What we learned at DDD Melbourne

IE team members at DDD

Words by Ettienne Gous, Christian Hagelid & Andrew Rollason

Recently a group of 24 IE developers attended DDD Melbourne. DDD is a not-for-profit conference for the software community held annually in all major Australian cities. Its goal is to create a friendly, community-led event where everyone has a platform and anyone can submit a talk on their area of expertise. The conference attendees vote on the submitted topics and the winners present their talks. It’s an accessible and affordable conference that seeks to foster public speaking and knowledge sharing from the tech community.

The name DDD stems from Developer Developer Developer, which probably paints an image of an exacerbated Steve Balmer, pacing on stage, in front of a large audience of software developers. Luckily it’s far from that. DDD gives an indication of the roots of the conference; traditionally focused towards the software developer community and in particular on the Microsoft stack. This was the tenth edition of the Melbourne version of the conference and it has grown both in size and diversity every year.

The event kicked off with a fascinating talk by Josh Richards, an astronaut candidate who delved into great detail about the Mars One project. Although not a developer-related topic, it was a fascinating view of the selection process, how they will go about colonising Mars, and some of the challenges that lay ahead. One interesting aspect of space travel, in general, is how mundane it is. When you picture an astronaut you might conjure up images of humans that are in peak physical condition. The reality, at least for this mission, is that anyone, from all walks of life, can apply and be selected. The candidates that are ultimately chosen must go through specialised training and have to be in good physical shape but they are far from Olympic athletes. More important is the diversity of the selected group. This is not unique to space exploration or software development, but it certainly rings true for the group of developers here at IE.

Key takeaway from Josh:

A diverse team with a wide range of skills and expertise will optimise the chances of success.

IE team at DDD

From there, DDD broke into five different tracks that covered a vast array of content. The subject matter covered areas of backend and frontend development, UX as well as management and strategy topics related to tech. There was also a separate junior developer track, something the organisers introduced a few years ago and has been very popular.

The IE team divided and conquered, taking in talks from all kinds of speakers, many with interesting perspectives. Effy Elden gave a great talk titled “False Assumptions Developers Make About Gender (and their sometimes hilarious results)”. It was a thought-provoking talk that shone a light on how developers make decisions about logic and user interface design based on conscious or unconscious bias.

Effy spoke about a number of hilarious examples, where companies large and small have tried and failed to address the challenge of incorporating gender in online forms. Their talk generated great discussion within our group and a bit of self-reflection on how we rate our own efforts in eliminating such bias.

Key takeaway from Effy:

Your unconscious bias may be affecting how you build and design your software.

Stephen Kennedy, CTO at matchbox with extensive experience as a solutions architect, gave an interesting talk titled “Architecture Reviews for mere mortals”. He made a point of covering both the minutiae - what is generally expected in a review - as well as the bigger picture - how to communicate your report to best manage the reaction of the various stakeholders within the business you are reviewing.

Having a good framework to base any future architecture reviews on is an excellent resource. While a lot of the outcomes will depend on the specific circumstances, being able to provide guidelines from Stephen's experience is a great addition to any toolkit.

Key takeaway from Stephen:

When reviewing architecture, document everything. Managing stakeholder expectations is easier with detail and context.

The day concluded with a locknote by Aaron Powell, who gave a recollection and inspiring talk about how he started talking at tech events. He touched on how in the 10 years since the inaugural DDD, he has progressively built his communication, confidence and personal brand. Our team loved this and it has inspired us to do more than just attend next year.

Key takeaway from Aaron:

Speak at DDD Melbourne 2020!

Words by Ettienne Gous, Christian Hagelid & Andrew Rollason