QCon 2019 – day 1

Cognitive dissonance is something I’ve been thinking about recently. The difference between what ‘is’, and what you think ‘should be’. And that thought found resonance in an excellent talk today at QCon London 2019. Stuart Davidson presented Change is the only Constant, based on his experiences at Skyscanner.

He started with huge enthusiasm and confidence, and quickly showed us the group of six books he recommended as fundamental to the theories behind his talk. This included the ‘Phoenix Project’ (again), but also ‘The Art of Action’. And it was reading that book on the way home, that I learned about the military strategist Carl von Clausewitz and his ‘Friktion’, which is essentially describing the same Cognitive dissonance in organisations that I had been thinking about a few days ago.

Stuart had great ideas and slides, including how Skyscanner use a variation on Spotify’s Tribes and Squads engineering model to manage their teams and initiatives across teams. Ideas I’m keen to take back to Caplin, possibly starting, as The Art of Action did, with an appreciation of the lessons to be learned from an analysis of the battle of Jena-Auerstedt.

My day started with a great talk from Jessica Tai on Airbnb’s Great Migration. I particularly enjoyed all the different animals and their migration styles, and how that related back to the migration experience at Airbnb from Monorail to Services.

Another fascinating talk concerned the very real time control of retail robots, and just how much quicker that meant Ocado groceries can be delivered. Thanks to Matthew Cornford for stating the problem, and then talking through how it was technically addressed. Even when that included counter intuitive optimisation steps like using gnarly old Java for loops instead of the modern functional-style operations of java.util.stream. And also using Busy Loops instead of callbacks, which some consider an anti pattern. Although I think a version of them is also used inside LMAX’s Disruptor.

A great first day, and I can’t wait for the next set of talks.

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