James Governor's Monkchips

Monki Gras ’15, Nordic Connection, Culture Done Right

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I have been running Monki Gras, a single track intimate event with epic food and craft brewing experiences for four years now. The theme for 2015 is Nordic Craft Culture and Tech. The speakers are going to be incredible. For example we have the Söderhavet team that recently created a new national brand identity for Sweden – see the Sweden Sans font above, in the playful logo redesign. But as with all RedMonk events the attendees are also an incredibly talented, vibrant bunch. Everyone comes to learn and play.

Monki Gras is a meta conference. It’s about culture, craft, language, design, code and getting things done. As I plan for this year my thoughts keep going back to the inaugural Monktoberfest in 2011 – Zack Urlocker gave a fantastic talk about how to effectively manage remote teams. He reprised the talk at the first Monki Gras. Given Zack’s background, helping to scale MySQL, he gave us some wonderful insights into Nordic software development culture.

When you look at the list of technologies that originated in the Nordics it becomes clear that collaboration and distributed development are central – from Linux to GIT to SSH, technology is needed to underpin effectiveness. You can’t rely on San Francisco meetups to establish the “right way“. Long dark winters make for good code, but also collaboration through code. If i am right that Open Source invented Social networking – Why Open Source software is Social Media – then that means the Nordics invented online social networking as well.

So what about open source and money? One interesting tension is that Nordics and Scandinavians know the monetary value of work – you have to make a living, don’t ask someone to do something for free – but made open source what it is today- commercial and successful. Freedom doesn’t have to mean free as in beer, but i can.

So what set off my thinking?  The basic idea is pretty straightforward and was inspired by… Radio One. As I explain on the Monki Gras blog:

After two years in a row where the theme was obvious to me early on- Scaling Craft (2013), followed by Sharing Craft (2014) I was floundering for a guiding curatorial line this time around. So I get home one evening and my wife is listening to Radio 1 (I know, I know, we listen to Radio 6 as well!) the show is about the Scandinavian Invasion, with a new wave of Scandinavian pop artists, writers and producing  breaking through. To be honest I didn’t really notice any of the music as soon as the presenter mentioned Spotify.

Neurons started firing. My first thought? London is not very good at scaling companies. Too many London startups sell too early. Stockholm on the other hand has an incredible track record of taking companies further – Skype, Kazaa, Spotify, etc. Of course gifted individuals play a role – Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis are an incredible team. But a culture spawned these individuals, and my neurons kept firing and I knew I had a potentially incredible conference on my hands.

Noma in Copenhagen is currently the best restaurant in the world, with its minimalism and focus on foraged, local ingredients. The Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen was one of the sparks that reignited craft brewing excellence across Europe – and is now crushing it in San Francisco. Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, with his peripatetic “gypsy brewing” style is all about excellence in collaboration and brewing high wire acts.

Gypsy brewing. Sharing Recipes. Making it easy to recombine things and collaborate. Beer suddenly feels like software. The Web runs on Nordic inventions. 3 Letters out of 4 in LAMP stack. Not bad considering Silicon Valley considers itself to be the place that provides infrastructure for the rest of the world.

What makes Nordic Culture so productive? Education is clearly fantastic in the region, and the winters are long and cold, perfect for heads down coding.

Design and lighting are both very important in Scandinavian culture too. This all comes together. Code, design, liberal social values, education, great taste, modesty, skill, practice. This conference is going to explore all of these themes, and it’s going to rock.

The Speaker list is really solid so far.

Per Buer is the CTO of Varnish Software and became an avid home-brewer after Monki Gras 2014. In addition to crafting his excellent beer, he’s an expert at starting his own business. In Per’s presentation, ‘Fighting with Polar Bears and Other Challenges You Encounter When Running a Startup In Norway’, he will share his experience with running a commercial company that has an open source product at its core.

Linda Sandvik is a creative technologist and Knight-Mozilla Fellow at The Guardian. She describes herself as a wannabe MacGyver and rebel. In her talk, ‘The Norwegian Mountain Code’, Linda will examine Norwegian culture as it is exposed in the code. You can expect comments on everything from slow TV to the Norwegian Quota Law.

Janne Kalliola is the founder and CEO of Exove, a services company using open technologies to improve customers’ business in the Nordic countries and Baltic states. Janne will be teaching us the Finnish word ‘talkoot‘ in his presentation ‘Making Meaning By Contributing to Improve the Quality of Your Life,’ as he emphasises the benefits of working together to achieve a common goal by being an active member in the local community.

Jason Hoffman, head of cloud at Ericsson, will be giving us a Lilyhammer view of his first few months in Sweden after leaving San Francisco.

Joonas Lehtinen, founder of Vaadin – Software Design in the Nordics. Hacking When It’s Cold.

Viktor Klang, Chief Software Architect at Typesafe, on Reactive Technology, Culture and the Nordics.

Patrick Sallner, CEO MariaDB on Collaboration and Nordic Development Culture.

Stefan Hattenbach, founder MAC Rhino Fonts and Jesper Robinell, Soderhavet on the thinking and process behind creating a new official national typeface – Sweden Sans, otherwise known as Lagom, “just enough” in English.

Ilja Summala, CTO, Nordcloud on Finnish Craftsmanship and the Cloud – Cloudcraft, Maslow (of course), How craftsmanship and open source in Finland tie up with setting up new housing for 10% of population post WWII. Docker and microservices as anti-devops craft movement.

Our very own Donnie Berkholz will be talking about how tech culture in the US midwest is influenced by settler’s Scandinavian roots.

Perfectly normal tech conference fodder then. Or maybe not.

For tickets you should go here.

If you’re a potential sponsor please check out the options we have, and ping juliane@redmonk for more details.

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