In the afternoon of October 1st 2019, I had the pleasure of welcoming Linus Larsson and Jonas Lindkvist into my home in Huddinge, south of Stockholm, Sweden. My home is also my office as I work full-time from home. These two fine gentlemen work for Sweden’s largest morning newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, which boasts 850,000 daily readers.
Jonas took what felt like a hundred photos of me, most of them when I sit in my office chair at my regular desk where my primary development computers and environment are. As you can see in the two photos on this blog post. I will admit that I did minimize most of my regular Windows from the screens to that I wouldn’t accidentally reveal something personal or sensitive, but on the plus side is that if you pay close attention you can see my Simon Stålenhag desktop backgrounds better!
Me and Linus then sat down and talked. We talked about my background, how curl was created and how it has “taken off” to an extent I of course could never even dream about. Today, I estimate that curl runs in perhaps ten billion installations. A truly mind boggling – and humbling – number.
The interview/chat lasted for about an hour or so. I figured we had touched most relevant areas and Linus seemed content with the material and input he’d gotten from me. As this topic and article wasn’t really time sensitive or something that would have to be timed with something particular Linus explained that he didn’t know exactly when it would get published and it didn’t bother me. I figured it would be cool whenever!
On the morning of October 14 I collected the paper from my mailbox (because yes, I still do have a paper version newspaper arriving at my home every morning) and boom, I spotted an interesting little note in the lower right hand corner.
You can see the (Swedish-speaking) front-page blurb on the photo on the right.
The interesting timing this morning made it out so that this was the same morning I delivered a keynote at Castor Software Days at KTH in Stockholm titled “curl, a hobby project that conquered the world” (slides) – which by the way was received very well and I got a lot of positive comments and interesting conversations afterwards. And lots of people of course noticed the interestingly timed coincidence with the DN article!
The DN article reaches out to “ordinary” people in ways I’m not used to, so of course this made more of my non-techie friends suddenly realize a little more of what I do. I think it captures my “journey” and my approach to life and curl fairly well.
I’ll probably extend this blog post with links/photos of the actual DN articles at a later point once I feel I don’t risk undermining DN’s business by doing so.
(photos by Jonas Lindkvist, Dagens Nyheter, used in the online article about me)
I view myself as primarily a software developer. Perhaps secondary as someone who’s somewhat knowledgeable in networking and is participating in protocol development and discussions. I do not regularly proclaim myself to be a “speaker” or someone who’s even very good at talking in front of people.
Time to wake up and face reality? I’m slowly starting to realize that I’m actually doing more presentations than ever before in my life and I’m enjoying it.
Since October 2015 I’ve done 53 talks and presentations in front of audiences – in ten countries. That’s one presentation done every 25 days on average. (The start date of this count is a little random but it just happens that I started to keep a proper log then.) I’ve talked to huge audiences and to small. I done presentations that were appreciated and I’ve done some that were less successful.
My increased frequency in speaking engagements coincides with me starting to work full-time from home back in 2014. Going to places to speak is one way to get out of the house and see the “real world” a little bit and see what the real people are doing. And a chance to hang out with humans for a change. Besides, I only ever talk on topics that are dear to me and that I know intimately well so I rarely feel pressure when delivering them. 2014 – 2015 was also the time frame when HTTP/2 was being finalized and the general curiosity on that new protocol version helped me find opportunities back then.
Public speaking is like most other things: surprisingly enough, practice actually makes you better at it! I still have a lot to learn and improve, but speaking many times has for example made me better at figuring out roughly how long time I need to deliver a particular talk. It has taught me to “find myself” better when presenting and be more relaxed and the real me – no need to put up a facade of some kind or pretend. People like seeing that there’s a real person there.
I’m not even getting that terribly nervous before my talks anymore. I used to really get a raised pulse for the first 45 talks or so, but by doing it over and over and over I think the practice has made me more secure and more relaxed in my attitude to the audience and the topics. I think it has made me a slightly better presenter and it certainly makes me enjoy it more.
I’m not “a good presenter”. I can deliver a talk and I can do it with dignity and I think the audience is satisfied with me in most cases, but by watching actual good presenters talk I realize that I still have a long journey ahead of me. Of course, parts of the explanation is that, to connect with the beginning of this post, I’m a developer. I don’t talk for a living and I actually very rarely practice my presentations very much because I don’t feel I can spend that time.
Some of the things that are still difficult include:
The money issue. I actually am a developer and that’s what I do for a living. Taking time off the development to prepare a presentation, travel to a distant place, sacrifice my spare time for one or more days and communicating something interesting to an audience that demands and expects it to be both good and reasonably entertaining takes time away from that development. Getting travel and accommodation compensated is awesome but unfortunately not enough. I need to insist on getting paid for this. I frequently turn down speaking opportunities when they can’t pay me for my time.
Saying no. Oh my god do I have a hard time to do this. This year, I’ve been invited to so many different conferences and the invitations keep flying in. For every single received invitation, I get this warm and comfy feeling and I feel honored and humbled by the fact that someone actually wants me to come to their conference or gathering to talk. There’s the calendar problem: I can’t be in two places at once. Then I also can’t plan events too close to each other in time to avoid them holding up “real work” too much or to become too much of a nuisance to my family. Sometimes there’s also the financial dilemma: if I can’t get compensation, it gets tricky for me to do it, no matter how good the conference seems to be and the noble cause they’re working for.
Feedback. To determine what parts of the presentation that should be improved for the next time I speak of the same or similar topic, which parts should be removed and if something should be expanded, figuring what works and what doesn’t work is vital. For most talks I’ve done, there’s been no formal way to provide or receive this feedback, and for the small percentage that had a formal feedback form or a scoring system or similar, taking care of a bunch of distributed grades (for example “your talk was graded 4.2 on a scale between 1 and 5”) and random comments – either positive or negative – is really hard… I get the best feedback from close friends who dare to tell me the truth as it is.
Conforming to silly formats. Slightly different, but some places want me to send me my slides in, either a long time before the event (I’ve had people ask me to provide way over a week(!) before), or they dictate that the slides should be sent to them using Microsoft Powerpoint, PDF or some other silly format. I want to use my own preferred tools when designing presentations as I need to be able to reuse the material for more and future presentations. Sure, I can convert to other formats but that usually ruins formatting and design. Then a lot the time and sweat I put into making a fine and good-looking presentation is more or less discarded! Fortunately, most places let me plug in my laptop and everything is fine!
As a little service to potential audience members and conference organizers, I’m listing all my upcoming speaking engagements on a dedicated page on my web site:
I try to keep that page updated to reflect current reality. It also shows that some organizers are forward-planning waaaay in advance…
Invite someone like me to talk?
Here’s some advice on how to invite a speaker (like me) with style:
Ask well in advance (more than 2-3 months preferably, probably not more than 9). When I agree to a talk, others who ask for talks in close proximity to that date will get declined. I get a surprisingly large amount of invitations for events just a month into the future or so, and it rarely works for me to get those into my calendar in that time frame.
Do not assume for-free delivery. I think it is good tone of you to address the price/charge situation, if not in the first contact email at least in the following discussion. If you cannot pay, that’s also useful information to provide early.
If the time or duration of the talk you’d like is “unusual” (ie not 30-60 minutes) do spell that out early on.
Surprisingly often I get invited to talk without a specified topic or title. The inviter then expects me to present that. Since you contact me you clearly had some kind of vision of what a talk by me would entail, it would make my life easier if that vision was conveyed as it could certainly help me produce a talk subject that will work!
What I bring
To every presentation I do, I bring my laptop. It has HDMI and USB-C ports. I also carry a HDMI-to-VGA adapter for the few installations that still use the old “projector port”. Places that need something else than those ports tend to have their own converters already since they’re then used with equipment not being fitted for their requirements.
I always bring my own clicker (the “remote” with which I can advance to next slide). I never use the laser-pointer feature, but I like being able to move around on the stage and not have to stand close to the keyboard when I present.
I never create my presentations with video or sound in them, and I don’t do presentations that need Internet access. All this to simplify and to reduce the risk of problems.
I work hard on limiting the amount of text on each slide, but I also acknowledge that if a slide set should have value after-the-fact there needs to be a certain amount. I’m a fan of revealing the text or graphics step-by-step on the slides to avoid having half the audience reading ahead on the slide and not listening.
I’ve settled on 16:9 ratio for all presentations. Luckily, the remaining 4:3 projectors are now scarce.
I always make and bring a backup of my presentations in PDF format so that basically “any” computer could display that in case of emergency. Like if my laptop dies. As mentioned above, PDF is not an ideal format, but as a backup it works.
Yesterday, I had attracted audience enough to fill up the largest presentation room GOTO 10 has, which means about one hundred interested souls.
The subject of the day was HTTP/3. The event was filmed with a mevo camera and I captured the presentation directly from my laptop as well, and I then stitched together the two sources into this final version late last night. As you’ll notice, the sound isn’t awesome and the rest of the “production” isn’t exactly top notch either, but hey, I don’t think it matters too much.
I’ll be celebrating my 10th FOSDEM when I travel down to Brussels again in early February 2019. That’s ten years in a row. It’ll also be the 6th year I present something there, as I’ve done these seven talks in the past:
DNS over HTTPS (aka “DoH”, RFC 8484) introduces a new transport protocol to do secure and private DNS messaging. Why was it made, how does it work and how users are free (to resolve names).
The presentation will discuss reasons why DoH was deemed necessary and interesting to ship and deploy and how it compares to alternative technologies that offer similar properties. It will discuss how this protocol “liberates” users and offers stronger privacy (than the typical status quo).
How to enable and start using DoH today.
It will also discuss some downsides with DoH and what you should consider before you decide to use a random DoH server on the Internet.
This time TCP is replaced by the new transport protocol QUIC and things are different yet again! This is a presentation about HTTP/3 and QUIC with a following Q&A about everything HTTP. Join us at Goto 10.
HTTP/3 is the designated name for the coming next version of the protocol that is currently under development within the QUIC working group in the IETF.
HTTP/3 is designed to improve in areas where HTTP/2 still has some shortcomings, primarily by changing the transport layer. HTTP/3 is the first major protocol to step away from TCP and instead it uses QUIC. I’ll talk about HTTP/3 and QUIC. Why the new protocols are deemed necessary, how they work, how they change how things are sent over the network and what some of the coming deployment challenges will be.
This isn’t strictly a prepared talk or presentation but I’ll still be there and participate in the panel discussion on DNS privacy. I hope to get most of my finer points expressed in the DoH talk mentioned above, but I’m fully prepared to elaborate on some of them in this session.
This time TCP is replaced by the new transport protocol QUIC and things are different yet again! This is a presentation by Daniel Stenberg about HTTP/3 and QUIC with a following Q&A about everything HTTP.
The presentation will be done in English. It will be recorded and possibly live-streamed. Organized by me, together with our friends at goto10. It is free of charge, but you need to register.
17:30 – 19:00 January 22, 2019 Goto 10: Hörsalen, Hammarby Kaj 10D plan 5
Why was HTTP/2 introduced, how well has HTTP/2 been deployed and used, did it deliver on its promises, where doesn’t HTTP/2 perform as well. Then a quick (haha) overview on what QUIC is and how it intends to fix some of the shortcomings of HTTP/2 and TCP. In 28 minutes.
I couldn’t even recall how many times I’ve done this already, but in 2017 I am once again showing up in the cold and grey city called Brussels and the lovely FOSDEM conference, to talk. (Yes, it is cold and grey every February, trust me.) So I had to go back and count, and it turns out 2017 will become my 8th straight visit to FOSDEM and I believe it is the 5th year I’ll present there.First, a reminder about what I talked about at FOSDEM 2016: An HTTP/2 update. There’s also a (rather low quality) video recording of the talk to see there.
I’m scheduled for two presentations in 2017, and this year I’m breaking new ground for myself as I’m doing one of them on the “main track” which is the (according to me) most prestigious track held in one of the biggest rooms – seating more than 1,400 persons.
You know what’s cool? Running on billions of devices
Thousands of contributors help building the curl software which runs on several billions of devices and are affecting every human in the connected world daily. How this came to happen, who contributes and how Daniel at the wheel keeps it all together. How a hacking ring is actually behind it all and who funds this entire operation.
I was invited to talk about curl at the recent FOSS North conference in Gothenburg on May 26th. It was the first time the conference ran, but I think it went smooth and the ~110 visitors seemed to have a good time. It was a single track and there was a fairly good and interesting mix of talkers and subjects I think. They’re already planning to make it return again in spring 2017, so if you’re into FOSS and you’re in the Nordic region, consider this event next year…
I took on the subject of talking about my hacker ring^W^Wcurl project insights. Here’s my slide set:
At the event I sat down and had a chat with Simon Campanello, a reporter at IDG Techworld here in Sweden who subsequently posted this article about curl (in Swedish) and how our code has ended up getting used so widely.
On April 12 I had the pleasure of doing another talk in the Google Tech Talk series arranged in the Google Stockholm offices. I had given it the title “HTTP/2 is upon us, and here’s what you need to know about it.” in the invitation.
The room seated 70 persons but we had the amazing amount of over 300 people in the waiting line who unfortunately didn’t manage to get a seat. To those, and to anyone else who cares, here’s the video recording of the event.
If you’ve seen me talk about HTTP/2 before, you might notice that I’ve refreshed the material somewhat since before.