“Honey, I shrunk the community!”- James Governor

Even though Day 2 of Monki Gras saw an easy start at 10:30 the number of people who had made it on time was noticeable smaller than the day before. Those missing sure missed out on a great breakfast as well as the great opening act…

Part 1: Scaling Craft

Shanley Kane from Basho kicked off Day 2 with a very infotaining talk titled Scaling Product “Management”: Keeping Roadmaps, Estimation, and Self-Delusion From Destroying Your Company, in which she drew a comparison from release planning to Dante’s 9 circles of hell. She argues that roadmaps are only resulting in “an erosion of trust between the business and developers” and that “the only answer that isn’t a lie is: I don’t know“. She suggest getting rid of roadmaps altogether and replacing them with “what we’re working on” interactive document (e.g. a WIKI), which is constantly updated by the team(s). And while you’re at it, she also recommends getting rid of your bug tracking tool … and ultimately all tools! Now, that may sound a bit radical, but the way I understood it she basically is saying that teams should stop hiding behind tools and start talking more to each other. She concluded with “Extend trust to people in your company who aren’t engineers or developers!” and “Be honest with each other!” [Slides are here.]

“People are really bad at predicting the future…” – Shanley Kane

Next up on stage was Cyndi Mitchell from Logscape and Thoughtworks talking about Hogs, Humans and Software Excellence. Yes: Hog farming as a topic at a developer conference ! :) As surprising at it sounds but there are indeed a few links between the two. She shared her thoughts on scaling craft and shared several interesting graphs about the dimensions of software excellence, technical debt and about “the agile triangle to create beautiful things.

“Software is fundamentally a human and interactive activity.” - Cyndi Mitchell


Tim Webb from Genuitec shared a few Tips & tricks, and tools from a company that’s never had a headquartersWorking remotely most of the time myself I really enjoyed his presentation and can confirm his findings based on my personal experiences. Biased or not – I do agree with him that virtual workers do work more while having a better work-life balance at the same time. One simple, but effective advice he provided was that “in distributed teams, everybody should use the same communication tools, even when working in the same room.”


“When twitter is down I get moments of zen like peace!” - James Governor

With this introduction, James Governor introduced Chris Aniszczyk from Twitter. Chris’ session about Crafting an Open Source Program and Culture from Scratch: Lessons Learned at Twitter really resonated with me as we have been following similar trails here at SAP as part of our efforts to provide an open-source based PaaS. Here are some of the key messages he delivered:

  • Assume Open: Assume that what you are developing will be opened in the future. Pretend the whole world will be watching. Use reasonable third party dependencies to prevent pain down the road. (We mostly use Apache’s Third Party Guidelines as a starting point)
  • Define Secret Sauce: Don’t open source anything that represents a core business value. Define your secret sauce so there’s a shared understanding that an guide decisions. Embed this secret sauce within your culture and company via training.)
  • Measure Everything: If you can’t measure what you’re doing, you have no idea what you’re doing. We measure everything inside of Twitter (affectionately called birdbrain) and make it accessible to everyone. Why should we treat open source any differently?)
  • Pay it Forward: Support open source organizations and projects important to your business. It’s the right and smart thing to do. This can be financially or simply staffing projects that are strategic to you.)

There were also a few proof points of statements mentioned in Stephen O’Grady ‘s book “The New Kingmakers” like that companies are acquiring other companies just for the people (and then open source the products formerly developed by them) and that companies start to hire developers based on their github activity (Twitter does both!)

“At the beginning I thought it [Twitter Bootstrap] was just another CSS kit… now it’s the most popular project on github!” - Chris Aniszczyk

Part 2: Scaling Beer

“If you don’t like beer, you don’t like Jesus!”

After the break the brewers took the stage and we heard passionate speeches about the craft of beer brewing. We learned that (the quality) of water is vital for a good beer and we heard about the challenges that small breweries face with scaling. The guys from Beavertown Brewing shared their story about how it all started and their approach to establish a brand (just as in software development you also need a good designer!) Another interesting topics was to hear about their ‘Alpha Series’ to test/establish new products in the market. The team from Signature Brew explained how their idea of creating their own craft beer was triggered by getting a “good beer” – for a change – at a particular gig while touring as a band. That’s when they realized that usually there’s only bad beer [well, they used a different term! ;)] for both the band and the fans – and that this needs to be changed!

“I don’t see how you can fail. Unless you have a really bad drug habit!” –  Byron Knight [Beavertown Brewing]

Here are the names of the breweries that were present:

Steve Taylor was in the unfortunate situation of being the only one standing between the audience and lunch, but he managed well and delivered a passionate 5min talk about the art of bar tending. Matter of fact, he did a great job throughout the event moderating the dinner and the beer tasting. Kudos!

Part Four: Afternoon Social

Not sure whether the excessive lunch (which was great again!) is to blame or me being a non-native speaker (or the combination of both), yet it was hard for me to follow through the next presentation done by Blaine Cook & Maureen Evans from Poeti.ca who recited a poem about Creating collaborative spaces to get work done. After having heard so many fantastic speeches being delivered during the whole event it sure took a few moments to get used to listening to a completely scripted poem. That’s not to say that it wasn’t good (not at all!), it just wasn’t my cup of tea. People around me liked it for sure!

Next up was Lee Bofkin talking about how he kicked-off the Global Street Art project to develop a platform to bring street artists, photographers and potential clients together (platforms and economics of public craft). He shared the story of how he was forced to break up with his break dancing career due to an injury and then started to travel the world to create a global catalogue of street art. [PIC] All I can say is that the images he used in his slides were really amazing and I could definitely relate to his pride as he mentioned that he’s passing by a lot of paintings he helped bring to life everyday when he commutes to work. I talked to him after his session as I was interested whether or not he ever thought about releasing some of the artwork under a creative commons license as it may would help to spread the word (from experience I can say that bloggers are usually in need for good graphics to go with their posts.)

The final presentations were held by Daniel Soltis (Moving Brands) talking about Scaling from one to some: digital tools for physical making and Barnaby Carder (aka Barn The Spoon) who carved wooden spans live at the event [PIC]. Both were asked to get ready for a fun “spoon making challenge”: Daniel using a self-made 3D printer and Barn nothing but an axe and wood (one word: skills!) Yet neither took it very seriously, but instead they talked to the gathering crowds to talk about their craft. Seeing how a 3D printer is turning digital data into a real, physical object sure is something that fascinates not only the geeks and I do believe as well that 3D printing has a bright future indeed. I’m pretty sure that a few years down the road we’ll all have 3D printers in our household to create spare parts etc.

Closing words

With that Monki Gras 2013 came to an end. To loop back to James’ original question: “Why would you want to attend a conference run by an analyst firm?”

At the end of the day… such events are all about meeting interesting people, learning new things and getting inspired + to have a beer or two.

Here are a few random quotes captured from Twitter:

(Little to add!)


So, what’s my take-away (other than the niiice swag bag, which among other things also included a digital copy of Stephen O’Grady‘s book “The New Kingmakers“)?

Well, I got home with many new impressions and a lot of topics to reflect upon, yet the one thing that stuck with me is that:

Scaling craft requires a community with active practitioners that are passionate about what they do. People willing to share their knowledge, who help others to get started. You need good storytellers able to inspire others (passion can be quite contagious!) … and you need events for those people to meet and spread the passion!

PS: I had a conversation with my good buddy Chris Kernaghan during the event in which we discussed the ‘contradicting’ messages on day one irt avoiding developer rock stars on your team and needing keystones to scale/nurture an ecosystem. I already gave you my stance on developer rock stars (in short: I never met one!), yet I do believe that you need supernodes in order to scale.

Not sure what I mean? Well, take the guys from RedMonk for example… they bring people from different backgrounds and networks together (e.g. at events like Monki Gras) creating a network of passionate people. And that’s how you end up scaling craft! With that, all I can say is: keep it up!!!

PPS: My friend and ‘partner in crime‘ in regards to developer evangelism at SAP Craig Cmehil recorded a very personal recap of Monki Gras, which I find is spot-on. Check it out!!!

2 Responses to Monki Gras 2013 – Day 2
  1. Matthias,

    Two great write ups on a fabulous conference, I am bringing my boss and another colleague with me next year to show them how important this conference is and it’s ideas. I love your assessment of Shanley’s talk, a lot of people missed the inference about stop hiding behind your tools – Hugh MacLeod has a similar idea about pillars, the more pillars you need to underpin your work, the more opportunity you have to hide behind them.

    So many amazing things I took away from the conference, and I am so very glad that you and Craig were there to share it and give different prospectives. I remember going to TechEd in Amsterdam – I think it was Craig’s 1st TechEd year as an SAP Employee, but the guy I went with was not a nerd and it completely spoilt it for me. He was not excited about the stuff I was, the way you, Craig and I were during Monkigras. So thanks for being there, and being the guy you are, it was awesome.



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