SXSW Interactive 2011 Day Two

Day 2 started off a bit rocky but then got really good.  I tried to get to the Lean Startup: King of the Apps Showdown session, but the shuttle buses take a long route and are few and far between, so I got there pretty late.  I saw snapappointments.com, snapwebsites, Planzai, Icebreakr,and mapomatic all get their app and pitch critiqued by a panel of folks – Robert Scoble, Eric Ries, Dave McClure, Bill Boebel, and Stacey Higginbotham. They demanded mapomatic release right away, and told snapwebsites to remove half of his features.  I was ambivalent about this advice – I can see streamlining the UI to hide advanced functionality, but “remove functionality”? Sure, a simple app has a wider reach, but if you can effectively provide an advanced mode/version with more functionality that professionals need, wouldn’t that be better? I just don’t like how all these apps are degenerating into one very narrow function “plus it checks you into Foursquare!!!!”  Bah.

They joked about how many of the candidates had “Snap” in their name, and then on the bus on the way back I met a girl from TeamSnap. They have a site that lets you arrange sports teams, even take Paypal payments for team dues, very slick.

And congratulations to friend of the blog Lenny Rachitsky (@lennysan) of Localmind, who has been singled out by Scoble as “best SXSW app so far!” You should all go download it from the App Store now.

Then I tried to go to the session on How To Innovate At Big Companies, with Gene Kim of Visible Ops fame – I left the AT&T center early and went all the way to the Hyatt. But it was so full they had 30 people standing outside only allowed in if anyone left. So I went over to the Hilton to try to catch Mistakes I Made Building Netflix for the iPhone. And it also had a line of “one in, one out” standby people. Son of a bitch.  They better be videoing this stuff. Anyway, at this point it was too far into the slot so I just went to the Screenburn Arcade, which was fun. Got my picture taken with Loren Wiseman of Traveller fame – apparently the venerable RPG is being turned into an iPhone MMO!

To recuperate from our disappointing morning, Peco and I went and had a burger at Casino El Camino, which takes a ridiculously long time but is worth it, they have the best burgers in Austin. We hooked up with Cote and John Willis there, and then went to the Etsy Code as Craft: Moving Fast At Scale event which was brilliant and DevOpsey. Continuous deployment, only coding off trunk, logging and metrics, “dashboard driven development”, and more. A lot of the topics have info on them on the Etsy Code as Craft blog – they didn’t record the talk but promise to record it the next time they give it and put it up.

I took a lot of notes but the high points were:

  • They have open sourced their log collection/graphing tool, Logster, and their stats collection daemon, statsd.
  • They perform hundreds of releases a month but only had six “bad deploys” over the course of a year by combining one-button deploy, testing, feature flags, and a  theory of roll-forward. No more organized releases, release managers, rollbacks, all that stuff.
  • They have a cute “deployinator” dashboard that lets people (and not just coders, they have more people deploying than they have developers) do the deploys – they’ll open source it, but stressed that it’s not much technically, the culture and practices are 99% of the work to get to this.
  • They use a lot of chef but don’t use it for code deploys because that’s a simple task that they need more control over.

That was a two hour event, so then after a little VIP partyin’ atop Fogo de Chao, we packed it in for the day.

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