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Where the magic happens

updated over 4 years ago; latest suggestion over 4 years ago

This is not a talk about ruby. Confession: I'm not even a ruby developer.

I want to talk about getting better, and finding better problems to solve.

The most interesting work lies outside of your comfort zone. So how can you get there? I want to offer a sort of crash course in stepping out of your comfort zone, trying new things, learning to learn and creating your own luck.

How should we do research & development? To be innovative, we must create a culture that tolerates failure. I want to share with you some of my failures. We're taught to do things the right way. But to discover something that other people haven't, one needs to do things the wrong way.

People often ask me (on twitter) howcome I get to do so much cool stuff. And I thought I should share my secret with people. People also often ask "are you working on anything interesting?", to which my standard reply is "of course, why would I work on something if it wasn't interesting?"

And I thought I'd I'd share some of my stories, about how I was made redundant by a huge digital media agency and then pitched for a £171k government project and won it (against Saatchi & Saatchi and other big fish!). How I randomly got chatting with the creator of Nanode at 5am one Thursday morning at the after after party for a conference and as a result was asked to help make a sound sculpture for the London Olympics that was outside the British Museum. It's mostly about how I got to a place where things like that can happen. Mostly they are lessons I learnt at Hyper Island (hyped advertising school in Sweden). The best piece of advise I was ever given is this one:

You must develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end.

At Hyper Island we had to get a mentor for one of the modules. I got Håkon Wium Lie, and he gave me a great piece of advise when I was working as a civil servant (in Norway).

Sometimes it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

I did some rebellious stuff there. Most importantly, donated a whole lot of map data to Open Street Map (map data the government charges a lot of money to access. But you know, public data should be, well, public). The journey from the first contact request they made (hi, can you make us an iPhone game) to publishing map data for free use to the public is an interesting one. It's about believing in what you do, and believing that you can change the world, and doing the right thing.

Of course taking my own advise often gets me into trouble. Like having a rant in the pub about how the ICT curriculum in this country is a disaster, and actually thinking I could do something about it.


  • The proposal author responds over 4 years ago

    Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it (sorry coudn't reply or change my proposal, I was at /dev/fort without internet)

    You are absolutely right about the talk being too self-promotional, and yes it is way more interesting to hear about mistakes and learning from them. I don't think I'll do this type talk again.

    And if you're interested you can view my first ever conference talk here

  • 2940bc7d4506f3e099e3dcc32a412b98 Jon Leighton suggests over 4 years ago

    I'm very interested in this talk. I have sometimes pondered about how one would go about stepping into a different a different area of software development, or in general getting off the beaten track. Also I am quite interested to hear from somebody who is not a Ruby developer working for a startup!

    Definitely interested in hearing anecdotes, but I agree with what others have said about trying to draw general lessons from the anecdotes rather than just telling the stories for their own sake. Also interested to hear about mistakes (if any!)

  • B99daa9f050dfdcdc8f207aa3d0ea511 Tim Cowlishaw suggests over 4 years ago

    This sounds like it has the potential to be really interesting, but one thing that worries me slightly is that your outline seems very heavy on specific anecdotes about things you've done personally, which, to be blunt, might not be intrinsically interesting to a general audience. I think you need to be very careful to use these anecdotes to illustrate some more specific ways in which you felt you 'got better' as a result, and which, crucially, offer concrete advice for other attendees to follow to do the same. Otherwise, I'm concerned that a loose collection of anecdotes and a very general theme of self-improvement might appear more like an attempt at self-promotion than a substantial , interesting conference talk. (Please note, I'm certainly not presuming that this is your intention in any way, I'm just concerned about how it might be received).

    That said, the theme is an interesting one, and, from the experience you've detailed, I'm sure you'd have a lot of interesting insight to add, as long as you ensure that this insight is applicable to the people you're talking to in a practical way!



  • Be3698f145a80c1230fd667c87d0f0c8 Tom Stuart suggests over 4 years ago

    This talk sounds interesting and I’d like to hear the solutions to these problems.

    I think the proposal would benefit from a slightly tighter focus — for example, you mention a few different questions that you expect to answer, so could you collate them in a bulleted list near the top so people can quickly see what kind of topics you’re going to cover? The detail further down the post is useful but a tl;dr version near the top would help to clarify what people can expect to get from this talk.