How I went to IT Jam 2011 in Odesa
I would like to say sorry in advance for the poor quality of the photos, inadvertent canted angles and other possible bloopers. To begin with, I don’t have the skill to take good quality photos. Secondly, I haven’t had any experience with the photo camera I brought with me (as the result, I had no idea how to configure it). Thirdly, the photo camera leaves a lot to be desired. An important notice: it’s better to prepare a cup or two of your favourite drink before reading this, because it’s a long story.
One fine evening a fellow student, Serhii, rang me and offered a serious deal: he wanted to visit a conference for software developers and people who work in the IT sector. Without even thinking I immediately responded with a strong consent: we are going there. My reasoning was simple: I have never ever been to a conference and I wanted to discover what it’s like. I was going there not for the sake of acquiring some special knowledge, but for the sake of new feelings. Because I think that the benefits from watching a talk remain the same no matter how you consume information, either through a video or from a live performance. So, our group consisted of four people. Each of us needed to register his email on the conference’s website. We also needed to buy two-way train tickets. The conference itself was completely free, so each student could afford it.
It’s high time to depature. Goodbye, Kharkiv!
I’ve been to Odesa before once, but in transit. Me and my football team were travelling to Illichivsk, to a training camp. At the Odesa train station, we have been packed in a tiny yellow bus, so I didn’t remember anything about the city, because my only concern was how to survive inside the bus.
We arrived in Odesa at half past eight in the morning. The weather was magnificent: not too warm and not too cold. We’ve had two spare hours before the conference’s opening. We’ve decided to walk around the city and to find a breakfast place.
Investigating the city map and the possible routes.
The place where the conference had been taking place, the sea station, was in a walking distance from the train station (where we was). Suddenly, out of thin air a man with keys in his hand approached to us, while we were exploring the map. He offered to pick up us. Apparently, he was an illegal taxi driver, so we refused from his help.
It’s worth mentioning that our path passed through the most famous street of Odesa, Deribasivska St. We also passed through a similar by its look street called Pushkinska St. When we were passing by more or less important buildings we joked that we should visit all those dubious places instead of the conference.
Pushkinska St from a sidewalk.
The intersection between Pushkinska St and a Random St. The Random St view.
As a result of a mental unspoken voting we agreed on the best place for breakfast, which was McDonald’s. It’s fast and convenient in our situation. I’m not a frequent visitor of this restaurant, so I always prefer to order the Big Mac menu. Unfortunately, the McD’s people didn’t have it, because it is not included in the McD’s breakfast menu. The choice was hard, so I ordered some fancy omelette with latte. It was the first time when I tasted this drink.
Having finished our breakfast feast, we had exactly the minimal needed amount of time to get to the sea port in time. At first glance the streets of Odesa were empty. But when we reached the Potemkin Stairs everything fell into place.
The view on the beautiful sea port and the ugly ads banner.
It’s still not too late to jump into a wagon and ride home.
At the sea port. Try to find me.
On the plaza at the sea station there was a fountain with a levitating tap. Serhii has shared the secret of the levitation with the rest of us.
Nearby there was a monument with an egg and a well-built toddler inside it. Not impressive. I wasn’t even impressed by old cannons with cannonballs lying next to them, by many yachts and ships, by shipyards… What did impress me was the size of the queue.
Wow… Quite a queue.
The ship’s name is Amerigo Vespucci. It was built by Italians in 1931. Used by Ukrainians in 2011.
At the conference
Having finished our walk, we finally went to the conference. We needed to sign up. I immediately was pleasantly astonished by the great number of women at the conference. One interesting thing about the conference was that they had free food such as various kinds of cookies, tea, coffee, water, sandwiches. Needless to say the food was eaten very fast.
There were many people to sign up.
It was a good idea to have a snack before the opening. The ones who weren’t hungry could read various information about the conference.
Spectacular Sasha, one of the presenters, opens the conference.
About the conference
I need to pause for a while and tell you about the conference on the whole. The conference consisted of 42 talks. Each talk was 30 minutes long and the break between the talks was 10 minutes long. The talks were divided by topics: mobile technologies, Java, web-development, .NET, Quality Assurance and General (various topics). So every 40 minutes, between 11:10 AM and 15:40 PM there had been happening 7 talks, all at the same time. A conference’s attender had to choose between these 7 talks every time. Unfortunately, only Spiderman can simultaneously be everywhere at the same time, so I listened only to seven talks.
The first talk I chose was the most interesting to me: development of a simple Rails 3 application using Git and GitHub and deploying it to Heroku. Although I had already known something about this topic, I still was curious to see how an experienced programmer does it.
Unfortunately, Serhii Parizhsky, the speaker I wanted to listen to, had some problems, so he yielded to another speaker Andriy Mykhailov, whose talk was on Puppet. A couple of attendands, who had evidenced this, pretentiously left the room.
To be fair, I missed a lot of information from the Puppet talk, because I was trying to configure my photo camera. The room where we were was dark, so it wasn’t the simplest task. I remember, though, that I didn’t like the style of speech of the speaker. Although occasionally he had been trying to joke, in general he was boring.
Fortunately, the second talk was about Rails. Initially I had planned to visit the talk by Peter Afanasiev on “Archinecture of online payments” , but I changed my plans, beacuse I was really eager to check out the Rails talk. That’s why I stayed in the same room.
Serhii and Sasha. Sasha announces Serhii.
This time Serhii explained that he had been experiencing issues with his computer. From what I understood, to resolve the problem, he borrowed a laptop from the previous speaker.
There was installed latest version of Ubuntu on the laptop. To my surprise Parizhsky couldn’t figure out what to do with it. The laptop’s display was blocked and he was seeking for the password to unlock it. Then he compared Gedit (which can be improved by extensions) with Notepad. Then he was trying to find a way to create a new file in Nautilus.
Eventually he typed into the terminal the cherished command “rails new appname” (I don’t remember the actual name of the application). Someone from the audience reasonably asked about what he had been doing, because everyone had been confused. The long and the short of it is that the talk was wasted and I was disappointed.
The third talk was about Agile software development methods. Although the speaker, Dmytro Lapshyn, was very confident and demonstrated solid knowing of the topic, the Agile stuff wasn’t very interesting to me, because I had no previous knowledge about it. I wanted to listen to a talk called “Designing a web-application. Structure, clien-side and server-side”, but then changed my mind and went to this talk with Serhii, my fellow student). After the talk, some silver-haired man came up to Dmytro with some deal. Apparently, he had been impressed by the talk.
The fourth talk was about leadership. Dmytro Mindra spoke about the role of a leader in a team: why such a person is needed and what types of leaders there exist. I enjoyed the talk, because the speaker was good, his speech was vivid and the topic wasn’t complex.
The next, fifth talk by a Dutch specialist Naos Wilbrink was about data privacy. The talk was completely in English.
The speaker had perfect English. Every word was spoken legibly and neatly. Naos taught us that each bit of inromation is important. He showed us that there is an equal amount of iPhone and Android users. The talk was mercurial. The language barrier didn’t exist. The listeners asked a lot of questions. All of the Q’s received their A’s.
By the way, it was me who had conviced Serhii to go with me. Initially, he wanted to listen to a talk about freelance. I think it was the right choice. In my opinion it was the best talk.
The penultimate talk, by Yevhen Dmytrychenko, was about load testing. Yevhen isn’t an exceptionally good speaker, but his talk was decent. He spoke about online and desktop tools for load testing and compared them to each other. I doubt the knowledge is applicable to me, but it’s still useful to know about other things in the industry just to broaden your view.
When I was in Kharkiv I had planned which talks I want to listen. The last talk from my list was called “Using neural networks and fuzzy logic in e-commerce”. I was prepared for this talk, as I had read a book (but not finished) on this topic (unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the book). Much to my regret, when I read the schedule in Odesa, I discovered that this talk was absent. They had replaced it with another semi-self-promotional talk by Leonid Bugaev. So, I had decided to check it out, because the other 6 talks at that time seemed to me boring. Although his claimed topic and his actual talk were very different from each other, I enjoyed the talk. He spoke about motivation and other abstract tech-related things.
Rework is a nice book, but it’s too abstract, just like the talk.
The talks part was over. The next part of the conference was coffee-break. I remember there was a TV-set hanging on the wall displaying the tweets containing the tag #itjam live. Also, for some strange reason there were easels with paper and pens everywhere. Someone wrote a “Hello World” program in Java and someone even managed to draw someone’s portrait.
After the break there was a lottery where the prizes were tickets to various conferences. One of those tickets was a ticket to RubyShift in Dnipropetrovsk, which I was secretly hoping to win. I must admit that I didn’t win one, but don’t tell anyone.
The next part of the conference was an interview with “big bosses” of Ukrainian software companies. I didn’t memorise their names, but I do remember that their style of talking was all the same. It was horrific. They spoke not Russian, nor Ukrainian, nor even English. It was a nuclear mix of all these three languages. They are all Ukrainians (except one), so why did they do that? I can only let some big nub from Denmark off, because he was speaking in English.
Question: “Do you use any math in your company?”. Answer: “We do. We play poker!”
Impressions and criticism
It was time to go for us. In general, the bosses’ speeches were boring. There were a lot of advertisements and other unrelated information. One of the bosses said that they use PHP as their main language, while the majority of the audience were Javaists. The most memorable phrase that was retweeted countless number of times was: “The best programmers are in the USA. And… they are Russians”. Although this phrase was praised among the audience with applauses, the author of this website strongly disagrees with it. The conference continued, and we had to hurry up to catch a train.
I really enjoyed IT Jam. It was an interesting experience to be a visitor of such a conference. It was also interesting to explore the city. I wouldn’t mind visiting the conference the next year. However, there were some minor downsides. Although the conference was by Ukrainians and for Ukrainians, all the printed information was in English. Some speakers had their slides completely in English for no good reason. Even the conference’s website was in English without an option to choose the Russian or the Ukrainian language. The reason the conference organisers decided to make everything in English is quite obsure. What for? To brag?
The conference is over. But only for us.
On our way to the train station I decided to record a quick interview with us about the impressions from the conference.
I also took a couple of photos of some Odesa’s pearls. It’s not a trip to Odesa if you don’t photograph the Potemkin Stairs.
Odesa is a cool city. Goodbye, Odesa!