Friday, April 24, 2009

Notes from ThoughtWorks London Geek Night: Startups That Innovate

Last night I went to the ThoughtWorks London Geek Night "Startups That Innovate". I know there are some people who wanted to go who couldn't because there wasn't enough space, so I'm going to share what I remember. And I aplogise for everything I remember wrong.

The first two speakers were Giles Thomas and Jonathan Hartley from Resolver Systems, who talked about founding Resolver and the technologies they use. Here's what I remember:

  • To get your startup going, you need people who can fill three essential roles: (1) Technologist/Developer (2) Rainmaker (3) User Advocate.
  • They use IronPython and it works well for them. At first, they picked it because it looked like a good language for rapid prototyping. When it came time to switch over to a "real" programming language, they decided that they liked IronPython so much that they wanted to keep using it.
  • They use PyUnit for unit testing. Some people in the audience thought PyUnit might not be mature enough, but Giles and Jonathan said they were able to make it work.
  • They use an internal Python-based DSL to automate acceptance tests.
  • They are an XP shop.
  • Developers really do pair program pretty much all the time, except for spikes.
  • With pair programming, it's true that you don't get as much of a flow experience as you would programming alone, but it still seems to work pretty well.
  • As an XP shop, they try to keep their working hours sustainable. That might be different from what you see in other startups.
  • One lesson they learned was: Don't go into stealth mode—it would have been useful to get user and community feedback earlier.
  • Another lesson they learned: Release earlier. It took them around 2 years to release v1.0, and again, it would have been useful to get user and community feedback earlier
  • Interns are a great resource for startups.
  • (Jonathan used vi instead of PowerPoint to present his talk, which was cool.)

The last speaker was Martin Dittus from Here's what I remember:

  • started to having trouble scaling all of the updating of data that results from scrobbling. They realized that they didn't need to do it in real time and switched to batch mode.
  • They are using Hadoop to do this.
  • One of their interns, Klaas Bosteels, wrote Dumbo to help make working with Hadoop easier.
  • As a startup, they had trouble affording Business Intelligence tools, so they built them themselves.

I'm not very good at tweeting events, but some other people did better: London Geek Night tweets.

Also, I saw a list of upcoming ThoughtWorks Geek Nights while I was there. I think there were three in May and one in June. Here are links to the ones I could find links to:

1 comment:

  1. This is the fourth event, which is at Skillsmatter on the 14th of May:

    Introduction to Ioke