Last week I attended OAuth Security Workshop at Trondheim, Norway. It was a 3-day single-track conference, where the first half of the days were pre-selected talks, and the second parts were unconference talks/side meetings. This was also my first proper conference after COVID emerged in the world.
Back to the starting line
After many years felt the whole excitement of being a total newbie in something and suddenly being able to meet all the people behind the ideas. I reached the conference hotel in the afternoon of day 0 and met the organizers as they were in the lobby area. That chat went on for a long, and as more and more people kept checking into the hotel, I realized that it was a kind of reunion for many of the participants. Though a few of them met at a conference in California just a week ago, they all were excited to meet again.
To understand how welcoming any community is, just notice how the community behaves towards new folks. I think the Python community stands high in this regard. And I am very happy to say the whole OAuth/OIDC/Identity-related community folks are excellent in this regard. Even though I kept introducing myself as the new person in this identity land, not even for a single time I felt unwelcome. I attended OpenID-related working group meetings during the conference, multiple hallway chats, or talked to people while walking around the beautiful city. Everyone was happy to explain things in detail to me. Even though most of the people there have already spent 5-15+ years in the identity world.
The talks & meetings
What happens in Trondheim, stays in Trondheim.
I generally do not attend many talks at conferences, as they get recorded. But here, the conference was a single track, and also, there were no recordings.
The first talk was related to formal verification, and this was the first time I saw those (scary in my mind) maths on the big screen. But, full credit to the speakers as they explained things in such a way so that even an average programmer like me understood each step. And after this talk, we jumped into the world of OAuth/OpenID. One funny thing was whenever someone mentioned some RFC number, we found the authors inside the meeting room.
In the second half, we had the GNAP master class from Justin Richer. And once again, the speaker straightforwardly explained such deep technical details so that everyone in the room could understand it.
Now, in the evening before, a few times, people mentioned that in heated technical details, many RFC numbers will be thrown at each other, though it was not that many for me to get too scared :)
I also managed to meet Roland for the first time. We had longer chats about the status of Python in the identity ecosystem and also about Identity Python. I took some notes about how we can improve the usage of Python in this, and I will most probably start writing about those in the coming weeks.
In multiple talks, researchers & people from the industry pointed out the mistakes made in the space from the security point of view. Even though, for many things, we have clear instructions in the SPECs, there is no guarantee that the implementors will follow them properly, thus causing security gaps.
At the end of day 1, we had a special Organ concert at the beautiful Trondheim Cathedral. On day 2, we had a special talk, “The Viking Kings of Norway”.
If you let me talk about my experience at the conference, I don’t think I will stop before 2 hours. It was so much excitement, new information, the whole feeling of going back into my starting days where I knew nothing much. Every discussion was full of learning opportunities (all discussions are anyway, but being a newbie is a different level of excitement) or the sadness of leaving Anwesha & Py back in Stockholm. This was the first time I was staying away from them after moving to Sweden.
Just before the conference ended, Aaron Parecki gave me a surprise gift. I spent time with it during the whole flight back to Stockholm.
This conference had the best food experience of my life for a conference. Starting from breakfast to lunch, big snack tables, dinners, or restaurant foods. In front of me, at least 4 people during the conference said, “oh, it feels like we are only eating and sometimes talking”.
Another thing I really loved to see is that the two primary conference organizers are university roommates who are continuing the friendship and journey in a very beautiful way. After midnight, standing outside of the hotel and talking about random things about life and just being able to see two longtime friends excited about similar things, it felt so nice.
I also want to thank the whole organizing team, including local organizers, Steinar, and the rest of the team did a superb job.