Mark Stephens Mark Stephens has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and has diversified into HTML5, SVG and JavaFX. He also enjoys speaking at conferences and has been a Speaker at user groups, Business of Software, Seybold and JavaOne conferences. He has a very dry sense of humor and an MA in Medieval History for which he has not yet found a practical use.

BoS conference – what you are missing

3 min read

Boston BoS 2010
Boston BoS 2010

The Bos conference (#Bos2010 on twitter)  is now onto day two and I afraid to report (rather smugly as I choose to attend) that you are missing a great conference.

Day one kicked off with Seth Godin at his best, telling us about marketing in the post-industrial world. The fact that everyone now has ‘a factory’ with a laptop alters the world as profoundly as ‘the factory’ allowed capitialism to replace skilled craftsmen with unskilled workers and machines. Coding competence is no longer a scarce resource so if you want to thrive in the IT world you need to offer something more as well – if you heard his talk you will know the alternative and if not, you can get some ideas in his latest blog post. He gave a brilliant visual picture of how Autocad had missed the future – imagine if Autocad not only designed the architecture but allowed you to tender the contract for windows and swap ideas and parts with other users!

David Russo reminded us that business has 2 functions – to be profitable and to continue to be in business. He presented detailed data on software companies cultures – you have one whether you actively develop it or not – how the founders can create a nurture it, how it effects your employees, and how difficult it is is to change. ‘Bureuacracy’ and ‘Autocracy’ do not work well for high tech companies. Did you know that 49% of all companies believe they are radical and different?

I have heard Dharmesh Shah do 3 talks and this was his best yet. He talked about the economics of running an Saas business model and how you need lots of capital because customers initially cost you money. He gave some insights into how hubspot looks at their discretionary churn – given the choice did customers who were not locked into the product choose to stay or go and the stats they use to measure how likely that is – how often are customers using the software, how many features, and it turns out that some features (which you can’t predict) are sticky features which help keep customers. Hubspot tries to give the customer a voice – they had a teddy as a representative – at all meetings but not a veto on development. He described brand as ‘what people say about you after you have left the room’. His advice as a very successful ‘hackpreneur’ was dream big, execute small.

Eric Riles told us to stop wasting people’s time and pointed out just how much time we waste building stuff that does not ever get used and that we should have often realised this much earlier. As most first ideas do not work, we need to change direction early and ‘pivot’ in a better direction. He ran through how he used the Lean startup method to get minimal product out and learn quickly to avoid wasting peoples time. I particularly like the feedback loops he created where he always analysis problems (the 5 whys) and allocates an hour to the problem – over time things happen and time is allocated very efficiently to where its needed.

Scott Farquhar talked about how he had grown Atlassian into a major international IT company  and gave his 10 ideas. He recounted how it was much better to have 2 founders to get through the lows – having to interrupt your honeymoon to with the customer details being hacked  – and share the highs of raising VC capital for a very successful business. He showed how Atlassian always gather data and rigorously test everything and how using creativity and generosity in dealing with customers and staff works very well for the company. Did you know that many people choose the premium version because it comes with the cool, free teeshirt?

Jason Cohen explained how he had believed that there was only one set of winning rules and that sales was something he had to get sales guys to do. It turns out to some extent you set the rules. So take lots of advice but remember the context and trust to your gut feeling. Jason ran through lots of company examples inclusing SmartBear, 37 signals and Mint to underline his points. There is a really good write-up of the talk here.

The lightning talks put 5 ‘non-professional’ speakers on the floor for 7 minutes with 15 slides changing every 30 seconds – it is pretty scary for the speakers but brings up some amazing shows. You could have learnt how to make 7.5 billion dollars, how to improve social interaction online, what Kamikaze can teach software developers and a whole lot more.

That’s just a brief summary of day one – we still have 2 days to go….

Lastly the conference has been a chance to meet a huge range of both technical and non-technical software people from big and small companies across the globe, washed down with very liberal amounts of free food and drink.

I have been to 3 BoS conferences and this have been the best yet in terms of ideas and value. If you are missing the conference, I have no sympathy for you, because I did tell you to go. If you are at the conference, what do you think has been the best part?

Mark Stephens Mark Stephens has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and has diversified into HTML5, SVG and JavaFX. He also enjoys speaking at conferences and has been a Speaker at user groups, Business of Software, Seybold and JavaOne conferences. He has a very dry sense of humor and an MA in Medieval History for which he has not yet found a practical use.

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