Entelect at Dev Week, San Francisco, USA.

1. Was this your first time at Dev Week and did it meet your expectations?

Yes. It was the first time I attended Dev Week in San Fran and it was more or less what I expected: A huge conference and developer expo, where I had chance to meet many interesting developers and startups.

It also happened to be the first time I gave a talk outside South African borders, which was pretty exciting.

2. Your talk was on AI - tell us more

My talk was a primer on neural networks - a concept used in machine learning that tries to create intelligent machines by attempting to mimic how the human brain and nervous system works. This approach is used extensively in modern AI implementations and the aim of the talk was to demystify the intuition of how they work, how they're trained, and how they're designed.

3. Which other talks did you attend and did anything blow your mind?

I particularly enjoyed two of the keynote talks:

One by Jason Warner of Github titled "Building a Scalable Developer Culture". He spoke about how culture in a company (especially a tech company) needs to be organic and stem from leadership.

The other was also about scaling. It was a talk by Bryan O'Sullivan of Facebook titled "Scaling Developer Tools and Teams". This talk gave some insight into the amount of time and effort Facebook put into optimising their development environment for more productive and happier developers. It also touched on some cultural aspects that Facebook cultivates for better development teams.

4. You were also a judge at Dev Week’s Hackathon – tell us about the ideas and prototypes competing?

There were some very cool ideas, and there were some very practical ideas. Some of the teams wanted to build something that wouldn't necessary solve a burning need but allowed them to tinker with new technology and learn. Other teams decided to tackle a real-world problem using AI, Blockchain, AR, or IoT technology to name a few.

The hackathon only allowed teams 24 hours to develop the solution. Given the time constraint, the teams that did best, were teams that focused on tackling a small part of the problem and prototyping it in the simplest way possible…

One team tried to tackle the problem of slouching in front of your desk by using an Intel depth perception camera. They got a prototype working, and personally I appreciated that since slouching is a problem I try to fix as well. Another used Oculus Rift VR to make remote meetings more personal by placing people in the ‘same room’ using virtual and augmented reality.

Another team created an open source JavaScript plugin for cryptocurrency websites to better standardise the way their charts represent currencies for better interaction by users. And another tinkered with IoT sensors to better measure the contents of physical containers and monitor it via a real-time dashboard. Lastly, a team created a map-based restaurant suggestion app with a twist - it only shows you the worst restaurants in a category!

There were no rankings issued but various companies sponsored prize money and some categories included using an SDK from that company. Here is a list of the winners

5. Tell us some things you’ll be bringing back to your dev teams in South Africa?

For one, I can say that South Africa has talented developers that are on par with Silicon Valley in terms of stature and the technology we use. I learnt a lot from talks I attended, but mostly from people I spoke to; I plan on ‘upping our game’ in terms of cultivating the development community in South Africa, and better scaling and growing our teams at Entelect.

I've realised that the culture we have at Entelect is really special - something that can easily be compared to companies in Silicon Valley, and I'd like to take it beyond that.

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