Chronicling Dev Day 2017


Dev Day is an annual international conference aimed at software developers. Over the years, we’ve seen the conference host both local and international experts. And this year was no different. Here’s what we learned at Dev Day 2017.

The opening keynotes

The first speaker of Dev Day 2017 was Marcus Devold Soknes. He opened his keynote address by sharing his previous experiences in Sri Lanka, back from when he lived his life as a digital nomad. He spoke about using pirate metrics to measure the growth of your products. But the key to growth is to think of your product as a shop.

Marcus Devold Soknes at Dev Day 2017
Marcus Devold Soknes at Dev Day 2017

Marcus shared that he adopts the lean startup structure. This approach involves building, measuring, learning, and then repeating the entire process. He touched on this importance of design and retaining customers saying, “As long as you remember that the customer is first, I’m sure you’ll probably get along.” Marcus went on to say that the best ambassadors for a product are its customers. He concluded with the words, “Keep it simple.”

Satyajeet Singh speaking at Dev Day 2017
Satyajeet Singh speaking at Dev Day 2017

The second speaker was Satyajeet Singh – Head of Platform Partnership in India at Facebook. He opened his keynote by sharing Facebook’s vision of bringing the world together and shared that they have a responsibility beyond this. He then spoke of the multiplier effect by sharing the examples of Rappler and Baby Chakra. He concluded his keynote by sharing Facebook’s different services that are aimed at helping developers.

Splitting up for the parallel sessions

Following the opening keynotes, we saw a short tea break. While everyone enjoyed a cup of tea or coffee and some snacks, behind the scenes the hall was being split into two. This was because much of the remaining sessions of Dev Day 2017 would happen in parallel. Of course, this meant we couldn’t attend all of the sessions. So here’s what we learned at some of the best sessions at Dev Day 2017.

Treating servers as cattle rather than as pets

One of the parallel sessions we saw was by Ragnar Harper – Chief Architect for Infrastructure and Security at Telenor. He opened by saying that the cloud is here to stay and it’s a welcome trend that eliminated the days of troubleshooting infrastructure. However, the larger the network, the more efficiently it needs to be managed.

Ragnar Harper speaking at Dev Day 2017
Ragnar Harper speaking at Dev Day 2017

Ragnar went on to share that infrastructure today is very different from 10 years ago. This is due to the introduction of many open technologies disrupting things. Today, those managing infrastructure must ensure its self-servicing. But as infrastructure grows it becomes fragile. This creates fear of automation. But this shouldn’t be the case as Ragnar explained, “The fewer hands on your infrastructure, the better.”

Ragnar then explained that infrastructure as code means systems should be easily reproduced. This should be without any effort by utilizing scripts. But this also requires systems to be disposable. Furthermore, the software should be consistent to not fear automation as designs are constantly changing today. Ragnar also encouraged the use of definition files as they are the perfect documentation. And then utilize version control.

“Treat your servers as cattle instead of pets” – Ragnar Harper

But most importantly, you should constantly test your systems and ensure any changes are small ones.  And all this should be easily programmable with API’s. At the end of the day, the infrastructure should work unattended. Ragnar then shared how to put this infrastructure together. He concluded by sharing that goal of all this is for infrastructure to become anti-fragile, which is beyond robust and better.

Microsoft and democratizing AI

Another great parallel session we saw at Dev Day 2017 was conducted by Ben Saghedi – Advanced Analytics Technology Specialist at Microsoft. He opened his session by sharing that today it’s a race to build the best classification model. He then introduced some of the tools Microsoft has to build AI systems. But the focus of his talk was the Microsoft Cognitive Services APIs.

He then shared the above video of Microsoft’s Seeing AI Project Prototype. Today the project has evolved into a free smartphone app that’s available on the iPhone. To learn more about the Seeing AI project, click here. And this Seeing AI project is powered by Microsoft’s Cognitive Services APIs.

Ben Saghedi speaking at Dev Day 2017
Ben Saghedi speaking at Dev Day 2017

Ben then went on to share that there’s a variety of API’s available from Microsoft that support a variety of purposes. These range from vision to speech to search to knowledge retrieval. We even saw a live demo of a chatbot created by one of these API’s. Having introduced these API’s, Ben concluded his session by introducing some of Microsoft’s other AI development tools such as AML Studio.

Stories and User Experience

Another interesting parallel session we saw on Dev Day 2017 was by Nivedita Kamat – UX Design Lead at TIQRI Corporation. The topic she chose to tackle was the relationship between stories and good user experience design. She opened by sharing that this relationship is an important one. Good user experience involves being able to tell the story.

She went on to share that a key component in this relationship is the experience map. And the perfect example of a good experience map is Starbucks. Nivedita shared that it’s also important for the product’s voice to share consistent messages as MailChimp does.

Nivedita Kamat speaking at Dev Day 2017
Nivedita Kamat speaking at Dev Day 2017

She then compared and Airbnb. Nivedita claimed that people prefer Airbnb when booking rooms for their trips. This is because Airbnb had the challenge of building trust and have people open their doors to complete strangers. They designed for trust and today we’re used to this. But they do well besides great design is great storytelling.

She went on to say that when you tell a story, you should never stop selling. In fact, you should start by explaining why you’re selling the product. Throughout your story, you should explain how the product works and how it fits into the lives of your customers. She concluded by saying, “If technology is the answer, what was the question?”

Closing keynote

The final speaker at Dev Day 2017 was Torgier Andrew Waterhouse – Director of Internet & New Media at ICT Norway. He opened the closing keynote by sharing a gif a robot band touring the world. This was an example of what’s possible with technology. And then he asked, “How can we empower each other to be superheroes with technology?”

He then shared the story of booking a ticket from Scandinavian airlines from Norway to Sri Lanka. The website was crashing and he complained about it on Twitter. The airline responded and over the course of the conversation, Andrew was told to either call the support line or to check the crashing website.

Torgier Andrew Waterhouse speaking at Dev Day 2017
Torgier Andrew Waterhouse speaking at Dev Day 2017

He then moved onto to speak about the history of the internet. This is a marvel that is borderless and if it was a country would be the one with the fastest growing economy. The internet is improving societies. It is necessary and we can’t turn it off and continue to function.

But when technology changes, people become afraid. And when we become afraid of technology, we try to regulate it. The best and worst example of this is the Locomotive Act 1861, which everyone ignored. He then shared, “The next big thing always starts out as a toy.”

The internet has changed banks and made them agile. When YouTube was born, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation dismissed it as child’s play but today they’re publishing TV shows on it. Underlying much of our technologies today, be it 3D printing or AI or VR or blockchain is the internet.

And now over 3 million people are connected to it. Andrew then went on to share that when you give technology to people, expect them to use it in unexpected ways. This was what AOL learned when people used their search engine to find a person. Ultimately, the reason why the internet is so disruptive today is that it’s open, available, and standardized.

“You don’t need permission to put something on the Internet” – Torgier Andrew Waterhouse

This means you don’t need permission to innovate and put it on the internet. This is why we should talk about the Internet of Everything, not just Things argued Andrew at Dev Day 2017. But people will not become computers. However, many jobs in the future will be automated.Yet, when we introduce new technology, we tend to use it the same way as the technology it replaces.

However, this may not always give us the full benefit. As an example, Andrew shared that we won’t get the full benefit of self-driving cars by following the existing rules such as following traffic lights. Yet these self-driving cars can be easily hacked and remotely controlled over the internet.

Nonetheless, everything will soon be connected to the internet says, Andrew. He went on to highlight the importance of security and spoke of many incidents of hacking. So how can you encourage people to use technology correctly? Andrew’s answer was to make it fun to use. Andrew went on to say that we should automate things with technology. This wasn’t because what exists it bad. But rather it’s about making society more interesting, beautiful, and better in general.

The End of Dev Day 2017

With the conclusion of the closing keynote, we saw tokens appreciation handed out. This was followed by the awarding of prizes for the winners of the social media contest that took place throughout the event. And with that, following the many group photos, Dev Day 2017 officially came to an end.


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