Collaborations Workshop 2016

Author: Mario Antonioletti
Posted: 31 Mar 2016 | 09:30

The Software Sustainability Institute's Collaborations Workshop 2016 is now over. If you blinked, you missed it. You shall now have to wait until 27-29th March 2017 for the next one, to be held at the Leeds Business School.  I still think that this is one of the best networking conferences around and well worth attending, though for the purposes of full disclosure I have to admit that I have a dual role: as a peripheral organiser as well as a full workshop attendee. The workshop runs over two days and is followed by a hack day which I was unable to attend because of other commitments.

Surgeon's Hall, the venue in Edinburgh, is a pretty sumptuous place.  An open plan cabaret-like seating arrangement was used, as opposed to the more usual linearly regimented lecture theatre approach.

At first I found this a bit off-putting but it presented a better opportunity to meet and talk to other people. Also, as an experienced conference attendee, I always ensure that my sitting position places me close to a power point. A slack channel was provided for attendees to communicate during the conference. I found this to be really useful - a back channel was established that allowed the attendees to discuss and supplement the content of the keynote speakers' presentations, as well as allowing you to interact with a number of the attendees sitting at the other tables.

As well as the usual keynote speakers and panel sessions, all attendees were given a chance to present a lightning talk: 2 minutes of presentation with no questions, and about 40 attendees rose to the challenge. This gives an excellent opportunity to quickly find out what other attendees are doing to find common elements and thus establish collaborations. Discussion groups were established to explore a predetermined topic of interest - the output of this is supposed to be a short blog article. Attendees were also given an opportunity to demonstrate some of the tools they are producing or research they are undertaken - this was done in parallel streams. I went to two demos and found both to be interesting in different ways. Again, this provides an opportunity to establish collaborations and/or constructive feedback can be provided.  There was also a collaborative ideas session where predetermined teams of attendees proposed an idea they potentially could go on to develop that the other attendees would later go on to vote for with the chance of winning a prize.

I was lucky enough to be on the winning team: git blame self which would provide a confessional forum for experienced programmers to confess examples of bad code to gain absolution from their peers and thus demystify coding. There was a chance for these ideas to be implemented at the hack day but alas I could not be there.

An opportunity was also provided for non-Edinburgh residents to experience Edinburgh with Neil Chue Hong providing a guided tour to the centre of the city while I volunteered to take some of the larks on an early morning scaling of Arthur's seat. I took them all up and brought them all back down. 

I would strongly encourage people to participate in the next Collaborations Workshop in Leeds in 2017 if you can.