Travel Notes From London: Scaling Ideas at Monki Gras
by Diane Mueller

Diane Mueller, February 14, 2013

Cloud Evangelist Diane Mueller returns from London’s 2013 Monki Gras event from which she is still recovering from the inspiration overload and processing all the innovation input data she ingested.

For those of you who haven’t heard of “Monki Gras” or its North American counterpart “Monktoberfest,” I am grateful. I want this conference to stay small, intimate, agile, and not get over-exposed.

It has been almost two weeks since the two-day event took place in London, and I have finally recovered from the sensory overload of information, best practices and processes for scaling “craft.” Whatever your craft might be -- software development, product strategy, human resource management, brewing the best craft beer on the planet, or in my case securely scaling an open source project -- there was something to be learned from all fellow crafters at this event.

Scaling Craft From London Breweries to IBM

Hosted by the RedMonk Analyst Group, Monki Gras brings together techies, analysts, brewmasters of all kinds to explore how social trends can change the way we build and use technology and how in turn technology can change the way we socialize.

This year’s theme was “Scaling Craft,” which gave the organizers the perfect excuse to invite all the best UK craft brewers to join the party and share their experience.To take it all in, I had to “scale” my brain’s scant computing resources.

In this small TED-like conference of open-source developers and brewmasters, I was humbled to share the stage with some of the most innovative minds who talked about scaling their passions, from small-scale craft brewers to IBM’s general manager of design Phil Gilbert. I was also enchanted by Shanley Kane’s epic journey into Dante’s Inferno as a product manager, deciding what to build and more importantly paying down his technical debt.

The most significant insight came from Beavertown Brewery’s concept, “make sure you have an outlet for your product,” in reference to a craft brewer who has a pub where he can at least sell beer if he cannot not find anyone to distribute it.

As a software vendor, ActiveState initially took the position of saying “no, we will not host a PaaS.” However, in these days of everything-aaS, we eventually understood that having a public “sandbox” was a necessity. At ActiveState, we made sure that the out-of-the-box experience for deploying our PaaS was awesome. But a lot of folks did not even want to go through the unpacking process, and were just interested in the instant gratification of a publicly-hosted sandbox. So Beavertown Brewery brewmaster was definitely onto something here. It was interesting watching the nods of agreement in the audience as the brewmaster’s point resonated with everyone in attendance.

Phil Gilbert, IBM’s general manager of design, unexpectedly rocked the house by sharing IBM’s design history that took us back to the selectric typewriter days. IBM certainly has a long way to go to regain its heyday as design god, but Gilbert showed us that IBM was indeed well on its way. He talked about the downsizing websphere/weblogic product list from 21 distinct product offerings to four, and the impact that design has on the culture and way of thinking within IBM.

A better World For Beer Drinkers

It should come as no surprise that perhaps the most well received presentation was that of Untappd’s co-founder Greg Avola on how what we share affects what we drink. His business model of scaling untapped (think foursquare for beer drinkers) involves sticking to a mobile application-only platform, gamification, and leveraging open source (PhoneGap). Avola demonstrated that indeed two guys in a garage can scale and create a monstrously awesome product that makes the world a better place for beer drinkers everywhere.

Afterparty Thoughts

Some things just don’t scale, and Monki Gras is one of them. The intimate setting, the connections made over a steaming cuppa java or a fine cuban cigar, and meeting some of the most innovative minds in the business was a heady experience. So yeh, forget everything I just told you about this conference. Stay small, don’t scale Monki Gras. Just make sure I get invited back again next year!

The Cure for Monki Gras’ Withdrawal

If you are like me, going through Monki Gras withdrawal and having visions of @monkchips ranting about beer and clouds, you are probably impatiently waiting for the event’s videos to be uploaded. To cure my RedMonk’s addiction, I have compiled a list of all the presentation slides I could find online just so I could get a bit of post-Monki Gras buzz on. Here are the ones I could find, if you have others, add them into the comments and I’ll update as they come in:

My presentation on scaling the @discovertotem’s project with open source:

@rafeco of etsy fame:

@shanley’s product management inferno:

@cra’s twitter as craft:

@gregavola’s untappd lessons learned:

@theSteveO’s science guy speech:

@philglibert’s IBM Design Thinking:

@heroku’s pitch for culture of craft

@github’s pitch for scaling happiness:

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Diane Mueller is a Cloud Evangelist at ActiveState. She has been designing & implementing financial applications at Fortune 500 corporations for over 20 years. Diane has been actively involved in development efforts of XBRL Open Standard ( since 1999.