Lean Startup Camp in Tokyo

The Lean Startup Camp

Inspiration. If I have to pick one word to describe The New Context Conference held by Digital Garage in Tokyo November 3rd to 4th, it's inspiration. CJ was invited to speak about integrated design and development.

The conference, also called Lean Startup Camp, was inspired by the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. A book that teaches entrepreneurs how to be more innovative, stop wasting people's time and be more successful. The most frequently used words during the conference talks were lean, agile and design. Something that Digital Garage hopes will inspire the attendees to go out and change the way Japanese companies work today.

You need a compass, not a map

When working the agile way you need to know what direction you're heading but not the precise way. Joi Ito talked about how things change along the way and how you should embrace that.

Our friend Ian McFarland, CTO at Digital Garage, held a keynote about the importance of design to make better software. A subject that the speakers and panels kept returning to throughout the day.

The first panel discussed how design is about experience, not looks, and how a designer's most important job is to understand the user. It's important to be agile about design, doing things in small iterations, doing a lot of testing and getting feedback. Don't be afraid to fail. Failure is discovery, a learning process.

Why build something until you know if it will work?

Kate Rutter talked about how to use a MVP, Minimum Viable Product, to get useful feedback from users before investing too much time in building a full product. It can be a sketch on a paper or a really small application. Our friends at Hyper Tiny emphasised the importance of finding the one important thing about a product and focusing on that. Say no to all other features.

Agile Blues

There seem to be a lot of rules when working agile. If you are new to the agile way this can feel discouraging, do you really need to follow the rules? Yes and No.

I like the comparison Joe O'Brien made between the agile way and blues music. There are a lot of rules, but when you know the rules you can break them and build/compose exceptional products/music.

Preparing, Sharing and Caring

CJ talked about how we work at Elabs, the importance of letting designers and developers work together. You should start every project with the whole team, preparing together. If everyone is in from the beginning there will be a better understanding between designers, developers and the client, which will result in a better product. During the project designers and developers can be more efficient by working in the same code base and pair programming. Last, the most important part is that developers care about the design and designers care about the code. Getting rid of the "not my job" mentality.

Integrated Design and Development panel

Get feedback

The first day was wrapped up with a talk from Janice Fraser. According to her the most important thing is to get out of the building, get to know your customers before you build your product. Learn who is going to use your product and what they are going to use it for. Make MVPs and remember that it's hard to build a new product, it takes time. She emphasised the continuous cycle of: build - measure - learn, or think - make - check.

We had a great time in Tokyo and met a lot of interesting people. The Lean Startup Camp was a very well produced conference and we are very happy to have been a part of it.

Arigatō gozaimasu.


Nordic Ruby 2011 — The Half & Half Conference

The planning for Nordic Ruby 2011 is in full progress. If you are interested in sponsoring, please take a look at the sponsorship prospectus on the site;

Last year was a great success with a hundred attendees from Sweden, other Nordic and European countries and the USA.

We will continue with the much appreciated concept of 30 minute talks and 30 minute breaks, a half and half conference. This gives you a great opportunity to meet and socialise with a lot of people in the community from all around the world. There will off course be great speakers as well!

We can already announce Chad Fowler as a speaker! Chad Fowler is program chair for RubyConf and RailsConf, and author of The Passionate Programmer. We are very glad to have him.

The conference will be held at the same great venue as last year. The dinner party will be held at a new place and we’ll have some other new details. More information in the future.

You can download the wrap from Nordic Ruby 2010 on the website and also look at the sponsorship prospectus. The full site for Nordic Ruby 2011 will be launched at the end of January.

June 16th - 18th, save the date for Nordic Ruby 2011 in Gothenburg, Sweden. (The conference days are on Friday and Saturday).

Please contact us at if you are interested in sponsoring the event.


Our Presentations at RubyConf 2010

Two weeks ago, Jonas and I were in New Orleans for the 10th annual RubyConf. This was my 2nd RubyConf, but I had a very different experience this time. This time I was one of the speakers. And I was giving two presentations.

The Front End Testing Frontier

One of the presentations was an extended version of the Front End Testing Frontier presentation I gave at Mountain.rb in October. This time I was fortunate enough to have my colleague Jonas Nicklas as a co-presenter. Jonas is the author of the testing libraries Capybara and Evergreen, our primary tools for JavaScript testing at Elabs.

I've uploaded the slides from the Front End Testing Frontier presentation, but they're pretty sparse. Video should be available in a few weeks, and I'll update this post then.

Socialist Software Development

My other presentation was titled Socialist Software Development. I came up with the title after seeing a clip from The Daily Show about socialism in Sweden. I saw some similarities between the principles of socialism and agile development, and since it seems most Americans are terrified by the mere mention of socialism, I thought it would be fun to go to the US and talk about it. The essence of my talk came from this passage from the British Labour Party constitution:

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that, by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create, for each of us, the means to realise our true potential, and, for all of us, a community in which power, wealth, and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few.

While I drew some inspiration from my flippant title, I mostly talked about how Sharing is Caring, and how important that is in software development.

Giving such a "soft" talk was quite a bit harder than giving a technical presentation, but I was very happy with how it went. I've posted the slides for the Socialist Software Development presentation as well, and I'll update when the video is online.

What's Next?

I've been to a lot of conferences this year, and it's been great presenting at Mountain.rb and RubyConf. The next conference on our schedule is the Scottish Ruby Conference in April next year. All the Elabs developers will be there, and I'm really looking forward to that. Then there's our own conference, Nordic Ruby, in June. This year was amazing, and it looks like the one next year will be even better.

I don't have any confirmed speaking events for next year, but I would love to do a couple and continue to improve as a speaker. But I think I'll limit it to one presentation per conference. Giving two at RubyConf was a bit overwhelming.


Build, RubyConf and Dave Hoover

Today we are 4 people at the office, half of the crew. Jimmy and Johannes, our designers, left on Monday for Build which is a design conference in Belfast. And yesterday CJ and Jonas flew to RubyConf in New Orleans were they will be giving the talk: The Front End Testing Frontier. CJ will also give a talk about Socialist Software Development.

On Tuesday we had a short but very appreciated visit by Dave Hoover, who flew by Gothenburg to see us and join Got.rb in the evening. Early on Wednesday he continued his journey by train to Malmö and Øredev Developer Conference.

A quiet day at the office.


Speaking About Testing and Socialism at Mountain.rb and RubyConf

After attending and organizing it is finally time for the next step, to speak at a conference, two actually, with three talks. Dive in head first. CJ will be speaking at Mountain.rb and RubyConf.

First: Mountain.rb in Boulder, Colorado, October 6-8
The Talk: The Front End Testing Frontier

While most Ruby developers are very familiar with testing their code, frontend and JavaScript-testing is still a new frontier for many. This talk will show you how to easily write and run JavaScript integration tests with Capybara and Cucumber, and unit tests with Evergreen and Jasmine. The goal is to get you excited about frontend testing, and point you in the right direction to get started yourself!

Second and Third: RubyConf in New Orleans, November 11-13
Talk #1: The Front End Testing Frontier, extended, with co-presenter Jonas Nicklas
Talk #2: Socialist Software Development

Socialism is often portrayed as pure evil by US media (hello Fox News), yet many socialist countries are ranked as some of the best countries in the world (Newsweek). So maybe it's not all bad? If you look at job listings for software developers, it seem like a lot of companies are looking for "programmer rock stars", "coding ninjas", etc. There is a romantic notion about the ultra productive independent super developer. This talk examines software development from a socialist perspective.

Might we get better results and provide more value if we set aside our egos and work together?

CJ Kihlbom is speaking at Mountain.rb