JUST EAT @ Altconf

 JUST EAT @ Altconf

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For those who don’t know, Altconf is the free alternative to Apple’s WWDC conference in San Francisco. With 5 days of speakers and labs running at the same time you could not ask for much more. The world’s top iOS developers and solution providers come together to talk tech and answer all of your questions. There is no alternative to Altconf, not even WWDC.

What makes Altconf special and particularly important to me, is that it’s my time to sharpen my saw. It’s a great time for reflection and personal improvement. As a developer it can be hard to understand the necessity to do this. You might think “Can I show this will improve my output?”, or “What will I learn?” It’s not always that simple.
The Talks
“Being better”
Mike Lee
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This talk felt like a performance, one of those moments that you never forget. Like the first time you hear “The Planets”, your hairs will stand up on the back of your neck and you will never feel the same again. It was beautifully crafted and polished, yet felt like it could have been delivered straight from memory from the heart. One of the key messages that stuck with me was: “When good people let themselves be lazy they can do evil.”
It’s a great reminder to us all that on a day to day basis it’s important to be careful and bring it back to programming. Take time to review that pull request. If you’re tired leave it, don’t just merge it in. But obviously this is meant for larger ethical questions that we face in tech.
“Nine ways to stop hurting and start helping women in tech”
Brianna Wu
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This is obviously a very important topic and something we have talked about on the blog previously. It’s something we feel very strongly about at JUST EAT. To reference the talk, it’s not about making a big deal about it, it’s about working towards a solution. Realise it’s a large issue, but don’t hold it as other controversies and just class it as this thing that “doesn’t happen to us”. We need to continue to be sensitive and inclusive, it’s for everyone to be aware and take action when required. It should not be a second consideration for anyone.
JUST EAT welcomes and understands the benefits that a diverse team of any nature can bring. That’s why we have engineering teams across the world and are an equal opportunity company. We see no boundaries or stereotypes, just great engineers and different approaches to problems. Both of which any company would be foolish to miss out on.
“Mindful Design & Marketing”
Carla White
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Dealing with depression and a failed business idea, Carla White shows how you can come back from the very brink and be stronger for doing it. It’s so important for us to be grateful for the little things. Clara explains that it only takes 30 days of repeated work to reshape your brain and build the muscle memory to keep you interested in doing a regular task. After those 30 days it should no longer feel like a chore and just be part of what you do. For Clara this was keeping a gratefulness diary every day that became the inspiration for an app.
My favorite part of the talk was the discussion of the “happiness advantage”. When you are not stressed you should find yourself being more creative, obviously more reasonable, and in general, better at problem solving. I personally find this one hard because I work well under pressure but it doesn’t make me a happy person. The balance there is important. We should be mindful of the toll that being stressed can take.
“Networking on the Mac”
Aaron Hillegass
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Well we had to have a little bit of tech in this post, and for me this shines above all the others. Aaron Hillegass explains what will be on all of our whiteboards in the next few years.
Many clients communicating via websockets with a CSP based server that communicates with an Authorization and Authentication service as well as some version of “the truth” (i.e. a DB). He says it’s a billion dollar idea for a company to solve, they would be the “next parse”. I completely agree. Great watching and a simple message. Powerful.
“Stables and Volatiles”
Michael Lopp
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A brief history of Silicon Valley and the tech culture that we are all accustomed to today. “Are you wearing flipflops?” – Think about how many other industries are cool with that – it’s kind of cool.
The concept of “stables” and “volatiles” is a way to conceptually understand two different types of developers. Now, do not worry you are not being boxed here. Like anything in life this is actually many shades of grey. You fall on a line somewhere between them.
See, the stables are people who enjoy process and delivering results. You want to be told what to do and you think about the future intensely. You might work at a large corporation like IBM and you build huge complicated systems. At the other end of the spectrum you might be a “volatile”, you don’t want to be told what to do. You want only the ember of an idea and to be given space to run away with it. You ship code and get it done fast. LIKE, REAL FAST. It won’t scale but damn, it will get done fast.
Where do you fall ? Watch the video and take the toaster test, it will make sense soon…
This video had too much to talk about, really just go watch it.
What now?
Our profession needs Altconf, we need to take time to understand the non tech side of our world. I hope you agree that being a developer/engineer is hard, it drives us into a world of introversion and black and white decisions. Programming is less than one hundred years old, our minds and bodies as well as the world is still adapting. It presents so many new challenges for us as humans that we are do not know how to cope with. Professions like farming have existed for thousands of years, we know the pressure and lifestyle that it creates.
How do we deal with these challenges ? If you watched the videos this wont come as a surprise but in short: be grateful, don’t be lazy, challenge your expectations. Think about the future fondly, consider the past, good ideas might come round a few times. People are different, find the best way to work with everyone, be mindful of that and figure out a way to work with them. Take time to breathe, take care of yourself, build awesome things and never lose your passion. But most important, never stop improving, keep that saw sharp.
Ben Chester

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