The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Coffee talk: Adrian Cockcroft, technology fellow at Battery Ventures — November 15, 2015

Coffee talk: Adrian Cockcroft, technology fellow at Battery Ventures

Adrian Cockcroft has enjoyed a long career working at the leading edge of technology, having helped Sun Microsystems, eBay, and Netflix build and scale their systems. When he’s not serving as a Technology Fellow at Battery Ventures, he writes and speaks extensively about a range of subjects, including his fascination with what comes next. We talked with Adrian about keeping up with technology trends, what makes something intuitive, and which innovations that have surprised him during the last decade.

How did you get to where you are today?

I started out wanting to know how everything worked and got a Physics degree in London. After, I wrote software for a living until I joined Sun Microsystems and spent my time there explaining how Suns worked to customers. I moved to the USA and wrote a few books in the 1990’s including Sun Performance and Tuning. I spent time at eBay learning about large scale web services and moved to Netflix as they launched streaming in 2007. In 2010, I became the cloud architect for Netflix and started explaining cloud-native architecture to everyone else. In 2014, I moved to Battery Ventures to help find interesting companies to invest in and help our portfolio companies scale.

You’re speaking about complex technology at this year’s upcoming YOW! Conference in Australia. What about the event are you most looking forward to?

I attended YOW! 2013 and found that unlike most conferences, the speakers at YOW! Conference travel as a group from Melbourne to Brisbane to Sydney and really get to know each other.
brisbaneThere is also an opportunity to evolve and tune the content, as well as its presentation. I’m really looking forward to hearing new things and making new friends.

Tell us: how do you define something as ‘complicated’?

Complicated things have lots of moving parts and relationships between them, which are initially confusing to try and understand.

In contrast, what makes technology intuitive?

When we have a mental model for how something should work it becomes intuitive, we can manipulate it and the behaviors become more predictable.

How are complicated and intuitive related, if at all? Is there a specific use case you often share to explain the relationship between the two?

Things that start off looking complicated can be learned over time by individuals and groups of people so that they eventually become intuitive. For example, driving a car is very complicated, not only controlling the vehicle, but navigating roads and around other drivers, but it has become intuitive to many people.

You’ve done some incredible work at well-known companies during your career. What, if any, innovations have surprised you?

When Apple released the initial iPhone, it wasn’t a surprise, but the quality of the user interface experience was so deeply intuitive that it surprised everyone.

I saw a two year old using one of the first iPhones, and that was the inspiration for a hack-day project I did at Netflix to create a Netflix for Kids on iPad demo.

This helped the real Netflix for Kids product get started.

What’s the most challenging part about keeping up with your rapidly changing industry?

I’m constantly exposed to new people and ideas, so the challenging part is to figure out which ideas are going to take off, and which will fade away.

What other industry events, courses, and reading do you enjoy?

YOW! Connected, a conference for developers, by developers

I focus on two kinds of events: developer and DevOps oriented conferences that discuss and communicate the state of the art, like the GOTO conference series, DevOps Days, Monitorama and Gluecon; and management oriented events like CIO summits where my focus is on how to setup an organization to be innovative.

To keep up with the latest news, I use Twitter and listen to podcast interviews with interesting people e.g. SE Radio, The Cloudcast dot Net, The New Stack.

Where can we find you online?

Find me on Twitter @adrianco.

Last, how do you like your coffee?

I love cappuccino.

YOW Connected! is a conference for developers, by developers. Learn more about Adrian’s upcoming panel and register for this year’s event here.

Event Review: Participation is the new consumption — June 10, 2013

Event Review: Participation is the new consumption

As part of the Vivid Ideas festival, community ambassador Mark Woodrow went along to the Participatory Revolution, an event inspired by Michelle Williams, connector, collaborator and  founder of Ideaction.

Panel discusses big Vivid Ideas
Panel discusses big Vivid Ideas on participation

“There is the same power in our phones as what took humans to the moon.” Michelle Williams inspires passion in us all to join the revolution in opening the half day conference at the MCA in Sydney, 27 May.

“This is the era of creativity. Participation the new consumption.”

It’s not what we consume, it’s how we participate

Greenpeace CEO David Ritter defined their early vision with blunt clarity in quoting David McTaggart  “We have to get our world into 21st C in one piece. Fuck everything else.” Greenpeace works by active participation. The latest campaign targets the horrendous damage by plastics on bird life. Two thirds of Australian sea birds are choking on a stomach full of plastic. You can participate by not purchasing from a multinational like Coca-Cola, which shows no interest in recycling. And watch the compelling ad that was censored by mainstream Australian media.

“Greenpeace’s mission hasn’t changed  but now there are many more options for activism.The action items on the menu for social change have expanded in the rich opportunities contained in digital age.”

Participatory democracy and citizen centricity

‘Social media is just a part of a broader cultural change’ according to self proclaimed geek and open data advocate Pia Waugh.  Gov 2.0 means 3 key things:

1. open data, 2. participatory democracy, 3. citizen centricity.

It is good to have Pia representing the thoughtful application of technology in government and promoting that as citizens we should all be central participants. “For two years, we’ve had more people engaging with government online than through any other medium”, says Pia.

Learning to be a citizen scholar

James Arvanitakis is the lecturer you wish you had at University, winning a Prime Minister’s award for being the most popular Australian lecturer in 2012. He advocates participatory education where we trade knowledge to attract students – we need more citizen scholars, as “Students aren’t empty vessels”.

Like newspapers, James believes the model for traditional university education is outdated. Studies show that attention in lectures goes downhill from 12 minutes. James overcomes this by interacting before, during & after lectures with downloads, and interacting on Facebook.

“Knowledge is like a big picnic. If we all bring something & contribute it will be awesome. We need to get students ready for jobs that don’t exist”

Dan Ilic (Very funny MC), Michelle Williams (Amazing Curator), Mark Woodrow (Fetching)
Dan Ilic (Very funny MC), Michelle Williams (Amazing Curator), Mark Woodrow (Fetching)

Know your sense of purpose

People are interested in doing the right thing and changing the conversation, according to Paul Bennett, Creative Director at renowned design firm IDEO. But to truly participate we need little less conversation, a little more action. Paul recommends we:

1. Have a higher purpose. ‘Know your sense of purpose’, but it needs to be integral, “Purpose is not a layer that you just add on top”.

2. Make stuff. ‘Less talking more doing’ is what leads to human centered design.

3. Be transparent about success & failure. Leap forward into growth rather than step back into safety.

4. Play well with others – collaborate. Assume the good.  “If you care about solving problems, you can’t try and own the solution”

The rule at IDEO is that everybody is in it for everybody. Incredibly IDEO puts everything online. You can see it all, download it. frameworks , designs etc. According to Paul:

“Burning eyes are the business eyes of the future”

The Maker Movement

Yammers Steve Hopkins is all about eliminating silos.  “How you make things is as important as what you make”. Makers are true participants and they are on a different schedule. For a further insight read Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule versus Manager’s Schedule

For projects to work, Steve’s suggest’s the Yammer formula:

“Two to ten people in a team for between 2 to 10 weeks. Never longer”

For Ian Lyons, the ‘maker movement’ is increasingly creating value. Ian makes drones (pilot-less flying machines) and suggests you investigate over funded projects on crowd funding platforms,  such as KickStarter. These are a great source of market research. Collaboration is the key – find a community that will help you build what you want. There are great Australians ‘Maker Spaces’ including  Robots & Dinosaurs, Ozberry Pi, Ninja Blocks and Dorkbot. These vibrant, creative communities that provides access to tools, software, space, ideas and support. As do #coworking spaces. You just need to search them out to participate.

The time is now. Reward collaboration over competition. Join the participatory revolution. Vive la révolution!

About our Ambassador // Mark Woodrow. Prefers the more informal self-appointed title of No1 Fetch Fan.  Runs a design and communication consultancy, The Galaxy. Resides at Hub Sydney. On the NSW Board of International Assoc of Business Communicators. You can connect with Mark on Twitter @markwoodrow

 

Event Review: Vivid Keynote – Johnny Cupcakes — June 2, 2013

Event Review: Vivid Keynote – Johnny Cupcakes

I’m pretty sure I booked my ticket for the Vivid Keynote the day the schedule was released this year. I got my first Johnny Cupcakes t-shirt as a gift in 2006 and the brand has been on my radar since then. They’ve developed a bit of a cult following over the years, proving they are more than just a t-shirt company. Fans of the brand have gotten Johnny Cupcakes tattoos (I even saw a few in the audience during the talk at the MCA).

J cupcakes talk

Johnny Cupcakes (aka Johnny Earle) started the company operating from the truck of his car, selling t-shirts on the road while touring with his band. The company has now grown into a multi-million dollar business with physical store in multiple US locations and now London, in addition to the online shop.

His keynote at Vivid told the story of his journey as a young entrepreneur and the steps that led to starting his company. He also shared some lessons in business that he believes has helped Johnny Cupcakes grow and become a success. I walked away with two main themes that really stuck with me from his talk.

Lesson one: Invest in your company

A point that Johnny made several times was the importance of reinvesting profits into the company. When he was in school he used to buy items like prank toys (i.e. whoopee cushions) and candy bars to sell to his classmates. It sounds pretty trivial until you find out that he was moving about 200 packs of candy per day and making approximately $1,000 in cash that, in the words of Johnny, “the government didn’t know about.” As a young kid it would have been easy for him to spend that type of cash, but he didn’t, he reinvested. He went to the shop and bought more candy or prank toys and was thinking about what was next on the agenda.

He did the same with Johnny Cupcakes, on a slightly larger scale. He talked about how he made his first million by age 24, but he wasn’t rich. He claims he did and still does probably have a similar looking bank account to many people in the room because he always believed in putting back into the brand he built.

Lesson two: Consider what makes your brand unique

Johnny said he gets approached by 50+ young people every day who say they want to start their own t-shirt brand. He thinks it’s great and encourages them to go for it, but does give the advice that they need to consider their own unique positioning. There are thousands of t-shirt brands out there, but what will make yours stand out. Fans camped out for 24 hours waiting for the Johnny Cupcakes London shop to open, and that’s certainly not something that happens for just any t-shirt store that decides to open.

Lesson three: Value the personal touch

I’ve been to a couple really good talks recently that spoke to the important role that “non-scalable” activities can play in startups.  There is so much hype and talk around things like growth-hacking and automation or spending your time figuring out how to maximize output and minimize input in business. So it’s really refreshing when you have someone like Johnny who stands up and talks about how he still writes hand-written notes in customers’ orders some days from the store.

Johnny said details like the packaging were always important to him. It needed to be special and up to certain standards to delight the customers, even if it meant loosing money or a lower profit margin. He wanted to sell his t-shirts in packaging that didn’t get thrown out, and cited Apple as another company who does this extremely well.

photo (17)

Another great story came from when they were looking to build and open their store in LA. Johnny stressed how important it was to create a store that didn’t just sell clothing, but created an experience when you visited it. They hired the same design team that had worked on clients such as Disney in the past to help create the new LA shop. They built fake ovens into the wall that opened and closed by themselves and released fake steam. They spent $700,000 on those ovens (and they weren’t even real ovens) that took them well past the original $60,000 budget for the entire store. However, in the end that risk paid off, and the Johnny Cupcakes brand continues to create an experience for its fans.

Today is the final day for the Johnny Cupcakes Pop-Up Shop in The Rocks. Otherwise, you can check these guys out online at JohnnyCupcakes.com to get your sweet fix. 

Event Review: YOW! Keynote – Mike Lee — December 10, 2012

Event Review: YOW! Keynote – Mike Lee

YOW Mike Lee keynote

What: The evening keynote with Mike Lee, as part of YOW! Australian Developer Conference 2012 in Sydney
Over Heard: “You can’t know what you don’t know. You know?”

I always preach about how I often find the most inspiration when I attend events beyond my industry.  Last week’s YOW! Keynote with Mike Lee was no exception. While Mike’s background is a products engineer and developer, his keynote message had little to do with the technicalities his current work. Rather he spoke on some themes and topics that are relevant not just to someone who identifies as a developer, but rather anyone who has reflected on the meaning of their life work.

A former Apple employee, Mike spoke about how their used to be an urban legend at the company that Steve Jobs once fired an employee on the spot who couldn’t answer the question of what he was working on. It was something that haunted Mike and made him constantly think about his role and purpose at the company. He practiced his one min elevator pitch, so that if he was ever stopped and asked what he was working on – he wouldn’t miss the opportunity to answer. While that day never came, the fact that Mike (and probably several other employees) were so accountable for their mission at the company was a powerful idea.  The power of being focused and to have an idea of what you’re actually doing is important.

Mike also touched on the importance of constantly being forced out of our comfort zones. While we might be fooled into thinking that our brain is constantly lighting up and creating, it actually filters us. We are tricked into seeing less even through these filters of the brain even when it’s right in front of us. This is part of the reason that Mike believes that people who are successful in business are ones who constantly challenge themselves to be uncomfortable.

We are building a future that none of us want.

As builders and engineers helping to shape the future, we can’t help but feel responsible for what we create shared Mike. He shared that he worries a lot about the world and nature and all of its problems we’ve created by inhabiting it. Mike also shared that he hopes his purpose and one min purpose or “why” to life is about giving knowledge to others. He wants to tempt them with information.

I’m just doing my job. Those would be the last words of our humanity.

Just doing our jobs is not enough, but rather we should look to have meaning in our lives. The idea of constantly being ready to give the elevator pitch of our purpose when given the opportunity – a lesson that is valuable no matter what industry you work in.

Event Review: Who Owns Social Media? — October 1, 2012

Event Review: Who Owns Social Media?

Socrates never wrote a single word. He dismissed the (at the time) revolutionary concept of writing in favor of the spoken word.

Similarly, many companies today are dismissing the new-fangled concept of social media in favor of the ordinary forms of communication with which we are so comfortable and familiar. Recent research by IBM found that only 16% of CEO’s are participating in social media.

However, as the panel at the IABC-hosted event ‘Who Owns Social Media’ was quick to point out, social media is here to stay. The uses of social media within a company are diverse, from digital storytelling to the handling of customer service complaints, and will continue to evolve as social media platforms improve. It is therefore crucial for organizations to embrace social media and recognize the benefits it can bring to a business.

The panelists included:

  • Margaret Zabel: CEO of the Communications Counsel and former National Director of Marketing for Lion Nathan.
  • Tracey Sen (@TraceySen): Director Corporate Communication, Dept. of Education.
  • John Kerrison (@jkerrison): Senior media advisor, NSW Government and former presenter, Sky News Business. John is also a former reporter for the ABC, Nine and Sky News teams.
  • Patrick Southam (@GSGCounsel): Partner GellSoutham Group, former Head of Corporate Affairs ING and VISA.

The panel agreed that we are currently in the ‘beta’ phase, working to understand how to capitalize on social media, and, importantly, decide who within an organization is best placed to have ownership of, and responsibility for, social media. Should it be the management, marketing, communications, customer affairs or legal team that steps up to the social media plate?

This point was hotly debated, with some panelists suggesting that ownership of social media should be shared within an organization, while others believed that social media should be the sole responsibility of a dedicated team, such as the communications team.

Regardless of who ‘owns’ social media, the panel generally agreed that organizations would inevitably face a social media crisis at some point. However, the benefits of social media outweigh the challenges it presents, and there are mechanisms that companies can put in place to minimize the impact of a crisis. The panel suggested that companies:

  • formulate internal social media policies and crisis management strategies that build on existing risk management protocols;
  • decide on their social media model before they engage;
  • establish quality control mechanisms;
  • provide social media training to their employees, particularly to ensure that there is collaboration and accountability; and
  • experiment with social media and learn from their experiences.

The panel’s message was clear – don’t be afraid to embrace social media, because what is now new and mysterious will be second nature in the future.

About Ambassador // Ally is a lawyer with a passion for media, advertising and social media law. You can follow her at @allyeveleigh

photo: @NancyGeorges

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