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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thoughts on Kasvu Open Forum and Djangocon Finland 2012

Two days, two conferences. The first was a local, business oriented one, Kasvu Open Forum. The second, Djangocon Finland 2012, focused mainly on technology. I gave two talks in the latter one. It was very nice to experience both events and meet some new people and a few old acquaintances.

Kasvu Open Forum

Kasvu Open is a competition of sorts aimed for Finnish growth ventures. This is the second year they are organizing it so things are just about to get rolling. They have two series, one for ideas and one for established companies. Me and my business partner participated in the former one this year with an entry.

We didn't make it to the finals and weren't impressed by the quality of the feedback given. This event totally made up for it. This is definitely something they can improve on the next year. The last thing you want to do is to discourage some potential idea or company. After all Kasvu Open is in the business of creating new business.

You might expect business conferences such as this to be really boring. This wasn't the case here. Each talk given gave some unique view to growth venturing. For instance it was particularly interesting to see how different the mindsets of a venture capitalist and a business angel can be. Former focuses on profit while the latter thinks in more long term and uses a different kind of investment strategy.

I also enjoyed the talk of Jouni Hynynen. He represented The Foundation of Finnish Inventions and explained how immaterial rights relate to business and what is their worth in practice. Even though I'm somewhat categorically opposed to concepts such as software patents, the talk gave some nice insight to the subject.

Overall it seems like there is some positive buzz going on in the Jyväskylä area. It might not be the Silicon Valley and we might be missing the scale benefits. I wouldn't be surprised if something really interesting emerged from the area within the next decades.

Djangocon Finland 2012

This was the first time I visited the Finnish version of Djangocon. I think there were around forty people or so participating the event. The talks were primarily technically oriented. There were a couple of longer talks and several lightning talks.

I actually met a reader of this blog (apparently there are those) at the conference. That was quite a pleasant surprise to be honest. It's small things such as this that make it all worth it.

Thoughts on " - how we replaced 10 years of legacy code in one year"

It was particularly interesting to see what looks like from "outside" in terms of DevOps. I participated in the project as a software designer during the past year for a period of a few months. So I got to know certain bits of it quite well. I never really looked into the overall infrastructure (too busy staring at my code :) ), though.

There were many interesting tidbits in Markus' talk. Especially the bits on scaling the service were interesting. It's quite different to develop a service used by hundreds of thousands than something that has only a few users. You get a lot of new problems to solve.

Thoughts on other talks

There was this one guy that made Django act like PHP. Django Home Pages is a terrible abomination that simply should not exist. I guess that was kind of the point, though. He created it just in order to see if it can be done.

Leo Honkanen discussed about classy Django applications. I think the main gist here was that with some effort you can provide namespaced url lookups for your templates. Essentially you have to deal with routing using a proxy class that implements urls using a property. The proxy class contains the name of the namespace as a class level attribute. I believe it is possible to implement this as a class method so you can avoid instantiating the whole thing at your url definition.

I'm not entirely sure if one should abuse classes this way. There might be a neater functional solution around to be found. If I ever need to namespace my urls somehow, I'll keep this in mind.

There were a couple of lightning talks as well. The BDD one was semi-interesting. I couldn't see myself writing that amount of code anytime soon, though. There must be some nicer way to describe stories. - Spotting Service Powered by Django

My first talk had to do with a service me and my business partner developed during the Spring. We did the development of in a few distinct phases. The idea of the talk was to give some insight how we created the service and what kind of lessons we learned while doing it. I hope the people got something out of it! You can examine the slides below (probably not visible in RSS):
If there is something you should pick out from the talk I believe it is the importance of developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The only way to know if your product is on the right track is to give it for your users to test. Developing a MVP is an effective way to do this. Besides, it is really fast to get one done since you don't need to get stuck on the details.

In development of we noticed Pareto principle applies quite well here. It takes only perhaps 20% or so time to get the relevant bits done. The rest is just tweaking and dealing the corner cases. And boy that sure can take time.

Another important thing to pick out is the value of pivots. Even if you are doing something and going to a certain direction, doesn't mean you should be going there indefinitely. It can pay off to adjust the trajectory and try something perhaps a bit different. I believe the willingness to pivot is one of the key attributes of startups that become successful.


My second, really brief talk, had to do with Speccer. It is a small testing tool I developed ages ago to make using unittest bearable. To quote myself "unittest provides testing for masochists while Speccer is meant for the rest of us". I hope the slides below give you the gist of it:
Essentially the tool just transforms the light Pythonish syntax (you can mix Python with it) to code using unittest. This means you get to enjoy from the benefits of the both. You get the robust output provided by unittest's test runner while get to use a lighter syntax.


At times I feel like I'm slowly drifting away from a pure development role and more into business. These kind of conferences seem to confirm this. It takes a lot more than just technical skill to make things work in a real world.

Overall it seems like a good idea to be active. You get a lot of new contacts that in turn might prove to be valuable longer term (applies both ways). In addition these sort of events give you a nice extra burst of motivation and helps you to validate some of the work you have done. Sometimes it is a good idea to step out of your role a bit and try something different (ie. a business conf :) ).