Thank you Sharon Lu for the photograph!

A few months back, I was chatting to someone in the tech industry in Sydney who mentioned he missed the blog posts I used to write about attending meetups. “Really? I didn’t think anybody read them!” He said that as someone who couldn’t get to many events, he still liked reading about them. So I promised him that I’d give it another go.

So here we are in 2018, and the first groups are starting back up after the Christmas holiday. Strap in folks! (Did I mention I went to 124 meetups in the past year??)

My first meetup of 2018 was actually one I was speaking at! Tech Talks @ Pivotal Labs is a weekly group that hosts speakers from a range of fields: technology, product design, engineering and Lean startup methodologies. I’ve attended many times, but this past Tuesday was my first turn on the other side of the podium! (The lovely photo at the start of this post was from my friend Sharon Lu at the Tyro FinTechHub.)

I was reprising my talk from DDD Perth: “The Campsite Rule: Leaving the Tech Industry Better Than We Found It.” It’s about all the things in tech that can burn you out, and how mentoring is one way that you can make a difference and feel better about it. There were probably a hundred attendees, and they all seemed pretty engaged! There were even some nice comments on the Meetup page afterwards, including someone taking my suggestion to put their hand up as a mentor. 🙂

The funniest part was how I told everyone that CES was about to start so we’d soon be inundated with news stories about ridiculous tech gadgets. But even I never envisioned robot strippers… 🙄 🤖

Tuesday evening I headed over to ING’s offices to a brand new meetup: Tech Share Sydney. This group is organised by OCTO Australia, and they plan to have a different theme every month. This first one was all about data… which just so happens to be my major focus, as YOW! Data is coming up on May 14-15th! (We’re looking for speakers right now.)

The first speaker was Matt Howlett from Confluent giving us a tour of Apache Kafka. (Matt lives and works in Palo Alto but he’s an Aussie, so he was taking advantage of being home for the holidays to give a meetup talk!)

Matt said that a lot of folks think of Kafka as just a “pub/sub” message queue, but you can also think of it as “a commit log for your organisation.” Kafka’s advantages are all about scaleability and moving around massive amounts of data. You should use Kafka if you’ve got  lots of data or your organisation/architecture is very complex. I was impressed with some of the numbers Matt showed us…

We also got a sneak peek of KSQL, “an open source, Apache 2.0 licensed streaming SQL engine that enables stream processing against Apache Kafka.” Matt made it look super easy to join data together from multiple streams and write meaningful queries against it!

The second talk of the night was a tag team case study from Nicolas Guignard and Arthur Baudry from OCTO. They walked us through a project they’d worked on to build a sustainable enterprise-wide reporting system using Apache Spark and Amazon Web Services.

I was especially interested to learn about a tool they’d used that was new to me: FitNesse. It fostered collaboration by allowing the business analysts on the project to write requirements in a sort of wiki that then actually ran as acceptance tests. Pretty neat!

My third meetup for the week was another data-focused one: Web Analytics Wednesday. Unusually, this is a meetup that’s held in a pub! We were all squished in pretty tightly, but the drinks were free and everyone was super friendly. (I highly recommend the $10 burger special!)

The first speaker was Johann de Boer from Menulog giving a fascinating case study on a project he worked on for a previous employer that provided predictive segmentation of website visitors. Basically the end goal was to guess the goal of someone visiting the website based on their behaviour and then customise the experience towards that.

During the Q&A, I raised my hand to ask Johann about questioning users directly. That was something we did whenever anyone signed up to Canva, and was curious why they hadn’t done it on this project. We ended up having an interesting discussion about qualitative vs. quantitative data, and how you can use one to test assumptions against the other. I also chatted with Johann during the break about the minimum number of “pages” you need to track to make an accurate guess about what users are doing. It’s smaller than you think!

The second talk of the night was Jakub Otrzasek from Datalicious giving us a veteran’s view on what an analytics newbie needs to know. There’s massive demand for folks who know how to interpret all the web data that’s being generated, but not a lot of folks to fill the positions! I agree with Jakub – if you’re looking to hire an analyst, your best bet is actually to grow one from your existing team.

Other Stuff

That’s it for meetups. Here’s a few other things keeping me busy:

  • Congrats to my old colleagues at Canva on becoming Australia’s newest unicorn! I know what a big goal that was for the team, and I’m so proud to have contributed in a small way. 🦄
  • Next week I’ll be attending Data61’s 3-day Functional Programming Course taught by Tony Morris. I’m expecting to be challenged. (Eeep. Time to cram more Haskell.)
  • LinuxConfAU is coming in one more week! I’ll be attending again this year and I’m really looking forward to it. The first two days are dedicated to miniconfs. On Monday the 22nd I’ll be building a robot at the Open Hardware Miniconf, and on Tuesday the 23rd I’ll be running the Art + Tech Miniconf. (I’m super excited about Art + Tech. I managed to get pretty much my dream lineup of speakers!)
  • On Saturday, February 3rd I’ll be hosting the Sydney branch of Global CFP Diversity Day. This global series of workshops has a goal of encouraging newbie speakers from underrepresented groups to put together their first talk proposals. Special thanks to Sydney GA for hosting and to all the mentors who have volunteered to help!
  • Along with several of the Sydney Girl Geeks, I’m slowly working my way through HarvardX’s CS50: Computer Science course. For my first assignment, I had to build a game in Scratch. Naturally, I made one inspired by Roald Dahl! You can try it out here.
  • My friend Lucy Bain also has a renewed commitment to tech blogging for 2018. She’s already made two great posts this year: JS: ES6’s spread operator for objects and React JS: what is a PureComponent?. If you’re interested in programming, you should check them out.
  • And lastly – don’t forget that we have two upcoming YOW! events in Sydney with open Calls for Presentations! YOW! Data will be held on May 14-15 and is looking for speakers on data-driven technologies and applications. YOW! Lambda Jam is coming up on May 21-23 and is all about functional programming. Special note: This year we’ve added on an extra day for LJ that will be a full-day workshop aimed at providing an “on-ramp” to FP. (If you can’t make it to Tony’s 3-day course, you should definitely sign up for the LJ one!)

I leave you with a truly cool bit of music: Microsoft’s Spectre & Meltdown KB4056892 Patch converted into MIDI. These security bugs are an ongoing nightmare, but hey – at least we can dance to it! 💃