Monki Gras 2017 Conference Recaps

Some of our 2017 Monki Gras attendees shared their thoughts about the event. We’re gathering their write ups here for convenient reference. Enjoy!

Documentally – Monki Gras 2017

If you want to get a multi-media feel for the conference, look no further than the amazing coverage of the event by Documentally. Video, photos, text and tweets all combine to richly tell the story of the conference.


Rodney – A Day of Knowledge and Laughter at Monki Gras 2017

Rodney provided an excellent recap of Day 2 of the conference. Some of his highlights include:

    – “treat your code as a luxury product”
    – “Metaphors dictate how we think, how we behave, how we perceive, and how the conceptual system is built. We understand argument is war (i.e. “his criticisms were right on target”). But what if we changed this? What if we understood argument as dance?”
    – “Products are never perfect, so what happens when something goes wrong? They (typically) get recalled. However: (1) what warrants a recall? (2) How are owners notified? (3) Who’s responsible? … the noticeable difference between physical products and commercial software is that we refer to recalls as ‘updates’ and this often causes confusion since there is no distinction between software that is simply being updated and software that is being recalled.”

Rodney also shared some lovely thoughts about overcoming nervousness at the conference. He was worried about meeting new people and concerned about his technical qualifications. As someone who recently had (and still occasionally has) these fears, I am empathetic to these concerns; it’s refreshing to see them discussed openly and honestly. I know I speak for all the RedMonk team when I express gratitude for our community and the work they do to help newcomers to the industry feel comfortable.

I also loved Rodney’s aside about Roslyn Scott’s talk: “On a side note: as a diversity scholar, it was inspiring to see a black woman give a talk at such an event, and I hope there is more to come!” Me, too!

Bybreen Samuels – My 5 Takeaways From Monki Gras 2017

Bybreen shared some great lessons from the conference, including:

    1. Power to the Consumer: “Having a firm handle on the meaning of the value proposition and the needs of all types of customers is imperative. Because creating elegant code and product design must always be in service of consumer satisfaction.”
    2. Storytelling: “Storytelling is an ideal way to explore the technological landscape to provide meaningful consumer engagement around a product or service.”
    3. Distribution: “Micro content platforms are effective mechanisms that improve experiences for both creator and consumer. They are democratic landscapes because everyone has easy access as there is no cost of entry.”
    4. Developer Framework: “Whether you’re building open source, commercial or cloud software, there are common features to bear in mind. The five key areas are; documentation, diagnostics, default, delivery and delightful.”
    5. Event Planning: Bybeen shared some kind remarks about the conference overall. She focused on the various ways an event can help people feel included, from the diversity scholar program to the code of conduct to the vegan meal options. “If you’re looking to attend a high quality, expert peer led tech conference, then I highly recommend Monki Gras 2018. See you next year!”

Jennifer Riggins – Convenience: The Innovative Way to Package Your Startup Branding

Jennifer provided a fantastic recap of Claire Giordano’s talk, Gone Girl With The Dragon Tattoo On The Train. The talk focused on how convenience has disrupted the written word, including:

    1. The e-reader: E-readers have made it much more convenient to consume books, as “now everyone can carry as many books as memory and battery can hold.” It also democratized the publishing process.
    2. Snapchat and The Economist: How does a 173 year old publishing platform increase its brand awareness with new audiences and adapt to changing technology? Through experimentation. “The magazine is experimenting with different forms of content — also including virtual reality — in order to find out how best to reach their future audience, while still maintaining message and standards. This data-rich experimentation — because it’d be a waste if they weren’t measuring it all — is something we all could learn from and mimic.”
    3. Twitter and Instagram offer new ways of storytelling: Using Marcin Whicary’s delightful experience at the typewriter museum as an example, Claire shows how “a slow reveal in a serial way” via new mediums can create powerful storytelling.

Jennifer closes with a summary about how these lessons in storytelling translate for software. Good storytelling goes hand-in-hand with packaging and convenience. “With everything you do in growing your startup, remember to package it in a way that makes it easy for your customers to find delight in it.”

ioanavasilescuspotlight – Spotlight at Monki Gras 2017

“While some industry events have a very corporate feel about them these days, Monki Gras was like a breath of fresh air: less pitching and more content!”


Matt Reid – Three Conversations I Had At Monkigras 2017

Matt captures three interesting conversations he had at Monki Gras:

    1. David Pollack: “There are 2 types of thinking in programming. Accounting and holistic. In the accounting model (which comes from banking) everything has to be counted in and counted out, there is no room for mistakes and your programs must reflect that. With the holistic approach we don’t worry about the little stuff.”
    2. Kiyoto Tamura: “Don’t hire a marketer as a start-up. Finding your product market fit can only be done authentically by the founder. Hire as many marketers as you like after that.”
    3. Pablo Sande: “If you think you can build something better than someone else is already doing, go out and do it.”

Arianna Aondio – Lessons learned at Monkigras2017

Arianna shared seven fun insights and takeaways from the conference, directly quoted below.

    1. When crossing a road you should first look right and then left(this is number 1 because it’s a survival tip)
    2. Tin cans have been invented in 1811 and can opener has been invented 1855: weird
    3. Open source software is free like getting a free puppy: you still have to take care of it and feed it and clean up after it!
    4. Bubble wrap was originally intended to be used as wallpaper
    5. In software there are no recalls, just updates(naming is essential here)
    6. Don’t take your metaphors literally. Juliet is my sun does not mean she will also give you skin cancer
    7. In Italy we don’t put pasta into packaging, we put it in dishes: Dish As A Service

Credit: all quotes and photos are attributed to their respective authors. Please visit Documentally, Rodney, Bybreen Samuels, Jennifer Riggins, ioanavasilescuspotlight, Matt Reid and Arianna Aondio to see their full reviews.

Packaging and graphical “voice”

Putting this conference together we’ve been thinking a lot about the visual design and voice involved in creating experiences. We’re working with a different designer this year, Sarah Mcdonnell, who has created many amazing designs for big brands. The graphical language for Monki Gras has come together really nicely and now we’re applying to your experiences of the conference.

We wanted to capture the “packaging” theme, with patterns, and create a cool new logo.


It’s a Wrap like Aphrodite


So Monki Gras was all the fun! Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. We had



We’ve finally sorted out all the video ready for your pleasure and delectation, and so we’re sharing the goods with you here. But it goes much further than that. The fact you came to Monkigras 2016 indicates you’re a friend of RedMonk, so you should be all the happy about some improvements we’re making to how we do things, based on LESSONS LEARNED.

First I want to give a heartfelt thanks to all our speakers. You were LIT!

That in mind we’re currently working on a website redesign, all the better to highlight the awesome talks at our events. Because our MAGNIFICENT SPEAKERS give talks you won’t see anywhere else. They make them CRISP like CRAFT CIDER. So we’re going to do a proper job of celebrating that with things like PROPER LIGHTING, MORE CAMERA ANGLES AND dare we say PRODUCTION VALUES.

But of course our events are really about the idea and story curation, design and craft experiences, the food, drink and the community. It’s about you. So thanks to our attendees and of course our epic and conscientious staff.

The theme worked – Homebrew: Turning Side Projects into Communities, Products and Companies. Tom Wilkie from Weaveworks won the inaugural Monkigras craft competition.

At the end of day two this year one of our attendees came up and said simply – “thanks, you made lightbulbs go off in my head.. In places which haven’t seen light for some time.”

That is incredibly humbling, why we do what we do, and want to do it even better.

Special thanks to Saffron and Anke, Ben, Jack, Rob and Dan – our production angels. Also Helgi, Lucy, Maya, and Handsome Rob. And of course our wonderful suppliers Company Drinks, Colemans Cider, Kernel and Drum Popcorn, The Kernel Brewery, Partizan Brewing, Aphrodite’s Food, Bow Food, Raw Cheese Power, Soffles Pitta Chips, Dark Arts Coffee, Hackney Lick Ice-cream and Mani Life Peanut Butter and ChicP Hummus.

Foods and Drinks and More Talks

hummusThis year we have a list of suppliers that aren’t just local, make really tasty food and drink, and fit into the theme of side project to main projects to companies. We’ve also had an entirely new theme emerge.

Food and drink are always a big part of monkigras. It’s not just about keeping everyone fed and watered and happy, it’s also a chance to give people who do something differently a platform to talk about it.

Our journey of talking to people who talk to people who knew people ended in finding suppliers who care, and not just about creating something really tasty. We seem to be looking at new ways of sourcing raw materials, as well as using up unwanted resources. Finding creative ways of dealing with food waste, developing new models of food sustainability and emphasising food equality.

We’ll have drinks and talks from Alpine Wines,  Colby Brewery, London Brewing Co, The Kernel Brewery, Coleman’s Cider, Toast Ale and beer from Partizan Brewing

And foods from Bow Food, Aphrodites Food, Wise Sage, SofflesRaw Cheese PowerChicPDrum and Kernel PopcornHackney Lick, and ManiLife.

Can’t wait for you to try all the things!

A word from the non-coding crafter and knitting circle facilitator

10959131_10155159667395068_4943357324312581790_nLast year was my first monkigras. It was full-on madness. Not only was I invited to run the knitting circle on the Friday afternoon but I also gave a talk – the theme was Nordic crafts, and my choice was easy, really. Models in Icelandic jumpers, not boring slides. It was great.

I’d never been before. I knew James and his conferences/parties had been on my radar, but never in a million years would I, as a non-coder, have intruded in these hallowed halls full of people building great things. I don’t do hack days either, for the same reason.

It’s not like I’m totally non-technical. I used to code. I wrote websites in pure html. Even on the crafting side, the knitting machine I got since last year’s monkigras has a 25 year old computer built-in and I figured that out. (And programmed an Escher pattern, of course.) But I just don’t feel like I’m part of the digital maker scene. I am committedly on the side of ‘helping people even less technical than me deal with the new normal.’

(Although it’s somehow much tougher finding work on this side. So one of my resolutions for this year is doing an Agile Foundation course. I’m scared already.)

Last year’s monkigras dealt with all my inhibitions about attending, and it did it well. I was invited as a crafter, I didn’t somehow have to make my craft relevant to software developers. It was, of course, great for me to run the knitting circle, and I think people enjoyed it. This year’s theme is still craft, with some of the amazing craft beer scene involved, whose beers you’ll get to try, but also some knitting-related content. And I’ll run another knitting circle on the Friday, of course.

We’ll have amazing food, watch a movie and play some games.

Maybe we’ll even get a spinning wheel to admire. I’m still working on that.

Conferences that don’t invite speakers selling anything are sometimes the most difficult to explain. What, nobody is going to tell me exactly what I need to do to succeed? But the people building stuff now are the ones changing the world. What you create is what’s going to affect everyone’s lives – on different scales, sure.

So get your heads out of your code and your plans and into something entirely different and see what happens.

See you at monkigras 2016 – or on twitter.  I’m @the_anke.

Building a Startup in 45 Minutes per day While Deployed to Iraq

I came across this amazing story yesterday and wanted to share it with you, given our theme this year – turning side projects into communities, products and companues. Matthew Mazur built a startup while on active duty in Iraq, which he later parlayed into a role at Automattic. I was interested to learn that the US military actively encourages hobbies or side projects during downtime, which makes a huge amount of sense.

You may one day find yourself in a position where you’re eager to work on a startup but limited by the amount of time you can put into it due to a day job, family or other obligations. In this post I would like to share with you all the story behindLean Domain Search, a domain name generator that I built in about 45 minutes per day during a 5-month deployment to the Middle East. If you’re struggling to find time to put into your startup, I hope this convinces you that you can accomplish a lot over time by putting a small amount of work into it each day.

As for answering support requests from the field, well that’s pretty staggering.

We worked 12-hour days every day for the entire deployment including weekends. I need roughly 8-9 hours of sleep to function at full capacity which left me with about 3-4 hours at the end of each day to have a meal, exercise, shower, chat with my wife, hang out with my coworkers, unwind and maybe work on my side project. In practice, that usually was about 45 minutes per day. Sometimes more, but often not at all.

Fortunately, there were never any major issues with my other projects during the deployment. A few small bugs surfaced, but nothing that impacted many users. I still had access to my email so I could respond to support requests when I had time. And because I was working on the new domain name generator locally on my laptop, I could work on it without worrying that there would be issues in production

I take my hat off to Matthew. He really exemplifies the urge to create and maintain things. His post is well worth a read.

If you’re considering working on a startup but can’t make the leap to do it full time for whatever reason, remember that even a few hours per week can have a huge impact in the long run.

Stick with it. Amazing things can happen.

Renaissance Brewing: The Kernel Brewery, London

Our first confirmed speaker this year was Evin O’Riordain. Monki Gras has featured his beers before, but we’ve never persuaded him to speak though I have asked him a few times – he’s not exactly a marketing kind of person. This year however he volunteered to talk, which is a huge privilege. I think he appreciates what we’re trying to do. It’s a rare opportunity to see him speak.

I really love the Kernel philosophy, which is almost austere in its dedication to good taste.

This interview in the Manufacturer does a good job of capturing some of that way of thinking. He picks his customers, rather than the other way around.

British Guild of Beer Writers ‘Brewer of the Year’ 2011, vaunted across social media, wanted across both the continent and the Pacific, Kernel could easily export far greater volumes than they currently do.

However this would remove the quality control at the heart of the Bermondsey microbrewery.

O’Riordain isn’t necessarily concerned with reputation, his primary worry is how the product tastes when it reaches the lips of the consumer.

This approach may seem baffling to companies constantly seeking demand and looking for the next market to expand into, but the aim at Kernel is as simple as the label that adorns the bottle.

“We want people to drink better beer than they are,” says O’Riordain.

The problem with mass produced beer is that the taste becomes indifferent in order to sell to a wider market, claims the Irish-born brewer.

He also highlights the difference in quality when a beer has to travel across continents, believing most beer needs to be drunk “young and fresh” to realise its full potential.

As for coping with the demand, the Kernel man says the level of interest is beyond their capacity.

“We’ve been very lucky I suppose, though I like to think it’s more than luck sometimes, as our beers have always been well received.

“The demand for them is way higher than anything we can produce, it’s far beyond our capacity.”

O’Riordain believes the consumer experience should be enjoyable right through the supply chain. He looks to work with purchasers who appreciate the product.

“A lot of what I do is actually trying to control the demand, to make sure we pick the right people to work with, the right bars where I would want to go drink and that hopefully charge the right prices.”

Artisan food also tends to be a local affair, and The Kernel applies that to beer, which also ties into the small batch mentality.

Around 90% of what Kernel sell is in London and the decision to keep matters close to home is a conscious one.

The founder believes having a larger number of smaller breweries is better than having a couple of big ones. An abundance of local suppliers offers variety

The reality matches O’Riordain’s ideal with around 50 breweries in London and over 1,000 across the country.

Similar to local organic produce, consumers are catching up with local beers and the value of community support, alongside quality of produce.

“You see quite directly the interest people start to take in where their food comes from. The growth of farmer’s markets, people being able to buy really good quality food that’s often local, that they can buy directly from the person who grows it,” says O’Riordain.

Homebrew: the why

saint peter ale

I wanted a theme for 2016 that riffed off the idea of a Software and Crafts movement. Earlier this year Dave Letorey was talking about brewing beer for this year’s event, so Homebrew stuck.

That is, I had the theme early.

We’re in the age of the side project, in our industry because of open source dominance, so why not look at passion and sustainability and making beautiful things, not because its a job but because its a way of life.

There is nothing more purpose driven than homebrew, or baking, or knitting, or becoming a wine distributor. You do it because you love it, not because it’s convenient. There is something incredibly powerful about that.

Just as with software the brewing industry is being completely disrupted by the growth of microbreweries, many of which began as homebrew. Thus Evin O’Riordain, founder of The Kernel Brewery, one of our speakers this year, when he outgrew it gave his first set of equipment to the talented Mr Andy Smith at Partizan Brewing.

If you’re a regular Monki Gras Alumni you’ll likely remember Partizan for its excellent Fes Stout, which we gave away 2 years ago, with a lovely personalised label in the company’s house style, made by Alec Doherty.

partizan pale

I want to explore the side gig, the talented amateur, the people that make things because they have too. Oh and if you are a brewer it’s time to get your mash tun in now. We’re going to open the tasting up this year to people that love to brew. Please let me know if you make something else you’d like to introduce my lovely community too.


Monki Gras Day 2 – #NordicWomen

At Monki Gras, we celebrated the Nordics concept of talkoot, working together to achieve a common goal by being an active member in the local community.

Since the early 1900’s, International Women’s Day has focussed a spotlight on women’s achievements globally, and reminds us of inequities still to be redressed. This year, IWD is on 8th March, coming quick on the heels of Valentine’s Day, which celebrates love the world over. In these crazy times, a little bit of love and common understanding sure can go a long way.

We want to thank our fabulous female speakers who shared with us their insights, passions, dedication, stories and backgrounds, while encouraging us to speak out more, care more, do more.

Monki Gras thanks our #NordicWomen – we all learned alot from you.

PS You can contribute and follow IWD here: #MakeItHappen.

Saffron Governor was our organiser and curator of all the delicious fare consumed at Monki Gras. With care and precision combined with sheer bloody-mindedness, she scoured the city for exciting, delicious and quality food. Nothing but the best for Monki Gras delegates!
We knew Helena Bengtsson was going to be good; after all, she is the winner of the Stora Journalistpriset, Sweden’s Great Journalism Award, for her work on, a website profiling every candidate in that season’s Swedish elections. She inspired us to be tough, no-nonsense, and to fight for the truth – even if it gets very, very ugly.
Reetta Heiskanen reminded us that our children are the future. She leads a programme which sparks a love of technology education in schoolchildren, and encouraged all of us to help ignite it with our local kids. We all want what’s best for our children, and Reetta is ensuring they are ready to lead us and contribute positively to the IT industry.
Anke Holst is on a journey of self-discovery. She seeks to understand her identity on a deeper level, gifting everyone around her with an immense sense of calm. She also ran a knitting circle at Monki Gras – that’s a first!
Marietta Le is an expert in using the Freedom of Information Act to pursue the truth, open up competitive barriers, and ensure transparency in business. She pushed us to never give up on finding the truth, and to use the tools you have to hand to make things happen.
A banker-turned-developer-turned Member of Parliament, Elina Leopmaki has been there and done that. Her Twitter feed is full of fearless commentary, frequently pointing out the truth behind the headlines. She knows when to speak out, and is knowledgeable enough to make her contemporaries quiver when her fierce eye points towards them. She definitely has a Take No Prisoners approach (and we like that!).
Our relationship with Linda Sandvik began when she attended Monki Gras 2013, and we were delighted to welcome her to the stage this year. She’s a straight shooter with a great sense of humour who tells it like it is. She champions tirelessly to raise the profile of women in tech, and we are proud that she chose Monki Gras to deliver a stellar presentation this year. And, if you can help answer her question about the expense of women’s razors, we are sure she would appreciate that.

Monki Gras Day 1 – Lagom Achieved

So, as usual, Day 1 was epic. We learned how the people of the Nordic region carefully balance reliability with independence from some truly amazing speakers. With a strong focus on open source and data journalism, we all smartened up quite a bit.

We also ate some damn fine food and drank some unbelievably delicious beer and Aquavit.

There’s been quite a bit of Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, Finnish and Norwegian terminology learned too!

But don’t take our word for it.

From the keyboards of some of our fantastic delegates, here’s a wrap-up.