MicroConf 2013 was Freakin’ Awesome

250px Welcome to fabulous las vegas sign

I had the opportunity to attend this years rendition of MicroConf in Las Vegas, NV, run by Rob Walling and Mike Tabor and attended by many great people. All I can say, I will be back next year.

MicroConf is a conference not for startups who took venture funding but rather those of us shoestring it and bootstrapping everything we do.

There is an overwhelming theme I noticed after talking to attendees; virtually everyone is doing some form of freelance consulting and wants to get out of it and move on to a product business. One speaker asked how many were on this path I would say 90% raised their hands. I think that says a lot.

Much of the move to a product based business from consulting almost always raises the question of how to begin the transition and how to replace the lucrative consulting work with paid products. Some demonstrated success with writing ebooks and using that revenue to replace consulting or as a launchpad for their SaaS offering.

Brennan Dunn exemplifies taking this path.

For those who have never written a book it can be hard to imagine you have enough knowledge and experience to produce something of value. Patrick McKenzie was asked about this and his reply was “you know more than you think you know”. Solid advice for sure and provides encouragement for developers to consider this avenue of starting the product business.

Rob Walling started the first day with a challenge, where he asked attendees to create 3 actionable items from the event. I think I can boldly share mine:

  1. Stop consulting and be 100% products by MicroConf 2014
  2. Create and market and ebook…topic to come.
  3. Finish and launch SimpleMailr.

As part of these goals I plan to generally improve my business skills in several areas:

  • Marketing – this such a broad area but includes driving traffic to my business, by SEO understanding and implementation as well as better use of advertising (Google, Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Copywriting – honing skills of creating eye popping copy to pull people in.
  • Design – this has always seemed like a black art to me. I plan to not become a designer but rather be more aware of design and the process to effectively create good design. It’s important to have enough skills to communicate the business needs to a qualified designer. It would be helpful to better understand design to take what a designer has to say to then relate to the business.
There are a good number of other accounts of the event from attendees so I won’t rehash everyone else’s thoughts.  One site in particular by Christoph Engelhardt is worth reviewing.  He took great notes on every talk:

Notes on the talks

  1. Jason Cohen’s Opening Talk: “Designing the perfect bootstrapped startup”
  2. Josh Kaufman: “Shut up and take my money” (still needs a lot of editing)
  3. Joanna Wiebe: “Copywriting that converts”
  4. Ben Yoskovitz: “Measuring What Matters”
  5. Guest Speaker – Patrick Thompson: “Bootstraping an App Business”
  6. Guest Speaker – Sherry Walling: “Don’t Burn up in the Launch”
  7. Guest Speaker – Jody Burgess: “Dude. Marketing is not your thing.”
  8. Guest Speaker – Josh Ledgard: “Getting your first 989 Customers”
  9. Rob Walling: “How to 10x in 15 months”
  10. Erica Douglass: “How to Measurably Move the Needle With Your Software Company”
  11. Dave Collins: “SEO Demystified”
  12. Hiten Shah: “Killer Content Marketing”
  13. Mike Taber: “Enterprise Sales Tactics”
  14. Guest Speaker – Nathan Barry: “Zero to $5,000 / month”
  15. Guest Speaker – Brennan Dunn: “The Long-Tail Sale”
  16. Guest Speaker – Brecht Palomo: “How a Non-Technical Founder Built a 6 Figure SaaS App Using Only Free Public Data Sources”
  17. Guest Speaker – Cameron Keng: “Taxes for SaaS”
  18. Patrick McKenzie – “Building Things To Help Sell The Things You Build”

Christoph followed up with What You Can Learn From MicroConf 2013 – Even If You Did Not Attend (great use of copy hack from Joanna Wiebe‘s talk)

Some attendees wrote up their take or takeaways from the conference as well: 

I’m sure this list is far from exhaustive, but you get the idea.   

The bottom line for me is this was a great conference that I will be back for next year.  I walked away from this event with more excitement and to-dos for my business than ever before.  If you didn’t attend this year, you should next year…*after* I have my ticket in hand.

RailsConf 2012 Wrap Up

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I was fortunate enough to be able to work out attending RailsConf 2012 in Austin, TX.   This was the first time on many years that the conference was not organized by O’Reilly but rather Ruby Central, Inc.

I have to go on record and say I usually avoid cities but the city of Austin is a great place and would not hesitate to return.  The people are friendly and there is so much diversity in the city that there is something new on each corner.  I noticed an abundance of restaurants with so many different types of food.  I can’t say I had a single bad meal during my journey.  Everyone I spoke with about the trip said I had to try the BBQ, and they were right…it was fantastic.

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Many of the sessions overfilled the room.  This on in particular exemplifies what I’m talking about.  I bet the fire marshal wasn’t aware of these.  Overall the floors were pretty comfortable.

It was often difficult to decide which sessions to attend, with 3 full-tracks there always seemed to be two talks during the same time slot I wanted to take.  I usually decide which sessions to attend by how applicable they are to current work.

One of my favorite sessions was by Obie Fernandez about using Redis with Rails.  Although the examples of the talk were from his recent startup, they were excellent and showed integrating Redis into a Rails application not to remove ActiveRecord but to compliment it.  Obie discussed a gem he released to help the integration called redis_props along with sample code used in the talk.  The code is clean and concise…great stuff.

Another talk I found personal value in was the Semi Automatic Code Review by Richard Huang.  Richard is the creator and maintainer of the Rails Best Practices gem.  In the talk he discusses another related open source project called Railsbp.com which allows for your code to be reviewed when committing to Github.  The results will be displayed on the Railsbp.com site where you can change the code right there and commit back to your repo.  Very informative details produced from the site, GitHub allows hooks into the service and thoughtfully open sourced.  I wasn’t aware of the site before but now I am using it regularly.

The other talk which I took a lot away from was Digging Deep with ActiveSupport::Notifications by Matt Sanders.  This talk when into great detail with many examples of using notifications in your applications.  It is similar to the event publishing and subscriber model from other platforms such as .NET.  Having spent many years writing .NET applications this talk brought back many memories of this pattern.  The techniques exemplified here I had never used in Rails but do need this functionality on a new project.  

UPDATE (05/03/2012): One talk that was intended to be included here, is from Lori Olson.  Her talk titled, Mobile Rage – What causes it & how to fix it (Confreaks), takes the view of web application use on a mobile device from the user’s perspective and how developers can implement very simple techniques to ease the pain.  I recommend this one highly, good stuff and some tips I was not aware of.  I admit I have some sites that can take advantage of this.  

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The final keynote of day one was from a non-Ruby developer, Rich Hickey, which seemed to be out of the ordinary.  Maybe he was there to pull some Ruby developer to the Clojure world.  It appears Rich is trying to convince these two Rubyist that LivingSocial would be better with Clojure.  I wish I could have overheard the conversation.

There were three very large, two-sided, white boards used for companies to post jobs, and they were pretty full of opportunities.  I noticed there were far too many companies attempting to make the next Facebook or Twitter and not enough companies creating really useful applications.  There were exceptions from what I could see, but too few.  I remember the same thing happening around 2000 and then the bubble burst.  Apparently we are not better from this event in history because we have not learned from it.

I finally met face-to-face many friends I only knew from various social networks with lively hallway track discussions.  I think this is the #1 reason to attend conferences.  The materials from the talks are available everywhere and with Confreaks recording all the sessions, you can watch the show later.  You can’t however, experience meeting new friends and seeing old ones without attending.

I recommend every Rails developer attend just one of these events, well worth the time and effort.  The next on is in Portland, OR from April 29 to May 2, 2013.

Attending Voices That Matter : iOS Developers Conference


I am very excited to be attending the Voices That Matter: iOS Developers Conference in Boston, November 12-13, 2011.  It is put on by the folks of Addison-Wesley Professional, one of my favorite publishers.

The speaker line-up looks fantastics, from the VTM site:

Learn all about developing applications for the iPhone and iPad at the Voices That Matter: iOS Developers Conference. You can learn from leading authors like Erica Sadun, Chris Adamson, Erik Buck and Aaron Hillegass and meet industry leaders such as Graeme Devine, Rod Strougo, Jeff LaMarche and Mike Ash. Join us in Boston, November 12-13, 2011 and learn how you can leverage Apple’s commitment to the iOS platform.

This will be the first Voices That Matter conference I have attended and will be doing so on behalf of InfoQ.  I hope to meet and talk with some speakers and attendees looking to chat about what they’re up to.  If you are reading this and plan on attending, send me an email.

As my company is taking on more projects in the mobile space, particularly iOS applications, I find it increasingly important to get out and meet others who are also creating mobile applications.

Anyone interested in attending, registration is still open and early bird ends September 30, 2011.  They have active Twitter and Facebook accounts where updates about the conference and authors are posted.  I hope to see you there.