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Ask HN: What's your favorite tech talk?
848 points by mngutterman 354 days ago | hide | past | web | 255 comments | favorite
Simply put, what are your favorite talks or trainings? It could by a one-off lecture about a specific concept or a series of talks about a language. Maybe it's a TED talk or a session from a con. Either way, what's that one talk that changed the way you think and you feel everyone needs to see?

grin Here we go...

For "laughing at ourselves" and oddities of computer languages, there is "Wat" by Gary Bernhardt: https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/talks/wat

For an opinion on the Sun to Oracle transition, there is "Fork Yeah! The Rise and Development of illumos" by Bryan M. Cantrill, Joyent. His Larry Ellison rant makes me smile: https://youtu.be/-zRN7XLCRhc?t=33m00s

Oh god yes. And from the Manta talk, to paraphrase:

I believe that if you talk about Oracle without going into Nazi allegory, than some understanding has been left on the table. In fact, I firmly believe that if you were talking to someone who hadn't heard of WWII but was an Oracle customer, that you would explain the Nazis to them in Oracle allegory:

Wow. Really?

Yes, it's true: Larry Ellison owned a whole country

Oh god! The humanity! Just imagine the licences on that thing

I know, it was terrible dude, just ask Poland

Also, for another excellent talk by Bernhardt, this time about the differences in philosophy between Python and Ruby, which gives a very fair critique of them both: https://vimeo.com/9471538.

I worked for Oracle Social as a software engineer for some Facebook Pages WYSIWYG application, and this is their business model - as explained to me - when I asked, "Who is going to be buying our product?"

My manager: "Oh, so we have all of these enterprise customers that purchase software from us. Basically, they are presented with a list of all of our various enterprise applications [FYI, there's a TON of them] with check boxes next to each one. Our application licenses are sold using a subscription model. Most companies don't bother reading the list and just pay for everything, which will include ours."

WTF? I wrote some of the Ruby on Rails code for the application my team was working on. Also, this was in 2012; Facebook Pages had just been released, and no one even understood why a "Page" was the name given to a concept in which businesses could establish Facebook accounts in order to promote their brand and products, but a "Page" contained multiple "web pages" of content within the larger "Page" object.

In short, our product sucked at every level and even I, a member of the development team, didn't know how to use it. But because it was on the almighty "Product List", it added millions of dollars to Oracle's net income, despite the fact that I'm guessing hardly any customer knew what it was, let alone knew how to use it.

I resigned shortly after the first release, so I have no idea what happened to the product or how long it remained an official Oracle enterprise software application, appearing on the "Product List".

While it was nice being 26 years old and making a $70,000 salary, receiving a nearly-guaranteed $10,000 annual bonus, having a 401k package with company-matched contributions, getting full healthcare benefits which included a FSA, and being able to order all of the free snacks and beverages that one could think of simply by telling the secretary to add them to the supply list . . . I just couldn't work at a place where innovation didn't matter, the customer didn't matter, and even the product didn't matter. Not to mention that, after having worked there, with 100 other people, for 3 months, maybe 10 people knew my name (and my product team consisted of 8 people - I'm only including 5 of them in the 10). I happened to discover one day that I was the youngest employee there, and I'm pretty sure that people didn't like me based on that fact alone.

Oh well, I applied for a similar job at a digital marketing agency down the street the next week, and soon thereafter, began working again, now earning a salary which was $10,000 greater than what I made at Oracle (and which included all of the same benefits).

As a univerity senior, thank you for this. Oracle was already low on my list of companies to apply to for a full-time job, and this put the nail in that coffin.

If you're in the Seattle area, you still might want to consider Oracle Cloud (I don't work there). They've poached a shit-ton of senior AWS engineering talent, and from what I hear they're developing a kickass product.

/s/Oracle/Intel as a software green badge and this sounds spookily identical to my life right around then too, right down to the salary and people not liking me because I was the youngest employee.

...Which reminds me of another favorite quote from Cantrill. To paraphrase:

My one regret is that I couldn't tender my resignation over [Oracle killing OpenSolaris] because I'd already left.

All of Gary Bernhardt's stuff is great, he has some other talks up here: https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/talks/

And his screencasts are worth the money too (#notsponsored)

I had a good laugh watching the Javascript video :)

As people usually point out when he comes up, just about any Bryan Cantrill talk is at least entertaining, and usually contains a good amount of technical, historical and personal information in various amounts.

It's like a tech talk combined with a stand-up comedy, two-in-one.

That's Bryan's talks in a nutshell. And it is glorious.

Standout moments from his talks:

-"The Lawnmower"

-"Nazis in Oracle Allegory"


-"Architectural Review Board (Keep your compiler people in little boxes)"

-"madvise MADV_DONTNEED writes lazily to disk?"

-"A piece of on-the-fly software engineering (or: you're f*ked)"

Also, from Brendan Gregg's lighning talk in 2013:


-"Their reporting software also couldn't handle decimal points"

Bryan is responsible for one of my favorite comments on this site:

> Anyone decrying Oracle as "evil" is falling into a trap that I have warned about: they are making the mistake of anthropomorphizing Larry Ellison


Do you have any links?

No, but they're all on youtube, and I can give you names.

-"The Lawnmower"

from Fork Yeah

-"Nazis in Oracle Allegory"

Manta (both talks, IIRC)


Manta (New Relic), and Surge 2013 (aka "Middle Management: Cancer or Poison?")

-"Architectural Review Board (Keep your compiler people in little boxes)"

Surge 2013

-"madvise MADV_DONTNEED writes lazily to disk?"

Surge 2015 ligtning talk (or a crime against common sense)

-"A piece of on-the-fly software engineering (or: you're f*ked)"

Surge 2013 lightning talk

Also, from Brendan Gregg's lighning talk in 2013: -"SO LET's JUST CUT THEM OFF!"

-"Their reporting software also couldn't handle decimal points"

Both from surge 2013 ligtning talk.

Here's a great "wat" talk for Angular: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_Wp-2XA9ZU

"Wat" has influenced me so much that, whenever I hear some cliched or meaningless argument, Watman projects himself onto my retina.

Bryan Cantrill is funny, but I take some of that talk with a dose of salt. See Danese Cooper's youtube comment "I know its fun to re-write history to suit your current politics."

"His Larry Ellison rant makes me smile" +1 great talk

"The Last Lecture", by Randy Pausch. While it's by a well-known CS professor (who was dying of cancer at the time), it's not a technical talk, but about life and work, and how to make the most of it. One of the most inspiring things I've ever seen.


Another fantastic one is Steve Jobs' 2005 commencement address at Stanford:


Randy Pausch's Time Management lecture is also great.


wow!!! So glad I watched it. Thanks for sharing it.

o u said steve jobs: really his announcement of the ipod was an incredible speech .. it ties together tech+art+music+apple and his vision appears pretty fresh.


Apple seemed so grounded and feature oriented back then.

It's hard to believe that the iPhone's battery still only lasts a day or so after seeing this video.

> so grounded and feature oriented back then

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

The talks are awesome. I still downvoted this, because I consider it off topic. Sorry.

And I upvoted you for explaining why you downvoted it. No point downvoting you. Comparing the end results of both, we only have a higher chance of a net benefit by upvoting you, regardless of whether I agree with you or not. I hope the rest of the HN community also takes this approach before voting.

By far my favorite talk is and has been for a very long time Bret Victor's inventing on principle, for me, nothing comes close, except for some of his other work I suppose.



Was gonna post this if it wasn't up already.

After this, The Birth and Death of Javascript: https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/talks/the-birth-and-death...

He could've taken the concept further tho. I think there are real hardware simplifications you could do if the OS is a jitting VM - no memory mapping unit and take out the expensive fully-associative TLBs.

I always have trouble when telling people in person to go watch this - how should I pronounce the "J" in Javascript?

* SPOILER ALERT, and seriously go watch it first *

If I pronounce "J" I do him an unjustice, and if I pronounce "Y" I ruin a great surprise that comes quite a few minutes into the talk.

I always go with the "J" pronunciation. It maintains the expectation that the talk makes a joke out of by breaking. I would rather give everyone that first time experience of hearing the "Y" pronunciation than do Gary an injustice.

This is great. I love that he goes into the future. :)

this is quite outdated

but it's from 2035...

Best talk open ever: "Unlike the previous session, I don't have any prizes to give out. I'm just going to tell you how to live your life"

Thanks for posting this, very much appreciated.

Are there any tools available which allow you to live code in such a way?

I did a quick search and found this - http://stackoverflow.com/questions/9448215/tools-to-support-...

It seems quite out of date though.

The goals of Eve follow some of the inspiration in his talk.


The closest thing I can think of is Clojurescript with Figwheel:


What's especially neat about that talk is the fact that it's from CUSEC: a student-run conference out of Montreal. So many great talks I've seen online were from that conference.

Never went to it as a student (it was only 3 hours away, how did I miss this?) but lots of my friends did, one even ran the thing for a year I think.

His "Hammock Driven Development" talk is good too:


A couple of comments there by me.

+1 for Hickey's talks. The Changelog compiled a selection of the best: https://changelog.com/rich-hickeys-greatest-hits/

Linus Torvalds on Git. It's funny, and it really does tell you a lot about why Git is the way it is.

Bryan Cantrill's 2011(?) Lightning talk on ta(1). It's fascinating, but it also shows you just long-lived software can be.

Randall Munroe's Talk on the JoCo cruise. Because it's effing hilarious, and teaches everybody the important art of building a ball pit inside your house.

Finally, an honorable mention to three papers that don't qualify, but which I think you should read anyway.

Reflections on Trusting Trust: This is required reading for... Everybody. It describes a particularly insidious hack, and discusses its ramifications for security.

In the Beginning Was The Command Line: If you want get into interface design, programming, or ever work with computers, this is required. It's a snapshot of the 90's, a discussion of operating systems, corporations, and society as we know it. But more importantly, it's a crash course in abstractions. Before you can contribute to the infinite stack of turtles we programmers work with, you should probably understand why it's there, and what it is.

Finally, The Lambda Papers. If you've ever wondered how abstractions work, and how they're modeled... This won't really tell you, not totally, but they'll give you something cool to think about, and give you the start of an answer.

> "Finally, an honorable mention to three papers that don't qualify, but which I think you should read anyway."

If we're going for papers, then I'm guessing books are allowed too. If so, for anyone interested in giving themselves a grounding in the fundamentals, it's worth checking out Code by Charles Petzold. I've been going through it, it's excellently written, and has helped me fill in gaps in my understanding of how computers work.


SICP, Land of Lisp, Exploding the Phone, and The Cuckoo's Egg, while I haven't finished all of them, were all instrumental in making me who I am today.

> what's that one talk that changed the way you think and you feel everyone needs to see?

Growing a Language by Guy Steele.


Thanks for posting this; it's my favourite talk too :)

BTW, does somebody know of (or have) a better quality version of this talk? The one on YouTube has some annoying audio cuts. There used to be a copy on Google Video[1], which i don't remember having the same issues.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2359174


A write-up of the same talk. Fantastic read and watch.

This is a great talk, but what he was advocating never came to pass. He wanted to add 3 things to Java:

    - operator overloading
    - small value types on the stack (for vectors, rationals, etc.)
    - generic types
Generic types are the only feature that made it (not without some controversy).

C++ has all three features. I suppose there is some success in games and graphics using overloaded operators on vector types. But otherwise it doesn't seem like a huge win, or something that is critical for the design of a language.

Python has operator overloading. I never really use it, but I guess it did allow NumPy and Pandas to exist. And TensorFlow uses it.

Perhaps it boils down to the fact that Java is more of a business language, and C++ and Python have more mathematical applications, which require richer algebraic expressions of many types. But I suppose if Java had gotten operator overloading, it may have been used more for scientific computing.

Perl 6 and Racket seem to be the languages that really allow creating your own language. But actually I heard Larry Wall say that they want to provide so many little languages within Perl 6 that users don't need to invent their own. Because this often makes it harder for others to read your program.

Value types is coming to Java 10, and Guy Steele is one of guys making it happen.


I see a couple of Bret Victor videos here, but the one I loved the most was "The Future of Programming": https://vimeo.com/71278954

Really set me on a path of re-examining older ideas (and research papers), for applications that are much more contemporary. Absolute stunner of a talk (and the whole 70's gag was really great).

"What would be really sad is if in 40 years we were still writing code in procedures in text files" :(

I really liked the message of each generation of programming considers the next "not real programming". It makes me reconsider the pushback against node-esque micro-packages: http://www.haneycodes.net/npm-left-pad-have-we-forgotten-how.... Maybe this is just the next logical evolution of programming.

Came here to give the same answer. Between "Future of Programming" and the Mother of All Demos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJDv-zdhzMY) I find it mindbogglingly depressing that it feels so much like the entire programming field has stagnated for the last 40+ years, re-implementing the same [flawed? limiting? incorrect?] ideas over and over.

Some previous posts:

"Ask HN: What are your favorite videos relevant to entrepreneurs or startups?" -> https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7656003

"Ask HN: Favorite talks [video] on software development?" -> https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8105732

Y Not - Adventures in Functional Programming by Jim Weirich https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FITJMJjASUs

The Coming Civil War over General Purpose Computing by Cory Doctorow http://boingboing.net/2012/08/23/civilwar.html

Cybersecurity as Realpolitik by Dan Geer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT-TGvYOBpI http://geer.tinho.net/geer.blackhat.6viii14.txt

I'll second "Y Not" by Jim Weirich. It's just such a charming talk. My programming teacher in high school was like that, and I think it's such an excellent way to teach. From the careful way he meanders to the solution to the fact it was a live coding session really grounds the explanation of how the Y combinator works.

To Dissect a Mockingbird is even better, though...

Pretty much anything by David Beazley or Bryan Cantrill

Discovering Python (David Beazley)


David finds himself in a dark vault, stuck for months sifting through deliberately obfuscated pile of old code and manuals. All seems lost, but then he finds Python on a vanilla Windows box.

Fork Yeah! The Rise and Development of Illumos (Bryan Cantrill)


History of Illumos, SunOS, Solaris, the horribleness of Oracle

These are not technical, but they are entertaining.

I'd also add Raymond Hettinger's talks on Python with my favorite one being this famous one:

Beyond PEP 8 - Best practices for beautiful intelligible code


I'm glad you brought that dabeaz talk up, I really enjoyed that one myself.

Alan Kay is my favorite tech curmudgeon.

1) Alan Kay: Is it really "Complex"? Or did we just make it "Complicated" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubaX1Smg6pY

Take note that he is not giving the talk using Window & PowerPoint, or even Linux & OpenOffice. 100% of the software on his laptop are original products of his group. Including the productivity suite, the OS, the compilers and the languages being compiled.

2) Bret Victor: The Future of Programming https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGMiCo2Ntsc

Note that Alan Kay's talk is freely (?) downloadable at https://vimeo.com/82301919 (linked in the YouTube video)

Bret Victor - Inventing on Principle https://vimeo.com/36579366

We can argue on some of the points he makes but we can all agree that the demos are very impressive.

Hans Rosling's original Ted talk, which has so much passion about data visualisation and making information accessible - http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_y...

Simple made easy is my favorite but I'd also just generally recommend everything by Rich Hickey, Gary Bernhardt, and Jonathan Blow.

Agree. I've watched a ton of talks over the years on a variety of topics/technologies, and Simple made Easy just feels like a classic, and is timelessly relevant.

My current favorite is Jake Archibald's offline-first progressive web apps talk at Google I/O 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmGr0RszHc8

It's a terrific window into the future of web application development.

Every talk from Jake Archibald is insightful and entertaining. His talks about offline caching were hilarious.

Very entertaining, thanks!

Raymond Hettinger's talk about good code reviews -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf-BqAjZb8M

Carmack's talk about functional programming and Haskell -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PhArSujR_A

Jack Diederich's "Stop Writing Classes" -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9pEzgHorH0

All with a good sense of humor.

Yes, RH's Beyond PEP8 is great, even if you don't do Python. Will put the others in my queue.

I'm reminded of Crockford's "Good Parts" of Javascript, I believe where he introduced me to the "Mother of all Demos."

Everything I've seen by Crockford is great!

Came here to add "Stop Writing Classes", a fantastic talk to show how to refactor away from dogmatic OOP.

Peter Norvig on the "Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvDCzhbjYWs

I think it is so easy for us to discuss the impact of big data and quickly get into the weeds, but I think in this talk Norvig does an especially great job in making you truly appreciate the seismic impact that the availability of massive quantities of data can have on your way to think about problems. This is one of the first things I ever saw of him, and I've been in love ever since.

Jon Blow's "How to program independent games": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjDsP5n2kSM

It's about much more than games. To me, it's about identifying and not doing unnecessary work.

The second half of this video is a Q&A session, which I would skip.

Richard Hamming's You and your research.


Linus Torvalds talk about git


Was going to post the same one. Great talk!

I already see a bunch of people posting and upvoting Bret Victor's "Inventing on Principle", but I think his "Media for Thinking the Unthinkable" is better.


These aren't necessarily my absolute favorite talks, but they're great mind-altering talks a little off the beaten path so I'd like to highlight them:

"Writing A Thumb Drive From Scratch" by Travis Goodspeed - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8Im0_KUEf8&nohtml5=False

Excellent talk on the hardware side of security, goes into some really cool theoretical hard disk defense stuff, incredibly insightful and introduces a hardware security tech toy so fun you'll want to go out and order it the moment you're done watching. The speaker is entertaining as all heck to boot.

"Programming and Scaling" by Alan Kay - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyIQKBzIuBY&nohtml5=False

Interesting talk on the theoretical limits of code size and engineering versus tinkering. Also talks a lot about Alan Kay's philosophy of computer science which analogizes systems to biological systems, which are the systems with the largest proven scaling on the planet.

"The Mother Of All Demos" by Douglas Engelbart - https://archive.org/details/XD300-23_68HighlightsAResearchCn...

This talk is so prescient you won't believe your eyes. Given in 1968, Douglas demonstrates just about every major computing concept in use today on a modern machine, along with some ones that are still experimental or unevenly distributed such as smooth remote desktop and collaborative editing.

Right now it's Boundaries, by Gary Bernhardt. He details the importance of separating out pure business logic from the plumbing code that brings it input and directs its output ("functional core, imperative shell").


I think Gary was way ahead of the industry when he did this talk in 2012. Today it's common to look at Erlang, Haskell and other good but previously unpopular languages and retrofit their ideas to your language of choice (or build something like Elixir/Kotlin/Swift). But back then Ruby/Python/Java/etc devs would usually not look at anything else because functional programming was only something you might have heard in university and OOP was clearly the only way to build practical software.

For me this talk was especially great as he only explains the problems, possible solutions and their trade-offs and leaves the (clear?) conclusion to the audience instead of shoving "you should really use X because it's awesome" down their throat.

> I think Gary was way ahead of the industry when he did this talk in 2012. Today it's common to look at Erlang, Haskell and other good but previously unpopular languages and retrofit their ideas to your language of choice (or build something like Elixir/Kotlin/Swift). But back then Ruby/Python/Java/etc devs would usually not look at anything else because functional programming was only something you might have heard in university and OOP was clearly the only way to build practical software.

Ruby and Python were incorporating things from FP long before 2012; the idea that Ruby and Python were pure-OOP and not following inspiration from languages with other primary paradigms before that is simply historically inaccurate, Ruby and Python were never dominated by OOP-is-the-one-true-way philosophy.

I'm not talking about superficial syntax like map/filter for collections. The notion of keeping the majority of your code side-effect-free with immutability, built-in concurrency and message-passing as idiomatic parts of the language/ecosystem is to this day uncommon and partially impossible in Python/Ruby.


The mother of all demos by Douglas Engelbart https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJDv-zdhzMY

How I met your girlfriend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5xRRF5GfQs&t=66s

I had the pleasure of working with Samy back at Fonality (my first job!) He's such a cool, smart, and just all around amazing dude. Anything he does is always fun, interesting, and hacker-ish.

Lexical Scanning in Go by Rob Pike


I love everything about this talk. It walks you through building a lexer from scratch in a simple and elegant way, through a very interesting use of coroutines. I appreciate the bits of humor in the talk as well.

Rob Pike is far more pleasant than his acolytes (for lack of a better word). Pike makes me want to clap: cat-v makes me want to vomit. It's the DJB people with none of the charm.

+1 for mentioning the work of Michael Jackson in the beginning. I have to watch this one again.

Big fan of Rich Hickey. I found most of his talks really great, and applicable beyond the Clojure universe. My favorites: "Are we there yet?" and "Simple made Easy".

Simple Made Easy is one of those talks that never gets old to me. Never heard anyone talk about the power of reducing complexity in such a clear way.

Here's the link for those who are interested. https://www.infoq.com/presentations/Simple-Made-Easy

This is my favorite. I also really like hammock-driven development (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f84n5oFoZBc)


Start with, in order: Hammock Driven Development, Simple Made Easy, The Value of Values, The Database as a Value,

+1 this comment. I do not recall in which of his talks he defines "complexity" but his definition is excellent.

> I do not recall in which of his talks he defines "complexity"

that'd be "Simple Made Easy"

Agree this one is a must watch

"The Birth and Death of Javascript" by Gary Bernhardt (probably the most talented speaker on tech) at https://www.destroyallsoftware.com/talks/the-birth-and-death...

I'd mention Bret Victor's work before (maybe Drawing Dynamic Visualizations?), but Bret cheats by writing a lot of amazing code for each of his talks, and most of the awesome comes from the code, not his (great nonetheless) ability as a speaker.

Then you have John Carmack's QuakeCon keynotes, which are just hours and hours of him talking about things that interest him in random order, and it still beats most well prepared talks because of how good he is at what he does. HN will probably like best the one where he talks about his experiments in VR, a bit before he joined Oculus (stuff like when he tried shining a laser into his eyes to project an image, against the recommendations of... well, everyone): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt-iVFxgFWk

Propositions as Types: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOiZatlZtGU

I think this can really really change how we look at everyday programming tasks everywhere from the type of tooling we choose to how we approach problems.

Doing with Images Makes Symbols, Alan Kay. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2LZLYcu_JY

The title says it all. It's really a summary of several software systems with good ideas abound. I believe all the software is 80s or prior.

Edit: I also forgot to mention some psychology and math.

A few of Bryan Cantrill's talks have already been mentioned here, but this one about DTrace, from 2007, is a gem:


I especially like the part in the middle where he tells the story of how a an awful GNOME applet was killing a Sun Ray server, and how he tracked down the culprit with DTrace.

I missed this one. I should go watch it. Anything that bashes on GNOME is fine with me.

I don't really have a favorite, but recently I really enjoyed "8 Bit & '8 Bitish' Graphics-Outside the Box"[1]. The name didn't catch my eye, but then I learned that it was a lecture by the very same Mark Ferrari who made these[2] unbelievably beautiful color-cycling pixel art animations. Master of his art — definitely worth listening to!

[1]: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1023586/8-Bit-8-Bitish-Graphics

[2]: http://www.effectgames.com/demos/canvascycle/

Elevator hacking (seriously) https://youtu.be/oHf1vD5_b5I

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI1C9DyIi_8 "the greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function"

not a high tech talk, or particularly technically complex, but it shows a common blindspot in a way that is both clear, enlightening and frightening.


This was the first time I watched pg give a talk. It was the talk that brought about the biggest change in the way I think about the world, my ambitions. The talk was the beginning, reading more about pg, I came across his essays and then HN.

CppCon 2014: Mike Acton "Data-Oriented Design and C++"


Detailed discussion of how to get the most out of your memory cache and memory bandwidth, focusing on games development. It's full of examples of how understanding both the problem and the hardware, and working in a straightforward way, can give you huge performance gains over using poorly suited abstractions. It shows how low level thinking is still important even with modern compilers. I recommend people interested in performance optimization watch it.

Mine is "The Internet With A Human Face", by Maciej Cegłowski http://idlewords.com/talks/internet_with_a_human_face.htm

It's what I direct non-technical people to when they ask what the big deal about internet privacy is.

I think Alan Kay's "Doing with Images makes Symbols" talk from 1987 might make my list:


It's mostly about the history of HCI up to that point.

Agile Is Dead: By Dave Thomas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-BOSpxYJ9M

I love his talks for a few reasons:

Often times...

  1. He's anti-hype
  2. He's contriversal
  3. He's right.

Rich Hickey - Simplicity Matters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI8tNMsozo0

One of my favourite talks is by James Mickens at Monitorama 2015: https://vimeo.com/95066828

My humble James Mickens Shrine a.k.a. the only _real_ combined CS degree and MBA you will ever need https://medium.com/@soobrosa/my-humble-james-mickens-shrine-...

Another great one by James - "Not Even Close: The State of Computer Security": https://vimeo.com/135347162

I was going to post this one as well - it's my all time favorite. He does a great job of making truly funny, yet incredibly intelligent jokes.

First, the "Mother of all Demos" by Doug Engelbart: https://youtu.be/yJDv-zdhzMY This was in 1968, at a time when most people thought about computers as being machines for solving computation problems, like processing payrolls or calculating rocket trajectories. Engelbart and his students had the radical idea that computers could be used for human "knowledge worker" productivity. In one 90 minute presentation, he introduces everything from the idea of a GUI, to the mouse, to word processing, hypertext, computer graphics, and (simulated) videoconferencing. You have to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the audience that has never seen this stuff before, and it'll blow you away.

Something more recent: Martin Fowler's great introduction to NoSQL: https://youtu.be/qI_g07C_Q5I Not so technical, this is a great overview of the reasons why (and when) NoSQL is valuable. He crams a lot into a short speech, so it's one of the rare videos I've required students in my database classes to watch.

Now, really getting away from the technical, I have to recommend watching the IDEO shopping cart video: https://youtu.be/taJOV-YCieI This is the classic introduction of Design Thinking to the world, in 1999. If you're using the Lean Startup or an Agile method, but have never heard of IDEO's shopping cart, you may be able to get along fine at work, but you should be kind of embarrassed like a physicist who's never read Newton.

Aside from the typical, I watched Damian Conway "Standing on the shoulders of giants" from YAPC 2016 last week and found it interesting. Always fun to see a modern feature full language collide with history and algorithms.


for lang { when Perl { say "Not interested" } }

Too many great talks to mention, but if I had to pick one it would be Ted Nelson's few minutes of demonstration of Xanadu. Demonstration is lacking, but what he said about the concept/idea is what stuck with me. Deep and referential(?) content. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=En_2T7KH6RA

https://www.infoq.com/presentations/We-Really-Dont-Know-How-... is by far my favorite technical talk right now.

Sussman goes over some interesting ideas on the provenance of calculations and asserts that "exact" computation is possibly not worth the cost.

My favourite talk is:

"What the heck is the event loop anyway?" by Philip Roberts


Joshua Bloch: How to design a good API and why it matters


1 Martin Thompson busting myths about hardware and explaining why it's important to know. Mechanical sympathy makes you better, because you know how the code actually runs on the machine and interacts with different layers of memory


2 Matt Godbolt (the man behind GCC explorer) - Emulating a 6502 system in Javascript

Great talk about BBC micro and much more


3 Matt Adereth - Clojure/typing

History of keyboards and a custom keyboard written in Clojure


I like the 3 for their content and how each speaker presented the background and their project/hack/ideas.

Highly recommend

Your second link reminded me of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLv_INgaLq8 (which definitely builds on some of Matt's work).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBkNBP00wJE - C++17 for the Commodore 64.

Probable language warnings for my other suggestions:

* Rescuing Prince of Persia from the Sands of Time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnEWBtCnFs8 (was this talk ever given elsewhere?)

* And You Shall Know Me By My Trail of Documentation - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEgHdHdUDaA

* The History and Evolution of Computer Viruses - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2g9lgYrYJM

Cliff Click was the jvm architect at sun then spent a decade at azul systems as their jvm architect. The talk is "A JVM Does That?"

It's well worth watching if you are interested in vms at all.


What We Actually Know About Software Development, and Why We Believe It’s True


After lots of talks I started going to the library and found out it's a lot more effective to grow knowledge. Maybe I'm too ADHD-able when watching videos.

I can read way, way faster than I can listen to a video. Also, reading usually comes with charts and code I can cut and paste. Books are way more effective than videos for me.

I used to believe this. But reading and deep understanding aren't that correlated, so speed is secondary to me. Videos have just less content than books and don't bring a lot compared to textual encodings of ideas. Maybe the context help with a book, you're by yourself, trying to imagine ideas rather than hearing it from someone else (which could cause more "acceptance" rather than understanding).

> But reading and deep understanding aren't that correlated, so speed is secondary to me

With a book, it's easy to speed up and slow down as needs be.

The good thing is you can do both. Sometimes I like watching or speeding through a talk and then looking for books about it. I'm not necessarily looking to get enlightened or become an expert from a talk but rather I'm seeing a quick pitch for an idea or technology I can later research at length.

Talks are a great way to discover interesting ideas, technologies, concepts etc. And if the talk inspired, one can then later invest in reading a book.

But brief summary type articles are an even faster way of discovering interesting ideas, technologies, concepts, etc... You can skim them and jump around and generally expose yourself to more ideas in the same amount of time.

Fair point, that said, don't forget libraries, they're full of gems.

I also like that I can skim text, and on a computer: C(tl|md)+f for stuff

Learning to skim text quickly for what I need is probably the single most important skill I possess.

We Really Don't Know How To Compute! [0] is probably my top... next to the christmas tree lectures.

[0] https://www.infoq.com/presentations/We-Really-Dont-Know-How-...

People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it by Simon Sinek https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_insp...

  How To Design A Good API and Why it Matters [0]
  The Principles of Clean Architecture [1]
  The State of the Art in Microservices by Adrian Cockcroft [2]
  "The Mess We're In" by Joe Armstrong [3]
[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAb7hSCtvGw

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_TH-Y78tt4

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwpxq9-uw_0

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKXe3HUG2l4

On the subject of API design, this talk is also quite good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQ5_u8Lgvyk

+1 for Joe Armstrong's talk. Very funny, but uncomfortably true

Bret Victor is pretty interesting though a bit philosophical.

The best practical talk is of course this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asLUTiJJqdE - Robert "Uncle Bob" Martin, Clean Architecture and Design

"An Introduction to SQLite" by Richard Hipp (who wrote the library) is actually a pretty good intro on to how to build your own DB engine.


James Mickens at Monitorama: https://vimeo.com/95066828

Aside from the comedic aspect (which makes the talk incredible), Mickens is a genuinely brilliant thinker and has a marvelous way with words.

Can I just say anything with Bryan Cantrill?

His KVM Forum talk on porting KVM to SmartOS is probably my favourite:


Richard Feynman: Fun to Imagine (BBC Series, 1983) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3pYRn5j7oI&list=PL04B3F5636...

Growing a Language by Guy Steele (video and transcription):



InfoSec talk. Best lines from talk..

"Basic lessons are not learned such as know thy network"

"You have to learn your network, you have to have skin in the game"

"Defense is hard, breaking stuff is easy"

"If you serve the God's of compliance you will fail"

"Compliance is not security"

"Perfect solution fallacy"

"People are falling over themselves not to change, shooting great ideas down."

"Perfect attacker fallacy, they don't exist, they are a myth!"

"Attackers are not that good because they don't need to be that good."

Speaker is Eric Conrad

"Avoiding Burnout, and other essentials of Open Source Self-Care" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbeHBnWfXUc

Of all talks by rich Hickey, this is my favourite.

Everything by Mr. Bryan Cantrill! This one is special: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6XQUciI-Sc

Not quite as low-level as some of the other talks, but I love watching LazyGameReviews "Tech Tales" series when ever a new one comes out

It's fairly high level, but he really burrows into computer history and it's simply fascinating to watch, helped by the fact the person is extremely passionate about what he does https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gB1vrRFJI1Q&list=PLbBZM9aUMs...

I love 8-bit guy and Gaming Historian, I'm gonna plunge into Techmoan though!

Aaron Patterson talks (aka @tenderlove): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3gYklsN9uc

For reasons completely unrelated to the content, Identity 2.0: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrpajcAgR1E

Watching that talk brought me over to the "a picture or a few words per slide" style of presentation, rather than the "wall of bullet points" style. It also helped me move from "stop talking, change slides, start talking again", to smooth transitions while talking.

I'm waiting for more people to discover the next level - the "no slides at all" style of presentation. Cory Doctorow did a nice keynote at 28C3 completely without slides, and it worked very well ("The coming war on general computation", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYqkU1y0AYc). Not suitable for every type of talk, of course, but certainly there are many where the slides are a useless crutch or slides-for-the-sake-of-slides. If you're a good enough speaker you can hold people's attention without pointing at large words behind you.

(See Edward Tufte's "The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint" for good arguments about why slides are a bad idea most of the time)


Quite feasible for a good keynote. Harder for a technical talk, since a good diagram can greatly improve an explanation.

I find Simon Peyton Jones to be an excellent educator. He talks mostly about Haskell and the GHC compiler, but his talks are very accessible to a wide audience of programmers.

Edsger Dijkstra's Turing Award Speech:


As a web developer, my favorite recent talk is "Modern Layouts: Getting Out of Our Ruts" by Jen Simmons


...very inspiring if you're bored with the way websites have been looking for the past few years.

Secret history of silicon valley: https://youtu.be/hFSPHfZQpIQ

Indistinguishable From Magic: Manufacturing Modern Computer Chips.

Explains a lot of recent mass-market innovations that keep the semiconductor manufacturing industry rolling, and goes into detail about the many tricks used to ensure scaling down to the 22nm node.


Bret Victor's "Inventing on Principle" [1] or Rob Pike's "Concurrency Is Not Parallelism" [2].

[1] https://vimeo.com/36579366 [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN_DpYBzKso

It's an old talk but I really enjoyed it at the time, Paul Graham on Great Hackers: http://web.archive.org/web/20130729231533id_/http://itc.conv...

I'm relatively early in my career, and I feel like I've learned a ridiculous amount of useful stuff from talks given by these people:

Brandon Rhodes

Raymond Hettinger

David Beazley

Sandi Metz

Avdi Grimm

Aside from a lot of the classics here, one that stands out is this AMAZING live demo at pycon by David Beazley:


The simple and followable progression to more and more complex ideas blows my mind every time.

Slightly self-serving as the organiser but Sarah Mei's talk at Brighton Ruby this year was terrific.


Mike Bostock's talk on visualizing algorithms is one of my favorites: https://vimeo.com/112319901

> Visualizing Algorithms – A look at the use of visualization and animation to understand, explain and debug algorithms.

Gary McGraw: Cyber War, Cyber Peace, Stones, and Glass Houses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCULzMa7iqs

I like how this talk cuts through a lot of the BS in security. One of his points is that the US and other rich Western countries have a lot more to lose from a possible "cyber war" than our potential adversaries do.

Another key point is that we'll never make much progress unless we can somehow start building better systems in the first place, with fewer vulnerabilities for an adversary to exploit.

I think the second point has become a lot more widely accepted in recent years since McGraw started giving this talk. Unfortunately it sounds like a lot of government folks still haven't got the memo on point #1.

Moxie Marlinspike at Blackhat 2010 on how we lost the war for privacy in spite of winning the Crypto Wars of the 1990's-early 2000's: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unZZCykRa5w

Herb Sutter, Modern C++ - https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2014/2-661

Great overview of value types, performance and how hardware that runs things still matters.

"How to Speed up a Python Program 114,000 times." - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e08kOj2kISU

Humour, serious technical insight and a good reminder of why being a generalist is an advantage.

Geoffrey Hinton "The Next Generation of Neural Networks". A google tech talk from 2007 about this newfangled "deep neural network" thing:


Keith Winstein presenting mosh at USENIX 2012 is easily the most entertaining tech talk I've ever seen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsIxNYl0oyU

Scott Meyers' talks are fun to watch too.

David Beazley's, "Discovering Python": https://youtu.be/RZ4Sn-Y7AP8

A fascinating tale about using python during the discovery phase of a trial. Very fun watch. Anything by David Beazley is great!

Rupert Sheldrake, "The Extended Mind, Experimental Evidence", Google Talks 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hic18Xyk9is

If you are in for something out of the ordinary.

I love the Ted Nelson "Computers For Cynics" series - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdnGPQaICjk

He is kinda awesome in Herzog's recent 'Lo and Behold' too.

John Holland is always worth watching, and not very many people have seen this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_u_d-KLEsE#t=1183.549186

I like this one because it's a good reality check: Opening Keynote: Greg Young - Stop Over-Engenering https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRr4xeMn1uU

Google TechTalks Personal Growth Series: William Dement on Healthy Sleep and Optimal Performance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hAw1z8GdE8

Ashton Kutcher--Startup School

I like it because it is the intersection of so many things. He starts slow, is very intimidated by the audience. The audience, obviously super skeptical of the clown from that 70s show giving any useful information, they could learn from. He finds his footing with a great morivational story (albeit laden with a few cliches) about a forgotten entrepreneur and how he built some lasting value.

For me, this is a great talk. The story is extremely motivational and has some interesting bits of history & entrepreneurial genius-- but the entire experience is extremely educational. About bias, drive & success.

I liked it for what it wasnt.

Black Hat USA 2015 - The Memory Sinkhole Unleashing An X86 Design Flaw Allowing Universal Privilege


It's been a while since I've seen this talk. Hasn't this talk been accused of being bullshit or am I remembering it wrong?

I always enjoyed Ryan Dahl's casual at-home talk on the history of Node.JS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAc0vQCC6UQ

Zed Shaw's presentation, it's Not You, It's Them: Why Programming Languages Are Hard To Teach -- https://vimeo.com/53062800

Chuck Rossi - How Facebook releases software: https://vimeo.com/56362484 I remember thinking "Dr. Cox as release manager."

Douglass Crockford's series of 8 videos, "Crockford on JavaScript" really helped me gain a understanding of the language and a better understanding of programming in general. If you don't like or understand JavaScript, this will definitely change that. He's an excellent speaker and the talks are quite enjoyable. Here is the first video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoB2r1QxIAY. If you like it, the other 7 are available in the suggested section.


How Google backs up the internet.

At the time it changed how I thought about backups/reliability.

Dr Meister: Using Lisp, LLVM, and C++ for molecular programming: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X69_42Mj-g

The Clean Code Talks - "Global State and Singletons": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FRm3VPhseI

One in particular comes to mind that really changed the way I think about the larger problem of security in computer science and what a mess our current state of affairs seems to be in:

"The Science of Insecurity" by Meredith L. Patterson and Sergey Gordeychik (2011)


Warning: speaker likes to use profanity (which I enjoy :) but possibly NSFW if you're not on headphones

Dynamic Languages Wizards Series - Panel on Runtime: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LG-RtcSYUQ

Google I/O 2009 - The Myth of the Genius Programmer

One of the best talks about code reviews and similiar things


Clay Shirky on Love, Internet Style. He has several great talks.


In addition to Linus's git talk, I really enjoyed Jeff Dean's EE380 retrospective on Building Systems at Google (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=modXC5IWTJI). Many people have mentioned Jeff's basic premise elsewhere ("Design a system for 10x your current need, but not 100x, rewrite it before then") but this talk gave several useful examples where tipping points occurred (at least with Search).

TED talk - Elon musk - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgKWPdJWuBQ

D10 conference - Steve jobs and Bill gates - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw8x7ASpRIY

TED talk - Bill gates (Innovation to Zero) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaF-fq2Zn7I

I love Kevlin Henney's talks, he's very entertaining and informative at the same time, here's one called "Seven Ineffective Coding Habits of Many Java Programmers", very useful even if you don't use Java - https://vimeo.com/101084305

The rest of his channel is full of his talks https://vimeo.com/channels/761265

I'm a fan of "Knocking my neighbors kids cruddy drone offline" by Robinson and Mithcell from DEFCON 23.

    [0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CzURm7OpAA

"Being Awesome By Being Boring" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iheymi5QFEY

Therapeutic Refactoring by Katrina Owen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4dlF0kcThQ

Fast test, slow test by Gary Bernhardt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAxiiRPHS9k

Damien Katz - CouchDB and Me: https://www.infoq.com/presentations/katz-couchdb-and-me

The talk is about how Damien quit his job to hack on open source software. It shows his struggle and doubt while embarking on the project and then finally invented CouchDB. It's a passionate and human account of the process of creating something significant. I recommend every hacker watch this.

QueueTard's Manufacturing Modern Computer Chips at HOPE number nine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGFhc8R_uO4

Guy Steele's How to Think about Parallel Programming: Not! at Strange Loop 2011: https://www.infoq.com/presentations/Thinking-Parallel-Progra...

Lawrence Lessig's 'free culture' from OSCON 2002:- https://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/

Anything at all by Richard Feynman:- https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=%22richard+feynman%22&tbm=...

I very much enjoyed the talk John Graham-Cumming gave "The Great Railway Caper: Big Data in 1955": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcBJfkE5UwU

Any of Jason Scott's talks given at various hacker cons are usually historically informative and always a lot of laughs (but they're decidedly not "technical").

by Dave Thomas (PragDave)

"LoneStarRuby 2015 - My Dog Taught Me to Code by Dave Thomas" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCBUsd52a3s


"GOTO 2015 • Agile is Dead • Pragmatic Dave Thomas" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-BOSpxYJ9M

This is Linus Torvalds & git

Always refreshing to hear one of Haroon Meer's talks:


Jake Appelbaum's Digital Anti-Repression Workshop is de rigeur listening too:


The Front-end Architecture Revolution by David Nolen: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/61483785

It completely changed the way I approach front-end development (Not that talk in particular though. I saw an earlier, similar talk on Youtube but this one has much higher quality).

Not at all high-brow, but I revisit the in-the-trenches case study of "Scaling Pinterest" on Infoq from time to time because I find their fighting through the pain inspirational for my own scaling troubles.


"Pwned by the Owner" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4oB28ksiIo), a DefCon 18 talk about a stolen Mac that one day popped back up on the owners DynDNS service, he was able to connect to it and had some fun afterward.

Not a technical deepdive, but entertaining.

It's not publicly available, but it was an internal AWS talk and very-deep-dive on the design & implementation of S3. A real eye opener for what it meant to build at global scale.

It's worth joining a global-scale tech company (AWS, Google, Azure, Facebook) just to have your mind blown by some of the internal materials.

Cal Henderson "Why I Hate Django" DjangoCon 2008 Keynote - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6Fr65PFqfk. Not that it is the most educational talk, but it's really funny (edit: added youtube link).

Hacking with Words and Smiles by James Lyne https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrNo0XpQxBk

He was a co-speaker at TEDxGlasgow with me and I thought his talk was brilliant. Cyber-crime is a really interesting area.

I like all of Carin Meier's talks, but I think the one that made the most lasting impression was "The Joy of Flying Robots with Clojure."


My favorite is this one about Drones and IA. One of the best:


Temporally Quaquaversal Virtual Nanomachine is another gem by Damian Conway: https://yow.eventer.com/events/1004/talks/1028

Stop Building Products by David Edwards.

A deeply thoughtful discussion of the impact of metaphors on how we think about software development.

Skip to 0:40 if you don't want to hear the MC.


What Makes Us Uniquely Human? by Erwin McManus: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/What-Makes-Us-Uniquely-Human-...

Artur Bergman, creator of the Fastly CDN, at Velocity 2011 - giving a (very) short talk about SSDs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7PJ1oeEyGg

The Pixel Factory by Steven Wittens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NkjLWAkYZ8

For those how likes computer graphics (or want to learn), this is a gold piece.

"Desktop on the Linux" by Wolfgang Draxinger (guest appearance by Lennart Poettering): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTdUmlGxVo0

React-motion, the react animation package that boils all of the animations down to one concept, a spring.


Eric Brandwine at AWS talking about how they solved the networking part of the cloud: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qln2u1Vr2E

DEFCON 20: Owning Bad Guys {And Mafia} With Javascript Botnets https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QT4YJn7oVI

This guy is just too funny.

Deconstructing Functional Programming by Gilad Bracha:


this is always a top one for me, he presents so well and kind of nails down the concepts.

but even more so, he sounds like the architect in the matrix having dialogue with some critics.

That guy fat from the Bootstrap team - What Is Open Source & Why Do I Feel So Guilty?


I have a list of interesting talks on Haskell/OCaml [0].

(Plan to organize and add more categories.)

[0] https://github.com/0xmohit/talks

There is a sort of palpable energy in (Ryan Dahl) node.js original presentation.


edit: +Ryan Dahl

"When We Build" by Wilson Miner: https://vimeo.com/34017777

It completely changed my perspective on how design shapes our world.

Resilience in Complex Adaptive systems by Richard Cook at Velocity Conf 2013:


Marketing Matters by Jesse Noller https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vZ_E1OO_PY&list=WL

One of my favorites. dhh showing once again his ruthless pragmatism:


ECCHacks - A gentle introduction to elliptic-curve cryptography [31c3]


"Greg Wilson - What We Actually Know About Software Development, and Why We Believe It’s True"


Closure, by @steveklabnik


So many lessons in short, beautiful piece.

My personal favorite is "The ACL is Dead" by Zed Shaw https://vimeo.com/2723800

Dan Abromovich sort of introducing Redux in this talk. https://youtu.be/xsSnOQynTHs


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