2011 was my first time at South By South-West. Before I left I'd been given a range of advice, from drinking my year's quota of tequila in 5 days to avoiding most of the panel based sessions harder than I'd be avoiding healthy eating. It's passed in a whirl, with each day blending into the other until now that it's all over it feels like one helluva long day has just ended, not a whole week.
So did it meet my expectations? Yes it did, and more. It was an incredibly stimulating, vibrant and inspiring experience which has left my brain spinning. But, because there has to be a but, my only issue was that it did take me a day or two to perfect picking out the good sessions to attend. I'd been warned to expect more breadth than depth, and to stay away from sessions that were too close to my day to day work, but I was initially tripped up by sessions which sold their topic very well in the programme and then turned out to be nothing more than an exercise in selling the speaker and his/her start-up/book/app during the session. If I'd wanted to listen to a marketing pitch, I didn't need to fly 10 hours across the Atlantic to find it. A good talk should put sharing value first, and self-promotion second.
I'm not one of those lucky people who've been going for 6, 9 or even 20 years - this was my third year at South By South-West in Austin, Texas - but I'm glad to report that it's *still* the most stimulating, generous and intensely energizing experience of the whole year. It is more than worth the sleep deprivation, meat sweats, jet-lag and Tequila poisoning and only a day after returning I am already plotting to return.
As programmers today, the code we write sits atop an enormous stack of abstractions. There are so many excellent frameworks, libraries and how-tos out there that it sometimes feels as though there's almost nothing that we have to work out for ourselves, and that the focus now is on execution rather than the intellectual challenge of working out how to make something work. For non-programmers this is all good, but for programmers it's tinged with a little sadness.
An Arduino Uno board wired up to display an animated pattern on an LED array.
Today, the process of writing code is that of creating and chaining abstractions together. The apparently simple act of writing, proof reading and publishing this blog post probably involves making use of several thousand of them.
When I'm asked what I like best about being a programmer, I talk about how satisfying it is to see someone else using and enjoying the software I help to build. Today, it's human factors rather than technical ones that make achieving this difficult because, although the technical underpinnings exist to make great software, it still takes talent and care to shape these together into things that users like using, even if there are no complicating factors like politics or hobby-horses. But, this leaves us with an intellectual hole to fill.
As I write this, ten twelve of the Many are packed into economy-class seating on their way to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest.
I’m not. I wasn’t invited. On the downside, I miss out on drinking my liver into a foie-gras-like state and eating burritos the size of Wales for breakfast1. On the upside, I get to avoid the charmless shopping-mall ambiance of Heathrow airport2, the legendarily unwelcoming demeanour of US immigration officials, and the scrotum-groping attentions of TSA goons, and I get to write snide blog posts about it. So it’s not all bad! And, in fact, despite the fact that I’m not going, I’ve ended up being involved with one rather fun aspect of the trip.
If you go to http://madebymany.com/ right now, you’ll see something a little different from usual.
We're very pleased to be able to announce the launch of Made by Many in Sweden, where we are developing a special practice focus on mobile products and services. It's a very natural extension of what we're doing in London and there's a short deck below to explain a little of the rationale. Stockholm is a great place with a deep pool of talent, and we love Swedes and all things Swedish (apart from chewing tobacco and salty liquorish).
Say "hej" to Patrik Falk who's coming out to Austin for SXSWi with us tomorrow - find out more below.