“I deal with the customers so the engineers don’t have to.”As many of you know, I’ve been a Nokia Developer Champion for a couple of years now. Technically I was one (in deed only) since 2006; Nokia just formalized that with a certificate and a few very nice perks starting in late 2010.
I was brought into the official fold not for coding prowess but rather for Maemo community development. Which was cool, because that’s where I found the bulk of my volunteer efforts going; there were plenty of others fighting on the coding front and too few fretting over community growth and outreach processes. And as I explained to some Nokia developer relations guys after a pre-Nokia World get-together last year, there are champion developers, and developer champions.
Well, after some amount of begging, finagling, stock-selling and unusually good luck I managed to make it to Devaamo Summit 2012 in beautiful Tampere, Finland. And after some amount of procrastinating and blathering about other subjects, I’m finally managing to share the experience with you.
The Trip Out
Of course not all luck was good. A delay in getting the funds from the stock sale led to less-than-ideal air travel tickets. Which in turn led to being stranded on the DFW airport tarmac for an hour as a hail storm pelted the plane. Which finally resulted in an overall delay of three hours since my connecting flight out of Atlanta ran into equally aggravating weather. Then in Amsterdam my gift to good friend Timo (timoph/timorph) Härkönen of a bottle of Texas hot sauce was confiscated because their security didn’t trust ours. Finally, when I landed at Helsinki Vantaa airport, I realized my new travel guitar had not yet made the trip.
Ultimately it wasn’t all bad, though, as Timo (along with his gracious better half Niina and our mutual friend Carsten Munk) was kind enough to make a two hour trip by car to pick me up at Helsinki Vantaa airport. That was cool. It certainly beat a solo train or bus ride, and if I remember correctly I paid something like 8 euros less for refueling their car than I would have for a train ride. That’s, like, a whole beer.
Timo had taken time off of work, and Niina went off to visit friends and family, so we did the bachelor thing for a few days. Minus strippers and alcohol-induced stunts that is. In all seriousness, Timo is not only a great friend but a truly wonderful host. He made sure I got where I needed to go at all times. And his cool cat Rog kept me good company at night.
The first day we enjoyed a lazy breakfast during a beautiful morning. Then Timo and I trekked the short distance to New Factory to help set things up and then enjoy a Mer Project “birds of a feather (BoF)” talk conducted by Carsten (stskeeps) along with David (lbt) Greaves. It was a great way to begin as this sort of highly-interactive session loosens participants up and gives them an idea of event nature. A relative to Maemo, the Mer open source mobile device core project is a favorite of mine so it was good to see that it still plugs along (and as we later discovered, will be at the heart of Jolla‘s efforts).
The next day was the event proper, and I got roped into session moderator duties by the hard-to-resist Carol (cybette) Chen for the first half. I was a bit nervous at first because I had never done that before and was concerned about what I would say. Those who know I rarely shut up are surely surprised to read that, but it’s true: if I’m not prepared I tend to stutter or blank. Fortunately I made it through without catastrophe.
At lunch time several of us went out to enjoy some delicious Italian fare at the Bella Roma restaurant in the complex. I have to say that the food and service here have been excellent all three times I have been. I really recommend the monster calzones.
I had my own session to conduct after lunch. Intro to 3D Parametric Design had been rejected at first but they managed to find room for me at the last minute. Which meant that I had neglected to put anything together until just before I flew out. That turned out to be an issue; as one reviewer noted, I didn’t cover enough material. We had 30 minutes and I actually wrapped up in 20, unwittingly skipping a few parts of the demo I had planned. I had hoped the audience would ask more questions then the one from the illustrious Henri (bergie) Bergius; what I should have done when none were forthcoming was go back to the demo and play around some more. Ah well… point learned the hard way.
I don’t really need to go into more detail about the event itself, because the reviewer who (rightfully) panned my talk does a really good job of sharing what he experienced. So does Timur Kristóf.
After the event wrapped up the traditional party commenced. There was plenty of beer and a local comedian regaled us with some pretty decent jokes. He started in English for the sake of the multinational audience but had to beg off into Finnish after a just a few jokes. Judging from the native response, he did fairly well. Meanwhile I had some great conversations with Lucian (ltomuta) Tomuta, Timur (venemo), Jenifer (msjen) Hanen, Thomas (tbr23) Rucker and others. See some pictures here.
Henri spent the bulk of the evening trying to get me drunk it seemed. He came close but did not quite succeed. Better luck next time, Bergie! I just hope your motives are pure. ;)
Once the party wound down and we had to leave the facility, a good number of us headed off to a park along the river where we battled advancing inebriation and tough Finnish mosquitoes. By this time my travel guitar had completed its traveling and we were reunited. I had brought it solely for songwriting purposes since I’m actually a crappy player, but as it turned out some guy named Sakari (shyoty) Hyöty was highly skilled and entertained a few of us with his playing. I was impressed that he was able to pick up some of my original songs so quickly. He seemed like someone I would love to work with.
Timo and I both tired before most of the crowd so we headed back to his apartment to watch Iron Sky. It was a bit campier than I had thought it would be, but overall I’m impressed with what the low budget production team managed to accomplish with this partially-crowdsourced effort.
I had nothing personally scheduled for Sunday so Timo and I took it easy again in the morning. That afternoon we headed back to New Factory for post-event cleanup and a delicious Thank You dinner at Plevna Bewery and Restaurant. Afterward Matti (smoinen) Saastamoinen was kind enough to take me by Timo’s to collect my things and then drop Carol, Timur and I off at the train station. The latter two saw me off as I headed to Helsinki, where I planned to catch a few hours’ nap at Jens (jnwi) Wiik’s apartment before catching a plan out of HEL at the ungodly hour of 6:30 AM. But Jens and I were too wired so we chatted about music, games and Maemo memories before I walked the several blocks to the bus station.
I was sad at the shortness of my stay and how swiftly departure time came, but so glad for the opportunity. Thanks so much to Carol Chen for tirelessly soliciting travel funds for me (I promise I’ll start paying people back soon!) and of course to Timo and Jens for their hospitality. My appreciation also to Timur, Henri, Attila, Jenifer, Thomas, Carsten, David, Lucian, Jukka and other friends for making me feel so welcome! I want to bring you all over here! During cooler weather of course.
There and Back Again
Once back at home and settled into my usual groove, I immediately began missing the Devaamo experience. Here in Texas I’ve attended numerous events of a related nature, but none with quite the same spirit. So I’ve been on a mission the past few years to share that spirit everywhere I go in the hope that it will catch fire here. Texas has lost quite a bit of industry to outsourcing and employees to hotbeds of innovation like Silicon valley; we need to get creative if we are to recapture any of that and take advantage of exploding opportunities like 3D printing.
One of those efforts involving transplanting New Factory itself. To that end, I’ve proposed a local “pre start-up” hackerspace (i.e., collaboration center) as part of a Fort Worth improvement project called Plan 2023. So far it’s been very well-received. But I’m not stopping there: this venue may not turn into anything so if we can’t make this happen via Plan 2023, I’m open to any other means of accomplishing this goal for the Fort Worth area. And I’m looking for help! We held a recent meetup to brainstorm possibilities and that was a good start– let’s keep the momentum going!
There’s no reason the “Devaamo experience” should be limited to Tampere. But I’m looking forward to returning next year!
Update: plans for Tribal Method have changed just a bit. See the website for details.
Just recently I sat down to share with whoever is interested what I’m up to lately and where I hope to be going. Instead, the article turned into a screed on introvert exploration. Which is okay, because it was a topic I wanted to talk about anyway, and with it now out of the way I can try the other bit again.
I’ve rambled quite a bit about my past in other places, mostly at Tabula Crypticum, so no need to dig into that deeply. But a synopsis is worthwhile still before revealing the new stuff.
At age fifteen I started in the plumbing business, a family obligation. After ten years of that torture I stumbled into a product design career, my goal at the time, starting with 7 highly educational years at Texas Instruments. When that ended I bounced around a bit in various technical ventures as US manufacturing outsourcing reduced opportunities for a maker like me. And after losing a too-short dream opportunity at Nokia I ended up in IT application support.
And that’s really not where I want to be.
I have some ideas, guys. Some small and easily rendered by myself into something real, and some so big and potentially game-changing in some way that I would need to wrap a sizeable company around them. They’ve been popping up for decades, and each job change has just opened up more possibilities to explore.
I have so many ideas that I can’t manage them all. So I’ve tried assembling teams, virtual and local, to get things going. With very little, if any, success so far.
So most of these ideas are stagnating, which is really eating at me. But one thought keeps me optimistic. It’s that I don’t need to be their ultimate owner; I just want to be their launcher.
You see, I’m not as big on monetary gain as I am on accomplishment. And I’m also a huge believer in the team approach… including team recognition over my own. Because I was insecure enough as a kid; having outgrown that long ago, I have motivators other than the need for attention. My biggest satisfaction comes from helping someone else succeed. And if it’s with the germ of an idea I had, even better! But I want the attention on the solution and the team that made it happen.
As my ideas accumulated and lingered, I realized I was seeing the same sort of thing I had seen in the Maemo and MeeGo communities: plenty of needs, plenty of people wanting to work on needs, and yet a big gap in execution. Organization was required, but these were contributors who resisted organization. After all, that leads to bureaucracies. Which lead to dead projects.
But then, so does inaction.
I’ve been thinking for some time that a solution to this dilemma would be big. And every now and then I toyed with creating one. I know many of the issues: different opinions on best practices, resource fragmentation, etc. I also know that the answers lie in solving functional disconnects, automation gaps, and similar. If people can work the way they want, without being burdened by technical obstacles and personality clashes, it’s a lot easier to get them on board a project. After all, technology is supposed to be an invisible enabler!
With those thoughts in mind, I believe I’m finally pulling a solution together. Participating in local entrepreneurial, social media and application development groups has really helped.
So yesterday I took out the domain tribalmethod.com. Because I have this idea that will help me solve the team assembly problem holding back other ideas, and very likely help you, too. It will work for open source, closed source and gradients in between. There will be opportunities for recognition, money and whatever else motivates you. I just could use help developing it.
There’s nothing at the Tribal Method domain… yet. I’m going to need to assemble a team for that. A chicken-and-egg dilemma, but hopefully I’ve piqued the interest of the right people.
Hop on board. Ask anything. This is going to be fun. ;)
Here’s the problem: Nokia screwed me. And no I don’t mean by letting me go (well, at first, but that eventually wore off). I mean by yanking me out of my introverted comfort zone.