MonkiGras London - the Craft of Conferences

It a little soon to be choosing my favouite event of 2012 but MonkiGras London is going to be a hard act to follow.

Monkigras London had such a diverse range of topics, a great line up of speakers, great party games and a host who had so much passion and enthusiasm share. It certainly was the most thrilling of conferences to experience. Here are the parts that stood out the most.

Idea behind the conference

The core idea is to examine how the social network is changing technology adoption, development and management.

_For over a decade now agile has shown the benefits of putting people first and now businesses neglect their people at their own peril as they are the New Kingmakers. From agile to devops to distributed version control systems (DVCS) to bottom up platform adoption to social analytics and Big Data, practitioners are making the difference in differentiating, and differentiated businesses.

You can see examples of the social influence on software development in some very prominent projects.

Github social network changed Git from being an obscure project to a major tool for open source and community driven software development. It allowed anyone to easily fork and contribute patches to your project.

Twitter has long been a great place to discover fresh and articles and thoughts that help define where the software industry is going.

James Govenor and RedMonk stated a few years back that Open Source is an implementation of the Social Networking pattern. Nothing in the intervening time has served to change James’ view.

Much of that thinking has to be credited to Tim O’Reilly, especially when defining that the successful Web platforms are Architectures of Participation as long ago as 2004. As usual Tim was about almost a decade ahead of the rest of us. For example, Github has become so effective as the collaboration tool for developers, some people question whether open source governance is even necessary any more. See Apache considered harmful.

The Craft of Software and Beer

Software development is returning to craft, in the same way that beer is returning to craft.

The commodidtisation of software and beer has left a bad taste in the mouth of those who care about quality product and great user experience. There has been a craft beer making industry for a long time in the UK but it is only recently that this has really ramped up, with craft brewerys poping up all over.

The same can be said of the software development industry, best seen in the increasingly active startup community in the UK. An examplar of this is the activity around Silicon Roundabout.

The Value of Gamification

Greg Avola, founder of Untappd

Untapped is the beer check-in app and official social network of Monktoberfest.

The main aspect of Matt’s talk was the value you can gain from Gamification. People have a compulsion to compete with others and when its done in a positive way then its a great way to build a community around products and services.

Releasing a badge on untappd caused a huge spice in consumption for one particular beer and that beer kept a 30% increase in consumption after the initial peak. People tried the beer and got the badge but also built an affinity to the product so kept on buying it even though it was of higher price than other similar products.

People building a brand are annoying

Matt LeMay at Bitly

Matt talked about being an actual person when you interact with people, especially when you are online. Being a real person on line is much smarter than investing a large effort in building a personal brand that is often seen less than credible or light weight.

Doing things and sharing quality information that has value to you helps you enhance your online persona and comes across as much more genuine that a strategy around a brand.

Kitteh vs Chickin

@sjmaple I’m now questioning myself when retweeting things! Damn you @monkigras!! #ImAKittehHonest

The kitteh is what you share and the chikin is what you click #monkigras @PaulDJohnston

Data about developers

Stephen O’Grady - RedMonk

Digital breadcrumbs that developers are leaving are fascinatingThere is still a big disconnect between what IT decision makers think is being use, what developers want to use and what is actually being used. These three view points are not even close.

This is compounded by decision makers ask questions questions at the wrong level, such as “how many mysql server are being used”. Whilst it may be easy to see how many are in production supporting your visible apps, its impossible to say accurately about any other uses.

Decision makers also want to avoid risk by playing safe, asking “who are the big Linux players” so we can be safe in their hands. This leads to missed opportunities to review other rewards by looking at valuable services from Ubuntu and Canonical.

As Redmonk are only a small company they can therefore only collect a relatively small amount of data, so they went out and got other peoples data. By others collaborating with a range of organisations and communities, everyone could benefit from a wider picture of what was happening in the industry.

There are three stages to data analysis

  1. Denial - no we don’t have data, nothing we do is interesting - I am sure lots of other companies do
  2. Acceptance - oh right, data like which builds people download…
  3. Wow - once you talk to people about their data and what they can do with it you get a big positive response

What does this mean specifically

Watching data over a period of time destroys all the other data. RedMonk put this trend data to work and feedback something meaningful.

A simple example is looking at trends such as most popular languages on Github.

@agentGav most popular languages right now #monkigras 1. javascript 2. ruby, 3. python 4. shell 5. java

You can also see the causal effect happing in the industry when you relate pieced of data together:

Amazon releases their cloud service, EC2 and the cost of startups starts to go down.

LinkedIn - user group growth - helps see patters and when they are from a number of disperate sources then it is possible to infer meaningful conclusions.

Redmonk provide analytics open data that you can use to help find some meaninful understanding. Data is your friend!!!

Engineering vs CTO

A CTO should set the technical culture of the orgainsation

  • it should be not be too crazy but crazy enought to be effective
  • understand the relationship between the technology and the outside world - should become largely outfacing

By the time you have engineering teams of 30+ then you need to have a seperation of roles - so have seperate people for each role

The VP of engineering is responsible for the relaity of every day.

  • responsible for the development and eliver of the product
  • should be an engineer
  • should be the exemplar of engineering - should be the person people want to have in the conversation and help the team evolve
  • should be an engineer that the team feels comfortable looking to on a wide range of technical problems.

Innovation should be forstered from everyone in the organisation and the CTO and VP of engineering should work together to make that happen.

Perception Anti-pattern

CTO’s tend to fail when they believe that they are engineers, not communicators. VP’s of Engineering fail when the believe that they are managers of people and not creaters of useful things.

Common antipatterns

The Critic

  • no engineer wants to hear that you are doomed from the CTO
  • your opinions are increadibly corrosive to the organisation, so you need to be careful about your comments - keep positive and supportive - be optomistic and not pesimistic

VPoE Anti-pattern - the process queen

  • is there a ticket in JIRA? There is no ticket? Sorry we cant talk about that- be wary of companies who are asking for a VP to intoduce process - shouldnt be facist about process - it should make less work than more…

CTO Anti-pattern: The control freak

  • a CTO establishes the vision and goals, the delivery of the product is the responsiblity of the VP… as a CTO you are giving up the right to hold the leash on another dog…

VPoE anti-pattern - the no-op

  • middle managers called no-ops because they dont do anything
  • especially non-technical managers who have no idea what you are building
  • no-ops often do active harm as they are trying to help but actually causing more harm
  • a concequence of having non-engineers in and engineer role

CTO anti pattern - the xenophobe

  • you need to be a pretty extrovoted
  • you need to be empowered by meeting people all day long
  • a cto needs to travel as there is no substitution for face to face meetings
  • you get much more feedback when you visit your customers site
  • you need to talk to your enimies in your organisation

VPoE - antipattern - the upward manager

  • when you manage up you become disconnected from reality and it becomes easy to forget the law of physics of software
  • you have schedule, quality and features and you can only pick all three
  • if you have the dog up the butt view for too long then you over committ.
  • the death march is taken too lightly
  • vp spending too long managing up and satisfying their manager rather than managing the reality

CTO antipattern - the creator

  • shown by the cto talking in the singular

vpoe - the cat herders

  • someone who calls engineers cats does not understand engineers and does not know how to lead.

cto - space ranger

  • loose track of the balance of what can be done and what you wold like to do

VPoe - the naysayer

  • the default answer becomes no so much the cto wonders if the vp is working for you at all
  • what do they do?
  • vp looses trust with the organisation

Social responsibility of software development

Its hard to have new software development project that does not have a social aspect. Applications have become liberated by social network connectivity and add to the collective experience of those networks its connected to.

Git was a neiche code management tool used only on a few projects, althought most notibly used for the Linux kernel. It was not until Gitourious and GitHub arrived on the scene that social coding really started to change to that stiuation. Now it seems strange for developers to not share their code and get feedback from a wider community than their colleages at work.

Twitter never really grabbed my attention until I saw TweetDeck. Not only was TweetDeck a silicon roundabout success story, for myself it produced a product that turned a simple message sharing website into an amazing technical research tool.

Grady_booch: Every line of code written has a social responsibility


Monki Gras had two days of excellent speakers with the talks keeped short and sweet and very little pitch in sight

Alongside the rise of craft and social approaches to software development, we’re also currently seeing a resurgence in craft brewing in the UK, and even cross-brewery beer collaborations from folks like The Kernel in Southwark and the Mikkeller in Copenhagen (hopefully we’ll see them on the day, too.

Thank you and see you at the next Monkigras.


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