April 11, 2019

Exploring Cologne - <c't webdev>, Day 2

Exploring Cologne - <c't webdev>, Day 2

February 6th

And here comes the first day of the conference, <c`twebdev>. Luckily, I was scheduled to give a talk on the very first day. I say lucky because the same evening we were supposed to have a small party. I believe it worth dedicating an entire section to discuss the importance of these social gatherings and why you want to present as early as possible.

Conference Happy Hours and Dinners

Conferences are not all about giving and attending talks. More importantly is to socialize and network with speakers, attendees, organizers and anyone you can find nearby. I genuinely enjoy talking to people I meet at these events since I can always learn something new about local culture, everyday life, interests and whatever comes to mind (our conversations tend to go to random places).

But you might be wondering where the best place to strike a conversation with someone at a conference is. Although chatting with someone in a hallway is entirely acceptable, there is no better time to network than during conference dinners, happy hours, or any sort of after-party.

What can be better than eating food, drinking fancy beer and having a friendly conversation with interesting people? While it is undeniably a great experience, there is a danger in attending these parties during the conference days. If you happened to give a talk the next day, and you are like me (i.e. can stop talking in a bar regardless of very loud music playing), you can end up not having any voice in the morning.

Plus, if you gave a talk before going to the parties, there is a chance people saw your presentation and might want to chat in a more informal setting. Another thing is that I often see a lot more attendees at a conference in days preceding the party - mostly because it takes time to wake up the next day.

There are of course some exceptions like a conference in Croatia where I spoke once. The conference's party was going on until 4 am, and my talk was scheduled at 9 am. Despite having a lot of fun, I went to bed early to be prepared for my early morning talk. To my surprise, the next day I was greeted by a room full of people who were ready to talk about Java with me. Personally, if not for my presentation, I would have slept in until noon.

The moral of this short section is that when you attend these parties as a speaker, you have to be cautious of how it might impact your performance the next day. However, if you already spoke, then feel free to go wild and have fun!

<c`twebdev>

It was great to see so many people attending the conference. The venue was exciting with its hidden rooms and funky stairs.


If anything, the organizers nailed drinks and coffee stands - the very heart of any conference. I was especially pleased by different milk options they had to offer. For the longest time, I thought Oat Milk was a thing only in the most hipster parts of the US. It wasn't until much later when I found out that Oatly (a company behind the original Oat Milk) is actually based in Sweden, and it was initially designed for lactose intolerant people. If you want to learn more and become just a little bit more knowledgeable about your milk, I encourage you to watch this short video.

Conference Lottery and Happy Hour

Most conferences do some sort of a lottery. To summarize my success at participating in those games, I have won nothing so far. Which is a bit upsetting considering many events I attend throughout a year. However, this fact almost never makes me cry.

Despite my bad luck, I still enter in almost every draw I can find. I do not care what prize is at stake. Sometimes the prize does not even make sense for me like it was at <c`webdev> where the prize was a textbook written in German. To make it clear, I don`t know German, but I still wanted to win. I would have given away the prize anyway - what I was looking for is that low-stakes rush that you get when winning something (I don`t gamble and would never buy a lottery ticket, so these free draws are the best I can do)

Anyways, after I lost AGAIN, it was time for a happy hour. It was a fairly generic evening - I was drinking beer, eating snacks and hanging out with with a couple of people from a local media company. Whenever I am at German conferences, it can be challenging to start a conversation with people because attendees tend to speak German, but as someone with no shame, I usually go full throttle and dive into a group of people speaking German, asking if I can join the conversation. So far, this strategy has been working every time.

Banana Conspiracy

Let me wrap up this post by talking about something I call Banana conspiracy.

Ever since I had arrived in Cologne, I kept seeing painted bananas around town.

These graffitis were clearly painted with a template and had to represent something.

Later that day, I thought I had uncovered the mystery and connected the dots. As I was passing a local museum, I noticed the exact same banana on a posted above the entrance. The exhibition was dedicated to pop-art and Andy Warhol, so I jumped to the conclusion that it was an ingenious marketing campaign to spread his art around town.

I was wrong.

Fortunately, I was able to learn what the exact meaning of those bananas was. I got a chance to go on a walking tour of the city, and the guide was kind enough to explain the symbolism behind this nutritious fruit. Apparently, there is a German artist, Thomas Baumgärtel, who has been spraying this banana graffities to mark places he believes have an artistic value. I was fascinated to find out that this graffiti is actually copyrighted by the artist as it was used by some sneaky business owners who try to attract tourist by painting bananas on their own doors.

However, the artist seems to make an exception sometimes and lets local students use his art to represent Coat of arms of Cologne.

P.S. You can see more photos from my trip to Cologne in this album.