Day 0 – Friday, 22nd July

One lesson from this trip to Tasmania; a good holiday starts one day before it starts.

In the past I’ve taken taxis or trains to the airport on the day of my flight all the way from Western Sydney. This adds about an hour and a half to my trip. When the flight itself takes less than two hours, that is a pretty significant amount of time spent between places I actually want to be.

This trip included my first experiment with an overnight in the city. For reasons that will become clear in Day 1, we were booked on a 7:30am flight to Hobart. Add arriving an hour before take-off, and I’d have had to wake up around 4:00.

Waking up at 6:00 instead feels like luxury by comparison, and the early Uber (another first!) through the city was a pleasure as well. Sydney actually looks very nice in the morning sun before it gets cluttered up with cars and people.

Salamanca Place

Salamanca Place – every Saturday off-limits to cars, and filled with markets

Day 1 – Saturday, 23rd July

The reason for the unholy early departure? Salamanca Markets. Held once a week on Saturday morning in the prettiest street, in the friendliest city, on the most beautiful island in the world.

The markets run from early morning till about three in the afternoon. There are exactly two direct flights from Sydney to Hobart. The one at 4pm misses the market, so 7:30am was the only choice that avoided a stop-over in Melbourne and a relatively late arrival to the markets.

Our flight landed a bit earlier than expected. Hobart airport is small. No, no, really small. We exited the plane from the front, only to find a disturbing lack of air-bridge to meet us. One step past the doorway onto the metal stairs to the tarmac the first blast of antarctic air greeted us. I had joked about this scenario during the flight, but it wasn’t nearly as funny when it was real. I prepared with three layers that proved less adequate to the task than I had hoped.

Shadows on a wall in Battery PointLuckily it didn’t take long to get through the terminal, through the heated shack of the car rental, and into little i20 companion for the following 6 days. A zippy little demon in an orange colour I could only describe as Burnt Tamarind*. The drive from the airport to Hobart is very straightforward… except for the part where Salamanca Markets block of a significant number of streets around Salamanca Place. This would not have been a problem if not for the fact that my chosen hotel was in a side-street off Salamanca. Luckily road-side parking is not particularly hard to come by.

The markets were well-worth the hassle of working around an early flight. The stalls hawk a lot of the typical market wares; jams, sauces, candy, arts and crafts. But overall the calibre is above your average market. There is also a remarkable general lack of repetition between stalls. Granted; knives with wooden handles could be found in several places, and there were several stalls of woollen clothing and leather bags. But they were not the same clothes or bags. It’s sad that is remarkable, but there it is.


Salamanca Place, at night after wet snow has molten.

The markets also provided an immediate introduction to Australian snow. Wet snow, almost rain, but when it flurries in that unmistakable way it most definitely isn’t rain anymore. The breeze through the markets was very reminiscent of Winter Magic in Katoomba. Specifically: freezingly unpleasant to the hands and face. Sadly it wasn’t quite cold enough for snow to gather in Hobart itself to add some further magic to the scene.

Most delightfully (to me), at the end of the market, when time came to rush back for a final purchases before the freezing vendors were ready to pack up early, we encountered an Oliebollen stand. Four fruit ones with powdered sugar and four raisin ones with cinnamon sugar disappeared faster than I would have believed possible. I blame the weather.

(* in-joke in case anyone from work wanders past… basically: a dark orange Hyundai)

The Huon River, about 45 minutes south of Hobart

The Huon River – blustery and freezing, but also very peaceful and beautiful

Day 2 – Sunday, 24th July

Time for our first road-trip. There are roughly three directions out of Hobart; south, north-west and east. Our first choice was south towards the Huon Valley where they grow beautiful pale yellow pine wood.

Before setting off, Abbey and I had breakfast at the Retro Cafe on Salamanca Place. Coffee and Eggs Benedict. On two further mornings I broke the “no repeat visits” rule to grab a quick coffee from the cafe. I could blame it on the horrible convenience of its position, but it really was also just good coffee.

Salamanca Place at night with fairy lights

The great thing about Hobart is how far you can get in just 30 minutes. Let me explain. In Sydney, you cannot really get anywhere near to escaping the city in anything less than an hour. From Hobart, within 10 minutes you’ll be wondering where the city went. I’m pretty certain nothing is more than 30 minutes away. This weird scale distortion holds within Hobart itself as well. On more than one occasion I over-estimated distances, because looking at Google Maps counting blocks usually gives me a pretty good sense of distance. Hobart blocks are smaller. Much smaller. You can probably Tetris 4 Hobart blocks into the space of a single Sydney block.

Metal art outline of a man at Salamanca Square

This makes a road-trip out of Hobart a very convenient adventure. We spent the day not much further than 45 minutes away from home-base, but it felt like touring far into the wilderness.

It also quickly became clear that on Tasmania you’re never very far away from water. It’s baffling to consider how high prices get bid in Sydney for the tiniest bit of water frontage, when on the island it comes by the kilometre. We must’ve spent a good two-thirds of the 120km we drove right on the waters’ edge with no house in sight.

We had a brief stop along the way at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed. Sadly we were out of coins at the time, or we’d have had a wander through the “Apple Museum”, if for no other reason than to find out what it might be.

We stopped in Huonville to have a quick look around. Small Tasmanian towns on Sunday are not as open as we were used to. We managed to get a look at some rickety antiques, but otherwise were quickly back on our way. It was peaceful out there though, I would have liked to sit down somewhere with a hot beverage and just enjoy the crisp smell and the silence.

A little further on our tour we could not resist the stop at Pagan Cider for some cellar-door tasting. I’ve had quite a lot of cider, but nothing quite as authentically flavoured as Pagan. The Cerise has a deliciously tart cherry flavour – not that of a sweet additive (I’m not looking at you, Rekorderlig), but of actual cherries. And the Apricot cider was mouth-watering on first scent. Four bottles of Cerise and a half litre of Apricot formed the first part of our serious return-flight over-weight.

We also stopped at Peppermint Bay, where I had been before when my parents were over for their first Australian trip. That time we took a boat-trip out, which turned us in a captive audience for spending at this restaurant. It was much more pleasant to have a quick quiet coffee and a delicious brownie looking out over the Salmon farms in the bay.

And then to be able to leave again at our own timing.

Too tired to go out for dinner, I hunted down some Thai on Menulog and went for a wander down to Battery Point to retrieve the Honey Pork Ribs and Rocky Road Chicken … Thai Fusion you see. Also, spectacularly tasty. Hampden Road looks like the place to be in Hobart; next time I may need to pick accommodation somewhere up there.

Salamanca Square; a statue of a dog papparazzi taking a picture of a bunny Marilyn Munroe

Salamanca Square – hiding place of metal art and delicious food

Day 3 – Monday, 25th July

Monday was to be a slower day with a lunch-time trip into the CBD to grab coffee at Cultura.A mediterranean looking building on Hampden Road As it turns out, besides serving the most delicious coffee with a vague hint of forest and sunshine, they also serve a fantastic Italian lunch menu. Not knowing what to expect I ordered a beef and veal gnocci which sounded somewhat unremarkable on paper. I could happily re-visit Cultura on a daily lunch basis (if lunch didn’t come catered at work); it is most definitely “just” a pasta dish, but it was prepared most flawlessly. Not a bite was the slightest bit chewy, or too hot, or too bland.

It would have made for a perfect lunch if but for one glitch. While detoured into a pet shop on our way back to the car, a parking inspector decided to check on our car that must have been all of 5 minutes out of funding. We saw him stick something to the windscreen, wander back to the parking meter and then disappear as we were walking up to the car.

It is annoying to have a fine overshadowing an otherwise fantastic lunch. What made up for it somewhat was the amusement over the hefty $40 cost of the fine. Hobart is most definitely a different world altogether.

Shiver Me Timbers on Salamanca Place

I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening exploring around on foot by myself. I couldn’t resist stopping by Normann & Dann on Salamanca Place for some chocolates. Spoiler: also better than their looks betray. Followed by a slow meandering wander through Battery Point with my 6D at the ready for anything worth shooting.

Everything is so much more picturesque than I can afford to show off in this single blog post for fear it’d take forever to load. I think the latitude affords the city a somewhat stretched golden hour in the evening. Probably also in the morning, but I didn’t have occasion to find out on account of sleeping like a log.

What also amused me was the prevalence of piratey-themed everything around the place; from candy and books to shop signs. Not excessively so, but most definitely more prevalent than in a city like Sydney. I suppose leaning off the mountain into a cozy little harbour with quite so many coves and hideaways about has a way of playing with the imagination.

Bottom of Pinnacle Road with snow against a rockface

Bottom of Pinnacle Road – start of the climb to the summit of mt. Wellington

Day 4 – Tuesday, 26th July

My birthday. The intent was to drive to the summit of mt. Wellington overlooking Hobart for the dual purpose of getting some more pictures of the sights, and to stand in some proper full-blown snow in Australia for only the second time.

Badly done sign for the Fern Tree Inn at the bottom of mt. Wellington

Alas, it was not meant to be. I should have looked ahead on the internets to look for road closures. It turns out that Pinnacle road leading to the summit is kinda prone to snowing in over winter. There were several “guards” at the turn making sure only local traffic was allowed onto the road. Quite a few people were in the same predicament and making the most of it at the foot of the mountain. There was just about enough snow for atmosphere, and someone had jokingly created the tiniest snowman on the corner of the street.
Six-inch snowman at the bottom of mt. Wellington

We would have had a stop at the Fern Tree Inn at the foot of the summit, but for two impediments; Google recommended against it with a dismal 3-out-of-5 score, and the place was closed. I think both factors saved us from what would likely have been an exceedingly disappointing coffee experience.

I took a few more shots around the inn, including their horrendous sign. Full metal, a good meter-and-a-half across, with a poorly pixelated image of the ridge of the summit (see above). If there is a more succinct way to capture not caring, I do not know of it.

We ended up heading back into Hobart itself for some nice sushi at “Sush Track” (not a typo), with the most twee electronic menu including all sorts of train-themed animations when placing orders or calling for waitstaff. This, followed by a wander uphill to Daci & Daci Bakers to just have a coffee… but alas, their impressive display of cakes suckered both me and Abbey into eating more than we should have. The Hazelnut Dacquoise was fantastic.

I spent the afternoon digesting and reading back in the hotel.

For dinner I chose pizza at Hearth; a very homely little restaurant inside what looks to be just an ordinary home. There’s nothing quite like a meal next to a wood fire. And for dessert (exploding already on the way in), I had to finally try what delights The Honey Badger had on offer. Although my Belgian Waffles with Fruit, crumbled Tim Tams and salted caramel ice cream wasn’t as Belgian as I had hoped, the ice cream was spectacular enough to more than make up for it. I wish I had had longer to sample the rest of their menu. Alas.

Monument to Abel Tasman

Monument to Abel Tasman – on Salamanca Place, a monument to the Dutch explorer

Day 5 – Wednesday, 27th July

Wednesday was reserved for MONA.
Boats in the harbour reflected in the water

I somehow feel like I should not say too much about the Museum of Old and New Art. It is a peculiar place. The logo consists of a “+” and an “x”, which prominently feature in the guidance app on the iPhones that everyone is handed at the start of the exhibit.


Close-up detail of the Abel Tasman monument

“+” is for Love.
“x” is for Hate.

For those are the two emotions supposed to capture your feelings about the exhibits. They are all intended to elicit only the most extreme feelings.

I found myself at a loss to choose a few times, but it is remarkable how well it works for the most part.

Love: the duelling whiteboard marker and brush on mechanical arms trying to fight over who controls the m mounted whiteboard.

Hate: the artificial digestive tract that had just prior to our arrival used “the toilet”, leaving a perfectly formed (and smelly) stool on a plate.

Love: the furry couch that whimpers when you walk past it without paying attention, purrs when you pet it, and barks when you sit down.

Hate: the 30 synchronised screens showing different singers doing simultaneous renditions of Madonna songs.

For a mere $75,000 you can become an Eternity member of the museum and have your ashes post-mortem made part of the display of Faberge-like eggs that are actually urns. Three spaces already occupied.

Tractor statue outside Coal River Farm

Coal River Farm – metal tractor art out front the farm shop

Day 6 – Thursday, 28th July

The final day was meant to be a completely stress-free road-trip out west.

Southern aspect of mt. Wellington across the river

I recognised many of the places I had been with my parents as well. I had completely forgotten our side-trip into Richmond stopping at Puddle Duck, and the Wicked Cheese Company. I even think I recognised the woodwork shop we went through together. I think we had really great scones as well, but I could not recognise which of the many old houses along the road might have been the one we stopped at. None of them jumped out from my memory.

What rushed the afternoon along was the sudden realisation when Abbey tried to check into the flight back to Sydney, that her ticket was for September 28th, not July. A most curious mishap, but enough reason to cut the road-trip short and head for the airport instead.

Within 30 minutes the ticket was changed with a minimum of drama.

The only remaining fright was our 12kg post box of souvenirs, including Sloe Gin, Sheeps-Whey-Vodka and various other odds and ends. At the other end of our flight, the box appeared to be… leaking.

We both tried to detect the smell to guess at the victim.
Nothing cheesey.
Nothing volatile enough for alcohol.
A puzzle.

In the end it turned out the MacGuyvered ice brick (a lunch container with ice cubes in it) had started leaking after melting, and was leeching through the box.

I had a great 6 days. I wish I’d had time for 6 more, if for no other reason than to work my way systematically though Daci & Daci’s cakes.

Letterboxes in a bend of the road.


Dare to be Blue

This year I took part in the #worldsgreatestshave except minus the shaving. I promised to colour my hair blue for a month, and until April 11th I’ll be maintaining my current locks. I raised $1,189 at the time of this writing, just shy of a LEET $1,337 but not to be sneezed at.

(If however you feel inclined to help me part of those last $148 to the finishing line)

I prepared earlier in the week by bleaching my hair. As it turns out it isn’t quite as dark brown as I thought because 30 minutes in I looked in the mirror and panicked. Granted it looked lighter than it proved to be, but still…


On Friday 11th March, in the kitchen at work, I had some assistance with the turning blue. Thanks Farnaz; see, there was really no reason to panic, it came out just fine!

I was surprised at hoe many people expressed disbelief.


“Gosh you’re brave!” to a confused look on my face.

I’m not in the habit of backing down from a challenge, let alone a self-imposed one. As yet I believe my 365-challenge is still the greatest testament to my stubbornness.

And despite all my advertising and pestering, there was still at least one colleague who did a double-take after the fact and as of this morning was still wondering what was going on until I explained. Clearly Worlds’ Greatest Shave is not as universally known as I had thought.


It’s been a fun experience so far.

And if you want to see the results in person, find a way to see me before the middle of April. Time flies, so you better get in quick!

Camera 360

Long Time between Drinks


It has been a long time since my last post. I have not much for an excuse other than being busy at work.

I foolishly volunteered to do a 45 minute presentation slot at DevCamp which was held this past 17th – 19th in Terrigal at a hotel. It is great to work for a company that values the less tangible benefits of its whole Engineering department taking a 3 day hiatus to brainstorm together and inspire each other.

Preparing my presentation took more time than anticipated. As always, I went stupidly ambitious with my concept and then followed through. I had to dig through 2-3 years of Incident Reports and Weekly Engineering Meeting notes for my raw materials, and put together a presentation on how we could leverage what we are learning there more effectively. Despite having had no time to practice the presentation itself, it was a great success on the day. And miraculously it dovetailed into 2-3 other presentations at the camp without even trying.

As a matter of fact, I have to say, the quality of all the presentations was remarkable.

Now. I may have gotten myself into some more trouble by volunteering to submit my presentation for a public conference later in the year. I won’t say more than that just yet… but it’ll be both exciting and terrifying (and a lot of extra work to adapt the content) if that comes off.

Personal Loss

Over the same quiet period we sadly lost our eldest fur-baby; Obie.


He was a lovely rescue from the Animal Welfare League, and came with a great mix of quirks and qualities. We got him at the “ripe old age” of 4, and when he passed away 2 weeks and 1 day ago, he was 17 (I believe).


Although since his passing it has become obvious he was the source of a lot of the mess around the house. He and Amber were definitely not equal partners in the hairball and peeing department. Still, he made more than up for it with his cuddly nature. I’ll always remember him in winter crawling under the blanket and sticking his head out on the pillow lying on his side… like the proper human he was.


He is irreplaceable, so I’m not even going to try.



Split Once More – Fully Sick

I’m going to give separating the more techy-businessy content from my blog another try. I hear good things about Medium and my employer is going to start a tech-blog on it as well, so this seems as good a time as any to plunge into the depths.

My Medium profile can be found at: (no posts yet)

And my “publication” is at (also no posts yet), and will hopefully move into a sub-domain here soon.

I’m feeling half-fine-half-unsettled-half-bored today. The reason I have found time to set up Medium and write this post is my semi-mystery illness.

As I was driving to my scheduled massage yesterday afternoon, I developed a stomach ache. I didn’t think more of it than I might have had too much of the candy from the new bowl I got gifted at work. A good massage is sufficiently painful that I didn’t notice the pain get worse.

Pins and needles and other sharp things in the abdomen are not fun. Abbey quickly drove me to the doctor as a precautionary measure, and as I was sitting in the waiting room the pain mostly subsided again. The doctor didn’t find anything, but did note I had a temperature and suggested flu. It felt like flu by then.

Home again, sweating on the lounge, extra painkillers before bed.

Then I woke up this morning, all flu-symptoms gone again, but the pain in my abdomen back, albeit less severe. Through the day I’ve had two milder recurrences of the pain, and the best guess currently is that I ate something that didn’t agree with me.

Not what I anticipated for my Friday, and it’ll screw with my weekend too.

But maybe I’ll get some more writing done?

Modest XMAS List

Dear Santa,

I know I am a little late with my list this year, so I hope these wishes do not give you too much trouble in the busy lead-up to the day.

  • Firefly – Season 2 through 4, preferably on BluRay
  • A Reddish Green T-Shirt
  • Paul Erdős’ annotated proof for P≠NP
  • Srinivasa Ramanujan’s annotated proof for P=NP
  • A Pet Dodo
  • A functional time-machine (featuring controls to go both back and forward in time)

I look forward so much to the 25th.



YOW Conference – #yow15

I had not been to YOW before myself. In my previous job I had sent my team there though; the timing works out perfectly for a business that tends to be quiet over Christmas and the new year.

I had been to TechEd before, and that was the closest benchmark I had.

YOW definitely wins on a broader scope of topics, and yet not so scattered that it was hard to find a relevant topic in each session timeslot. I have been to TechEd with timeslots reserved for walking the floor, because despite 5-6 sessions running in parallel there wasn’t one that I actually wanted to see.

TechEd wins on the catering front, hands-down. But then, in all the years I went, it never ceased to amaze me how well-oiled the Microsoft conference machine is, and the amount of effort they put into a great show.

Having said that, YOW wins hands-down on cost… it’s kinda the way they pitch their conference – focused on the technology and affordability at the expense of spectacle. I don’t think that’s a bad call, because TechEd was definitely never a trivial sell to management.

And yet… the one point I have a hard time qualifying specifically; YOW doesn’t feel as amenable to making new connections on the floor. During sessions the focus is on the speaker, and during breaks it is on getting some food and finding a place to eat it. Maybe it’s the TechEd lunch set-up around large tables that force you to sit down with strangers that helps? Maybe it’s the social evening of fun they put together (one year: go-kart-racing in the parking garage… yes… seriously) that makes friendly conversations easier to come by. I don’t have a clear answer, but YOW does feel stiffer than TechEd.

Having said that… if you’re just there to learn, the set-up is ideal.

Keynote 1 – It’s Complicated…
Adrian Cockcroft

To my shame, I barely remember the opening keynote.

I hadn’t had coffee yet.
I was trying to work out when I was going to be where.
And then I had 11 sessions and 3 more keynotes with memorable elements.

I think it just displaced (almost) all my memories.

The one thing I recall with clarity is the question how it can be that the most complex piece of technology in existence today is usable by kids as young as 2 years old in a meaningful way; the mobile phone. Something about it’s design is the pixie dust that hides the million things you don’t want to do right now.

Session 1 – Rethinking MVC with React Native & ReactiveCocoa
Ben Teese and Sam Ritchie

I was only superficially familiar with React before this talk, so it probably wasn’t aimed at me. But I still learned a lot about the way React uses it’s Virtual DOM to do delta-updates on-screen, and how that can be made to translate to native apps on mobile devices as well.

I believe Angular 2 is going down a similar path of supporting some kind of Native variant, although I may have just dreamed that. Either way; not quite relevant to me at the moment.

Great talk though, good speakers, especially the groan-worthy punny pictures.

Session 2 – 40 Agile Methods in 40 Minutes
Craig Smith

Spoiler: it’s actually 50+ minutes; the session ran a little too slow to make good on its titular promise. Having said that, it was a very enjoyable whirlwind through a lot of Agile Development approaches (some of which didn’t look anywhere near as Agile as they purported to be).

There were a few slides that specifically piqued my interest, but the pace prevented me from taking notes, so I look forward to the slides getting published. Especially the slide with a book that Craig recommended as providing a good underpinning of why Agile works.

Great talk, and more useful than the frivolous title might lead you to believe.

Keynote 2 – Using Formal Methods to Eliminate Exploitable Bugs
Kathleen Fisher

Oh yes.

Totally this.

It’s been only 17 years or-so since I graduated from University, and at long last the central pillar of the Computing Science program of Eindhoven University of Technology is actually becoming useful.

See ma, my degree has practical applications in the real world!

And apparently, Australia is one of the fore-runners in this field. I don’t want to say it’s because of me, but hey… I’ve been here 17 years now. Coincidence? I think not!

In all seriousness, it is great to see Formal Methods taking their rightful place as a central tool for the development of provably correct software.

Session 3 – Adaptive Security
Aaron Bedra

The key tenet of this talk was: exploit your logs; exploit them for all it’s worth.

Know what your messages mean, count them, and then look for patterns. And then act on those patterns. And start simple, because the business knowledge that produces will lead to requests for more of the same, and before you know it you’ll be tracking and measuring everything.

I couldn’t think of better real-world advice.

Even beyond just security matters.

Session 4 – Production Haskell
Reid Draper

This was by far the greatest disappointment of the conference to me. Based on the excerpt I had hoped to see some samples of practical use of Haskell in a real-world production scenario.

In the end I walked out before the session was over, because I just couldn’t muster the will to look at further tool-chain scripts to build Haskell. That was so not the point I was coming to see.

I’m sure I could figure it out myself, but I wanted to come and be sold on the idea.

Session 5 – Pragmatic Microservices: Whether, When and How to Migrate
Randy Shoup

I slumped through this; not a bad talk, but after a full week of Udi Dahan, there wasn’t really a lot more anyone could tell me about big balls of mud and how to take bites out of them.

I had hoped those nice big open questions in the title would lead to new practical insights, but I think I just kinda zoned out and let my afternoon snack digest.

Not a bad talk, just nothing much in it for me.

Session 6 – Property Based Testing: Shrinking Risk in your Code
Amanda Laucher

This talk felt like a “missing link” between Formal Methods, Unit Testing and .NET Code Contracts. After listening to it all, I like the idea of higher-order tests, and I see how you could leverage them in procedural languages.

But it feels like perhaps it’d be easier to just go Functional, or use Theorem Provers instead of wasting this approach in its pure form on C#. Still, I like the ideas underpinning this way of testing, because as I’ve blogged previously, I’m very unsatisfied with the cost/benefit balance of most of the automated testing I have been exposed to in my working life.

Keynote 3 – Engineering and Exploring the Red Planet
Anita Sengupta and Kamal Oudrhiri

Anita is a great speaker. Kamal was clearly nervous.

Having said that, it’s hard to botch a topic as inherently interesting as trying to land complex and fragile technology on another planet within a very small target area. It’s hard to appreciate how awesome the stuff is that JPL and NASA do without someone explaining all the details that you’d never have thought of.

I secretly suspect there are still a lot of Waterfalls in these places to deal with the careful design required for a release that you don’t get a second chance at. Once it leaves the planet, it better work.

Also, it made me want to go and see The Martian again.

Session 7 – Building Microservice Architectures in Go
Matt Heath

This was actually a very fun Microservices talk. Not as much hands-on Go as I might have hoped, but some very salient points were made. It hadn’t occurred to me before that the combination of a language that statically links everything together with a very lightweight container is immensely powerful for Microservices / Service Oriented Architecture.

I guess he just made a very compelling case for dotnetcore without even realising it.

Also, he was an excellent and engaging speaker. He felt by far the most polished out of the speakers I saw. Having said that,… the thongs were visually incredibly distracting.

Session 8 – Agile is Dead (Long Live Agility)
Dave Thomas (Pragmatic)

And just as I thought thongs would be about as distracting as it could possibly get. Bare feet on stage.

After this talk I feel very self-conscious about my use of the term “Agile” as a short-hand for Agile Development Practices. A very well-put rant against the commercialisation and co-opting of common-sense to extremes where it just stops making sense altogether.

I suspect the fifth agile tenet that he can no longer remember might have been “Pizza over Steak”; that sounds like something a programmer would declare.

I guess the biggest lesson from this session is a cautionary tale; to keep an eye on the practices you follow and to make sure you don’t fall in the trap of trying to buy Silver Bullets. We all love them so much, and we know they don’t exist, but we still buy ’em.

Keynote 4 – Thriving in a Stochastic World
Don Reinertsen

And this one takes the title for “dullest yet most worth taking note of”.

The speaker reminded me of a professor with a slow drone. I’m glad I managed to barely keep my eyes from shutting, because the key thesis on how to exploit the asymmetry of the upside and downside of experimentation in an unpredictable environment is a great lesson for all start-ups. Heck, all technology businesses.

I would have hated to miss that nugget.

The lead-up to it, I could have done without I think. Maybe start closer to that point and then spend more time on concrete examples, and it’d be a much more relatable talk.

Session 9 – Making Hacking Child’s Play
Troy Hunt

This one was a lot of fun. Also terrifying.

For opening gambit: a dumb YouTube video showing a terminal with a clueless teenage voice-over explaining how to DDoS someone with a “ping -t” command, and how it’ll only work if “your network is powerful enough”.

A brilliant feint.

Later in the session, the most terrifying thing ever, an early-teen girl, in her early-teen bedroom, speaking into a laptop webcam selling DDoS services to knock your gaming competitors off the net. And completely serious and real.

We live in a world where the tools to disrupt services on the internet can be wielded by the completely clueless. It’s like a phaser; you just point and hit the button and stuff happens.

Very effective presentation.

And also, we’re all doomed.

Session 10 – DevOps @ Wotif: Making Easy = Right
Alexandra Spillane and Matt Callanan

Another talk that didn’t quite make good on its title, but nevertheless a talk with some interesting points.

Basically, Wotif ended up crawling out of the pit of despair by creating a better deployment story, but rather than using the hard-sell, they developed it alongside their existing deployment path and then let market economy take care of the rest.

“Do you want to go in the release queue, wait weeks, then have your code hit production; all safe and secure, or would you like to use this faster SLIPWay which can turn around your deployment in an hour, but you’ll have to change a few of your assumptions and processes?”

These were the only paired speakers that had put their talk together so that their perspectives complemented each other well. Not flawless, but definitely seamless.

Session 11 – Play in C#
Mads Torgersen

The biggest under-sell of YOW.

The title doesn’t do the content of this session justice by a long stretch.

For warm-up, we walked trough the history of C# (Mads leads the language team at Microsoft), with some miscellaneous barbs and snipes aimed at Georges Saab who did a Java talk before this session.

“C# 1.0, back in 2000, where we introduced value types”, /significant long silent glance to Georges/.

Poking fun was only the secondary purpose of this quick retrospective, because his real purpose was to show the language evolve to where it gained Roslyn. And then he went into a live demo.

He starts up Visual Studio.
He starts a language rule project.
He starts a nested Visual Studio within which the language rule he is developing lives.
He edits the language rule with code-and-resume.

And as he adds this new language rule and it incrementally applies squigglies in the nested VS, and then adds automatic correction options to apply fixes to the code; I want to play with Roslyn so desperately now. It is FxCop on steroids. It is magical. And also a little meta-insanity. But the good kind.

And then to finish he runs through some of the new language feature options on the table for C# 7. Note that hyperlink right there. That’s the GitHub repo where Microsoft keeps the live list of language feature discussions going on for the next version of C#. Microsoft are now not only open-sourcing their framework, but they have also opened up the design process. So have a look around and be part of the discussion!

It sounds like Pattern Matching by types, strong Tuples and non-nullability are strong contenders for features that might be in. But no promises just yet.

I could not have wished for a better closing session, because it sent me into the weekend very energised. I then proceeded not to play with Roslyn for lack of time after my other chores, but I think that flame will burn through a while longer.

My next goal: devise a talk worthy of YOW and get onto the speaker roster.
It is easy to criticise, but much harder to step up and do it.

Feedback is Fun

Feedback was the most exciting part of the day for me today. It was in a meeting and everything, so what could be better?!

If you detect sarcasm there, oddly… you’d be wrong.

Our 12 person leadership team was doing an exercise with a 9-Box Model and our Head of Engineering tasked us to prepare a self-evaluation and feedback for others as well. Our 9-Box classified Leadership Potential along the horizontal axis, and Performance in the role on the vertical axis. It was a bit daunting.

I spent some time Wednesday evening shuffling names around in lists, trying to work out what made sense. I wrote a whole host of notes for the meeting for everyone. And then I didn’t use any of it when push came to shove.

The feedback session was a mix of some different levels of the Org Chart, which was an interesting concept. Listening to Manager Tools teaches one rule about Feedback above all else: “You do not give Feedback to your Boss”. So of course, I proceeded to give constructive feedback to both my boss, and my boss’ boss.

I think the way this session creeps through the eye of the Manager Tools needle is that this was probably not technically feedback in the sense that they use, in that from bottom to top there is no implicit expectation that all feedback must get taken up. Details.

It was fun though, and incredibly constructive.

Giving and taking feedback can be hard, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. It feels uncomfortable because nobody does it enough. It’s the proverbial rusty wheel of management.

For my part, two things stood out (there were other noteworthy items, that need more time to percolate):

  • I have probably not been mingling enough with everyone, shown by the fact most people had trouble finding feedback (and it’s not because I’m perfect already, thanks mom).
  • I make things sound more complicated than they actually are by over-explaining. Although I do suspect that there are times when I don’t explain enough of the intermediate steps of my reasoning as well in my excitement to draw people to the conclusion. I blame Scott from my previous job for just being too damn quick at keeping up with everyone.

The latter point is definitely the harder for me to fix.

When I get questions, my first instinct is to try to explain the full nuance of the subject in one go. Which isn’t helpful. But then… I hate the idea of people falling into pitfalls I could have warned them against.

I guess until we get neural up-links with better bandwidth than a human voice I’ll have to settle for being Mozart, because my skills are definitely not adequate to being Bach.

(If you don’t recognize the Douglas Adams reference in the last paragraph, click through… it’s probably my favourite quote of his… the whooshing deadlines one is seriously overrated).

#PAXAUS – Day 3 – and scene

I’m not sure what it is about conferences.

They make me… want to do things.

Organise, lobby, create.

Today I feel like I wish I could enhance PAX and level it up into it’s next evolution. I’m not sure what that exactly looks like, but it probably involves some moderator training, a slightly broader net of topics, and maybe some workshops. It feels like PAX has a level of energy around it that is worth harnessing… for awesome.

Saturday I felt a pressing need to lobby politicians and try to help activists get their message across. There were so many people at panels passionate about changing pieces of their world, but obviously bewildered about how to go about it.

Friday, I just wanted to start a gaming cafe where people can play games over a meal. But that sounds like a great way to never have time for anything else ever again.

It’s a constant stream of inspiration and puzzle-pieces shifting around in my head.

And there is never enough time to think it all through to conclusions. I’m thinking I should give up some of my TV time in favour of writing time, lest these ideas end up indefinitely detained in the cage inside my brain.

Sadly, all of that is going to have to take a back-seat to my NaNoWriMo now; I have a 30 day deadline, and Tycho signed my messenger-bag with a “Godspeed” when I told him, and now it kinda feels like he is going to haunt me till the end of the month, and possibly beyond if I fail. I have to live up to his well-wish, or I’ll fail on two levels simultaneously.

Also, he has seemed possessed in the comics more of late, and I shouldn’t take any chances.

It was a great time, and I wish there were more of it. Even while it is exhausting. Or perhaps because of.

Thanks PAX, thanks crowd, thanks atmosphere.

And thanks Robert Khoo for picking Australia. That was cool of you.