Last week, I spoke at Computer Science Noobs on the subject of type systems. I’m still in the process of writing up the talk (and make no promises about if and when it will be finished), but I realised something that I wish I’d realised sooner.
It turns out I really don’t like talks.
I mean, I knew I didn’t like attending or watching talks (at least, those that take longer than five minutes—lightning talks are, in general, great). But 30 to 60 minutes of someone drivelling on as they wander around a stage? Count me out. Even if I’m sitting in the front row, I’ll be fiddling with my phone within about 3 minutes. On a good day. On a bad day it’ll be 3 seconds. (Yes, I do this in lightning talks too, but that’s really, really bad of me. I promise to stop.)
But what surprised me this year is that I really don’t like the other side of talks either: the talking.
I really thought I did. I thought that I loved the sound of my own voice enough that it made the talk fun for me, and apparently not everyone is like me (a lesson I’m still learning, and will be learning for the rest of my days), so I figured that it was a win-win situation: I got to rant in front of people, and they got to listen to my wonderful voice. (cough, cough)
Except it turns out I don’t like it at all.
Now, that’s not to say I don’t like speaking. I just don’t like the script. I absolutely detest rehearsing a talk, I can’t stand fixing the material up-front, and slideshows make me want to cry.
So last week, I tried something different. I created a lot of material, stood up in front of about 25 people, and said something along these lines:
I realised a few weeks ago that I hate lectures. So this is not a lecture. It’s not a one-way path. There’s only a few of us; I’d much rather we have a conversation. So interrupt, ask questions, and challenge me. We’re going to explore this stuff together.
I have no slides. I have no fixed material. All I have is code. I’m going to show you a lot of it. And I can change it. So ask me to.
And with that in mind, let’s go.
I started the session itself in a REPL, and ended up playing in my editor, with tests running in the background.
No slides, no fixed content. Everything was malleable. And I loved it.
The feedback was really good too. People seemed to appreciate that it was informal, they could ask lots of questions, and if something didn’t make sense, it was their job to tell me so.
I’m going to be doing this a lot more in the future. I can’t wait.