I spent this past weekend in Montreal attending the Canadian University Software Engineering Conference 2009, and it was absolutely awesome. On top of being a cheap three day trip to Montreal with likeminded individuals (read: nerds), CUSEC is an amazing chance to meet some important and cool people in the software industry. Each day was filled with interesting presentations, although the pub night was one of the main highlights of the event. Some of the speakers I found more interesting:

Giles Bowkett: Evil Genius, and maintains a well read blog.

Wow, what a presentation. Similar to Zed Shaw last year, Giles taught us that we shouldn’t be aiming to write Java for some big corporation for the rest of our lives, but that we should be out there trying to write the code we want to write. This seemed to be an ongoing theme throughout the conference. Well, that, and that Ruby is AWESOME. Specifically, Giles was at CUSEC showcasing Archaeopteryx, his Ruby midi sound library. Pretty neat stuff, but Giles’ presentation skills stood out more than anything. Hopefully a video will be up on the CUSEC site eventually, as it’s definitely worth seeing.

Joey deVilla: Microsoft Tech Evangelist

Not in a million years did I think I would see someone open a conference talk by playing “Hit Me Baby One More Time” on an accordion, but alas, here we are. Joey runs a blog called The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century, and gave a very interesting talk about his career to date (which includes interviewing at a porn studio, of all things). More importantly, he showed us a video of a bottle rocket misfiring from a bodily orifice, and closed the talk by playing “Head like a Hole” on his accordion. Maybe everyone at Microsoft isn’t that evil after all. We all got to hear a few more epic accordion songs as Joey was very active with the conference participants, and came out to pub night as well as a few meals with us. More on his shenanigans later.

Richard Stallman

Of all the presentations this year, this was the one I was most looking forward too. Stallman gave a long (almost double his allotted time) talk about the role of copyright in the digital age. While I agree with Stallman’s ideals (you’ll notice the majority of the code on this side is GPL’d), I found that the strength of his militancy and his alarmist phrasing turned off a lot of the crowd. The crowd was dead silent for the first half of the presentation, but by the end many in the crowd were openly mocking Stallman. I thought that it was very clear that Stallman’s ideas are very well reasoned and took a long time to think out, even if they do come off as radical. The highlight of the talk, and maybe even CUSEC itself, came at the end of the talk when Joey deVilla (the Microsoft rep) walked away with a plush GNU that Stallman auctioned off to raise funds for the FSF. The entire event is chronicled in Joey’s blog.

All in all, CUSEC was an amazing experience, and I highly recommend that anyone who is in a position to do so considers going next year. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

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