Reflections on the final Strange Loop

2023-09-23, ATL airport

I'm sitting in the airport on the way home from the final Strange Loop. This will not be a well-polished article, just a collection of thoughts.

I've attended Strange Loop semi-regularly for what seems like forever. I didn't attend the first one in 2009 — by the time I was aware of the conference and able to attend, it was already being held in the Stifel (then Peabody) Theater. So...2012? Maybe 2013? I can look through my stack of conference T-shirts to verify, but somewhere in that timeframe.

It was immediately my favorite conference. It was a perfectly eclectic mix of deep technological content and whimsy. This was not a collection of talks about saccharine corporate bullshit. It was real. Every speaker was deeply passionate about their topic. And it defied easy categorization. Everything had a touchpoint with tech, but it wasn't only tech. (Though it was that too!) There was deep programming language theory; distributed systems design; art; policy; education.

I didn't attend every year. One year I missed because of starting a new job; another because of the birth of one of my children; several later years conflicted with celebrating her birthday. (As much FOMO as I felt about missing Strange Loop those years, I never once considered it the wrong decision!) But I always felt there in spirit, seeing the chatter spin up online as late September would approach.

Thinking back to my first Strange Loop, I never imagined that I would be able to speak there, but I did — twice! I can honestly say that the highlight of my career is the talk I delivered on Thursday — in the Papers We Love track, which is important and meaningful to me for a whole host of other reasons, deserving of its own post. I'm deeply honored to have been able to share my own passion for programming language esoterica with the Strange Loop audience on those occasions.

Incremental, zero-config Code Navigation using stack graphs

Concatenative programming and stack-based languages

One of the final keynotes was Alex's very moving history of and ode to the conference. Alex was emotional, as you would expect, and all of us in the audience were as well. I'm saddened that there won't be another Strange Loop to look forward to next year, but as Alex said himself — it's okay for things to end.