One of the benefits of living in Lawrence, KS is that you're basically at the geographic center of the continental United States. So when we heard about Strange Loop (a mere 5 hours away in St. Louis) & saw the speaker list, we had to go.
Accommodations & Venue
In addition to being one of the cheaper conferences around (just $150 for registration!), Strange Loop has a whole wealth of technologies & backgrounds present, which was a nice change of pace from single-technology conferences. The conference hotel was the Moonrise, an awesome retro-space themed hotel. Our room was meticulous & comfortable.
And the venues were quite good as well, split between Moonrise, The Pageant & the RAC, each a stone's throw from each other. Save for a couple sessions at the Moonrise (and only because they were packed), there was ample seating. The Pageant's wifi was extremely spotty but Moonrise & RAC's was solid, which made up for it.
The keynote speakers were fantastic. Hilary Mason gave a great introduction to machine learning (though Matt was bored & left wanting more). Guy Steele reverse engineered a 40 year old program he wrote & talked about the way to achieve parallelism is to get to the point where we don't think about it anymore. And Douglas Crockford gave a humorous talk on being an OSS Heretic.
The sessions speakers were good. In particular, the following talks were well worth the time:
- Complexity Theory
- Distributed Hash Tables - How SimpleGeo does their data storage
- Android Squared - DSP, REST & variable sliding windows, oh my!
- Real World Modeling with MongoDB
- Mary Poppins Meets The Matrix: Seven languages (and more) in 60 minutes
Others could have been good, but we found a lot of material to be very introductory. For many at the conference, this may have helped, but we would've liked to have seen an "advanced" track (and more machine learning!) at the conference.
Riak (An Aside)
Kudos also go to the two Riak chaps (Rusty & Mark). Not only did Rusty give a good talk on Riak, but they both listened patiently to a user experience story, helped with fixing up Basho's protobuf mirror & and verified the approach on a Riak benchmark Daniel threw together. Fantastic folks & we'd be lying if we said we weren't crushing on Riak.
The parties/meetups before & during the conference were quite good. We had plenty of opportunities to meet other people & talk. They were well organized and friendly. The volunteers did a great job and it was very interesting getting to meet new people and chat about what they're interested in.
Food & Nightlife
Even with the vegan (Daniel) in tow, there were plenty of good restaurants to be found on Delmar Ave. Some of the best were:
- Pi - Math-themed, delicious pizza & awesome beer. We ended up there three times during the trip. (Vegan friendly)
- Snarf's - Tasty sandwiches
- Fritz's - Bottomless root beer made on the spot and good burgers
- Cheese-ology - Mac & Cheese done awesome (Vegan friendly)
Even better was PinUp Bowl, located right next to the Moonrise, which featured awesome martinis, 8 lanes & one whopper score for Charlie.
All in all, Strange Loop 2010 was a fantastic conference to attend. We're definitely planning on returning again next year.