Five Must-Watch Software Engineering Talks

We’ve all watched dozens of talks online. And we probably don’t remember many of them. But some do stick in our heads and we eventually watch them again (and again) because we know they are good and we want to remember the things that were said there. So I decided to compile a small list of talks that I find very insightful, useful and that have, in a way, shaped my software engineering practice or expanded my understanding of the software world.

1. How To Design A Good API and Why it Matters by Joshua Bloch – this is a must-watch (well, obviously all are). And don’t skip it because “you are not writing APIs” – everyone is writing APIs. Maybe not used by hundreds of other developers, but used by at least several, and that’s a good enough reason. Having watched this talk I ended up buying and reading one of the few software books that I have actually read end-to-end – “Effective Java” (the talk uses Java as an example, but the principles aren’t limited to Java)

2. How to write clean, testable code by Miško Hevery. Maybe there are tons of talks about testing code, maybe Uncle Bob has a more popular one, but I found this one particularly practical and the the point – that writing testable code is a skill, and that testable code is good code. (By the way, the speaker then wrote AngularJS)

3. Back to basics: the mess we’ve made of our fundamental data types by Jon Skeet. The title says it all, and it’s nice to be reminded of how fragile even the basics of programming languages are.

4. The Danger of Software Patents by Richard Stallman. That goes a little bit away from writing software, but puts software in legal context – how do legislation loopholes affect code reuse and business practices related it. It’s a bit long, but I think worth it.

5. Does my ESB look big in this? by Martin Fowler and Jim Webber. It’s about bloated enterprise architecture and how to actually do enterprise architecture without complex and expensive middleware. (Unfortunately it’s not on YouTube, so no embedding).

Although this is not a “ranking”, I’d like to add a few honourable mentions: The famous “WAT” lightning talk, showing some quirks of ruby and javascript, “The future of programming” by Bret Victor, “You suck at Excel” by Joel Spolsky, which isn’t really about creating software, but it’s cool. And a tiny shameless plug with my “Common sense driven development talk”

I hope the compilation is useful and enlightening. Enjoy.

3 thoughts on “Five Must-Watch Software Engineering Talks”

  1. I wanted to share one of my favourite talks:

    by David Heinemeier Hansson.

    The first 10 minutes or so are personal (which I found enjoyable and enlightening). After that it emphasised that “software engineering != computer science” – a point often ignored by the most of the programming folk (but raised also by other luminaries like Paul Graham). And the talk gets really hard hitting after the first 20 minutes as it gets to the point. Which is, essentially, a continuation of the blog post “TDD is dead. Long live testing” (

    The latter resonates with my experience that TDD often gets in the way and becomes a goal in itself. Testing is great but TDD often misplaces the emphasis. In my experience unit testing too often was premature (as the actual business objectives were not well established or subject to change). The test coverage metrics were often meaningless.

    By contrast, Integration testing made a lot of sense as it captured all (or most) layers of the software stack and it was closely linked to the actual business objectives.

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