CUSEC 2008

An other year of CUSEC is now over. After months of preparation, the event ran smoothly and proposed a great variety to attendees. With 6 keynotes, academic and corporate presentations, tutorials, the career fair and all other activities clustered around the conference, there was not much time to rest.

Organizing conferences is completely addictive. I started many years ago. During the organization period before the actual event, some busy days get you to wonder why you accepted again this year. After the conference, pressure is down, satisfaction level is high, energy level is critically low and commitment for the next year is not even questionable.

Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to just attend a conference. I have not done it for so long. When attending as an organizer, you get to see the back stage. You see a few sessions and get to talk to everyone. Attendees could probably give a much more accurate review of the conference as I am fully biased and my view of the conference was far from the standard attendee experience.

If you could not attend, presentations have been filmed and should be available online at some point. They won’t give the same feeling as if you were at the conference, but at least, the content will be there.


Let’s take them all one by one.

  • Hard Problems in Network Computing by Tim Bray (keynote)

    With all his experience, Tim brought back some of hardest challenges left to be solved: integration and concurrency. I liked how past solution attempts were exposed and how their failures was explained before moving on. I remember walking out of the session satisfied about what I heard, but I don’t remember much of the details. Guillaume already made a full review of this session.

  • Developing Visualizations of Web Content with E15 by Kate Hollenbach (academic)

    This one seemed interactive from the title. Presentations with a lot of graphics are always more entertaining. The display of E15 is simply beautiful, and it can do some interesting stuff when it comes to displaying data. Everything has to be scripted using Python, which makes it geeky and fun. The only problem is that the project is still in very early stage, does not have so many real-world applications and only runs on OSX for the moment.

  • The ACL is dead by Zed Shaw (keynote)

    Zed is a very energetic speaker and completely passionate about programming. He has some clear-cut opinions on every topic and they tend to be on the extreme sides. The session was mostly a rant against abusive system complexity and corporate programming. Fun.

  • We didn’t start the fire by Sylvain Carle (tutorial)

    I didn’t actually see this one. I was too busy trying to find some food. I did get in time for the question period though, and the crowd seemed to be very interested. Starting a company, building it and getting financing seems to be a topic everyone is interested in.

  • Living with concurrency by Dr. Peter Grogono (keynote)

    I didn’t like it as a keynote. As an academic presentation, I would have known what to expect. The session was more of a research project presentation than anything else. Some had good comments about it, but the little it brought about the complexity of concurrency felt like old news to me. My main critique about the session was that the project presented is not applicable in industrial contexts. Through later discussions with Dr. Grogono during lunch, I figured out that it was not meant to be. It’s more of a long-term research project (10-20 years) than a solution to current problems.

  • When Theory Matters by Dr. Jeffrey Ullman (keynote)

    The session was mostly about content rating and presented different algorithms to do so. I couldn’t stay until the end. I didn’t have enough sleep the night before to handle so much theory, but the topic was still something I was interested in. This would also have been a good candidate for the academic track.

  • Keeping it fun: Hacking on open source after graduation by Jeff Bailey (corporate, Google)

    This was a good introduction to Open Source, how it works in a business way and you can contribute to have fun and improve your resume. I didn’t learn much from it, but the question period made me realize that F/OSS is not quite as well understood by undergrads as I thought it was. If this presentation could make it any clearer, it was a great presentation.

  • Hacking the Noosphere by Jon Udell (keynote)

    I loved this one. It was all about bringing the social networks and all this collaborative content to a next level. Jon started the presentation with a video from Apple made years ago that demonstrated their vision for the future. High-tech demo stuff that still does not exist to this day. The presentation mixed topics like web services, semantic web, mash-ups and how to display information properly. Very interesting challenges for the future.

  • Is Writing More Important than Programming? by Jeff Atwood (keynote)

    Jeff is a famous blogger. He became famous writing text, not writing code. He had a great presentation explaining why only writing code might not be enough. Writing a blog can help improving communication skills and increase your visibility. Unless someone can find you have done something, you have not done anything. It was a great closing keynote by asking a very important question: What do you want your career to be?


I never really liked career fairs. I think of them as a necessary evil. In a student tech conference, it’s about the only way to get sponsors and keep the prices low. What I noticed this year is that students actually like it. Of course, it does not apply to those not looking for a job, but most of them actually got back from lunch in time for the career fair.

As I have been independent for over a year, a job really is the last thing I am looking for, but I do like speaking to people from the industry and learn what they do and what they are looking for. Plus, unless I know what they do, there is no way I can forward them students that fit the profile when they come talk to me. For some reason, most don’t quite get that detail and still try to recruit me. Can’t we just have an interesting conversation about software?

CUSEC had a great booth line-up for attendees to visit:

  • Direct Energy
  • Telus
  • Mansef
  • RadialPoint
  • Avanade
  • SAP
  • IBM
  • Evertz
  • Microsoft
  • Autodesk

Most of the companies actually sent technical people to discuss with visitors, which was great. HR people tend to do a terrible job when asked ab do out work related questions. During a lunch discussion with one of the guys from SAP, I finally figured out what HR is for in the recruiting process: a filter to let the development team alone while they do their job.

As always in conferences, the sessions themselves and the program are only half of it. Sessions are only a way to stimulate discussions. There is nothing quite like being with 400 other people who share the same passion.

3 thoughts on “CUSEC 2008”

  1. I think career fairs are a good thing. Not only do they keep costs down, it gives a lot of credibility to the conference.

    For the first time I was on the other side of the career fair. I’ve never wanted a job at a big company so career fairs generally haven’t interested me much. But, now on the other side, I see how useful they really are. It’s the absolute best way to find people who not only want to work for you but you want as well! Most of the candidates you get from job posting on places like monster or workopolis are absolutely terrible. About the only way to hire is through recommendations. And that were CUSEC comes in. It perfectly matches up great candidates that want to work for a company (the other great people who aren’t interested don’t bother to apply) with the companies looking to hire them.

    So in the end it’s win-win. Companies get the employees they’re looking for (and they know it’s much more likely the applicant is an employee they’re looking for if they’re applying at cusec) and the delegates get the opportunities they’ve been looking for.

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