Monkeying around

What we learned at Monki Gras 2013

Elliot Bentley

The second conference from idiosyncratic analyst firm Redmonk was all about “scaling craft” — and brewing beer.

Last week saw the second Monki Gras, a small conference run by idiosyncratic analyst firm Redmonk. Taking place once again in London’s historical Conway Hall, the sell-out event featured talks from Ted Nyman of GitHub, Rafe Colburn of Etsy and Chris Aniszczyk of Twitter.

A conference based around the twin themes of coding and beer might sound like the ultimate brogrammer event, but Monki Gras was more about the careful craftsmanship required for specialist beers, and how the lessons learned applied to software, too.

In fact, the beer theme extended not only to sessions about beer-themed social networks and Raspberry Pi-based remote brewing apparatus, but an evening beer-tasting session and talks from local beer brewers.

That said, the beer was merely a sideline to Monki Gras’ true love: software development. The theme, “scaling craft”, was explored by a variety of talks including a discussion scaling up the British Government Digital Service department from 12 to 200 people in just two years and encouraging craftsmanship and strong design within IBM’s 400,000 employees. Mazz Mosley of GDS was treated to a round of applause after proclaiming that “needing rockstars is bullshit”.

More out-there talks included one from Chris Thorpe from Boffin, who laser-scanned a priceless steam train to 3D print scale replicas, and a discussion of what startups might be able learn from the field of Ecology by Red Hat evangelist Steve Citron-Pousty. Within this context, the spoon-carving session rounding off the final day should have come as little surprise.

The food deserves a special mention: massive pastries for breakfast, delicious sushi for lunch and an evening meal in a “secret location” which turned out to be a seven-course dinner at the London Fields Brewery.

If the companies presenting can be taken as any sort of representative of the future of the field, we should expect more companies to take flatter structures with fewer “rock stars” and more diverse, cooperative teams.

And beer. Lots more beer.

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