PDX Tech Talks Monthly #2 - Lunch 2.0 @ OTBC

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When I heard last week that Lunch 2.0 was being hosted conveniently near my workplace in Beaverton, I was compelled to stop by and check it out. Lunch 2.0 doesn't make it out to the west side all that often, so I couldn't resist. If this keeps up I may have to rename this series of posts to “Tech Talks Weekly”!

 

The Event - Lunch 2.0 hosted by OTBC

The idea behind Lunch 2.0 is great: You visit a local startup or shared workspace, hear about what they’re doing, eat free lunch, and talk with folks in the tech biz. Not a bad way to spend the noon hour, right? The events are coordinated by startup aficionado Rick Turoczy and are located at a different startup each month. 

This month’s Lunch 2.0 was hosted by OTBC (Oregon Technology Business Center), one of the original local startup accelerators. What does an accelerator do? Here’s a description from their website:

OTBC provides coaching, networking events, entrepreneurship programs, and shared office space to help tech, biotech, cleantech and opentech start-up ventures succeed

 

 Richard Clem of MotivatedApps presenting at OTBC 

Richard Clem of MotivatedApps presenting at OTBC 

Founders from four of the resident startups (Sonivate, EcoLogistics, MotivatedApps and Metamocracy) gave a quick presentation about their companies. Most of the folks in attendance were angel investors, veteran startup founders, and tech enthusiasts like me.

Who I Met

Two of the people I met were the sole employee of their company: Daren Lewis of LeadingVisually and Richard Clem of MotivatedApps. Darren said he appreciates all the tools available these days that enable him to run his communications consultancy as a single-person operation. Richard explained how much he enjoys working at OTBC, as opposed to a home office, because of the camaraderie of fellow entrepreneurs dealing with similar challenges.

What I Learned

I’m starting to realize that the "Internet of Things" trend is bigger than I thought. Most of the entrepreneurs were buzzing about it, and they are excellent indicators of where the market is going. Here’s my bold prediction: five years from now 25% of the people reading this post will be working on a “connected device” product.

Wrap Up

Do you eat lunch and enjoy talking tech? Perfect! I highly recommend checking out a Lunch 2.0 next time it’s in your neighborhood. It’s a great way to meet some of the smartest folks in the PDX tech scene.

Next Month

I’m still planning on heading to the PDX Selenium User Group later this month. I also noticed that Lunch 2.0 is being hosted at Jive Software on August 14th. If you saw the awesome TechTownPDX video last week, Jive’s office was the one featured in the gratuitous drone-helicopter-flyby shot. To call that awesome is surely an understatement.

PDX Tech Talks Monthly #1 - Ignite TAO

To kick-off my monthly series on Portland tech events, here’s a recap of the inspiring “Ignite TAO v4” event I attended last Thursday with 300 of my PDX techie peers.

The Event – Ignite TAO

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This was my second time seeing an Ignite TAO, which is hosted in the Alberta Rose Theatre. At Ignite events, 20 speakers give 5-minute presentations. Each presentation consists of 20 slides. That’s 15 seconds per slide, so they go by super fast, leading to lightning-quick and often hilarious high-level talks. I’m always impressed with the speakers’ ability to jam all their info into that small time-frame, and I definitely learned a lot.

I've been to several Ignite Portland events, which attract huge crowds to the Bagdad Theatre and cover a broad range of topics. I really appreciate the tech-focused nature of Ignite TAO, though. It’s organized by the Technology Association of Oregon and provides a good venue for folks in the PDX tech biz to socialize their ideas. 

Who I Met

I bumped into fellow Willamette grad Reno Brown, who recently co-founded the startup Fluentry with two other Monsoon alumni. Apparently the Monsoon-to-startup transition is catching on! I also met smart folks from iSite Design, local start-up graphAlchemist, the pdx Selenium Users Group organizers, and many more. Being able to chat with the presenters about their ideas at the after-party was awesome.

What I Learned

Compelling (and opposing) arguments were put forth by Adam Light that “scrum is smart” and by Frank D'Andrea that “scrum is dumb”. I agree! I learned that large, multi-national corporations like ADP are working on automating their software deployment process, much the same way we are at Kryptiq. My favorite was Santos Cash’s presentation about the “iCloset”, where I learned that the “Internet of Things” trend inevitably leads to my closet tweeting me an alert that my co-worker will be wearing the same shirt as me to work today. Hilarious, but true.

Videos of all the presentations are posted up here.

Wrap Up

I highly recommend checking out Ignite TAO v5. It’ll be in the fall and the theme will be health care tech. I’ll try to convince one of the extroverts in Kryptiq’s marketing team to present something :)

Next Month

The PDX Selenium and Test Automation User Group is meeting June 20th to discuss “How Jive does Selenium based in browser performance testing.” Sounds interesting, I'm in. See you there?

PDX Tech Talks Monthly - A Series

Last year Luc Perkins dared to blog about what many were silently thinking: “Could Portland be the best city in the country for developers right now?”  My head was nodding in agreement as I read his detailed description of Portland’s awesome tech scene, and the great community vibe here. I was especially impressed with the long list of meetups he included. There’s a Commodore Users Group? Sweet!

The PDX meetups are truly impressive. Formed around a shared technology or interest, most meet monthly, include some brilliant speaker(s), and are almost all free. After the last AgilePDX meetup, I was chatting with some folks about various the user groups, and realized there were many I haven’t been to yet. I checked the Calagator calendar, and my "need to attend" list quickly grew. Although I occasionally make the effort to travel across town and hear about some cool new project or technology, clearly I have more work to do.

So, here’s my plan: I’ll go to a PDX tech talk each month, then post about who I met and what I learned. Easy, right?

Next Post

I’ll write up my notes from last week’s inspiring “Ignite TAO” event.

Design for the Likely Changes

I need to do some design work soon, and it has me thinking about the design process.  What’s the best way to go about designing software?  The answer can vary for different organizations.   Recently I took the “Software Design Techniques” class from PSU, which offered some solid tips.  Here’re my general recommendations: 

Set Some Goals Upfront

Eventually you’ll produce a design.  Maybe you’ve produced some very professional UML docs or a slick data-flow diagram.  Perhaps you’re like me and have scribbled some circles on a whiteboard and taken a picture of it with your phone.  In any event, the next step will be to ask: “Is this any good?”  To answer that question you’ll need to have established what “good” means for this project.  Set some goals at the beginning for what your design should achieve.  Keeping them in mind during the process will help.    

Know Thy Stakeholders

It can be tough to produce software that pleases everyone.  Stakeholders often have conflicting desires.  Product managers want it done fast, QA wants it to be easily testable, the ops team wants the deployment to be hassle-free and the end user is asking for an intuitive UI.  Your fellow engineers may have several technical priorities.  The challenge is to try to consider several perspectives as you proceed.  Hopefully your product/project manager can help you prioritize requirements and balance conflicting stakeholder needs.

Prepare for the Likely Changes

Let’s pretend you just produced the best design ever for a billing system.  You’re quite pleased with yourself.  Then, one month after release Bob from sales rushes into your office and says, “We need to import billing data from Company X… by next week!”  Ideally you’d have already talked to sales and known that the Company X integration was imminent.  It’s a great mental exercise to make a list of the top “likely changes” to the system that you and others foresee.  Again, your software can’t do everything and the architecture won’t respond to all requests with equal grace.  However, you should know the company’s priorities for future development, and those things shouldn’t require a full rewrite of the system.

Get it Reviewed

I mentioned before that code reviews are very helpful.  Reviews are great for design products as well.  Designing by committee isn’t fun, but this is a little different.  In a design review you present a fully baked (you hope) plan to some peers and solicit their feedback.  Maybe they’ll have tackled a similar problem last year, failed miserably, and found an open source tool that solves everything.    

On a team practicing some form of Agile development, you may be asked to produce a design quickly and get on with it.  It’s important to at least cover the basics if you want to arrive at a design that’s somewhat sustainable and doesn’t disgust the new guy you’ll hire this fall.  Do you have a sure-fire design tip or pet-peeve?