The Hard Tour

By Mike / On / In Personal

The days are getting longer and warmer, the new version of Lemurs Chemistry is almost complete, and it’s time to start touring again. I thought I was going to be talking about monads this year, but things have gotten so hard in our industry lately, I’m going to talk about that instead. I’m not doing a lot of speaking this year, so these are some of few chances to see me on stage.

Appsterdam Birthday Bash April 20 in Amsterdam

The City of Amsterdam’s famous canals are 400 years old this year, and we are two! It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since we started the Appsterdam movement. It’s going to be amazing to look back at how far we’ve come, and how the organization and its goals have evolved. It’s also an important time to look at what Appsterdam means to us, and where we need it go in the future.

There are a limited number of tickets available for the low, low price of €15. The Appsterdam Foundation has been planning a really nice evening, and given how many folks are coming from all over to attend, the networking opportunities should be as good as the show itself. Don’t miss it!

GOTO Chicago April 23 in Chicago

Missing GOTO considered harmful! The GOTO conference and its counter-clockwise cousin, YOW!, are the biggest and best general technology conferences in the world, run by some of the most genuinely nice, community-centered organizers I have ever met. Here I’ll be giving a keynote about the App Universe After the Big Bang, where I’ll talk about the state of our rapidly shifting industry.

You can save $150 off the cost of admission with the discount code LEE150. I was born outside Chicago, and launched my speaking career at the C4 conference in Chicago. I could not be more thrilled to be returning to the Windy City—especially now that it’s home to one of the most active Appsterdam embassies.

360 Intersect April 28 in Seattle

Over the past few years, conference talks have been getting less and less technical, a trend that conference organizers around the world have collectively decided to put a stop to this year. Always looking to fill voids, John and Nicole Wilker of the excellent 360 conferences have decided to try a non-technical technical conference. I think it’s a great idea, and am giving it my full support.

Here you can get 20% off the ticket price with the discount code BMF. I’m going to be giving a very intimate keynote called Insane and Back Again, where I talk about some of the crazy things I’ve experienced in these past few years of travel. These are the stories I’m not comfortable blogging about, but speaking at 360 has always felt like talking to a roomful of friends, and I can think of no better place to give this special, one-time-only talk.

MobiDevDay May 4 in Detroit

When I first started Appsterdam, Andy Ihnatko asked me why I didn’t start it in Detroit. Somehow, that opened up a soft spot in me that remains undiminished even after what happened the last time I was there. I’m pleased to finally deliver something for the Motor City by participating in MobiDevDay, joining what promises to be an amazing array of speakers.

I’m giving a talk called Engineering is Hard, where I’ll be talking about the things we go through in order to deliver our products, pay our rent, and make the world a better place. In the vein of the title, which you might recognize this as a saying I’ve borrowed from a friend, I’ll be sharing a lot of great advice I’ve collected from engineers around the world on making a living in these crazy times.

AltWWDC June ? in San Francisco

WWDC tickets went so fast last year, our ears popped, and just like that, the whole idea of WWDC changed forever. What used to be a chance to get the latest news from Apple has turned into a kind of homecoming. This has become the poster child for a conference where the conference doesn’t matter. It’s really just the one week we all decide to be in California, as much for each other as Apple.

With the number of ticketless “showcializers” set to outnumber the number of actual attendees, and IndieDevLab merging with Appsterdam, AltWWDC 2013 promises to be the best unofficial side conference ever to side conference a conference. Whether you have a ticket or not, AltWWDC is your place to sit down, plug in, and get some wifi, lunch, and maybe even some knowledge.

Appsterdam at WWDC 2012

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

WWDC is my holiday week. Maybe you have the week between Christmas and New Year, but for me, it’s WWDC. It’s the time when I’m called home to give an accounting of my work year to 5000 of my friends and colleagues.

How important is this week to me? I timed the launch of Appsterdam for right after the last WWDC, so I’d have the longest possible time to be ready for the next WWDC, which is next week. I’m pleased to say that with the team I built, and the things we’ve done together, there’s a lot to say.

But why say what you can show? Which is why we’re bringing the spirit of Appsterdam to WWDC. Our friends at StackMob are turning their HQ into an Appsterdam hangout, where the ticketed and ticketless alike are welcome to unload, plug in, and meet their fellow App Makers, just like we do here in Amsterdam, and in embassy cities around the world.

We’re going to have sponsored lunchtime lectures, not just Wednesday, but everyday. I’m going to be delivering my new talk, “The Most Important Minute of Your Life.” There will also be talks from Victor Agreda, Jr, Danny Greg, Matt Vaznaian, Jason Harris, and Nathan Eror, who’s so influential, he inspired my recent vegan diet.

We’re also going to have a special keynote breakfast on Monday, where we’ll watch the blog feeds and showcialize over donuts and bagels.

Given the fact WWDC sold out in less than 2 hours, we’re expecting demand to far outstrip supply, so we’re partnering with IndieDevLab at The Box, who have their own set of lectures, timed with ours so as to not overlap, from such indie heroes as Ben Zadik, Jay “Saurik” Freeman, Dan Grover, and Nate True, my old homie. That’s twice the space, twice the lectures, and twice the showcializing opportunities.

Since the guys behind IndieDevLab and I worked at Tapulous during the dawn of the app ecosystem, we’re going to host a reunion panel on how we survived the Big Bang, Monday afternoon at 3. It promises to be the kind of rare and folkloric event you can only put together at WWDC.

The Big Show has had a night scene for years, but given the fact that more and more people are coming without tickets—and that we’re all getting older—we’re going to see a day scene this year like never before. For more information, and to let us know you’re coming, visit the Appsterdam HQ at WWDC home page.

I hope to see you there, and with that, a quick note from our Chief Community Officer, Judy Chen:

Both IndieDevLab and Appsterdam will be using the hashtag #AltWWDC so be sure to use that when tweeting about us! In addition, we’ll have our #Appsterdam IRC channel on Freenode to communicate with our friends abroad (irc://

Hall of Heroes

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

In my head are many imaginary rooms, dreamed up for some unrealized future home or headquarters. Among them is the Hall of Heroes, where hangs large woodcut portraits almost exactly like the author portraits that used to hang in Barnes and Noble. I used to imagine sitting in the cafe at Barnes and Noble and writing a great novel, inspired by those portraits.

When they took those portraits down from my local store, the Stephen King portrait found its way onto my wall, where it hung for many years. When I started making software, I would look at that portrait and imagine the portraits I would hang to inspire me in my future career.

Steve Jobs, obviously, and Steve Wozniak. Linus Torvalds, and Bill Gates as well, as you can’t understand one without all. Alan Turing. MLK and Malcolm X. Che. Elizabeth Blackwell. Musashi Miyamoto. Alison Jolly, who began the study of lemurs, and John Cleese, who taught us all so much about nurturing a sense of humor. Both people, notably, who have recently had new species of lemur named after them.

And Tim Berners-Lee. It felt like a significant decision adding him, not for inventing the World Wide Web that underlies so much of what we’ve done since, but for giving it away. In his book, Weaving the Web, he argues that computer scientists have a moral responsibility as well as a technical responsibility. To me, that felt like a charge, and declaring him a hero felt like a statement of how I wanted to be.

Which brings me to Appsterdam. Appsterdam was conceived a year ago, at NSConference 2011. Taking stock of where we are now, looking back at all the dots connected across what seems at once like all the time in the world and no time at all, has been a heady and emotional experience.

It’s clear we’ve passed a certain threshold, that we’re at the point when things start accelerating, when things start growing faster and faster. When I think about what I’d like Appsterdam to be a year from now, I want to see it outgrow its founder.

I was recently introduced to a concept I like a lot: post-heroic leadership. It’s what every company has to achieve in order to retain everything good about its creator, without becoming mired in what was bad about them. It’s what Apple is going through right now. It’s what I want for Appsterdam.

I’ve given a year of my life back to the community. It’s been an amazing year, a successful year, but also an exhausting year. I’m ready for a break, and more than that, I’m ready to let go. It’s time for the movement to level up. It’s time to pass on the reins.

On April 13, Judy and I will be flying to Taipei, Taiwan, to visit her family there, and to celebrate our engagement. We’re going to take a month to disconnect, to quiet the mind, to eat fresh food and drink a lot of water, maybe see a doctor. Hike up a mountain to a temple or a tea plantation, where you can have the best cuppa conceivable. See the future on sale at the street markets there. Relax, recharge, repair.

While we’re away, Paul Darcey will be interim CEO. Paul moved here from Australia to be part of Appsterdam. I’ve been impressed by his travels, and with the broad, round view they have given him. He has a calmness and maturity that is such a complement to my own fiery passion. He has exactly the kind of “steady as she goes” leadership I feel the organization needs now.

If all goes well during my month abroad—and I have no reason to believe otherwise—we’ll make the change permanent, and I will further seek to leave the board of Appsterdam, leaving me with no official ties to the organization. I will continue to carry the honorary titles of Mayor and Founder, and evangelize the city and the community we’ve built here.

I will also continue to advise the now independent leadership of Appsterdam, unbounded by the political necessities of actually running the thing. I’ll be experiencing things from the customer side of the counter, and offering my feedback from a position of experience, rather than of power.

I hope this will also serve as an example to all those inspired by Appsterdam, and as a thorn in the side of any who would attempt to hijack our work by questioning the goals of our organization or the intent of its founder. It is only by selfless action that we disprove those who do not believe in the existence of selfless action.

My hope is that, in good time, we will be able to transition the organization into something that is truly owned and operated by the community of App Makers it serves. I would love to see the leadership positions in the foundation opened up to elections. Democracy is scary and messy, but it’s also the best way we have to give something to the people—for our community to manifest itself through our organization.

As for me, I am in the process of starting a new company, of assembling a new team. I plan to take advantage of the new ecosystem by founding my next startup right here in Amsterdam. As I mentioned before, I plan on making the world’s best educational games for kids.

International Genius Program: Dom Sagolla

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

When we launched the Appsterdam Overwinter, we added to the organization a commitment to raising the level of quality and training of App Makers in the Netherlands and beyond. That included redoubling our efforts on existing infrastructure, like the Weekly Wednesday Lunchtime Lectures and the Appsterdam Guru Sessions. We also added things like designer retraining through the BNO.

It brings me great pleasure to launch another initiative in that vein. The International Genius Travel Grant Program is a joint venture between Appsterdam, local government, and the university of Amsterdam. The idea is to select the world’s most interesting technologists and bring them to Amsterdam to recognize their achievements and learn from their experience.

Normally speakers of such quality require lengthy notice, high fees, and other requirements. With our network and the pull of this glorious city, we’re able to break down barriers and bring costs inline to provide high bandwidth conversations to people, like students and healthcare workers, whose growth is good for society and of benefit to us all, but whose connections into our industry are otherwise sparse.

Our first International Genius is famed Twitter Co-founder and all around great guy Dom Sagolla. Aside from literally writing the book on Twitter, Dom is known for contributing to the Obama ’08 iPhone app, and for his founding and continued involvement with iOSDevCamp. He is a source of many great insider stories, dating all the way back to his adventures at the MIT Media Lab.

On a personal note, Dom is not only one of the smartest people I have ever met, he’s also one of the nicest and coolest people I know. I consider myself very lucky to call him my friend. I love this guy so much I want to introduce you all to him, to let you get to know him, that you might benefit from his insights, as I have. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet one of my favorite people.

Dom will be in Amsterdam from February 25th to March 2nd. He will receive formal recognition by the City of Amsterdam, and speak at a number of private and invitation-only events. If you’re a UvA student, don’t miss his talk to the schools of Humanities and Software Engineering on the intersection of those two fields.

Dom will also be making public appearances all over town that week. You can count on catching him at our usual Wednesday activities—the Weekly Wednesday Lunchtime Lecture and Meeten en Drinken at Bax. You can also catch Dom the night before, February 28th, at a special event at Pakhuis de Zwijger. Here’s a flier we made for that event:

This is a flier for Dom Sagolla's appearance at Pakhuis de Zwijger on February 28.

Weekly Wednesday Bonus Lecture

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

Fill your noggin and get your fill of nog in, at a very special Weekly Wednesday Lunchtime Lecture.

They said it couldn’t be done. They said it was too close to Christmas. They said we were crazy to even try.

Then it turned out Josh Clark was in town. Josh is the author of Tapworthy, the definitive explanation of why your app sucks. Josh graciously agreed to speak at next week’s lecture.

Then, for some reason, eggnog was mentioned.

Come see Josh Clark, drink some eggnog, and watch Josh Clark drink some eggnog.

Normally we bring broodje toppings to the lunchtime lectures, but I suppose this time we should bring our favorite holiday treats.

Same time, same place: Wednesday, Dec. 21, 12:30 at Innovatielab on the top floor of Vijzelstraat 20.

RSVP to guarantee there’s room for you!