Hope you enjoy the latest episode of Opinionated Infrastructure. Here I am at IBM Impact 2013 – in which I sandbag Andi Gutmans, one of the the founders of Zend, the enteprise PHP company, and he does a great job thinking and talking on his feet. What is MobileFirst and does PHP have a role to play?
This week Shoreditch Works, the co-working business I co-founded, launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding project to help raise funds for the fit out on a building we plan to turn into an amazing events and workspace. We’re pitching the idea of creating a “village hall” for local organisations – 20% of the time in the event space will be free for use by community projects. Here is an earlier post about why I got involved – Investment in Place and People.
You might ask “why does Shoreditch need a village hall, when its already got a town hall?”
Great question but as far as I am concerned the answer is pretty simple. Just after the London riots Benjamin Southworth and I wanted to create an organisation dedicated to bringing local London kids into the thriving Shoreditch tech economy (that organisation has now been folded into Shoreditch Works as our social Foundation, while Benjamin has gone on to make a direct impact on startups as deputy CEO of Tech City.)
At the time I wanted to hold a town hall meeting to see what interest the tech community had in helping build skills and aspirations for local youth, so naturally I called Shoreditch Town Hall to ask if we could use one of their rooms. The answer stunned me. We were refused on the grounds the Town Hall is itself a charity, and therefore would never do anything for free. I was pretty shocked, and a bit angry to be honest.
We need a space that can respond to community needs, and that’s why we want to establish a “village hall” for Shoreditch. The response has been tremendous so far- people pledged more than £7k in the first 15 hours. We’d love your help too. Please back this project.
Why are we fundraising?
Shoreditch Works has a mission to help young companies get started and grow. We are a part of the Shoreditch village and want to create a focal point for that community.
The space we need your help to secure, as you’ve seen in the video, is stretched across four floors of an unloved 1950s warehouse. It’s been sitting empty for months now and we’re sick of seeing such fantastic potential go to waste.
The basement and ground floor will be the epicentre of our village hall, while the top two floors will be shared workspace for startups.
How does this help the community?
It’s simple. We’re going to build an events space that will comfortably hold 200 people seated. And we are giving 20% of slots for free to community groups that are important but don’t necessarily have the cash to hire a big events space. A space where kids can come and code after school, where artists can present their work, where local meetups can take place and where our coworkers can meet and discuss their issues.
Forget about HTML5 and CSS3 and jQuery and responsive design and “mobile first”. The most important issue for user experience people to grapple with is informed consent. More and more web services are dependent on user contributed content and data. Every time you make a contribution (explicit or implicit) you’re trading convenience for privacy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s something we do everyday in real life from mobile phones to loyalty cards. But as the web moves out of the browser and into smart objects, the trade-offs we’re making need to be made explicit so people can make informed choices about when to get involved and when to back away.
I have been giving a lot of thought lately to what I call the Magic/Creepy Continuum – great user experiences can be so magical they appear creepy. Indeed sometimes they are creepy. But the creepy boundary moves over time. I let TripIt, for example, scan my gmail to autogenerate trip itineraries for me. I gave it permission to do so, and the experience is magical. 10 years ago I probably would have balked at the thought of “giving up my privacy” in this way, but now it feels normal, and so helpful its magical. A lot of Google experiences work in this way.
When I reread the Michael Smethurst from 2011 above I was really impressed. He is way ahead of the game. But what really struck me was that he forced me to rethink what I call the Permission-based Web. I normally position the Permission-based Web as a negative, where Amazon, Apple, Google or another intermediate can switch our services off without asking us, can arbitrarily deny application developers the right to deploy apps on their platforms. But of course permission works in two ways. When data is the product you are the product. We need to be able to switch these services off, to remove our consent. Perhaps the Permission-based Web isn’t a bad thing at all. Its what we should be trying to build. What we should be educating the general public, policy makers and so on about. Some important work has been done in this area by Doc Searls, though I have a visceral dislike of his term for it – Vendor Relationship Marketing Management. In the UK check out am implementation of these ideas called Midata, which is even making some progress in influencing government policy in areas such as smart grids.
As IBM now cleverly says Mobile isn’t a Device, Its Data. That’s right – and its data the user should make informed decisions about. That means people building services need to think about this. As Jan Booch persuasively argues, Every Line of Code You Write Has a Moral Dimension. But this isn’t just an issue for coders. Its a UX issue, a legal issue, a marketing issue. Seth Godin calls this Permission Marketing.
We’re heading into a beautiful, bright, future where Data is Eating The World and solving tough problems, but we’re also heading into a future where we’re dropped groping and splashing into pitch black water, with things we can’t see grabbing at us and pulling us under. We need to start demanding that consent is explicit.
This week at IBM Impact 2013 the near constant refrain was Mobile First – creating great user experiences by taking advantage of data such as location provided by GPS. I believe its tremendously important that new magic experiences are Permission First.
I get excited about not being a barrier to our developers. We do a pretty good job at it today, but what really excites me is doing it better and having more velocity than we already have. I don’t want to be managing websites, I want to be a platform engineer. I want to be building the platforms and architecting new solutions to making our developers more successful. I don’t want to be deploying code or managing those kinds of assets when I don’t see the need, and I think a PaaS gets us there.
There is no reason why as an IT organization, you should get in the way of the success of a campaign or a product. A lot of that comes down to being able to deploy code and keeping the infrastructure up. And that’s fundamental to what a PaaS does.
The best thing to do when working with developers is to get out of the way, so they can build business services, and rapidly iterate to improve the applications underpinning them. Too much time historically has been spent blocking developers, for fear that they break things, but that prevented innovation. Today, resources are at a low enough cost that enterprises, just like web companies, can experiment more, and so innovate more. Its not just organisations like Mozilla that get it however, so do more traditional enterprises such as Aetna.
disclosure: the platform in question at Mozilla is ActiveState Stackato. ActiveState is a client.
I must admit I am getting pretty excited about the IBM Impact Unconference next week. I have been involved with the event for a few years now, helping IBM to to recalibrate around practitioners, rather than just enterprise purchasers, but it seems like we finally have critical mass. IBM can’t win without getting buy in from developers, so it needs to think and act differently.
If you do want to engage developers you want credible leaders to bring them in, and to that end, I am proud that I will be on stage with two heroes – Grady Booch and Tim O’Reilly.
Tim is a visionary, and a role model. As I like to say:
RedMonk stays four years ahead of the market by staying four years behind Tim O’Reilly.
Grady meanwhile is not just a great computer scientist – he is also a speaker of great poetic beauty, and a deep thinker about human responsibility. Every line of code a developer writes has a moral dimension, he says.
I have been working with IBM Pure Systems on a sponsored video series, and associated series of Google Hangouts with industry luminaries. IBM gives me complete free rein on editorial, which is great. The first few chats were a little IBM heavy, though, so I have been making an effort to help broaden the range of speakers, bringing more folks from my community into play. I am therefore really happy to report that tomorrow’s show looks outstanding in terms of other voices.
Justin Sheehy, CTO and Founder of Basho technologies, which builds the RIAK key value store database. A no BS datastore, performance and availability expert.
Ewan Leith, a performance tuning maven working at Betfred, one of the UK’s biggest online gambling firms.
Amr Awadalla, CTO of Cloudera, a company making the running in packaging Hadoop for the enterprise. Formerly Vice President of Product Intelligence Engineering at Yahoo!, he had teams using Hadoop before it was even a thing.
I have to say its quite a coup to have the CTO of both Basho and Cloudera on the call.
We also have
Thomas Jackman, Associate Research Professor, Desert Research Institute
Ted Westheide, Co-founder and Architect, Aginity
Inhi Cho, IBM Vice President of President of Product Management and Strategy, who I have known for years. A rising star at Big blue.
Amit Achary, IBM PureApplication System Product Management
And Tiffany Winman from IBM who is running the program with me.
The tech birthdays are coming thick and fast right now. Take WordPress, which is 10 years old today, or Hadoop, which just turned 7. I have been thinking about how the industry is changing right now, in multiple dimensions, and how we have to manage a bunch of unruly kids called analytics, cloud, mobile, social and Big Data. Opinionated parenting can stop you from going nuts- the kids need to know what time is bedtime.
So in the video above I say Happy Birthday to the sponsor of Opinionated Infrastructure - IBM PureSystems and explain why discipline is an important part of the mix. The video is meta, and fun, and I think you’ll enjoy it. Here’s to all our children, growing up yet somehow getting younger all the time.
What – We’re looking to raise £150k, ideally in the form of a loan
Who – James Governor, Jonathan Lister, Joshua Bradley
Where – Shoreditch
Why – We want to help startups grow, but also help local young people gain skills and find jobs in Tech City
History – Because I think stories are what really counts in making the case
When – NOW!
Shoreditch Works is raising funds to open a new event and co-working space in the heart of Shoreditch, epicentre of the UK web start-up scene. As someone that runs events myself I know how hard it is to find a space that can hold 200 developers, at reasonable cost. We’re not primarily seeking equity investment, because co-working is not like software. It is not a high margin business- it’s about cash flow and community. But of course the banks aren’t lending, and the high net worth individuals I know are looking to crush it with their money, not make 12.5% per annum on a loan (even though that’s an insanely great rate). The total amount we’re borrowing is commercially sensitive, but if you’re interested in helping we’ll happily share the business plan with you. Obviously we’re flexible, and equity is one of the models we have discussed with potential investors.
Our proposition has strong social value – the Shoreditch Works Foundation mission is to help inspire and train local kids in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham to get jobs in the Shoreditch economy. We need to work with a range of organisations, including partners like Hackney Council, to help create pathways for locals so they know what’s on their doorstep and how to succeed there. We plan to help start-ups take on apprentices, interns, and work placements. Shoreditch Works as an overlay so a bunch of small businesses can act more like a medium-sized one.
Investing in local skills isn’t all altruism – its also necessary for the creation of a sustainable business cluster. There are never going to be enough foreign visas available to make up for local talent lost to companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook, as they set up in Shoreditch and start hiring in earnest over the new couple of years, so we need to infill with the a tremendous and under-rated natural resource – London youth. Go out to schools and you’ll find tons of energy, aspiration, and skill.
The other three cofounders of Shoreditch Works are Jonathan, Joshua and Chris Sugden. Our community and comms manager is Ana Bradley. But our members are way more important than we are. Shoreditch Works already has some great companies and people working here – companies such as
In 2007 I was looking for a new office space and, being the only UK employee of my firm RedMonk, the only way to do it was to co-work. Traditional serviced offices are not conducive to work, and include absurdly high service charges. I found a cheap space above a pub in Hoxton, with help from Hackney Council, and asked Matt Biddulph to join me there. Matt had cofounded Dopplr and moved in. Shortly afterwards James Stewart and Matt Patterson took another office next door.
In 2008 Dopplr outgrew the space and moved to Moo’s offices on Old Street. Shortly afterwards Matt came up with the self-deprecatory and wonderfully British “Silicon Roundabout”. The FT picked up on the meme, and there RedMonk was, listed as one of the 11 companies defining a new economic cluster. Shortly afterwards the Evening Standard published the map, and things went went a bit mad after that. You should read Matt on How Silicon Roundabout really got started. Everything was in place, but Matt gave it a name.
Shortly afterwards James and Matt (yes these names occur a LOT in Shoreditch) moved to a new, dilapidated place on Scrutton Street, EC2. One move later and we were in the building across the street. Then came another “exit” – James Stewart and James Weiner left to form the Alpha Gov team, shaking up government IT under the aegis of the Cabinet Office in what is now called the Government Digital Service. The common threads here were co-working and talent. The impact of this team on UK government IT is significant. Shoreditch startup culture has infected Whitehall – entrenched suppliers watch out.
Who was going to take on the lease when James became a civil servant? Certainly not me with my natural genius for admin. So into the breach stepped Jonathan and Josh of J&J. I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t need to move. But when the top floor of the building became available, I chivvied the guys to take than on as coworking space, and so Shoreditch Works was born.
Where and Why
I already run a company with my co-founder Stephen O’Grady and we are making a significant impact in our space and having a great time. So why get involved in something else? For one thing RedMonk is a virtual operation, with no physical presence, but I am a big believer in place. My wife is born and bred in Hackney, and I can’t think of a better place to live and work. I want to make a contribution to local communities. Jonny persuaded me to join Shoreditch Works as a cofounder by saying that we could establish a Foundation as a platform for social change. After the London riots I wanted try and to increase the engagement of local kids in the Shoreditch tech economy, but with limited time available hadn’t made as much progress as I would wish because of limited time and resources. The Shoreditch Works Foundation therefore made a great deal of sense.
None of us are in it for the money. Running a co-working space is a calling or vocation. Other founders I have spoken to share some common traits, and a strong belief in location is one of them. Its about supporting a cluster in a specific place. Why is the culture of coworking important to innovation broadly and specifically London’s Tech City? As Josh puts it:
“place/density = opportunity/serendipity: community of people in similar situations sharing knowledge, helping each other be competitive, a culture/ecosystem of mentorship/mutual improvement.”
Bottom line - successful clustering is about people, working in a well connected physical network. We’re looking for help. If you have access to capital and want to see Shoreditch crush it, then please get in touch.
We have all read the press release about all the awesome stuff coming to Shoreditch in 2015, which is excellent, but startups need help now, not in two years. Please help us to help them, and help local people to get jobs in the process.
I recently interviewed Angel Diaz and Dave Lindquist from IBM about the company’s decision to deepen the commitment to OpenStack. I include the video below, but also a transcript, in case you prefer text.
James Governor: Hi! This is James Governor from RedMonk. We are here at IBM Pulse 2013. I have a couple of guys here that I wanted to talk to because IBM’s has some pretty interesting news. Angel Diaz is in an IBM standard setting role and Dave Lindquist is implementing some of those standards for the company across its portfolio So the big news this week is about OpenStack. So what is the deal? Why are you putting more word behind the OpenStack arrow, Angel?
Angel Diaz: With OpenStack we want to create a ubiquitous infrastructure as a service platform for cloud. Just like Apache was the heart of all app servers for e-business on the Web, we want to have the same effect for cloud. So when we were looking around what to do, we had a lot of choices, OpenStack had a great community, great following, bunch of end-users, who help stood up the foundation. Right now if we look at it, we are number 3 in code contributions, having a great time. We announced today that all of our cloud services and offerings will be built on open standards. The first one is our IBM SmartCloud Foundation which will ship with OpenStack inside. So it’s pretty cool.
James Governor: Okay, so what kind of pressure you are under, given that it seems like the standard landscape is moving quite quickly, in terms of retrofitting the product portfolio – is it not kind of a tough job?
Dave Lindquist: Well, it’s an exciting job – the community is very exciting, very vibrant, and if we look at the architecture of OpenStack, it’s very clean with nice separation of compute, storage, networking, a nice plugin system, extensibility to bring in various innovations across each of those domains. In addition to that, it’s very much a distributed everything, share nothing model, which is great for scale, great for resiliency. So it’s basically the same architecture that we had been investing in, in IBM in our SmartCloud foundations. So what we are doing is contributing technologies we have into the community, working with the community and advancing some of these designs and then consuming these technologies. So yeah it’s hectic, but it’s very consistent with how we are moving forward, so it’s really been a very productive environment, very efficient.
James Governor: The OpenStack community almost seems like it’s too big, there are so many players, the classic concerns about potential fragmentation, people are going to want to make sure their own models are the ones that are chosen. Do you think you are going to be able to manage that effectively?
Angel Diaz: Well, it’s interesting. OpenStack is probably about the second largest open source activity after Linux. So it is pretty big. We haven’t seen any issues. I am on the mailing lists and so on, I haven’t seen any issues. The way that we stood up the foundation, we learned a lot from Apache.
James Governor: So is it true that the only reason IBM agreed to join was if OpenStack set up a foundation?
Angel Diaz: No – they wanted to set up a foundation. We thought that we want a balance between corporate sponsorship to actually run an organization, but also meritocracy. It cannot be dominated by IBM or any other vendor, and so in fact the way the community works is that you got to earn your stripes. The fact that we are number three in code contributions after Rackspace and Red Hat, shows that we have earned our stripes. You can’t buy your way in. We’ve got about an eighth of the core contributors, and that’s how it works. At each design summit, the projects are led by an election, there is a project lead and those folks worked together with the project members to deliver what they do.
James Governor: So one thing that I am kind of interested in is this question of Chef, which I had assumed had a Tivoli angle, but it almost seems like it’s just a WebSphere, PureSystems-like edge thing that’s happening in a collaboration with Opscode. But that’s not going to fly: you are going to have to have a unity.
Dave Lindquist: I won’t think about it as a brand statement of Tivoli, WebSphere or Rational, we work across all across software group as well as with our systems team and –
James Governor: But IBM is committing to Chef.
Dave Lindquist: Yes, so we committing. Let me get to the one point and then to the next point. First of all we are working together on a set of capabilities that have different deployment options. We recognize it’s a full stack that has to come together between the infrastructure layers, the management, and how you do collaborative development in DevOps sense along with a lot of the patterns of workloads that optimizations bring down. So when we looked at what was occurring in the community, and this comes from a lot of our customers is that there is a healthy thriving ecosystem of all being around some of the automation in Chef, particularly with the numbers of cookbooks they have, I think it’s upwards at 800 cookbooks, a large number of recipes, and I think on the order of about 26,000 active users in that community. So when we looked at the IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator technology what was important is how can we leverage what’s being built in the community with recipes. So what we have basically done is an integration of Orchestrator with the Chef technology so that we, and our customers, can leverage this community of recipes, so that’s the level of the integration that’s occurring now.
James Governor: So you all are going to be learning Ruby?
James Governor: Okay, well I don’t want to take too much more of your time, but I certainly appreciate the update and it’s great to see supporting open standards.
I wrote a post a few days ago about open source data management in the UK and Europe, as companies like Basho, DataStax and 10Gen set up home here. I was a little light on detail about Basho, because while I had just got an update on the company, that was in a pub with strong craft beers, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t break any confidences.
So I asked them what was going on locally. As if any more proof were necessary that things are kicking off here, hiring activity is always a leading (and lagging!) indicator. Basho is currently looking for 7 people to join the 9 already at work in its Shoreditch office. You might also enjoy this story about how I discovered the Basho office in my local neighbourhood. Another Tech City win, it seems. So what are the numbers?
Headcount open for an additional 7: 1 technical writer; 1 technical evangelist; 2 engineers; 3 sales
20 people by year end
Here is the jobs board. If you like data management at scale this could be the gig for you. Basho’s RIAK database is currently displacing Oracle for the NHS Spine project, which is a very big deal indeed. RIAK for speed and compliance management. Huge story – I wonder when the press will get to it.