On 14th April, 2018 me and my colleagues attended the Bulgaria Web Summit event, which was held in Inter Expo Center Sofia. It was the first time I ever attended such event, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised with the good organisation and the great variety of activities the event offered. In the website of the event there were timetable for all 32 lectures, which were going to be presented throughout the day. Unfortunately there were only 8 time slots and each four lectures were held in the same time in one of the 4 rooms provided, therefore, we had to choose the lectures that were most attractive and most useful to each one of us and visit only them.
Having seen the timetable in advance, I was prepared with a list with the timings and rooms of all the lectures I wanted to attend, as well as some additional ones, in case the room capacity was not enough to fit all who were interested.
The first lecture I attended was “How to hack a mobile app?”. The lecturer Asim Hussain talked about the kind of weak spots hackers look for in all apps in general. The main point was that real security issues do not come from the big holes in security, but from the small ones, that we often neglect. Not escaping html for example, puts our web sites in risk of SQL injection. Example for this is Company House based in the UK, where you can register your company, without your information being protected. Hackers often rely on users` or programmers` distraction as in the case of open source projects, which are believed to be trustworthy and safe, but often are easy target for hackers. They use the same name with dot (.) or remove slash from it, therefore making it hard to notice at first glance. In this way one could download libraries with malicious code instead of the desired open source project. The last, but not least that I learned from this lecture was how important it is to keep all your software and packages up to date, since programmers constantly improve their products’ security.
The second lecture on my list was about “Building Scalable Web Apps For Patients” by Krasimir Tsonev. He talked about the company he works for and their aim to help people. It is a digital health company, which mission is bridging the gap between medical research and the people who need it. Their “clients” are often people who are incurably ill and have no time. The major point he made was that such people are tired from waiting and searching for what they need, so the company aims to provide web apps that are scalable and adjust to the users’ needs. They study their patients needs daily and create profiles for them, thus allowing the delivery of valuable information only and avoiding unnecessary questions and adds.
The lecture that I found most interesting was “Simplicity is not Simple”. The lecturer was Dave Hogue, who works as Psychologist and UX Lead at Google. He was very enthusiastic and made it obvious that he takes the subject seriously. He told us, it is easy to make everything complicated, but the reverse process takes a lot more time and efforts. The main point was that one needs to think before they act. If you take the time to plan and decide what you really need to have in your app, you will not add anything unnecessary. Common mistakes are adding functionalities only to check if user would use it, to search similar websites and to take everything, nonetheless, you might not really need it. When you start to think whether something is good to have as functionality, but then you find something that is even better and better you end up in a mess of functionalities, most of which do not even have place in your project. Hence, it is crucial to find the balance between adding all necessary functions and keeping it simple in the same time. All in all, the essence of that lecture perfectly summarizes in a quote by Albert Einstein that states “ Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Following the afore discussed lectures, we all had a lunch break, after which I continued my day with “Art of noise” given by Léonie Watson. She talked about the evolution of voice technologies over the years. There were examples of computer voice sounds from 1992 and current modern technologies. Nowadays, voice interaction is very common. People often use it to communicate with and control their phone or other connected home devices. However, while some of us use voice technologies just for fun or convenience, for others they are necessity that helps them go through everyday tasks. Voice technologies’ development strives for better interaction with human beings, therefore aiming to improve punctuation accuracy, clarity of speech and similarity to human speech. What is even more impressive, is the possibility of integrating voice recognition and other voice technologies into artificial intelligence.
Following the “Art of noise” I continued with “The next evolution of the Web” presented by Bilyana Vacheva. She talked about upcoming Virtual Reality Browsers which allow you to see and navigate through web pages via VR glasses. This type of browsers are still developing, but there are already some initial versions created. The idea behind this evolutionary technology is that VR glasses could be used in jobs such as web developing instead of for fun only. For this purpose, new generation browsers need to be more coordinated. However, when talking about getting a job done via VR browser, one should feel confident about what they press and when, while in games this is not of great importance, since the major purpose is to have fun. My personal opinion, about such use of VR browsers is that it will not be applicable, due to the long duration of sessions and the fact that a person doing this is expected to wear the glasses for up to 6-8 hours a day, which I believe will be very uncomfortable and difficult to achieve no matter how isolated one is from external distractions.
The last lecture I attended was “Working the right way by knowing all the wrong ways” by Boyan Djumakov. He talked about bad practices, teamwork, self improvement, and helping each other to improve self knowledge and self confidence. Unfortunately, he could not finish his lecture because of the time, but the way I see it the essence of the lecture was that one should not feed their ego, but their knowledge and respect the people who they work with. Another aspect, he came across with, was work laziness and how employees need to find the way to go over it and do the job they are being paid for and learn to be proud of their goals and achievements.
There were another two lecturers that I attended, however I did not find them as interesting as expected. Overall, I was impressed with the event and I got to learn many interesting things and familiarize with new innovations and technologies. As unfortunate as it is, I was more impressed by the foreign lecture presenters and believe they master presentation skills, that the Bulgarian ones lacked. The foreigners, whose lectures I attended, were able to better express themselves without using too sophisticated language or inappropriate words, as some of the Bulgarians did. Moreover, some of the bulgarian presenters spent a lot more time than needed, on side issues that had nothing in common with the lecture, which was uncalled for. Even though, some lectures overlapped I still think in general the organization of the event was very good. It was nice there was a variety of interesting lectures, as well as number of different innovations that were exposed in the lobby, where everyone could see them and ask questions about.