!!Con (pronounced “bang bang con”) is a conference of ten-minute talks about the joy, excitement, and surprise of computing. I co-founded !!Con with a group of friends from the Recurse Center back in 2014, and it’s been held annually in New York each May since then. Right now, we’re preparing for our fourth conference, !!Con 2017, to be held in New York this May 6-7. We’ve just announced this year’s keynote speakers, Karen Sandler and Limor Fried, and opened our call for talk proposals, which will be open until March 20. Quoting from the call for talk proposals:
Over the last three years, !!Con talks have featured everything from poetry generation to Pokémon; from machine knitting to electroencephalography; from quantum computing to old DOS games. Do you have a favorite algorithm or data structure? A great story about that time you found a super-weird bug? A tool that you learned about and now you’re telling everyone and their cat?
We want to hear from tinkerers and practical types, scientists and artists, teachers and students, ordinary programmers and out-of-the-ordinary ones. We don’t care if what you talk about is “not smart enough” or “done before”; if you think it’s cool, we want to hear from you.
Why should you submit a talk proposal, or otherwise participate in or advocate for !!Con? I’ve said a lot on this blog about what I think makes !!Con special, but one of my favorite articulations of what we’re about came from Sumana Harihareswara, a longtime !!Con attendee and Recurse Center community member, in the form of her 2016 article “Toward a !!Con Aesthetic”. A few excerpts from Sumana’s piece:
When someone asks what kind of programming !!Con is about, they might be following assumptions laid down by hundreds of other tech conferences that focus on particular frameworks, languages, methodologies, business needs, vendors, or demographics. !!Con deliberately breaks down these divisions. The radical assumption !!Con makes instead is that every attendee has the capability of being curious about everything, at least for ten minutes.
!!Con contrasts with other programming conferences the way Recurse Center or a research lab contrasts with other programming environments: it values what is interesting and nourishing, instead of always asking what will make money. !!Con is “unprofessional” but here that word is not a license to be unreliable or jerky or oppressive; it’s license to show fear and curiosity.
!!Con values both depth and breadth, but always with an analytic, systematic, rigorous curiosity, preferring historical understanding over dismissiveness — and a respect for our historical ancestors and the reasons why things are they are.
The !!Con crowd welcomes ambitious demos — with the assumption that it is okay if they are not utterly polished, or don’t work out as intended. We would rather encourage vulnerability, enthusiasm and play than disrespect anyone; we take very seriously the sin of harshing someone else’s joy.
If you like the sound of that, I hope you’ll consider submitting a talk proposal this year; passing our call for talk proposals on to a friend, colleague, or student who you think might be interested; or asking your organization to sponsor us and help us remain radically affordable. As always, if you have questions, feel free to contact me or any of the other organizers — we’re here to help.