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Learning, bikes and app development at GOTOber Berlin


Jon Woodroof

Peace, Berlin!(Photo courtesy Benedict Herzberg)

Much of my life is about finding the groove where learning, bikes and app development intersect. Little did I know that my time in Berlin for GOTO would align with that theme so well. I attended GOTO to learn as much as I could from the brilliant attendees, and to continue my mission of further exposing the European community to Big Nerd Ranch.

Excited to have introduced @helloworldbln & @komoot! Talking bikes, apps, Berlin and beyond. #komoothttp://t.co/cvd3BDmchq

— Jon Woodroof (@twotoneatl) October 16, 2013

In what should be no surprise to anyone who knows me, my first stop off the plane was to both procure wheels for transportation in the city and to connect some local dots. I reached out to Jonas of Komoot, whom I met when Big Nerd Ranch attended SXSWi earlier this year, and suggested we meet at Hello World Berlin, where I’d be renting a vintage steel Italian steed for the following few days. Sdoe and Jonas, though both in the same scene in such a small city as Berlin, did not know each other, and we had a coffee while learning about one another’s businesses. They immediately had the inclination to team up and offer custom routes for Hello World Berlin bike renters through the Komoot app. I was thrilled—and equipped with a wonderful means to navigate Berlin.

“Learn fast, learn often (not fail fast, fail often) as a successor to risk reduction”… http://t.co/pEMmdD8Yye

— Jon Woodroof (@twotoneatl) October 17, 2013

Once at GOTO, I heard Alistair Cockburn, GOTO keynote speaker and initiator of the agile movement, use the phrase “Learn fast, learn often!.” This saying embodied the spirit of the conference for me, and the broad spectrum of new things to learn is precisely why I would recommend the GOTO conference. Among the new things I learned about while at GOTO:

  1. The pros and cons of graceful degradation vs. continuous integration.

  2. The challenges of migrating a technology stack in a rapidly growing company through Zalando’s story of changing from PHP/MySQL to Java/PostgresSQL.

  3. Great examples of in-app search by Simon Willnauer, who discussed ElasticSearch’s Apache Lucene-powered and schema-free search engine.

Before I started at Big Nerd Ranch, these topics would have been Greek to me, and I was excited to be benefiting so greatly from the discussions.

It’s hard to choose from among the many talks I attended, but here are my top picks:

  1. The App Universe After the Big Bang from Mike Lee of Appsterdam. Mike talked about the changes in productized apps and asked, “Where do we go from here? What kinds of ideas are worth pursuing?”

  2. The Epistemology of Software by former Twitter engineer Nathan Marz, where he shared his belief that a. you cannot perfectly reason through software, and b. the best you can do is minimize wrongness.

  3. The Challenge of Craft by Dave West, author of Ars Magna. This was a very compelling talk that discussed how reality, a CAS (complex adaptive system), is being redefined through technology. The Craft lies in the understanding of the CAS, and in the knowledge and experience required to make the right change at the right time in the right place to ensure that the CAS is in a better state than it was before.

Lastly, I’d be remiss not to mention my opportunity to attend CreativeMornings Berlin. This talk continued the theme of disciplined learning, but through the lens of play. Check out Ole’s talk here.

My trip to Germany gave me the opportunity learn as much as I could, and I enjoyed connecting with attendees from all over the globe. What are your favorite takeaways from the recent conferences you have attended, and what future events in Germany should I be sure not to miss?


Jon Woodroof

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