They had no hope of working during the worst of it, but they still had value.) Do you have a little bottle of hand sanitizer with you all the time? (I do, and always will.) Do you know how to reach your organizers with some urgency when you can't leave your room? Organizers, I hope you would all react as smoothly and quickly as my CUSEC hosts did. Ellen and Afreen were ultra professional, as was everyone else I dealt with.
You don't want to think about it, I know. But -- you should, anyway. It doesn't take long to have a disaster recovery plan. Swapping two keynotes was the obvious choice, and it worked because the keynoters were staying for the whole conference not just popping in for their morning. A little prior preparation can predict proper performance, or something like that.
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Every once in a while, I make a big change in how I plan and manage my speaking engagements. Early in the last decade, I decided to speak only at conferences I would happily pay to attend, and that improved my life dramatically. Instead of trying to justify a week away from home and the office in which I would try to keep up on emails from a hotel room or a hallway couch, while surrounded by people who didn't care about the stuff I cared about, I started looking forward to a week of learning and growing, of coming home knowing more than when I left, and of meeting my heroes and getting to see my friends.
While this was an important change, it was only a change in my decision criteria, and not in my overall process of deciding where to speak. I would get an email, or see a tweet, or otherwise become aware that a conference was going to happen, and then I would decide, on a case-by-case basis, if I wanted to submit to that conference. Sometimes I would have to decline because I had already submitted to another one at roughly the same time, without realizing the overlap. In mid 2019, I changed that. I listed out all the C++ conferences I knew of, and roughly when they happened. Then my partner and I went through the list, noting when various family events are happening, when we want to go on vacation, and other "big rocks" that conferences have to fit around. We talked about how many conferences I wanted to speak at, and whittled down the list to that many.
Now, as each conference opens a Call for Papers, if it's on my list, I submit, and if it's not, I don't. Of course, my talks aren't always accepted. I set myself a goal to speak at two non-C++ conferences in 2020. I was invited to one, but after I agreed they changed their dates and that conflicted with something else I had accepted. I submitted to another and they declined my talk. But one has accepted, and I have accepted another invitation, so I will be speaking at two non-C++ conferences for sure.
Expect to see me at:
- January, Montreal: CUSEC 2020 (Canadian University Software Engineering Conference) - keynote (and a Meetup while I'm in town, come ask about technical speaking)
- March, Bristol, UK: ACCU - Naming Is Hard, Let's Do Better
- May, London, UK: SDD - Naming and Emotional Code
I have submitted to some for June and onwards, but
haven't heard, so I'm not mentioning them, nor the ones I've decided not to submit to. That's not
fair to anyone. I might do as many as 7 conferences by the time the year is over, and that's a lot. Plus user group talks whenever I can.
So is there any point inviting me to speak at your conference? Well, sure. It might match up with something else (at least one conference I added to my list because I could combine it with another trip that was already planned) or be so compelling that I will find a way to fit it in. Or it might end up on my list for next year -- I like this advance planning so I'm going to keep doing it. As always, remember that I do have requirements
for any speaking engagement, so if you invite me, please let me know you've read that and meet them.
If you're at any conference I am speaking at, please do find me and say hi! It's one of the most important parts of any conference for me.
Thursday, November 28, 2019
I'm thrilled to announce my latest Pluralsight course:
Here are the modules:
- Course Overview
- Modern C++
- Standard Library Containers
- Standard Library Algorithms
- Move Semantics
Hope you enjoy it!
Thursday, July 25, 2019
is approaching again and my calendar is FULL. The schedule
may change and there are things still to be added, but the current plan is:
- On Sunday, I am doing a preconference workshop (you can still get a spot) with John Lakos and Andrei Alexandrescu
- After the precon I hope to relax at the TShirt dinner.
Pack a Tshirt that says C++ (or bring your badge, or a piece of paper
on which you wrote C++ yourself) and choose a restaurant from the list that should be published by the time we all get to Colorado. When you arrive, ask where the other C++ Tshirt people
are, and make some new friends! I'll be tweeting my plans just before I
- Then it's back to the shiny new venue for the Registration Reception.
Even if you're on East Coast time like me, make an appearance, see some
friends or some of your heroes, there will probably be treats, and you'll
be all set for the morning. Knowing the venue a bit is going to make
you sleep better, and having your badge already will let you sleep
- Monday I will be attending talks and spending time at the exhibitor table for #include<C++>, an organization working to make the C++ community more welcoming and inclusive. Come by and get a sticker! Buy a shirt! And you know, attending talks and hanging at the #include table is what I'll be doing all 5 days.
- If I manage to stay awake, I'll go to The Committee Fireside Chat after dinner. If there is something you always wanted to ask the people who create the C++ standard, here's where that happens.
- Tuesday and Wednesday it's talks, talks, talks! I predict I will go back to my room for a nap at least once. It's a strategic choice that lets you actually experience the post-nap talks instead of drowsing through them and needing to watch the recording in the end.
- Wednesday night is the #include<C++> dinner and panel! You can register for this on Eventbrite as part of registering for the conference. I'll moderate a discussion about some of what we've achieved in just two years, and what some of us would like to see next.
- Afterwards it's Lightning Talks. Everyone loves the Lightning Talks, they're always fantastic. I will try my best to stay up for them.
- If I can, I'll come super early on Thursday and Friday for recordings of CppChat. And stay all day for talks, of course.
- Thursday night is the Speaker's Dinner. And there's a planning meeting after that. But I might need an early night, because...
- Friday morning I have my one breakout session: Naming is Hard: Let's Do Better. And like last year, a lot of really good content is on Friday. Don't even think of leaving early. Fly home Saturday morning, you won't regret it.
See why I call CppCon
an intense conference? 12 or 13 hours a day, every day. And no time for sightseeing! But oh my
goodness the things I will learn, the people I will meet, and the fun I
will have. See you there!
Sunday, July 21, 2019
July 21st, 1969 I (with my parents) moved to Canada for the second time. The first time, I had been an infant, and the move had been temporary: my father was doing his PhD at Carleton University in Ottawa. When he completed it, we went back to England as the plan had always been. We had grown from a family of 3 to a family of 4 in the meantime. But when they got back to England, they missed Canada a lot. So, by 1969, they had found a way for the now 5 of us to return. Originally it was to Ottawa and a job in a government research lab for my father. But within less than a year he decided to take a chance on the very new University of Waterloo and he worked there (with consulting clients and inventions and other side projects) until he retired to Nova Scotia.
I often warn friends who are considering emigrating that if you do, you are likely to raise children who think emigrating is ok: my Canadian-born brother lived in Japan, Europe, and the US for decades before settling in Vancouver. My UK-born sister has been in Ireland, England, and now Wales for a similar length of time. I have two other sisters and one of them has also changed continents a few times and now lives in England. Me, I've stayed put. I like it here and couldn't imagine living anywhere other than the Ontario countryside, though I sure do like to visit other places!
I remember very little of the move and the change of countries. We had been told of the rabid animals (there is no rabies in England) and the importance therefore of never letting a squirrel or chipmunk near you. Also of the cold, which I didn't remember from my first time. While I can't remember any of the moon landing hoopla at all, I do remember one scene from the airport as we arrived. We approached two doors, one for Canadians and one for all others. Well not doors, more like archways in a wall. And some official insisted that my brother go through the Canadian archway. He would have been 6 or 7 and my parents resisted but this official was adamant and said it would be fine. Which it was, because there was no wall between the two areas so it was a separation of a minute or so in full sight. We went through the arches at the same time but when we got through, this official knelt down to my brother's height and said "welcome home, little man" to him. I have other memories, of being bullied at school for my accent, of clashes with teachers who literally refused to teach me things I didn't know because "we covered that last year", of amazing beauty and nature and discoveries of all kinds, but that moment is one of those that really sticks with me. This place is home for me too.
Sunday, July 14, 2019
On July 14th, 2017, Guy Davidson tweeted what he thought was a passing pun:
But when I saw the tweet, I thought, yeah, why isn’t there?
And in that moment, #include was born. We got together at CppCon and again at Meeting C++ where Guy did a lightning talk on inclusion. We were off and running. At that time we had a channel on the cpplang slack, but that didn’t work out well: a change of owners of the slack to someone who was less interested in preventing harassment and abuse, coupled with slack’s fundamental design tenet that people having trouble with bad behavior on a slack channel can always go to their mutual boss (which doesn’t work on public servers that bring strangers together) resulted in #include being pretty much driven off the slack and forming our own server elsewhere, on discord.
The original channels on the discord were all about the work of running #include. How can we get conferences to have a code of conduct? How can we help employers to write job ads that will attract all kinds of applicants, not just people who closely resemble the ones they already have? But we couldn’t stop talking about C++ so we added a channel for that, and then another for something else technical, and another, … and things really started to grow.
By April 2018 we were about a dozen organizers and very few people who weren’t organizers. But now we have over 2300 members and over 70 channels. People are getting help with C++ problems they face, recruiting helpers for projects, getting advice about speaking or attending conferences, and much more.
Our original goals were pretty low key really:
- To encourage under-represented people to speak, to apply for jobs, to stay in this industry
- To get conferences to have a code of conduct (we hadn’t even thought about enforcement)
- To get employers to value diversity somewhat, and to provide some resources to conferences and employers
We thought it would be nice to have some stickers and Tshirts made, and have a table at conferences where we would urge people to join our discord and try to make our industry more welcoming. Well, that worked! We’ve had tables at major C++ conferences the world over and you can be sure to find a smiling person to talk to, whether they’re officially “working the table” or not.
We’ve seen these shirts at conferences and user groups around the world, at C++ standards meetings, and on a lot of speakers and influencers. We think they send a strong message to attendees that the world is full of friendly and welcoming people who will not exclude you because you are different in some way. If you want one, we have a US-based store and a European store, or you can find us at a conference near you. We try to diffuse the stickers around the world – if you run a user group and are going to be at a conference, get in touch with one of us (the conference channel on our discord would be the best place) to see if you can get a handful of stickers to take home and give out at the group.
Last year at about this time, someone asked if we were interested in partnering with the Women in Tech Fund to get women to CppCon. We sure were! The conference donated tickets at below their catering costs, and we raised $4000 to cover travel and accommodation for our scholarship winners. It was a big success and we keep doing it at conference after conference. Right now we’re raising for CppCon again – this year not just women, but anyone who is under-represented in the C++ community, can apply. If your employer isn’t sending you, why not see if we can?
This is a lot more than we had originally planned to do. A number of us started insisting on a Code of Conduct before agreeing to submit talks to a conference, and suddenly it seems all the C++ conference have good Codes of Conduct now, with real enforcement too. There’s a best practice gaining popularity of introducing the Code of Conduct team at the start of the conference too. We started handing out pronoun stickers to put on badges, and not only do lots of people take them (please take one even if your gender is obvious, it makes life easier for those whose isn’t) but some conferences have even started including a pronouns field on badges. We’ve built this amazing friendly community on the discord where people are learning and growing and becoming leaders in the C++ community at large. We’ve seen talks and demos and forms and web sites changed after we pointed out that a particular wording or example wasn’t welcoming and inclusive. People generally want to be welcoming and inclusive, they’re just not sure how to do it, so our strategy of providing really specific unsolicited advice has worked well. And probably the thing I’m most proud of is the people – actual breathing humans – we have sent to conferences. Going to a conference is career-changing, especially when you’re relatively inexperienced. You can meet your heroes, ask questions, learn a ton, make connections, get advice, and re-energize your connection to this industry and your job. Already I am seeing former scholarship winners on stage, donating to the current fundraiser, and finding their voices on Twitter and our discord. It’s amazing. I want to pinch myself some days.
The people who form the core of #include support and encourage each other. Many of us have given talks we would never have otherwise given. I won’t speak for her, but I expect the jaw dropping and enlightening Deconstructing Privilege talk that Patricia Aas has been giving could be one of them. If you haven’t watched it, you should. A lot of what we’re doing at #include is “privilege lending” – using our positions to ask for things to make people with less privilege feel welcome. We’re also teaching people who’ve been spared some hardships about the realities some other people face. Often this is all it takes for things to change quite quickly.
We’ve also done a lot of lightning talks and internal corporate presentations about #include and what we’re trying to do, but it seems like none of them ever get recorded and uploaded. Rest assured, we’re still working hard to move the needle when it comes to inclusion in the C++ community.
What’s next? Well, we’d love to start seeing child care available at C++ conferences. We’d love to see other developer communities doing some of what we’re doing, and we’re going to keep learning from other developer communities too. We’re seeing things like quiet rooms, pronouns on conference badges, and food labelling becoming the norm. And we’d love to get suggestions from anyone who feels excluded from conferences, training, job opportunities, and online communities. Join the discord and join the conversation, or find us on Twitter. See you there!
Friday, June 28, 2019
I just published a small course on Pluralsight called Advanced Debugging with Visual Studio 2019. It covers IntelliTrace and Code Map, two features that are only in the Enterprise Edition of Visual Studio. Many people don't know about them, so I put together a quick introduction.
Here are some of my other current courses:
- Visual Studio 2019 Getting Started - what you need as a new user of Visual Studio to start using it. There are a variety of other Visual Studio courses, and pretty much all of the material from my 2017 one is still applicable, so don't take just this one or you'll be missing some really powerful techniques.
- Beautiful C++: Updating Legacy Code - I really enjoyed writing this course and if you maintain old C++ code, I think it will make your life a lot easier. It discusses both specific patterns to update (and why) and overall strategic approaches (not mechanically replacing every incidence of one pattern with a newer pattern.)
- C++ Fundamentals Including C++ 17 - this is the go-to course for developers who want to learn C++ today. Whether you never did any, or did some a decade or two ago, this course will cover the syntax, library, and best practices you need. If you've never programmed in any language, try Learn How to Program with C++ instead.
- Using Stack Overflow and Other Stack Exchange Sites - we all go to Stack Overflow when we're stuck. But a lot of us are bad at it, because it doesn't work like other sites. Take a little time to improve this skill and you'll get better and faster answers. You might even become one of those high-rep users who others admire!
- Beautiful C++: STL Algorithms - Stop writing raw loops and you will get more readable code with less effort. The library has so much waiting for you and this course will help you make sense of it all.
There are more, but if you take all of these, you'll be in a strong place as a C++ developer. (BTW, only the Visual Studio courses require Visual Studio. All the others work with any development environment you prefer.)
Monday, May 6, 2019
In early April I was lucky enough to go to Bristol in the UK for the annual ACCU conference. This has been an aspirational conference for me, one I attended before speaking at and am always delighted to attend. This year I was invited to keynote, and it turned out to be the closing keynote, which meant I was not done with all my talks until the conference was over! Nevertheless I enjoyed the week tremendously.
I flew to England overnight Saturday night. People often ask me how, given the fatigue issues I have left over from the whole surviving incurable cancer thing, I am able to travel. One reason is that when I travel, I only travel on travel days. I don’t try to work at the airport, on the plane, etc. I read a book or listen to music or just relax. On overnight flights, I sleep. I also schedule a few days to adjust to the time zone without having to think hard or meet important deadlines, like finishing my talk. On this trip, I spent two days visiting Cardiff, which is actually where I was born, with my sister who is planning to move there. It was marvelous fun watching a family explore and discover their new home town, and going to places I have seen on TV or in pictures.
Tuesday I did a private corporate talk about #include<C++> and diversity issues. It was very well received and I might offer it to other companies as a result. I always buy a train pass when I go to the UK and it got a good workout on this occasion. Back in Bristol I was able to relax and know I was ready for the conference.
After a lovely opening address by Russel, we had an illuminating keynote from Angela Sasse. Security can’t be left until the end or handled by a separate group who fight the developers. Afterwards I took some time to meet up with more friends and spend some time at the #include table. After lunch, a very good talk from Jonathan Boccara on reading unfamiliar code. I loved the map analogy and the way he showed using a call stack to increase your mapped area. Then a workshop from Gail Ollis on Helping Developers to Help Each Other which really brought home to me once again how important tactile artifacts – things you can pick up, put down, wave around, put next to each other and so on – can be to encourage open and complete communication. The recording stops when the hands on part starts – just one of those things you can only get by attending in person. The talks wrapped up with Lightning Talks and I did one – my first time doing so at ACCU. I was not able to stay up for the evening reception beyond a quick “hey! Great to see you!” to a handful of people. There were plenty of talks I couldn’t get to – recordings for me to watch later!
Day 2 started with a Herb Sutter keynote. I’ve read the paper but was really happy to hear it as a talk, and to hear the motivations behind enabling more people to use the whole language. Then I needed some down time before my talk right after lunch. I gave an updated version of “Nothing” and as always at ACCU got some great questions that will go into the next version of the talk – or some other one. Then I kept to tradition by doing the Pub Quiz, entertaining as always for the don’t-write-this-at-work code and marveling at how some folks know a lot of dark corners! Another round of lightning talks and an early night, meaning I couldn’t attend the Bristol Girl Geeks dinner as I had planned.
The Day 3 keynote was low on code and high on insight as Paul Grenyer talked about growing a community while dealing with the ups and downs of life in general. Then to a fascinating talk by Dom Davis about communicating, with significant meta content that I really enjoyed. I spent the lunch break at the #include table, and then dove into a variety of little talks – 15 and 20 minute ones. I was starting to tire and didn’t pay as much attention as I should have, but let me recommend Alex Chan’s reminder that the tech we build can hurt people when it’s being used as designed. I took a break to be ready for the Conference Dinner where I was able to catch up with old friends and meet a few new ones.
Finally Day 4. I started with Kevlin Henney and a talk with a similar title to my “Nothing” but very different content. Another break, another lunch at the #include table, and then some down time before my closing keynote. I updated the beginning of this talk since the C++ on Sea keynote, and I think this improves it. More great questions after and I think more material to work in there somehow. Then the close of the conference, a certain amount of hanging around not wanting it to end, and up to my room for another early night and to get ready to go.
Sunday all I did was take the train to the airport, fly home (sleeping a little on the plane) and drive home. A lot to process, as always after ACCU. And when I got home, a lot to catch up on, which is why this has taken a few weeks to write up!
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