Boybands, refactoring and inspiration at beyond tellerrand Berlin 2016

Bt impressions
Photo by Matthias Ott

When I was young, I played in a band. This was the main thing I cared about, so I became a sound engineer. It felt like the perfect fit. I helped producing hundreds of TV shows. I’ve been doing the same things for almost 5 years! First I got bored – later annoyed. I had to change something and was looking for something new. I had no idea what I wanted to do next.

In German we have a saying “über den Tellerrand hinausschauen”. Translated literally it means to look over the edge of a plate, which probably doesn’t make much sense. In German it stands for the action of looking at topics you usually don’t look at, of doing things you usually would never do and of learning things you never thought they might interest you.

This is what I did and I became a programmer, learned something new and changed what I thought interests me the most. I was always “good” with computers, but if 15 years ago you would’ve told me that sitting in front of a computer looking into a dark screen with white text on it will become one of my favorite things to do, I probably would’ve replied with a sarcastic “yeah, sure”.

Looking outside the box as a conference

This is exactly what the beyond tellerrand conference (BTConf) is about. Twice a year Marc Thiele collects inspiring and eye-opening talks to be presented at the events in Berlin and Düsseldorf. The topics include web development, design, typography, how to be happy, or anything that you would never have thought of. This year I attended for the third time and as usual after BTConf I was in a post-conference high.

The event is single-tracked conference lovely put together. The venue was in the center of Berlin, the Admiralspalast. The stage looked perfect with its tiny details like tables right on stage for people to watch the talks. The conference included enough breaks to mingle.

The biggest highlight (not being a speaker) surely was Tobi Lessnow. He’s the beyond tellerrand resident DJ performing during the breaks. His dance moves behind his desk simply make you smile, but there is even more! His tracks are special, because he mixes snippets of the previous given talk into it. Crazy melodies, danceable beats and remarkable quotes are a lot of fun!

The quality of talks was really high this year. A good talk tells a story, connects with the audience and makes the people think afterwards. That’s not the easiest thing to do, but I was really impressed about the constant level of the talks of this years BTConf.

Favorite talks

Here are three talks that I liked the most.

“Refactoring CSS Without Losing Your Mind” by Harry Roberts

Everybody writing CSS knows that writing CSS is easy, but maintaining CSS can be really hard. The global nature of CSS and the cascade can become a nightmare for developers working on large codebases. To avoid the total CSS disaster, refactorings are an essential part of the work of a frontend engineer. In his talk Harry took a really objective view on these refactorings, giving advice on when to do refactorings, how to sell them and how to do these right. Perfect tips for your next “refactoring-selling” to have some arguments for your project manager.

The thing that stuck the most is that it doesn’t matter how annoying and stressful refactoring can be. The fact that we as developers are able to improve and restructure, to fail and rebuild our work constantly, is a privilege that not many specialists have. People building skyscrapers can rarely say “well… that didn’t turn out well, let’s do it again”. So we maybe should be less annoyed by refactorings and be more happy about the progress we made.

“Unseen” by Tim Kadlec

Tim went into detail why the three main pillars of the internet – performance, accessibility and security – are so important for us today. But who is “us” in this case? There are 3,500,000,000 people out there using the internet. And these people are not only using iPhones and MacBooks surfing with decent connection speed. The web is (or should be) for everybody!

This means making it accessible (yes – there are people with disabilities accessing the web with assistive technology), as cheap as possible (yes – there are people paying for every megabyte) and secure (yes – people experience malware attacks). It was an excellent roundup of what should be considered, when building things for the web.

“How the tech sector could move in One Direction” by Sacha Judd

This was a talk about the boy band “One Direction” and how Sacha became obsessed with the theory of a secret romance of two members of this band. I would have never thought that a talk about “One Direction” could catch my complete attention for 40 minutes. How her obsession relates to diversity in tech? I don’t want to tell too much – great talk with a brilliant story!

Developers, designers, artists and data scientists — all in one room!

The topics this year ranged from drawing everyday pictures to work yourself through a tragedy in your life. Went over to changing the world as a designer and making an impact in the world. And ended with advices why we should be stubborn and naive to achieve more in our lives. What a solid mix!

If you prefer to go to more technically focused conferences, the BTConf is probably not for you, but if you’re open to look a tiny bit over this edge of this plate these Germans a talking about, I bet you’ll learn a lot and get inspired.

Marc already uploaded the videos. So why not make a tea tonight and watch some of the talks you'd never think of you'd like them?

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