A Love Letter

It’s Valentine’s day.

Love is a rare thing to find. In this line of work we’re always talking about passion, about magic, about how users "love" this thing or the other. But truth be told, it’s not very common. We’ll always shoot for excellence and we’ll always try to achieve that special sparkle—the one that can only come from little decisions made right, the one that makes products come alive. That’s why you hire us, right? That’s what we do.

Love, though?

The stars have to align. We’re not even sure all products or companies are made to be loved. Some are made to be indispensable, some are made to be intensely functional, and some try to help you by staying out of your way. And that’s fine. We all want different things, and everyone finds their own road to happiness. But you know what? When love does strike, you kind of want to shout it from the rooftops. And… we have something to tell you.

Ours, as a company, is not the romantic kind of love. It’s more of a two-hearts-beating-as-one sort of affair, maybe described as the way you look at a friend after a few years and you realize that it’s them, it was them all along, and you never saw it coming.

It struck us right in the face. We used to be Elabs and Varvet. But we’re one and the same now and it’s Valentine’s day, a day for celebrating love and sipping pink champagne, and the path before us looks strewn with rose petals. Join us in walking it.

All this is to say: we’ve merged with Varvet. There used to be two separate companies, awesome in their own way and doing almost the same thing. From now on there’s just one company, called Varvet; twice as strong and at least twice as clever. We’ll still be building superlative digital experiences, there’s just more of us now. Feel free to contact us!


Steve Jobs on what's important in the development of a product

You know, one of the things that really hurt Apple was after I left John Sculley got a very serious disease. It’s the disease of thinking that a really great idea is 90% of the work. And if you just tell all these other people “here’s this great idea,” then of course they can go off and make it happen.

And the problem with that is that there’s just a tremendous amount of craftsmanship in between a great idea and a great product. And as you evolve that great idea, it changes and grows. It never comes out like it starts because you learn a lot more as you get into the subtleties of it. And you also find there are tremendous tradeoffs that you have to make. There are just certain things you can’t make electrons do. There are certain things you can’t make plastic do. Or glass do. Or factories do. Or robots do.

Designing a product is keeping five thousand things in your brain and fitting them all together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new that is a new problem or a new opportunity to fit these things together a little differently.

And it’s that process that is the magic.

— Steve Jobs, Triumph of the Nerds

Via 37signals and CNN Fortune Tech


Announcing Elabs Stockholm

After two great years in Gothenburg, it's time to broaden our horizons a bit. I'm very happy to announce that we are opening an office in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, in early October.

Most of our Swedish clients are located in Stockholm, so the primary reason for opening the new office is to get closer to them. We look forward to being able to provide even better service to our existing clients, and to exciting endeavors with new clients.

Another big reason for opening an office in Stockholm is because of all the great Ruby on Rails developers there. We've already added some great people to our initial Stockholm team, people we've worked with before, but we're looking to add at least one more. If you're interested, please have a look at our job listing. The listing is in Swedish, but we'll definitely consider applications from non-Swedish speakers too. We'll even help the right candidate move to Sweden if necessary.

Sergels Torg, one of Stockholm's distinctive landmarks

Photo by Simon Donini {: .caption}

Stay tuned for more info as we get closer to the premiere!


BizConf Reflections

In my post about the business value of conferences I mentioned that I would attend the conference BizConf, which I now have. This is a short review of my experience there.

It was hard to believe that this was BizConf's first year. The organizers did a great job making sure that everything ran smoothly and everyone had the best experience possible. I certainly had. The setting—the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island—was fantastic. While I spent most of the time inside, I managed to find some time to enjoy the beach.

Beach sunrise on Amelia Island

The reason I spent most of my time inside was that the sessions and conversations at the conference were so amazing. Limiting the number of attendees to just 75 people really helped define the conference as a place of great discussions among peers.

Since there were usually four simultaneous sessions the number of attendees in each sessions was very small—sometimes less than 10 people—which made the sessions very intimate and interactive. Some of them were just really fascinating group discussions with incredibly knowledgeable and experienced people like Jerry Weinberg and Johanna Rothman.

I was amazed by the consistent high quality of all the sessions. I was going to try to list some of my favorite sessions, but there were just too many of them! The content ranged from tactical to strategic. A great mix of simple, practical advice and higher level talks about the purpose of running a business.

The small group made everyone seem very approachable. And since the attendees were 75 of the nicest, most brilliant people in the business, the conversations were really great. This was my favorite part of BizConf by far. Having so many peers to discuss the challenges of running a business with was worth the price of admission alone.

Some of the great people at BizConf

One big difference compared to most other conferences I've been to was how few people had their laptops up during the sessions. Lark said it best:

You can tell a great conference... when there's no chance to tweet! #bizconf was rich, full-time intensity!

I realize that I'm rambling a bit here. I apologize. What it comes down to is this: Will I be back next year?

Hell yeah!


The Business Value of Conferences

In our business—like many others—there are two things that you need more than anything to succeed: the right skills and the right people. The best place I know to get both is at conferences.

The development team here at eLabs—Anders, Jonas and I (CJ)—just got back from the absolutely amazing FutureRuby conference in Toronto. It was hands down the best conference I've ever been to. The presentations were great, the people were great and everything was organized with such an amazing attention to detail by the good folks at Unspace. While the total cost (including the conference fee, hotel rooms, flight and loss of income) probably exceeded US $20,000 for us, here's why I think it was worth it:

The Right Skills

The most obvious benefit is of course the things you learn from the presentations at the conference. Perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, I find that I get more out of the presentations that aren't really trying to teach something. For learning the ins and outs of a technology I prefer a good book or online tutorial. No, the presentations that I think help me the most when it comes to improving my skills are the higher-level, more philosophical ones that make me think in new ways. That's much more important in the long run.

FutureRuby got this right. While there were some presentations that were too focused on some technology, the great presentations by Jon Dahl, Brian Marick, Dr. Nic Williams, Foy Savas, Matthew Knox and others more than made up for it. These talks will inspire us to improve and expand our skill sets for a long time.

The Right People

While getting the right skills is important, getting the right people is much more so. The right people can always acquire the right skills. The inverse is not necessarily true. So how does going to a conference help you get the right people?

First of all, you can of course meet the right people at the conference. If you're looking to hire developers a conference is a great place to be looking (though I think a user group is even better). And even if you're not hiring at the moment you're bound to meet a bunch of great business connections, helpful peers, and friends. We certainly did.

Getting the right people at a conference is also about keeping the right people. Going to a conference as a team is a great way to strengthen your company. Having inspired and motivated colleagues is just as important as being inspired and motivated yourself.

CJ, Anders and Jonas of eLabs enjoying Toronto

So far, I've only been to technology conferences—such as FutureRuby, WWDC, Scotland on Rails and RailsConf Europe—but next month I'll be traveling to Florida for something different altogether:

BizConf is an exclusive conference for entrepreneurs, consultants and people who run web development companies. The presenters they've lined up sound fantastic, but I'm just as excited to meet the other attendees. A couple of people I met at FutureRuby—Dr. Nic Williams of Mocra and Gustin Prudner of Entryway—are going to BizConf too. It was great talking with them at FutureRuby and sharing ideas on running a web development business, and I can't wait to meet them again along with all the other attendees.

BizConf is limited to 75 attendees and the early bird pricing ends today (July 15th) so make sure you register now! I hope to meet you there, or at another conference.

/ CJ

PS. FutureRuby also inspired us to dust off our old dream of NordicRuby again. We'll see what happens.