Stack 2022 Developer conference was held over a weekday at Suntec city convention center. The event was organised by Govtech, a statutory board with the Singapore government. The event saw workshops and conference talks all in one location. Let’s check it out with a visit of the 2-day convention on 15 and 16 November 2022.
Furthermore, the event runs in-person workshops on the 14th, the day before the convention days itself. It covers hands-on element and are done in a classroom style setting. Also, the Suntec function rooms where are workshops are held are furnished with rows of long tables within. Writing materials and power plugs are provided for guests who need them, especially to power up laptops in practical courses.
Notably, the companies present using the workshop days are known Govtech partners who had worked or collaborated with. Also, the companies who were invited to present their products and solutions to workshop attendees. However, as expected, I found the workshops tad your run-of-the-mill sales pitches, with very introductory and setup tutorials. Examples includes setup a system to get started on pre-created demo and structured tutorial use cases.
The workshops are great for those starting up or looking to learning the various products, but something not quite useful for advanced or current users. If you are looking for a constructive discussion with technical depth on the product, you are left much on the workshop Q&A portions to have your queries answered, which also has limited results as these are typically led by sales representatives and not engineers.
Main conference hall and casual hall
An impressive STACK logo greets you are the main hall. For your $350 entrance fee, the convention revolves about 2 main venues, the large hall where big keynotes speeches are given. This includes the opening ceremonies and ministerial, guests of honour openings.
Furthermore, the main keynote speeches are tad more geared towards non-technical peeps like bosses or policy makers who are not deep into tech.
Side hall lighting talks
In addition to the main hall talks are lightning talks. held at an adjacent convention hall of a similar size. There are no linkway between the two halls, and you have to exit one to enter the other.
If you are developer, you will stay far away from the main conference hall. There is this joke that the bosses and managers attend the main hall talks, while the grunts attend the lighting talks.
Moreover, the adjacent convention hall houses a more informal layout, with 4 main presentation booths used to conduct lighting talks, as well as a snack area serving free flow of ice cream desserts, popcorn and coffee.
Also, I found the lighting talks a great way to squeeze in as much content in one big venue in the shortest amount of time possible. This is done via short 15-minute back-to-back sessions covering topics from data analytics, company policies, sales pitches and HR recruitment.
Additionally, I found the hall arrangement is tad similar to DEFCON we checked out a couple years back with a central large keynote hall and many other breakout areas, each with their own points of interests. Interestingly, there are also robotic “imitation spot” the robot dog tryouts in a corner too. It is essentially a cool knock-off clone of Boston Dynamics four-legged robot.
A developer conference for the developer’s bosses
STACK 2022 Developer conference is sold as a developers conference, however I can hardly find much technical coverage, which is one of my biggest gripes here. Main keynote speeches are tad more geared towards non-technical peeps like bosses or policy makers who are not deep into tech. Also, lighting talks are too short to cover anything useful in-depth, on-the-surface surface products introductions being the norm here.
Additionally, not all lighting talks are made equal. Most are just quick speak and dump superficial marketing sessions with not much substance, while some are interesting but lack the time to go in technical depth. Also, there is glaringly lack of open-source product emphasis in the talks too.
Talks should instead cover things which actually gets developers and not CTO and CEOs excited. Examples includes data analytics pipelines best methods, tricks to cloud provisioning, react native hacks, code efficiency techniques. These are things which developers actually care about and not sales and marketing material you can simply watch off YouTube.
More developer-centric events be good
Additionally, felt more like a big recruitment event. Also, you see more attendees are with paper notebooks in-hand than devs coming together with laptops and coding. It gives you a hint or two of the wrong demographic we are seeing here in general. Not much an in-event CTF or hackathon might be a better side event at future STACK events to get devs something excited about.
Many attendees joke here about Stack being the conference for developers to get their bosses to attend. This is to convince their them to buy software or solutions they need to do their job better.
Also, I found STACK useful in raising awareness of need of digital inclusion, particularly to our disabled folks. Other areas includes learning how to leverage available Goverment databank and resources like the Government tech stack for businesses. Still, as a developer, I found STACK lacks the secret sauce which I particularly enjoyed at DEFCON USA. This includes covering useful areas you can meaningfully take back to improve on your coding or deployment strategies. Sad, to say, there is not much here.
Buffet networking lunch
Interestingly, lunch seems to be the main highlight of attendees here, but also one of my least favourite. In pure Singaporean “kiasu” fashion, crowds and queues will start forming an hour before lunchtime at the dining areas. This was especially on the second day. This prompted me to spend my lunchtime at the nearby Marina Square instead of joining the entire convention crowd queuing for over 30mins for lunch.
Still, the lunch time was a good time to get acquainted with attendees of the convention. Just like Blackhat USA, thankfully international buffet lunch is provided on both convention days and is included in your convention ticket.
Meals are served open buffet style by an external caterer with food exposed for self-help over multiple buffet counters. The food quality is not bad with an international cuisine include seafood such as calms. But one gripe is the lack of dining tables. Here, it can get really packed in the dining area, with queues up to 30mins long. It is good to stagger dining or have a larger dining area.
In my chit-chat with attendees during lunch, I had the opportunity to meet people from the various government civil and public service agencies, which forms the bulk of the attendees. There are notable few attendees in technical roles, and even fewer from the private sector.
More corporate representation needed
Also, notably absent however is the lack of exhibitor booths. Though, on that note, some tech companies also we seen setting up sales events in the lower floor conference rooms. Their presence compliments the main STACK conference to sell their products as a spillover event.
All in all, I find STACK 2022 Developer conference a good event forward into creating an ecosystem for developers to convene at a venue. The event organization was done well, also the accessible central location at Suntec convention and exhibition center is also a great welcome. If you are new to programming/dev scene or want to have a taste of it as a non-technical person, I would recommend anyone interested to visit STACK, unless if you are developer.