Talk

There's No Such Thing As Plain Text

Conference
Development Practices

Software is complicated. Machine learning, microservice architectures, message queues... every few months there's another revolutionary idea to consider, another framework to learn. And underneath so many of these amazing ideas and abstractions is text. When you work in software, you spend your life working with text. Editors, revision control systems, programming languages - everything from C# and HTML to Git and VS Code is based on the idea that we're working with "plain text" files. But... what if I told you there's no such thing? 

When we say something is a plain text file, we're relying on a huge number of assumptions - about operating systems, editors, file formats, language, culture, history... and, most of the time, that's OK. But when it goes wrong, good old plain text can lead to some of the weirdest bugs you've ever seen. 

Why is there Chinese in the SQL event logs? Why has the city of Aarhus disappeared? And why does Magnus Mårtensson always have trouble getting into the USA? Join Dylan Beattie for a fascinating look into the hidden world of text files - from the history of mechanical teletypes, to how emoji skin tones actually work. 

We'll look at some memorable bugs, some golden rules for working with plain text - and we'll even find out the story behind the mysterious phrase "pike matchbox" and what it has to do with driving in Belarus. 

Scheduled on Tuesday from 11:20 to 12:10 in Auditorium

Real Life Cases
Encoding
Databases

Dylan Beattie

Ursatile Ltd

Dylan Beattie is a consultant, software developer and international keynote speaker. He’s the director of Ursatile, an independent consultancy based in London that specialises in helping organisations bridge the knowledge gap between software development and business strategy. Dylan has been building data-driven web applications since the 1990s; he’s managed teams, taught workshops, and worked on everything from tiny standalone websites to complex distributed systems. He’s a Microsoft MVP, and he regularly speaks at conferences and user groups all over the world.


Dylan is the creator of the Rockstar programming language, and he’s performed his software-themed parodies of classic rock songs all over the world as Dylan Beattie and the Linebreakers. He’s online at dylanbeattie.net and on Twitter as @dylanbeattie.