Stacks on Stacks 2016

Today marked the end of, a two-day developer conference in Kansas City. Being a Kansas City native, I really enjoyed the fact that there was such a great conference held locally. Union Station was a great venue for hosting the conference and it provided excellent access to all of Kansas City’s downtown attractions.

This was my first and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. This year’s theme was “Coping with Chaos”. Without further ado, though, here are the recaps of my favorite talks:

Getting the Word out: Membership, Dissemination and Population Protocols

Sean Cribbs gave this excellent talk that covered Comcast’s journey to create a P2P system for pushing configuration and possibly code out to a vast network of servers. In it, he covered many of the different protocols they considered using as well as the tradeoffs involved. I really enjoyed his presentation of these protocols and it got me thinking, “Where could or when would I use this in my code?”

Conquering Chaos to Land Humans on Mars

NASA’s Alicia M. Dwyer Cianciolo talked in depth about some of the challenges that we will face in putting humans on Mars. She briefly covered the history of NASA’s mars missions, particularly the rovers Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. Alicia highlighted that they run many tests and simulations for “what if” cases to ensure a very small margin of error even when facing such uncertainty.

Engineering a Contemporary Risk Management System

This was the first time I’ve heard a talk at a software conference from someone at a fintech company. Piero Ferrante gave a great talk explaining how C2FO is able to use their data to drive smarter business decisions. He showed how they are constantly using machine learning algorithms to come up with the best measure of risk when it comes to small business lending. In addition, he gave numerous shoutouts to the python packages they were able to use in conjunction with R to solve their problems.

Voice Controlled ChatOps

I have to give Aaron Blythe a hand on this talk. This was one of the most entertaining talks I have seen in a while. In it, he briefly talked about his experience working from home and the role that Slack plays for his team. His demo is really where he nailed it though, using an Amazon echo to open and close an incident in PagerDuty with his voice and having the logs of his actions appear in Slack!

Managing Complexity with Help from the 60s & 70s

Cerner’s Michelle Brush gave this great talk that took us back to the 60s and 70s. I always love learning about data structures, especially the closer you get to the 1’s and 0’s. The prizes for me to be had at this talk were Quadtrees & Z-order and their applications for spatial indexes and compression. However, my biggest takeaway from this talk was that maybe not all new problems need a new solution. Maybe your problem is equivalent to another problem that already has a well defined solution.

Testing the hard stuff and staying sane

Professor and founder of QuviQ, John Hughes, gave a very entertaining talk that made me think twice about testing. During his talk, he demoed QuickCheck, a fascinating utility for generating random tests that find failures in your code. Unlike the standard unit tests, this method of testing seemed to find all sorts of classes of problems that would otherwise not be found, including race conditions. This style of checking seemed to be more enjoyable too, even with his example of a circular buffer.

All in all, it was a great two-days and I learned alot. The conference was very cozy and the presenters were nice enough to chat with me after the talks. If you want to watch any of these talks, I believe they will be made available on the YouTube page for

Note: I’ll be linking to the talks once they are released on the YouTube page