Monktoberfest 2012

Welcome to the Monktoberfest

The best part of any conference is the people; with Monktoberfest the last two years RedMonk has set the bar incredibly high.

For the second year in a row, Monktoberfest (and it’s stewardship by my friend Steve) has thoroughly impressed me. As most of the attendees are “friends of RedMonk” it’s not surprising that they display the type of curious, friendly, quick-witted and analytical qualities that make people so successful in our industry.

One of the things that sets the conference apart to me is an intentionally smaller size (~80 people) combined with an openness on the part of the attendees to engage with each other. Meeting people at Monktoberfest is a bit of an interesting two-step. Everyone has done something interesting but no one wants to brag about it.

Hi, I’m Alex.

Hi Alex, I’m (insert name here).

Then you keep chatting about some topic or joking around a bit. At some point you catch someone’s last name, or their company name, or someone else joins the conversation and drops a hint and you realize, “holy crap, I’m talking to the guy/gal who did (X)“.

And this happens over and over and over again. It’s awesome.

There were two talks that spoke to me particularly this year. The first was Rafe Colburn talking about the unique engineering culture at Etsy. At Crowd Favorite we share a number of common ideals with Etsy’s famous code as craft approach to development. I enjoyed both taking a few notes and the opportunity to chat briefly with Rafe about some of the things we’re doing slightly differently.

Ryan Tamayko of GitHub gave the second talk that hit close to home. GitHub famously has no managers and my team has a similar lean structure. Ryan had a great slide as part of his presentation.

Problems Best Solved by Managers

Ryan talked about how it can be difficult for people to get comfortable with the kind of autonomy they have at GitHub. I realized this is a message I need to hammer home a bit more with my team.

We use the term “project manager” but they are peers of the makers (designers, developers, etc.) on the project and are charged with championing the client’s needs (often by proposing different approaches and solutions to them) and helping creatively solve problems. They are experts in what they do just as much as the makers are, and it’s in the collaboration of these folks working in small teams that we find success.

The conference-y bits are awesome, and so is the socializing (and beer).

Beer Me

I’m more of a fan of cocktails and hard liquor than beer, but the pairings at Monktoberfest are pretty awesome. An impressive combination of rare, local and “fresh off the fermenter” brews. Check Steve’s post for the full listing but dinner was definitely a highlight (again).


I highly recommend staying the weekend and taking in the scenery in Maine. I love Colorado, but it’s awesome to be back on the water. There are more than a few things in Portland that reminded me of Seattle in the fall.


And if you come to Maine, you have to go through Freeport and get some bread. I know, I know – I didn’t get it either but trust me, you will once you taste it. I brought a second suitcase so I could bring nine loaves back home with me. On a side note, the TSA considers jam to be a :scare: liquid :/scare: and will confiscate it if you try to carry it on along with your bread.

I’m thoroughly looking forward to both sponsoring and attending Monktoberfest again next year.