Japanese cucumbers, boomerangs and utopias

When Google's Robert Kubis walked on to the stage I never expected his keynote would touch on the topic of Japanese cucumber farms. Google's machine learning toolkit powers the cucumber sorter, apparently. That must've been a fun dataset to train.

It would not be the only surprise I'd receive on June 9th. It was the day of the first Spaces Summit, an internal IT conference. You see, bol.com has two speeds of operation: "very fast" and "extremely fast". In this whirlwind it can sometimes be difficult for teams to share knowledge or just talk about things they find interesting. A handful of colleagues decided something needed to be done about this. What better way, they thought, than to just organize an entire conference by themselves?

An entire conference in 2 paragraphs

When the conference was announced, a couple of months earlier, over 40 colleagues sent in proposals for a talk. Indeed, topics were varied. I heard talks about monitoring and event sourcing. There was a talk about the Hexagonal architecture of our new "product returns" service, appropriately named Boomerang. I heard how our forecasting team split their monolithic service into many small ones with no downtime, leading them to a "utopia of awesomeness". Sure, my own utopia of awesomeness would include fewer microservices and more tropical drinks, but the presenter was undeniably passionate. It was fun.

Not everything was technical, though: One colleague talked about the tricky balance between working on your team's goals and working on your personal goals. That's the thing about working at bol.com: there's so much cool stuff to do and there's never enough time. First world problems, right? Organize a conference about it.

If I got you interested in our conference, you can take a look at how the day went:


And you can also check out all the presentations from the conference on our youtube channel.

What lies ahead

There are two things I would change for the next summit. First of all, make it longer. Secondly, open it up to the general public. If only to be able to swap stories while eating the delicious Dutch bitterballs during the afterparty. I'm fairly sure they are just as healthy as those Japanese cucumbers.