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Cédric Chatelain for Zenika

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Confoo 2020: Intro & opening keynote

Hi my name is Cedric and for my first publication on I decided to share my experience at Confoo 2020 in Montreal.
For those who do not know about Confoo, it is a big tech conference with 2 events: Montreal and Vancouver and 155 presentations for Montreal 2020 edition.

I'll share with you what I learned during some of the presentations I attended, starting with the wonderful keynote delivered to us on the opening day.

Opening Keynote

On the opening morning (Wednesday 26th) we had the luck to be given a presentation about memory by Claire Jeong.

Claire is a memory champion and specialist. She talked to us about the I.O.S or Information Overload Syndrome. I.O.S has been recorded as soon as the 3rd or 4th century BC and notably each time technology caused an increase in available information. Since the advent of the internet and the smartphones, we have been in such a time. One of the solutions to the I.O.S is the famous digital detox, but for most of us working in the coding industry and most people with a desk job, it's simply impossible to give that practice a try.

That is why Claire offers us a first simple (and yet so hard to make) step: reduce all the perturbation that you get during the day. Which for a developer could be deactivating all notification and only checking email/messages at fixed intervals. Dedicating sizable chunk of time to specific activity instead of constantly being context switching.

The goal of those two practices being to increase your concentration on the task at hand and to avoid wasting your short-term memory capacity on irrelevant facts.

I'm a CEO. Wait, what ?

Added to the previous advice Claire start explaining a more involved system to better our capacity for recall. This system uses the following sentence as a recall I'm a CEO.

Being deliberate

I'm a CEO
I'm: Intend to memorize
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The first part of this system tell us to be deliberate in our intention. This repose on the fact that the transfer of knowledge from short-term memory storage (our ram) to long-term memory storage (our hard drive) is controlled by the hippocampus. And the hippocampus will not execute his mission without us actively looking to memorize something.

To resume the advice given to achieve this 'deliberate intent': we need to focus (avoid perturbations) and dedicate our time to that one subject we want to memorize (again avoid context switching)

Work smarter

Before presenting us with the next part of this system Claire calls two members of the public for a small memorization game.

The goal being to remember 8 cards after seeing them for 8 seconds. Using this game has a pivot, she then brings to light the fact that most people use a form of rot memorization (repeating or writing) to remember sizable information. It works but is inefficient ! Imagine someone going to visit his/her mother. The obvious solution is to take an existing and well-known road. We would never start building a new road for this task. And yet that is exactly what we do with rot memorization. We ask our brain to pave new roads for memories.

That's where the second part of the system comes in:

I'm a CEO
I'm:    Intend to memorize
a:      Association
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Association or the act to link a new knowledge to something we already know. To build upon the card game presented before, Claire explains to us how we can associate a known character and an action to each card.

For example, red card (hearts and diamonds) were associated with engineers (Musk and Gates ...) and the black cards were associated with influencers (Kardshian, Oprah ...). The action was purposefully non-boring (dancing, peeing, playing hockey...). As our presenter said, our brain doesn't like boring.

Resources management

I'm a CEO
I'm:    Intend to memorize
a:      Association
C:      Chunk
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One of the concepts explained to us is that our short-term memory dispose of 6 "buckets" for information that are wiped/emptied often. And that's where Chunking comes into play.

By grouping information together, you make your short-term memory work smarter. For example: remembering 2024104202 is harder than remembering 202-410-4202.

Here is chunking applied to the deck of cards from the game mentioned earlier:
Chunking applied to the deck of cards


This last point introduces two knowledge:

  1. we are born without a natural organization system
  2. our brain loves spatial information
I'm a CEO
I'm:    Intend to memorize
a:      Association
C:      Chunk
EO:     Efficiently organize
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And to fill the need for an organization system (organization) and play on the craving of the brain for spatial information (efficiency) was born the technique often known as: Memory Palace also known as method of loci..

I won't start explaining that technique in detail since I'm not an expert in it. But even without relying on the memory palace, all the different steps of the I'm a CEO could be progressively introduced in our everyday life to help us improve our capacity to memorize and better use information.

Fun fact: at the end of the first day, this keynote appears to be one of the favourite presentations of the day for a good number of participants with whom I talked. It's not that unexpected when you take into account the quantity of information we have to deal with in our daily professional lives (and our personal lives are not exactly lighter in information).

If you like this article, I invite you to give the rest of the confoo 2020 serie a chance.

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