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The Flavour of BACON

Jeremy Evans gives us his take on the Bacon Conference

The tech community is no stranger to something a little off-the-wall.

Crazy office spaces and wacky meeting hubs are almost a pre-requisite in this sector – the idea is that ultimately this will feed back into productivity and creativity: there’s a method to the madness.

BACON pushes this law to its limits.

The conference brands itself as delivering “things developers love”.

At first sight, however, BACON seems more about teaching its audience things they really don’t need to know.

Out of the frying pan…

The 2013 conference opens with Aaron Patterson, a developer from Seattle who – wait for it – cures his own bacon.

In his aptly-named Curing the Feedback Loop, we’re treated to around 15 minutes of programming insights surrounded by the best part of an hour devoted to how to make bacon and chorizo without poisoning yourself on nitrates.

Later, self-described “omnigeek” Tom Hall is determined to teach us as much about infinity, uncountable numbers and set theory as he can in half an hour.

Meanwhile, two talks in a row delve into the world of music tech.

Chris Lowes, from the BBC’s Research and Development department, shows us what you can do with their new Web Audio API, and how the original Doctor Who theme was made.

And developer and radio presenter Andrew Faraday wants to define what music is, calling on the likes of John Cage and Rebecca Black to push the boundaries.

Gardening and Tetris

It starts to feel like the day might be resuming normality when Raspberry Pi’s Rob Bishop talks about what’s in store for the computer’s future.

But then Aaron of bacon-curing fame pipes up, this time from the audience: “I’m having problems connecting the Pi up to my sausage box.”

For many of the lectures, the name alone is enough to baffle.

The schedule of overlapping talks means that half the attendees can only guess at what delights Treat Your Users Like BaconTetris: In Real Lego or A Dyslexic’s A-Z of Urban Gardening might have contained.

Connecting the dots

All this takes place in a venue that, in comparison, is incredibly normal. The non-BACON staff do well not to look slightly perplexed.

The audience, too, are impressively engaged. After all, much of what we’re walking away with is very loosely connected to development – and some isn’t connected at all.

Initially, it’s easy to wonder what you’re doing there.

But as you attend your fourth and fifth talk, something happens: you begin to connect the dots.

Ideas that seemed so separated and niche are suddenly connectable, and things start to fall into place.

Will it blend?

In a world full of specialists, all sorts of bridges between the frontiers of industries sit there waiting to be discovered.

By throwing its audience into a differently flavoured deep-end every 45 minutes, BACON makes it possible to invent extraordinary cocktails.

Even salty ones.

This is how things happen that change the way we live.

BACON’s unique blend of talks attracts developers from all over the globe – and they keep coming back.

If pigs could fly, they’d come to BACON.