The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Featured event: counting down to YOW! 2014 Conference in Australia — November 17, 2014

Featured event: counting down to YOW! 2014 Conference in Australia

This is a promoted post from our friends and Kickstarter backers at YOW! Conference.

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Melbourne 4-5 December | Brisbane 8-9 December | Sydney 11-12 December

Over 2,000 tech professionals will learn from the best and are expected to attend YOW! 2014 Conference which operates across three cities, with 42+ Speakers39 Talks and 24 Workshops.

There are over 42+ national and international software authors, thought leaders and world experts presenting this year about the latest practices, technologies and methods in software development and delivery. Many speakers have not presented in Australia before so this is a great opportunity to learn from them while they are in town! You can download the list of speakers here.

Topics covered in 2014 include the latest in Agile & Lean, Microservices, Architecture & Design, Functional Programming, Big Data & Analytics, Web & UX, DevOps, Performance & Security, Mobile, and Languages.

Check out the 10 Reasons why you should attend YOW! 2014 Conference.

So your mind is made up. You’ve seen the line-up and the location. You will be attending YOW! 2014 Confence in December. Now a common challenge… how to convince your boss to let you go? You’ll find some information that will help you and your boss make an informed decision here

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To make the most of the opportunity, YOW! also offers smaller workshops with some of the visiting experts:

These workshops are a great way to learn specific skills, network and brainstorm with international field experts, local thought leaders and other talented developers about the latest practices, technologies and methods. Don’t miss out as places are limited.

Learn more about the workshops in Melbourne on 2-3 December or  Sydney on 9-10 December.

Interview: Melbourne local, Steven Farlie of OpenTechSchool — January 22, 2013

Interview: Melbourne local, Steven Farlie of OpenTechSchool

This week, we chat to Steven Farlie – the person bringing OpenTechSchool in Australia after he was across the initiative in Berlin. The workshops supporting education and sharing across diverse backgrounds in technology are kicking off in Melbourne next month. Stay tuned for more event announcements in upcoming Fetches and we’ll see you there!


What is OpenTechSchool and how does it differ from user groups, dev bootcamps and the like?

We are a group of volunteers who offer free programming workshops. It began in Berlin back in April 2012, so we are still fairly new. Some of us became quite fond of OpenTechSchool in Berlin and decided to start up local chapters once we left.

Our workshops are fairly small and we like to bring a lot of coaches who are themselves professional programmers. There is only so much you can teach in a couple of hours so we like to keep it practical, keep it fun and encourage people to experiment.

It’s all open technology, and free of charge, so why not just have some fun and poke around?

In addition to the workshops we have a regular beginner meetup. These are usually evenings where we have a couple of talks such as introductions to algorithms or programmers talking about how they started programming. Beginners also share their experiences over the past few months with a particular language or personal project.

You started out with clear positioning saying OTS was for women? What prompted you to change the language?

We started after the first RailsGirls Berlin workshop, so OpenTechSchool is from the women in tech movement but isn’t specifically women in tech, if that makes any sense. We like to think of ourselves as complementary to organisations like Rails Girls and Girl Geek Dinners. There is a strong cross-pollination of coaches and organisers and we hope to keep that going over time. The fact of the matter is that the women in tech scene is the most fun, vibrant and exciting community in technology right now and OpenTechSchool wants to bring that to everyone.

picAn OpenTechSchool session in Berlin

Why do you think it’s important the wider popular and diverse groups learn to code?

The issue of empowerment is often overlooked and yet so much of our lives are controlled by technology. When someone learns how to program then they start to experience technology in a much more informed way. Possibilities open up and people are able to solve problems that programmers haven’t even considered. From farmers managing their crops with Android apps to journalists crunching data with Python you can actually get a lot done without having to be a professional programmer.

One the other side, bringing in a diverse group of beginners actually strengthens the community. Many of the things we do as professional programmers are actually dictated by history or convention, often with detrimental results. Beginners ask the right questions and call us out on doing stupid things that we’ve always put up with before. The end result is that our original assumptions get challenged and a lot of really good ideas come out.

You started out of Berlin – have you noticed many differences between Melbourne and it? Where else is OTS headed?

After Berlin I will never complain about the weather in Melbourne ever again!

Of all the places I’ve been in Europe I found Berlin to be the most Melbourne-like. Both are multicultural, dynamic cities with a lot of new things happening all the time. It’s interesting that there are so many analogues between the two, even in the tech scene. Berlin coworking spaces usually have a spiritual equivalent in Melbourne, though the Berlin ones can be quite large. We both have interesting startups and well established larger tech companies. I say to people if you love Melbourne you’ll also love Berlin.

We’ve been a bit lucky, starting in Berlin. There are so many expats and temporary visitors that movements like OpenTechSchool can spread very quickly. We have plenty of Germans, French, Americans, Australians and Italians on the team, and when people do leave they have a tendency to take OpenTechSchool with them. Stockholm is quite well established now, having hosted several workshops and beginner meetups. Soon we hope to also be in Munich and Paris. We even made a blueprint guide on our website for people wanting to start an OpenTechSchool chapter in their city.

What can attendees expect on the day? What tech knowledge do they need to know beforehand?

All we ask is for people to bring a laptop and a smile. Our beginner workshop does not require any programming knowledge at all. Our coaches are there to help people with any problems that they have. We design our workshops to be at your own pace, so there is no such thing as “being behind”. We try to get a basic level of coursework that most people will finish before the end and then add extra topics for people to explore. All our coursework is free and available online after the course, and all software we use is free so you can continue the journey after the workshop has finished.

What upcoming events should we keep a look out for?

After the beginner Python workshop, well, maybe I shouldn’t say, but… things might get a little political! The past few years have seen a rise in data-driven journalism and some people have expressed interest in seeing what actually goes on behind the scenes. In case you haven’t heard, data journalism is the new punk. If enough interest is there we might do a workshop looking at things like transforming economic and political data into infographics and maps.

Check out the first event with an Intro to Python here!

For a great round-up of upcoming programming events and news from OpenTechSchool plus other related goodness, subscribe our free email digests via The Fetch.

About our Curator // Kate Kendall is the founder and CEO of The Fetch, a community where professionals can discover and share what’s happening in their city. Before this, Kate led product, content and digital at magazine companies, handled outreach for new startups and organised too many communities and events to mention. Follow her on Twitter at @katekendall.

Interview: Melbourne local, John Barton — October 29, 2012

Interview: Melbourne local, John Barton

This week, we chat to John Barton – the previous dev manager at Envato and now a tech cofounder at movie-review startup Goodfilms.

John Barton in the office

Name: John Barton
Website: &
Twitter handle(s): @johnbarton & @goodfilmshq
Works: Doing tech for Goodfilms

You are co-founder of the social film review startup, Goodfilms. Tell us about the story behind how the site started…

The site started off much more as a little hobby project for Glen [Glen Maddern – John’s cofounder]. It was just a tiny little web app to help him keep a list of films people were recommending to him. At the same time, I was maintaining a spreadsheet of the IMDB top 250 films, and tracking which of my friends had seen what so we could organise movie nights.

After plenty of discussions at the pub, it became clear that if two people like us had to invent their own ways to organise what their friends have seen and recommend, that there was actually an unmet need out in the market and that maybe Glen’s side project (with a little love and funding) could be it.
Glen pitched the idea to Angel Cube [a Melbourne-based startup accelerator] mid-2011, went through the program, then we secured funding in early 2012 and I came on to the project full time around then.

Goodfilms homepage

Goodfilms is based in Melbourne. What do you like about being based here? Do you think startups need to head to the US considering all the stuff happening now in Australia?

I love the depth of the engineering community in Melbourne. There are a lot of really talented developers based here. I reckon there’s one or two really solid tech meetups every week where smart people get together to talk about their craft.

I also just generally like the quality of life here, and the fact that it’s not a huge tech hub keeps everything very grounded.

I really hope that startups don’t need to head over to the US to succeed. We’re unsure as to whether we will need to head over at some point or not. If you’re doing a tech startup with an at least semi-traditional business model that is in place very early then there’s definitely no need to go overseas; those kinds of products are well understood and respected here.

Aiming to do something big like a social network, in a market as big as film is… well, we’ll see…

Any cool wins or shareable challenges with the site to date?

The biggest challenge for us, as tech/product guys, has been making the time to work on all the business-y parts of the business. It’s far to easy to put your head down and work on the product and then find it’s been two weeks since the last time you did any marketing, and without the marketing, no one is going to see your hard work.

We’ve just had a couple of really good months, since the start of August we’ve grown our registered user base by a factor of six, hit the Reddit front page, got a really nice write up on Lifehacker, and a bunch of other awesome things.

All that came from Glen and I realising that one of us needs to wear the business hat at all times and really push the business forward, not just the product.

Generally I think the big wins are attached to big challenges, and it certainly was the case in this instance.

Previously you were development manager at Envato. How did you find the transition from managing code to managing people (and code)?

I found the transition incredibly difficult. Thankfully I was just managing other programmers. It’s a lot easier to wrap your head around people management when the people you’re managing share the same skills and motivations as you – you can empathise more easily with their needs and offer concrete help when they’re in difficulty.

One of the big challenges was that it was very early days for Envato, and none of us had done much like what we were doing before. Collis, Envato’s founder, had never managed anyone before either. As tech was the largest team at HQ, I was the sole middle manager with no peers to swap notes with, or more importantly, vent my frustrations with.

Probably the single biggest thing that got me over the hump in that role was hiring Pete [Pete Yandell] as my second in charge. We had strengths and weaknesses that complimented each other really well: he had experience from managing teams in startups, but no real desire to get into the nitty gritty admin and – I was the exact opposite, no experience but enjoying doing anything and everything to make the team productive.

What was your first job?

My first “work” was running a shareware stand at a local market every weekend. We all pooled our pocket money to buy floppy disks, spent Saturdays copying games like crazy, and then made a tidy profit on the Sunday.

My first job was working in the kitchen at the 24 hour McDonalds in Geelong. That was exactly as fun as it sounds. I still haven’t eaten McDonalds since (11 years and counting).

Some of your other roles have included gigs at MyCareer and The Vine. What culture and company size do you prefer working for?

My strong preference is to work for a product company over services. I like companies that are big enough to have people to collaborate with, have big problems to solve, but are still small enough you can engage directly with the users of your product.

My best work gets done when I settle into a groove with a product. Once you get to know the people using your product, and get to know the ins and outs of the problem your users have it increases your chances of finding an unexpected way to solve it.

Who else do you think is doing good stuff at the moment – both locally and globally?

Globally I’m really fond of Kickstarter. I love that they’re changing the way creative works get funded. I love their design: even from their header it’s clear what it’s for and how you relate to the site.

I’m also keeping a close eye on Etsy. Over the past couple of years they’ve taken their engineering up to another level. If you’re interested in scaling up web applications, the posts coming out of the team blog and a bunch of the individual engineers are amazing.

Locally I think the Adioso guys are smashing it right now. It’s perfect for me that they finally nailed the routes I’m interested in and got the price alerts system just right before I took the big income hit to do a startup. I may just be able to afford a holiday thanks to them.

What keeps you driven and focused each day?

This is a surprisingly tough question to answer. I’d heard over and over that startups are like a rollercoaster ride. They really are. Depending on whether the day is up or down it changes.

On a good day, it’s just flow. Things click into place, I’m not even aware I’m working until all of a sudden it’s starting to get dark. On a bad day, it’s just sheer bloody-minded stubbornness. Those days I just pop the headphones on, swear at the computer a little bit, and then keep plodding along.

Do you attend any meetups in Melbourne – which ones are worth heading along?

I’ve been attending the Melbourne Ruby Group since mid 2007. That’s a really good meetup if you want to meet a lot of smart, switched-on web developers.

I’ve made it to a couple of the new Creative Mornings Melbourne talks over in Collingwood. They’ve been really great, and I find them pretty good for getting out of my pure tech comfort zone.

There’s usually more I’d like to go to, but I’ve never got the time.

You stated on your website that you’re … “pretty serious about the serious things in life: Bikes, Books, and Booze.” Where in Melbourne do you love to ride, read and drink?

It’s kind of funny, but since diving whole-heartedly into a startup – my riding and drinking have changed a lot. The reading is still the same.

These days I’ll usually do a quick training ride around Yarra Boulevard. The view over the city is stunning, it’s pretty much devoid of car traffic, and it’s got enough hills that my legs feel it even though I don’t have the time to do a more dedicated ride.

I’m very, very fond of Double Happiness on Liverpool St for a cocktail or two. It used to be a regular haunt of mine, but since startup life I haven’t really had the income to drink there regularly. Nowadays you’re much more likely to find me in the beer garden of The Retreat or The Resurrection (both in Brunswick).

I’m pretty fond of reading in any beer garden, anywhere. Fleming Park in Brunswick is another good choice. The little nest I make in the middle of the lounge-room on the floor is probably my all time favourite though.

What’s next for Goodfilms and John Barton?

For me, that’s easy. I’ll be doing whatever it takes to push Goodfilms to the next level. I will take occasional breaks for sleeping.

For Goodfilms, it’s all about growing the user base and the ratings dataset we’ve got. Glen’s a serious wizard with maths, and once we’ve got all the data we need, you can expect to see a pretty amazing recommendation system that combines your taste with the movies moving through your social graph.

Lastly, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

I don’t know that it was necessarily advice, but my boss at MyCareer told me when I started that “I can make any mistake I like once. If you don’t make any, you’re not trying. If you make the same one twice, you’re not learning”.

He was true to his word; I had some made some monumental mistakes as a junior programmer there, and I always had his full support. Except when I did screw things up twice, and he came down on me like a ton of bricks. Which I deserved.

When I had a team of my own I gave everyone the exact same instruction. I try and manage myself the same way. For me it’s the right balance between the freedom to try new things, and the discipline to make sure you do them right.

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