defragx-logodates

Once again, I live-blogged the Defrag Conference in Denver. This is the tenth year of this great annual tech event, and I’ve attended them all. The original idea was to get together to defrag our brains and stop to think about where technology is headed — what’s coming next. I’ve met and interviewed so many great people at this event over the years: Brad Feld, Seth Levine, Fred Wilson, David Cohen, T.A. McCann, and tons of other tech leaders, investors, authors, and more.  Not to speak of many fellow tech observers, analysts, writers, bloggers, PR people, and notable geeks who’ve come to be frequent collaborators and friends. I’ve also connected with old buddies, like the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, and shared some huge laughs. Attending this conference is almost like going to camp each year. I just wouldn’t miss it! (Especially when I was one of only three guys who had perfect 10-year attendance records.) Eric and Kim Norlin and their team do such a great job putting on Defrag.

So, what was on tap for discussion at the 10th annual? Lots of topics: AWS Lambda, microservices, blockchain, APIs, machine learning, AI, insights about developer marketing, bare-metal cloud, and other geeky stuff — presented by an impressive band of speakers… founders, CTOs, rock-star developers, tech evangelists, and other crazy folks. Always a fun event. And what you don’t learn in the big room, well, you can learn in the Tap Room each night till the wee hours. (Oh, and we talk a lot about sports, too!)

My play-by-play updates are posted below, now in archived chronological order, from Wednesday morning November 16th through Thursday afternoon November 17th — all posted live, in real-time from the Omni Interlocken Resort, in beautiful (warm and sunny!) Colorado… well, until it snowed in the final hours.

Graeme November 15, 20168:16 pm

Arrived at the venue this afternoon – unbelievably nice weather here in Colorado!

Graeme November 15, 20168:23 pm

I’m likin’ the view out my window…

Graeme November 15, 20168:24 pm

Sneak peak at the logo board before the event fires up tomorrow…

Graeme November 16, 20167:45 am

So I was up at 3:30 am — sigh, still on Minnesota time. Did a blog post, on my other blog (gtamarketing.com), then went down about 6:00 am to the awesome Omni fitness center to work out. Tons of other guys there, too. Herewith, my view from the treadmill of a gorgeous sunrise… (and there was a very cool full moon as well!)

Graeme November 16, 20167:53 am

The room darkens, I take my third row seat — pretty much the same one I’ve occupied at Defrag for 10 years! I’ve kept this baby warm for a long time…

I’m getting pumped — of course the Prince bump music playing right now has something to do with that. (Go, Minneapolis!!)

Graeme November 16, 20168:27 am

Eric Norlin is giving his opening remarks – the history of Defrag, how Esther Dyson inspired him to start it in 2007, which he did after her longstanding PC Forum conference was retired (the last one was 2006 – I was there!).Then he makes a surprise announcement (though not totally unexpected by me): after a great 10-year run for Defrag, it will henceforth be rolled into gluecon – the much larger developer conference he runs in the spring, here at the same venue. But what a run it’s been! Now on with the show… DefragX: the final chapter!

Graeme November 16, 20168:45 am

Tim Wagner of AWS is the opening keynoter, talking about “Going Serverless with AWS Lambda.” (Info here: https://aws.amazon.com/lambda/.) What is it, you ask? Well, it’s a big topic, but here’s a start:

Graeme November 16, 20168:54 am

AWS Lambda is a pretty big deal already when you look at who’s using it. First, here’s kinda how it works:

And here are just some of the users (and I also heard Tim mention the magic term “sports analytics”!):

Graeme November 16, 20169:06 am

One key point Tim made was about how all this will affect SaaS going forward:

And he closed with this slide that speaks to the real promise of serverless computing:

Graeme November 16, 20169:26 am

Lorinda Brandon of Capital One is now giving a great talk on developer marketing, which she calls “Alone In a Crowd.” I’ve been looking forward to this one! Lindy’s been doing dev marketing for a long time, for multiple companies, and she always gives fun talks. She’s noting how it’s not an easy thing, that there’s a big gap between developers and marketing. To do it well, you have to get into “the conversation” — because, in fact, devs are extreme conversationalists! And you’d better be a damn good listener to hear what they’re saying — on all channels. Thanks, Lindy! The cat videos were fun, too 🙂

Graeme November 16, 20169:49 am

After a quick break, I’m in the breakout session called “Using Location-Aware Technologies to Your Advantage” — with dual presenters from Fin Digital, headquartered in DC: Rakia Finley and Marcus Finley. Gettin’ some serious education here on beacons….

Graeme November 16, 201610:00 am

Some things you my not know about “ibeacons”…


Graeme November 16, 201610:05 am

For more info about what FIN Digital is doing with ibeacons, you can follow them here: http://www.twitter.com/FINdigital … These folks are really deep into it! Nice talk.

Graeme November 16, 201610:28 am

I hopped over to another breakout session, in a different room – it’s about microservices and why you need to add Ops to your Dev team, presented by Gonzalo Maldonado of Must Win.

He talking about how you’ll be needing “SREs”: service reliability engineers, in the current age he calls “Data Center 3.5.” Here’s my favorite slide so far in his talk… 🙂

Graeme November 16, 201610:44 am

It’s room-switching time again! This time to Breakout Room 2 for a talk I couldn’t resist (marketing guy that I am): “How to Get Developers to Not Hate You and Buy Your Product,” by Ben Curtis of Honeybadger.

Graeme November 16, 201610:52 am

Ben’s a developer who’s always been involved with startups. He started and sold RailsKit and then launched HoneyBadger.io. He’s all about helping developers solve problems they have. He’s now citing one of his favorite developers and authors, Larry Wall. You gotta love this quote:

The point being: devs are lazy and want to solve problems quickly. Ben is out to help them do just that.

Graeme November 16, 201611:09 am

So now on to “Hubris,” another virtue of the ideal developer — as in, “I can do that better!” Some might like to call it optimism. Devs gotta have that — otherwise, why would they get out of bed in the morning? It’s just how they are. They say, “I can write that in a weekend.” The problem, however, is of course this: their code might be better, but they then have to…um, support it. This is music to Ben’s ear, because HoneyBadger is all about “diagnosing and fixing application errors, faster.” So yes, folks — hubris has the potential to create massive market opportunity for entrepreneurs like Ben… 🙂

Graeme November 16, 201611:10 am

Lunchtime! I’ll be back about 1:30 pm Mountain time with lots more fun and games…

Graeme November 16, 201612:27 pm

Gettin’ set up for the next session here at DefragX, after a yummie lunch – while sitting and staring at my latest favorite slide… (oh, the irony!)

Graeme November 16, 201612:29 pm

I’m intrigued, wondering what we’re about to hear from Emily Rose of Salesforce in this next talk: “The Future Is Now: How to Realize Your Potential as a Cyborg.” Frankly, it’s thoughts like these that keep me awake at night…

Graeme November 16, 201612:47 pm

This is fun! She did her opening slides from behind the screen — just white type, “talking” to us. No audio. Out she comes now, saying “Technology is our life… We are all cyborgs.” Emily is a dev evangelist at Salesforce (formerly at Particle). She points out that 2013 was the first year non-human traffic exceeded half of all Internet traffic. By 2014, it was 61%. So, by 2020 it will be, what, 9000%? What is all this traffic, this data… what does it represent? “Literally everything.” … Emily says she doesn’t like this term “non-human data.” She says, “We *are* our data.” The Internet is now “a conduit for the expansion of human consciousness.”

Graeme November 16, 20161:02 pm

Wow, Emily just launched off on some poetry that went on for about 15 or 20 slides… how many dev evangelists do you know who are poets? AND cyborgs? Wish I could type faster — it was really good. Now she’s taking questions. She mentions she’s an admirer of Amber Case (a fellow resident of Portland), who’s a “cyborg anthropologist” and has spoken here at Defrag in the past. (A year or so ago, Amber was also kind enough to speak at an event in Minneapolis that I helped organize. She was a big hit.) Yes, people, cyborgism is a bonfide thing, an area of study even. And you are your data. Get used to it.

Graeme November 16, 20161:28 pm

Next breakout session is an Internet-of-Things thing: “First Steps: From Software to Hardware,” by Taron Foxworth, dev evangelist at Losant (an IoT platform company). He’s showing all kinds of components, microcontrollers, etc, and telling the devs in the audience that, if you have an idea for a hardware project, there’s probably already a kit for it. And this stuff is pretty cheap. So, go forth and tinker, people! “Build cool things.” Taron is here to help you.

Graeme November 16, 20161:50 pm

Back into the big room for Packet’s talk: “Making a Bare-Metal Cloud: How Packet Designed and Built a Fully Dedicated, Single-Tenant, Bare Metal Cloud.” Aaron Welch is an SVP and says the company’s about two years old.


Graeme November 16, 20162:20 pm

Pretty impressive that Packet does 99% of its 25k monthly installs in an average provision time of about 8 minutes…

Graeme November 16, 20162:21 pm

Afternoon coffee break, then back for a few more sessions…

Graeme November 16, 20162:48 pm

Michael Ducy, who’s in product marketing with Chef, is up next on “The Looming Complexity Crisis.” Talking about automating at scale… when there are so many layers of complexity in the age of containers. “Jevon’s Paradox”: while we thought the number of data centers would go down, it’s actually increasing. “Compute is becoming more and more daunting as we go forward.” So, he says we’re finding that “current automation cannot scale to the next level of compute.” You have to deal with complexity up front, or it will derail you later. What’s the key? “Start with the business value and work your way down.”

At Chef, they have a mantra they call “developing human.”

Graeme November 16, 20162:54 pm

Chef’s new thing is “Habitat” — which includes several components…

Habitat t-shirts available for us here! I’ll snag one for some lucky dev back home in Minneapolis.

Graeme November 16, 20163:31 pm

Back in the big room to hear Kin Lane, API Evangelist, speaking on the strange topic of “Drone Recovery.” Starts out by telling his life story… it’s a trip, to say the least. He sure has grown a lot more hair and beard since I last saw him at Gluecon. Now he’s getting to the drone part of the story. He was using it as a way to help his stepson, who was going through drug addiction recovery. They flew drones around all over the mountains out in Oregon. Turns out there are a lot of APIs involved in flying a drone. “It’s amazing all the data you can get out of it.” It’s the “poster child of IoT” for him.

He’s really gotten into drone APIs and data and discovered the Dept of Interior drones were inadvertently uploading all our data to Chinese servers! It’s given him “a whole new outlook on the API space… We have to be really careful how we implement technology. We’re focusing too much on the technical and not enough on the human factors.” This stuff has to be focused on humans, he says… “that’s what matters most.” Nice.

Graeme November 16, 20164:12 pm

Charles Ashley III of Cultivating Coders — a great speaker! — now talking about “Diversity in Tech: What Are We Doing to Solve the Problems?” Telling us how he grew up in a bad part of South Chicago… family moves to Las Vegas when he’s in sixth grade… where a teacher took an interest in him to improve his math skills — mentoring him all the way up to 11th grade. Soon realized his purpose in life was to help others. He asks, “Are you interested or are you committed?” Interested is liking Facebook puppy stories. Committed is taking that puppy to a shelter. He sleeps well at night because he’s committed to helping people. That led him to founding Cultivating Coders, which he describes as “a social impact program.” It’s an impressive story how he built this training program from scratch, raising the money and developing the curriculum. Middle school to middle aged students, and getting amazing attendance and graduation rates. “Let’s stop saying ‘diversity in tech’ — let’s say *inclusion*!” Go check it out: https://cultivatingcoders.com/public_html/ … learn how you can help… a very worthwhile program!

Graeme November 16, 20164:19 pm

Now getting a final wrapup of the day from Eric Norlin… a bit of a retrospective on the great history of Defrag. As a 10-year guy, I can attest it’s been awesome. Eric thanks the great sponsors… who are about to host a reception! Beer me!


I’ll be back in the morning live-blogging Day 2.
Graeme November 17, 20168:03 am

Good morning! Day 2 of defragcon now getting underway…

Graeme November 17, 20168:12 am

Opening keynote (after a dance video warmup!) is “​Deploying and Managing a Global Blockchain Network,” by Duncan Johnston-Watt and Mike Zaccardo of Cloudsoft … talking about the @hyperledger project.


Graeme November 17, 20168:24 am

So, a scenario of how Sotheby’s could use blockchain for a Salvador Dali auction…

Graeme November 17, 20168:42 am

If you want more blockchain goodness:


Graeme November 17, 20168:48 am

Next up is Brendan Burns of Microsoft Azure (formerly Google) on “PaaS is Dead! Long Live PaaS!” So, here’s the gist:

Graeme November 17, 20169:01 am

Brendan’s view of the future:

And examples of what’s here and coming in PaaS:

Graeme November 17, 20169:02 am

And the big payoff slide:

Graeme November 17, 20169:04 am

Break time… back soon for a great talk on the Future of Work during the 10:15 session.

Graeme November 17, 20169:24 am

It’s the Merchant of Light up next: my buddy Steve Ardire on “Modern AI & Future of Work”… talking about ai startups.

Graeme November 17, 20169:29 am

Key points of Steve’s talk…

Graeme November 17, 20169:32 am

The machine learning maze… yikes! There’s nothing artificial about the market shaping up here, folks.

Graeme November 17, 20169:41 am

On the topic of automating work, how about the stat at the bottom of this slide… “what the hell are all those other employees doing?”

Graeme November 17, 20169:43 am

Steve’s talk is just loaded with great content. I can’t do justice to it here – so I’m gonna make sure I get a copy of his deck! You could ask him for it, too: sardireATgmailDOTcom.

Graeme November 17, 20169:48 am

Even $350k workers will find their jobs getting automated… look out, financial sector! But they’re not alone – it will happen across the entire economy. One audience member points out, however, that there will be massive economic gain from ai. So, think automation for good, people… 🙂

Graeme November 17, 201610:00 am

Next breakout session for me: “REST APIs and the Internet of Things,” by Alex Bowen, community manager and dev evangelist at DreamFactory. She’s doing polls of the audience about their thoughts on iot via text at https://www.polleverywhere.com/ – pretty cool. (Note to self for next preso…)

Graeme November 17, 201610:05 am

“Can’t really talk about IoT without the ‘inter’ word… as in interoperability and interconnectedness.” Roger that.

“The value of the network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users in the system.” – Robert Metcalfe
Graeme November 17, 201610:13 am

Interoperability is worth trillions, folks… remember these numbers when you need to impress someone at your next cocktail reception.

Graeme November 17, 201610:21 am

You knew we’d be getting to REST… that slide just scrolled by. Now we’re at Open Source Resources – she has a TON listed. (Ask her for her deck – @AlexandraABowen.) Now we’re at the DreamFactory part… bunch of slides, going real fast. (This is a sprint!) Check out her company here: https://www.dreamfactory.com/

Graeme November 17, 201610:30 am

Whew! Well if I can recover from the firehose of that last one, I’ll blog about the next talk – the last one before lunch: “Our Journey to a Secure nodeJS Stack,” by Sabin Thomas, VP Engineering, Codiscope: https://codiscope.com/ (based in Boston)… he’s gonna talk about this product: https://codiscope.com/products/jacks/

Graeme November 17, 201610:32 am

Now talking about MongoDB and the recent big security fail… “Developer friendly does not equal production ready.”

Graeme November 17, 201610:37 am

So what are best practices for MongoDB? I knew you’d ask that…

Graeme November 17, 201610:45 am

Sabin’s recommendations re: Docker…

Graeme November 17, 201610:50 am

So what about agile security when you need to build it in from the start?

Graeme November 17, 201610:55 am

Sabin closed by mentioning Codiscope’s free product “Jacks” – a cloud-based developer tool that helps you write more secure source code… “making developer-driven security easy by teaching you to code securely as you build your app.” Nice talk – he’s getting some great audience engagement.


Now, off to lunch!
Graeme November 17, 201612:29 pm

Lunch winding down… snowing like hell outside… and the crowd is thinning out a bit. But we’re getting ready to hear more defragcon presentations here in the big room. Bring ’em on!

Graeme November 17, 201612:34 pm

Maggie Fox (https://www.linkedin.com/in/maggiekfox) now up talking on… well, here you go:

Graeme November 17, 201612:51 pm

So here’s the basis for her talk: Maggie until recently headed up digital transformation at SAP, where she was challenged with redoing all of the company’s web sites… which were pretty bad. “Research showed that they actually scared people.” Her team wasn’t the first to try, and she was told by one “fairly senior” exec that she’d never succeed. She knew people would fight them, actually get in their way deliberately. She needed a plan for this multi-year project… she had great people, empowered them, decided she would have to swear a lot, and basically “told people to get the f*ck out of the way.” She treated her team like a parent… “look at how they’ve grown.” While the team was doing this big, hairy project, they were also “keeping the lights on”… as in running all the digital channels.

Graeme November 17, 201612:58 pm

So what were Maggie’s results at SAP? A ton of stuff in less than three years…

She actually says now that “it was a lot of fun.” Funny how people can forget pain… 🙂 But she went into the deal getting well paid for her efforts, and knew she could walk at anytime if she needed to.

Graeme November 17, 201612:59 pm

So that’s it for me, folks! Gotta run to the airport. Thanks for a great Defrag number 10! Hopefully will see you at gluecon in May!