This month, we're joined by the founders and organizers of Strange Loop and Papers We Love conferences. Strange Loop was founded by Alex Miller in 2009 and is regarded as one of the most prestigious multi-disciplinary tech conferences. Strange Loop talks span both academia and industry, covering a range of topics, including emerging languages, alternative databases, distributed systems, security, AI, the web, and more.

Papers We Love is a repository of academic computer science papers and a community that loves reading them. Organized by Zeeshan Lakhani, Darren Newton, David Ashby, and Chas Emerick, Papers We Love was a collection of local meetups until it joined forces with Strange Loop as part of the pre-conference programming a few years ago.

EP02: In Conversation: Strange Loop and PWL Organizers

In this episode, you'll hear:

  • How Strange Loop and Papers We Love conferences got their start
  • How having a background outside of computer science helps to gain perspective on new ways to explore technology
  • How opportunity grants have left a positive impact on both recipients and the Strange Loop Conference itself
  • Alex's thoughts on the future of conferences, including why he's bullish on hybrid conferences

Here's a glance at the episode...

  • [2:00] Alex Miller created Lambda Lounge, a meetup for folks interested in functional programming, dynamic languages, and no-SQL databases. He regularly had 50-100 people in attendance and realized he could turn it into a conference. The first Strange Loop had 300 attendees!
  • [4:30] David Ashby shares how he, Zeeshan, and Darren came together to read academic papers in New York City and started to get requests from folks in other cities who wanted to replicate what they were doing locally. Hence, the Papers We Love chapters were born! The number of chapters in existence at one time was 30.
  • [10:56] Alex shares his marketing strategy for Strange Loop, where he began with the Lambda Lounge audience and initiated a more grassroots effort to raise awareness.
  • [15:20] Alex talks about how he became acquainted with the Papers We Love crew and how it became part of the pre-conference track of Strange Loop.
  • [16:45] Zeeshan explains how Strange Loop was his first exposure to people from academia talking about obscure programming languages and how it inspired PWL.
  • [19:00] David shares how none of the PWL team had a background in computer science but rather came from the humanities. This drove them to read computer science papers to better understand their field. Alex expands on this by talking about technology's implications in various other disciplines, which is often something technologists forget about. They are so focused on solving interesting problems that they sometimes can't see the forest through the trees.
  • [32:30] Alex talks about how the Strange Loop opportunity grants started and the impact their recipients have had on the conference over the years.
  • [43:16] Alex talks about the emerging hybrid model for conferences and how it can help build community while reducing climate impact.
  • [46:40] Alex shares why he's sunsetting Strange Loop.
  • [53:40] Boris talks about unconference-style conferences

Listen to the podcast embedded above, or head to our podcast landing page to subscribe to the podcast on your preferred platform.

Co-Host: Boris Mann - CEO and Co-Founder of Fission, Organizer of Causal Islands

Co-Host: Zeeshan Lakhani - Staff Research Engineer at Fission, Member of Causal Islands Programming Committee

Causal Islands Theme Song by depatchedmode

Editing by Becky Vazquez

Guests: Alex Miller, Founder of Strange Loop Conference, and Zeeshan Lakhani, Darren Newton, David Ashby, and Chas Emerick, organizers of Papers We Love Conference.

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