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Ask HN: Best Talks of 2019?
643 points by ignoramous on Dec 22, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 84 comments
2018: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18740939

2017: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16045859

2016: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12637239

Ever: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18217762

Bonus: https://link.medium.com/GYN66jgmD2


The Soul of Erlang and Elixir, by Sasa Juric

video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvBT4XBdoUE

HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20942767

Preventing the Collapse of Civilization, by Jonathan Blow

video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW-SOdj4Kkk

HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19945452

+1 for both talks

Saša Jurić is fantastic at condensing lots of information in a 1 hour talk without losing the audience, he gave another great talk this year called Parsing from first principles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNzoerDljjo).

While on that topic, I also enjoyed this talk by Fred Herbert recently — Operable Erlang and Elixir. https://youtu.be/OR2Gc6_Le2U

Jonathan Blow's talk was the first one I thought of.

Shit talk. I find it's funny to look at dude that say 1 hour 1 sentence but can't say clear about alternative / solving this.


“Why isn’t functional programming the norm?” by Richard Feldman. Spoiler: not on the basis of merits. https://youtu.be/QyJZzq0v7Z4

“React to the future” by Jordan Walke. Why ReasonML is a logical extension of ReactJS’ programming paradigm. https://youtu.be/5fG_lyNuEAw

“Typing the untyped: soundness in gradual type systems” by Ben Weissmann. The trade offs that various gradual type systems make based on their language constraints. https://youtu.be/uJHD2xyv7xo

“Let’s program like it’s 1999” by Lee Byron. How the mutual feedback loop of abstraction, syntax and mental model drives the evolution of web technologies. https://youtu.be/vG8WpLr6y_U

Maybe I'm missing something but I'm more than halfway through the "Why isn't functional programming the norm?" and it just seems to be a kind of haphazard recollection of programming language history. A lot of which isn't what I'd call entirely correct. Python's killer app was arguably first CGI scripts then data science. Java succeeded due to offering GC in a non scripting language, the JVM and possibly lots of marketing. PHP is having a mild renaissance with Laravel (not that I'd advocate for PHP, but people do seem to love Laravel).

There was quite a bit of time in between the invention of implementation inheritance and the whole "prefer composition to inheritance". It's quite possible OOP became popular due to implementation inheritance then realized it was dumb.

This info is still useful, but what I'd really love from a talk with that title is an analysis of functional programming languages and how they each missed the boat through either syntax, lack of tooling, or purity. And compare it to functional-ish languages like Rust, JavaScript, Swift and Kotlin. Then chart a way forward for function programming language adoption. Maybe that happens at the end of the talk.

> seems to be a kind of haphazard recollection of programming language history

Agree. The talk is very thin on the real differences between OOP and functional languages.

This old comment [0] points out that functional languages tend to make it far harder to reason about low-level details, for instance.

Personally I think it's more fundamental, and isn't about any such technical limitations. People have a strong intuition for time, which is emphasised in imperative languages (including OOP), which have the semicolon operator or an implicit equivalent. The concepts at play in the fundamentals of Haskell are simply harder, and 'more mathematical', than the sequenced mutation-based statements of imperative/OOP languages.

To put that more provocatively: does anyone doubt that the average Haskell programmer is smarter than the average JavaScript programmer? I'm not convinced this is just because only the curious bother to learn Haskell.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21281004

A complete digress, but OOPS still shines in the domain of GUI widgets programming where there are a limited number of interfaces and a huge number of widgets (implementations) working with that interface. FP works conversely, on a limited data and a huge set of functions. Maybe in the context of now with limited gui programming, FL is more suitable?

Functional ui is arguably saner, as react is slowly proving to junior programmers worldwide.

Here's the secret agent ad by Sun which Feldman mentions [1]. These Sun ads are really quite entertaining and the production values have had to been through the roof at the time [2][3][4].

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVuTBL09Dn4

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfwMMI7hqns

[3]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njnNVV5QNaA

[4]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP4FgXOlMh0

> Why isn’t functional programming the norm?

This talk is very good. It's one of the few talks that I've overheard classmates talk about. It not only asks a question a lot of people exposed to functional programming at university asks, but also answers it in a way where you learn more about the world of programming and programming languages than you expected.

Most people in this thread are posting a link and a title of the talk. I think it would be useful to hear why you thought the talk was the best.

A bunch of the best talks of the year may still be to come when 36C3 takes place from the 27th to 30th. The schedule is already up [1]. Speakers include David Graeber, Edward Snowden, Daniel J. Bernstein, Moxie Marlinspike, and over a hundred others.

All talks will be livestreamed (and usually become available for download one day later) at [2].

[1] https://fahrplan.events.ccc.de/congress/2019/Fahrplan/

[2] https://media.ccc.de/

They’ll also be live-translated from German to English (and vice versa) by volunteers – and often into a third language too!

"Performance matters" by Emery Berger on StrangeLoop'19 is a great talk - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-TLSBdHe1A

Also, rest of his talks are also fascinating:

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRAP3lBivYM

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyWKxFxyyrQ

Love Emery.

Took 2 courses under him @UMass. An extremely demanding professor, but each of his classes are an absolute delight.

Thank you! That was a fantastic use of 42:14! Loved the style and what a great research by he and his team.

performance matters was a sensational presentation. I don't think the title gives it justice

Rich Harris - Rethinking Reactivity

Talk about Svelte v3 and the (possible) future of frontend frameworks

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdNJ3fydeao

HN discussion regarding Svelte 3: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19719118

I quite enjoyed this talk. I’ve seen Svelte with an eye of skepticism but this helped me understand some bits better. That hairstyle tho!

Rethinking Reactivity is a must-watch for anyone interested in Svelte v3 (and what Harris regards as the limitations of React).

For me, personally, it was David Beazley's Keynote (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUT386_GKI8) at PyCon India this year.

I also liked this talk! Impressive live coding. For people who want (mild) SPOILERS, here's a quick summary:


WASM interpreter from scratch is great not only because "omg livecoding interpreter from scratch", but also it is a lot of inspiration for hacking and exploring things.

I just came here to post this! Mindbogglingly great talk... Was lucky enough to catch it live at Pycon India.

Just watched this video. What a quality live coding: fast and low on bugs. Learned about stack based machines from very basics. Would upvote more if I could.

He's a great presenter; show, don't tell.

Not a talk from 2019, but discovered it this year: "1177 BC, the year civilization collapsed (Eric Cline, PhD)" https://youtu.be/bRcu-ysocX4

Excellent informative and hilarious talk about his (at-the-time) new scientific hypothesis to explain the end of the Bronze Age ca. 1200 BC.

Multiple civilizations collapsed within a few decades of each other with the ability to read, write and make high buildings being lost all across the Eastern Mediterranean simultaneously. The Bronze Age is magical and interesting of itself, the talk gives a great introduction as to why we know much more about it than we think.. definitely recommended.

Duration ~1 hour (feels like 20 minutes)

David Rusenko - How To Find Product Market Fit - YC Startup School


I learned so much for this talk. I had a much different idea of the point of iterating rapidly and what product-market fit meant before this video.

Yes, this talk is very good.

Scott Aaronson's three Paul Bernays Lectures on computation

1. The Church-Turing Thesis and Physics 2. The Limits of Efficient Computation 3. The Quest for Quantum Computational Supremacy



I don't know if Bryan Cantrill has done any speeches this year, whenever i see some speech featuring him on youtube I watch it regardless of the year.

That man is a gold mine. And I always learn something interesting.


you might enjoy their new podcast https://oxide.computer/blog/categories/on-the-metal/

new startup with Brian, jess frazzle and Steve tuck.

I'm pretty excited about that company. I'd like apply for a gig there myself.

yup, that's already in my feedreader.

I've already heard some fantastic stories from their guests, particularly the guy who used to work at intel.

This year's Cantrill talks include one on Ethical Dilemmas [0] and another on the "Moore's Law" paper [1]. Highly recommend both.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wtvQZijPzg [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM9h89Vo_Qo

AWS re:Invent 2019: BPF performance analysis at Netflix (OPN303-R1)

Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16slh29iN1g

Blog post: http://www.brendangregg.com/blog/2019-12-22/bpf-theremin.htm...


Brendan presents news tools and new flows that can be used to analyse performance bottlenecks.

He get you in the demo and you stay to receive more and more information. It seems to be a talk that he has been improving over the years. Totally worth your time seen it.

I thought this was a pretty good one


Composing music functionally, aka functional composition :)

Same here. I started watching because I misinterpreted the title and stayed for the wow effect :)

Also, after seeing what kind of magic he can do with the right representation, I wondered how many "business domain" models I know could be expressed with models that "click" in the same way (i.e. are expressed by simple concepts and compose as well).

I feel as if many of us often give up way too early in the search for good models for our data. Myself included, of course.

Rust, WebAssembly, and the future of Serverless by Steve Klabnik video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMB6AlE1QuI&t=1854s

Thank you!

Append only development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXuvCMG21Ss

Shameless plug since I'm the speaker. The reason I'm posting this in "best talks of 2019" is not because I think it was a good talk (my ego isn't that big yet) but because I think very few talks exist on the subject of Behavioral Programming, and it's a subject I'm hoping can get more attention.

The main thread is overworked & underpaid


Great talk, thanks for sharing

A [1] video essay about modern art by Jacob Geller. For me, it completely reversed my opinion on modern art and it's worth.

This [2] talk about building worlds in Blender by Ian Hubert.

[1] https://youtu.be/v5DqmTtCPiQ

[2] https://youtu.be/whPWKecazgM

I just watched [2]. Can thoroughly recommend, very watchable presenter & I feel like although I had no idea what he was doing half the time it was very cool. Technological Magic!

My favorite talk of this year is Raymond Hettinger talking about mental gymnastics which helps you to structure your problems into ones that which you can solve. The mental game of Python: youtu.be/UANN2Eu6ZnM

For the Unix history fans, BWK's interview of Ken Thompson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY6q5dv_B-o

Caltech Guest Lecture: Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor - Professor John Martinis, Chief Scientist Google Quantum Computing Division


"Solving Problems the Clojure Way" by Rafal Dittwald at Clojure/north. Comparing a simple JS cardgame the imperative, OOP and functional way.

ZFS for newbies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oG-1U5AI9A main ideas behind ZFS and why it blows out the competition in many scenarios

Making C Less Dangerous in the Linux Kernel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FY9SbqTO5GQ

NUMA optimizations in the FreeBSD stack (Netflix) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NSzkYSX5nY

How we fit a NES game in 40KiB https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWQ0591PAxM

NLNOG 2019 - DNS over HTTPS considerations - Bert Hubert


Paul Stamets 2019:

not, the survival of the fittest. it is:

the extension of generosity of surplus

to other members in the ecological community

to build biodiversity

not the individual that survives but the community that survives


Kyle Kotowick - The 737 MAX: Human Factors in Complex Systems


The closing Keynote of Meeting C++2019

Crazy Code, Crazy Coders


I closed the tab when he says people who write code like this "for (int k=0; k < N; k++)" are stupid.

I thought this talk about Async in Rust was pretty cool (RustLatam 2019 - Without Boats: Zero-Cost Async IO): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skos4B5x7qE

Why I thought it was cool: Gives a good overview of Async implementations without getting too deep in the weeds. Talks about "greenthreads" in other languages vs a zero-cost abstraction in Rust.

I've got a few in the queue I haven't gotten to, but I immediately thought of Alice Goldfuss's recent talk at LISA19 "The Container Operator's Manual"


Pretty great talk about Kafka at Tesla: https://www.confluent.io/kafka-summit-san-francisco-2019/0-6...

Professor Mark Blythe: Gobal Trumpism and the Future of the Global Economy


I love anything by Professor Blythe. If you enjoy his lectures you should check out Adam Tooze

>check out Adam Tooze

I purchased his book, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World without really knowing much about it (or him) and found it to be a great, semi-technical story about the financial crisis (and its politics) from the global perspective.

Behind the scenes of iOS and Mac Security: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3byNNUReyvE

Good talk behind the reason for the T2 chip and some other Apple security stuff

This video by Mark Dalgeish got me really thinking about design systems from a developer of view.


EuroBSDcon 2019 Keynote by Patricia Aas: Embedded Ethics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfNIiitVFtc / slides: https://www.slideshare.net/PatriciaAas/embedded-ethics-eurob...)

Because, sometimes you need to worry less about the gritty details of the tech and take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Depression Memes for Devops Teens: Self-Care for Server Janitors and Other Humans: https://youtu.be/TcvWEbaOg-Q

Objectionable Content (Python Object Model) by James Powell

James Powell never disappoints :)


Building Distributed Systems with Node.js - James Simpson (Nordic.js 2019)

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUtd-zEDgjQ

Slides/Code: https://github.com/goldfire/Building-Distributed-Systems-Nod...

Ask the Ecosystem: Lessons from 200+ FOSS Applications - Mahmoud Hashemi

Basically made an awesome list of applications written in Python(now is 380+), then answered the frequently asked questions by the community about how to develops applications using Python.

The data is also available.


Big Business Hates Your Family, by Tucker Carlson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXGoWtK1NnY

Most interesting development for me in 2019 were the ongoing political realignments - the right no longer sees the free market as compatible with their social values.

Chairman Bruce at SXSW2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV1XMAP-Uh8

Bruce Sterling has been around in the intersection of art and technology since the dawn of the internet. His gothic, villain, medival high tech scifi world are a hilarious inspiration.

Build Impossible Programs - Julia Evans: https://jvns.ca/blog/2018/09/18/build-impossible-programs/

Good talk and thanks for sharing but it's from 2018 though.

Related thread (computing related videos): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21737922

Richard Wolf’s Global Economic Update from November 2019 changed how I perceive the US tax system, US political candidates and their proposals on how to fund various solutions. He also speaks about political parties and their purpose in the context of capitalism, and separately, libertarianism.

Lastly, covers the US/China “trade war”.

Fascinating and very well structured talk, revealing the hidden (to me) forces behind economic structures and decisions.


For those who were curious, this is a lecture by Richard Wolff, who Wikipedia describes as an “american Marxist economist”

His recent Twitter posts suggest that economic inequality in the US can be achieved through taxing the rich, which while not an original thought, seems sensible.

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