For the third year in a row, some good friends and I are organizing !!Con (pronounced bang bang con), a conference consisting entirely of ten-minute talks about the joy, excitement, and surprise of programming. !!Con 2016 will be held May 7-8 in New York City and will feature keynote speakers Catt Small and Ramsey Nasser. Our call for talk proposals is open until March 18, and we want talk proposals from you!
Why should you submit talk proposals to !!Con? Last year, I wrote about two things that I think make !!Con special: anonymous review of talk proposals, and how we give up traditional Q&A in favor of having lots of breaks in which attendees and speakers can interact. I could go on in that vein, but instead of asking you to take my word for it, I want to quote a few of our past speakers on what they liked about !!Con.
One of the things that really struck me about !!Con was that the organizers went way out of their way to build a space that was inclusive. This shined, I think, from the moment attendees walked in the door: attendees were asked to fill out their own nametags, and the sample nametag had on it not just a name and Twitter handle, but also a preferred set of pronouns. The vast majority of attendees had pronouns written on their nametags, which I imagine must have been very valuable to nonbinary participants (or participants who otherwise cannot be readily gendered from their appearance); it made it the norm, rather than an unusual case, for attendees to announce what they’d prefer to be referred to as.
This also set the tone for the space in general. I think that having pronouns on nametags by default sends a powerful message that “this space is designed to be inclusive”, and that “all participants are welcome in this space”. The fact that the Code of Conduct was explicitly brought into the light and discussed during the opening remarks was also valuable; participants could feel like their attendance and safety were valued by the organizers by intent, not just by happenstance.
!!con attendees were all very cool, and very passionate about coding (and all their other hobbies too — generally, just excited and excitable people). The event sold out very quickly, so we were all lucky to be there.
The conference really hit it out of the park with accessibility: nut-free, dairy-free, vegan-friendly food; live captioning by a stenographer; all-gender restrooms; adoption of the Recurse Center social rules; etc. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a friendlier tech-centric space, and that meant that we could be excited about learning things together.
Allison Kaptur (!!Con 2015, “Limitless and recursion-free recursion limits!”, and !!Con 2014, “A 1,500 line (!!) switch statement powers your Python!”)
!!con (“bangbangcon”) is a conference about “the joy, excitement, and surprise in programming.” This was my second year speaking there, and it’s consistently one of my favorite conferences. I described the CfP as “an invitation to meditate on your delight,” and the whole conference felt like that. It can sometimes be challenging and difficult and outright terrible in this industry, and there’s a lot of hard work to do, but it’s nice to spend a couple of days learning about the amazing, fascinating, and weird world we live in.
This year there were talks on how wifi keeps getting faster, how to program a knitting machine, lightpainting with robots, making a cell phone, quines, and roller derby. It was a truly delightful lineup, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.
I particularly like Allison’s description of the !!Con call for proposals as “an invitation to meditate on your delight”, which I think beautifully captures what the conference is about. If that sounds good to you, please consider submitting a talk proposal or three by March 18!
To get an idea of what kinds of talks have appeared at !!Con in the past, you may want to look at the talk abstracts from 2015 and 2014. In the last two years, we’ve had everything from poetry generation to Pokémon to interactive theorem proving to electroencephalography. I can’t wait to see what our speakers come up with this year! If you think you might like to submit a talk proposal, but you need some assistance or advice or you have a question, just ask one of the organizers — we’re here to help. And finally, if your company is interested in sponsoring !!Con and helping make all of this possible, please do get in touch!