Gather 2015

I attended the inspirational Gather 2015 unconference today. As described on the website for the event “It is the digital, technical and creative community’s big day out”. There were several sessions running simultaneously and it was hard to choose what to go to since there were so many interesting topics. Below is a summary of my key takeaways (or interpretations thereof) from the sessions I attended.

UAVs, Internet of Things, 3DVR: What are we going to do with these things? How do we get us/our companies/NZ to lead the way? What can we do to take advantage? These are the questions - does the room have the answers?

  • Future
    • Skynet
    • Remote Monitoring
    • UAV Tour - e.g. rent a UAV and do tour of Egypt
    • Auto-herding
    • GPS in humans
    • Better battery life
    • Sensors inc. in building beams to say if leak problem
    • Track robber
    • Traffic control
    • Drone based terror
    • Evidence-based thinking
      • Data —> Interpretation
    • Auto milk ordering from fridge
    • Mesh networks / Less centralisation
    • Constant health monitoring / Early detection of problems
    • Ethical choices of how to handle certain things automatically (e.g. auto-brake, auto swerve into car with less people in)
    • Vehicle to Vehicle communications
    • Computer learning
    • Drink drive detection in cars
    • Increased auto detection of breaking the law (e.g. speed detection, lack of registration, lack of WOF)
    • Flexible screen technology whereby from an art perspective could have people involved
    • Sell your body as a working advertisement
    • Immigration and migration pressure (people move to get access to tech)
    • Privacy is a key consideration
  • New jobs
    • Building drones
    • Drone recovery
    • Visual recognition and avoidance
    • Distributed air traffic control
    • Designing and building the logic
    • Laws to enable these new devices
  • Questions that emerge
    • Who do we trust to look after our security?
  • What can we do in NZ to be best in the world?
    • Since NZ is seen as a trusted country
      • Create the open model
      • Open doesn’t necessarily mean trusted through
      • Medical data on your person or in the cloud (user choice)
      • Control of the data is probably the key area
      • Legislation is a key consideration
      • There is a potential opportunity in this space
    • Test market since a small country
      • Transport / Autonomous vehicles
        • We can change our laws relatively quickly
        • Less legal liability in NZ
        • Why would the car companies want to of this in NZ though? 
      • Air traffic control (distributed)
        • i.e. not as much traffic here.
      • Search & Rescue
      • Drones to deliver to remote locations
      • Building sensors
        • Sensors to test structural integrity of buildings after earthquakes
      • Digital money / contactless money
        • More-so than now

The talk we should have every year on what you need to know about starting a startup and getting funded. 

@sponno @asknicely   
  • Launched @asknicely SaaS one year ago; 2 founders
  • Run from home / “the shed", so lean
  • Idea —> Validate Idea
    • Prototyped in under two weeks
    • Trialled with snapper
    • Get data and learn
    • Then focus on getting $
  • Threaten to cut off service if not being paid
  • Use of particular tech doesn’t matter; just use what you’re happy with, investors don’t care
  • Get as far as you can with your own funding. Important to get high valuation early.
  • Used Digital Ocean for servers (super cheap)
  • Mandrill, Google Docs, Swipe HQ for Payments (really good),, Autopilot for managing email, Calendarly is great for online booking of demos, for voice/video/sharing conferencing to give product demos, Google Ad Words 
  • US Phone number with Skype
  • Legal docs (founding doc based on back of the napkin, employment contracts)
  • Never run out of money; consider lead time of getting money
  • Investor is adding equity, so consider that in terms of their share of the company (e.g. 500k, 250k invested ==> 33% of company)
  • Pitch deck focuses less on product than growth and the team
    • Create a story. Super important. Talk up being lean and team history.
  • Find a lead investor. They are usually for the next round of money.
  • Has found angle networks to be good.
  • Board is important for ensuring you are focusing on the right metrics
  • Over half of money spent on marketing
  • Vanity metrics mean nothing (e.g. website hits).
  • “Money only buys you time. Without money you are dead"
  • Spending about $700 to acquire a customer. Cost of Acquisition.

Prototyping and Designing - let's talk tools and collaboration. How to work together and iterate fast.

@natdudley (and you, please)
  • From user design team at Vend
  • Tools include:
    • HTML
    • Photoshop
    • Balsamiq
    • Sketch
    • Omnigraffle
    • Framer (Javascript framework to build awesome interactions)
    • Invision
    • Post-its
    • Lucid Charts
    • Evernote
    • Keynote
    • Powerpoint
    • Pen & Paper
    • Unity 3D
    • InDesign
    • Mindmaster
    • Avocode
    • ConceptBoard
    • Wake
    • Atomic
    • Illustrator
    • TinkerCAD
    • Slack for communications (super important)
    • Flowdock (similar to Slack)
    • Neurally (good for working with remote participants)
  • Sketch & Invision key tools at Vend (used together)
  • Invision ( enables clickable prototype, can add comments
    • Not great for prototyping, but good for communication
  • Wake is like a Pinterest board for your company
  • Wake and Relay are both about creating ambient awareness of what your company is working on
  • Shouldn’t have too high res too early
  • Xero is looking at their own version of Bootstrap
  • Fails
    • Too much detail too soon
    • Too low res
    • Lack of communication in some orgs & feeding back early and ongoing
  • Do workshops
    • Helps people to understand why something is being done
  • How to take Print-minded designers on the journey
    • Show them an example of a live example
    • Be clear on requirements
    • Provide avenues for getting increased clarity
    • Show examples of previous work
  • Balsalmiq is a key tool used by many

Interviewing for talent. We've all been on both sides of the table. Let's talk about what works, and what doesn't work.  

@HaikuGeek (Lisa Wong)
  • Everybody filled in Post-its which they then categorised into the following areas
    • Hiring
      • Like
      • Don’t like
    • Hiree
      • Like
      • Don’t like
  • We then split into teams to discuss each category. I went to the Negative Hiree team.
  • We then grouped the common themes and presented back to the group.
  • Hiring - Like
    • Telling people what to prepare for and what the process is
    • Technical skills in interviews
    • Getting to understand the thought process of the hiree
    • Cross-functional interview teams
    • Tell a story to the candidate to understand their empathy
  • Hiring - Don’t like
    • People haven’t researched the company
    • Being put on the spot
    • Interviewers asking wrong questions
    • Interviewers correcting Hiree
  • Hiree - Like
    • Opportunity to explore culture
    • Understanding what they are being hired for
    • Options to get into detail about experience
  • Hiree - Don’t like
    • Technical testing in interviews (people don’t like)
    • Personal/Fluffy questions
    • Sugar coating company culture
    • Recruiters & time between feedback

The Gathering — Panel: "How we work" 

featuring Lance Wiggs, Dale Clareburt, Robyn Kamira, Amie Holman and you! Moderated by Nat Torkington
  • The human value of what you do is important
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad - breakdown of different jobs
  • Being self-employed
    • greater risk
    • need to be able to live at the bottom of the trough
    • consider charging companies that can afford it more to supplement other work (inc. for voluntary initiatives) and down time.
    • self promotion is important (feed and water people that may provide work, not selling, listening about problems)
  • Employee in an organisation
    • regular money
    • can still make a difference
    • can be a great training environment and learning how to work with others
    • multiple stakeholders
    • often too many rules
    • huge opportunity to change the lives of many
    • can start a startup at the same time
  • Owning a startup
    • can setup company how you want
    • exciting to grow the company, albeit hard
    • like living on steroids all the time
    • huge sense of responsibility to pay people and care for them
    • you never know when an opportunity will cross your path; be prepared
    • failing is hard, but think what is the worst that can happen
    • keep learning; if you’re not learning you are a psychopath
    • go in with your eyes open
    • working in a startup is a great way to see if starting one yourself is for you
  • Be your own best supporter
  • Fear is sometimes a perception, front up to it
  • Valuable book: How to make friends and influence people
  • Look for companies you fit with first, job second.
  • Know what you are good at and what you passionate about
  • Support others

Adventures in App Development the making of Speaking Email. Introducing a new app that speaks your email and how we built it. Core tech - cordova, gmail api, text to speech, voice recognition 

  • Free tool (for iPhone) for first 1000 downloads
  • Key Use Case: Driving
  • Found Cordova was easy to get going with and free
  • Cordova has plug-ins for different native implementations (e.g. accelerometer)
  • Used Ratchet for UI. Good framework by same people that made bootstrap.
  • Context IO is quite good for using IMAP, ended up using Gmail REST API initially
    • Lots of parsing required with Gmail REST API
  • Don’t use local storage if you will have lots of data
  • GapDebug is a good debugging tool for mobile apps built using Cordova or PhoneGap
  • Discussion from room:
    • Would be good to summarise emails

What Do We Expect from Front End Developers - what skills and knowledge do we expect; how does someone become a front-end developer.

  • HTML + CSS + JS
  • Development
    • Pre-requisite (if doing JS)
  • Making things look pretty (implementing the design)
  • Making something that people actually interact with
  • Discussion re whether HTML + CSS + JS all required to be a front end developer
    • Different opinions in the room
    • A continuum (designer/front-end/back-end)
  • On the job learning
  • Continuous learning
  • Building Kickass Developers by Kathy Sierra is worth checking out
  • Service-side front end development is sometimes considered part of front-end development (not everywhere though). Even more-so is New Zealand is the need to be a jack of all trades.
  • Scrum can also mix up roles; i.e. the job needs to be done, back-end dev may end up doing front-end.
  • Market expectations have changed over time as to what a front end developer does
  • JS is a must for a senior front-end developer, may be okay for a junior not to know.
  • Front-end development is the crafting of the design

Show off your software stack!

Describe you site's stack, from hardware/hosting up to everything else (or maybe just the cool bits). Approx 3-5 minutes each (depending on interest). If you want a slide or two please send in advance to the organiser.


  • Micro-services to common API back-end. Same commitment to API consumers as internal team.
  • Use feature flags to determine who gets a certain feature (controlled groups)
  • AWS enables increased focus on features than infrastructure
  • Docker being used by a bunch of orgs
  • Raygun is great for error tracking
  • RabbitMQ commonly used for messaging
  • Bamboo recommended for Continuous Integration
  • Slack and Hipchat both seen as great collaboration tools
  • Linux is key OS being used (RHEL and Debian in particular)


Popular posts from this blog

Using Raspberry Pi as a Time Capsule to backup a Mac

Solution: Getting macOS Messages to work with Google Chat / Talk / Hangouts in High Sierra

IT & Enterprise Architecture Conference 2015 - Day 2