2013 Videos


Lightning Talks

Watch Dr. Nic, Jessica Lord, Brenton Cheng, James Hwang, Jon Hyman, Kevin Stevens, Kyle Henderson, Denis Ivanov, David Cadwallader, Jen Diamond, Joyce Hsu and Jim Weirich present their lightning talks at Distill 2013.


Brent Bushnell

CEO, Two Bit Circus @brentbushnell

Accelerating Creativity

Brent plays at making technology fun. He is he currently the CEO of Two Bit Circus, an LA-based idea factory focused on education and amusement. Previously he was the on-camera inventor for the ABC TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a founder of Doppelgames, a mobile game platform company that sold to Handmade Mobile in 2012 and a founder of Syyn Labs, a creative engineering collective responsible for the hit OK Go Rube Goldberg machine music video and other large scale spectacles. His particular passions include group games, out-of-home entertainment, and inspiring kids via programs such as NFTE.


James Whelton

Co-Founder, CoderDojo @jwhelton

Creating a Movement

James Whelton hails from Cork, Ireland. A 20 year old developer and social entrepreneur, he is passionate about using technology to improve the world and making the opportunity to experience the awesomeness of coding available to young people around the world. With a background in iOS and Web development, he’s ventured in everything from building Twitter powered doors to proximity controlled kettles to realtime services to teaching 11 years olds Objective-C. He was named a Forbes 30 under 30 in 2013 for social entrepreneurship and Irish Software Association Person of the Year 2012. He likes hacking the system, using code to achieve big things, pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.


Michael Lopp

Director of Engineering, Palantir @rands

Stables and Volatiles

Michael Lopp is a director at Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley software company dedicated to radicalizing the way the world interacts with data. Before joining Palantir, Lopp was part of the senior leadership team at Apple for nine years where he led essential parts of the Mac OS X engineering team, and subsequently managed the engineering team responsible for Apple’s Online Store. Prior to Apple, he worked in engineering leadership at notable Silicon Valley companies such as Netscape, Symantecand Borland. Lopp is a noted author in Silicon Valley; his blog, “Rands In Repose,” and his books, Managing Humans and Being Geek, are part of a new management and engineering canon.


Nolan Bushnell

Founder Atari, Chuck E. Cheese's @nolanbushnell

Accelerating Creativity

Nolan Bushnell is best known as the founder of Atari Corporation and Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theater. Mr. Bushnell is passionate about enhancing and improving the educational process by integrating the latest in brain science, and truly enjoys motivating and inspiring others with his views on entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation and education. Currently, Mr. Bushnell is devoting his talents to fixing education with his new company, Brainrush. His beta software is teaching academic subjects at over 10 times the speed in classrooms with over 90% retention. He uses video game metrics to addict learners to academic subjects. Over the years, Bushnell has garnered many accolades and distinctions. He was named ASI 1997 Man of the Year, inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame, inducted into the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame and named one of Newsweek’s “50 Men That Changed America.” He is also highlighted as one of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial icons in “The Revolutionaries” display at the renowned Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California.


Ana Nelson

Creator, Dexy @ananelson

Full Stack Documentation: A holistic approach to documentation, testing, development and deployment.

Documentation is not just something we should do more of, it's the key to integrating all of the best practices we [try to] follow into a coherent whole, and getting the most value out of every line of code. We will see how automating deployment means we can easily create a structure for writing fully maintainable documentation for several different audiences, and we will see how this process creates a feedback loop to improve our code and workflow.


Ana is the creator of Dexy, a Python-based tool for powerful document and data automation. Ana is a programmer with a Ph.D. in Computational Economics who loves the Computational part more than the Economics part. She combines her programming and research interests by working with and documenting open source software. Ana's talks are creative and interdisciplinary, bringing together diverse ideas.


David Hendee

Partner and Director of Design, Carbon Five @dhendee

Leaner, Meaner Design

After designing and building software for clients on more than 100 products over the last 20 years, it's become painfully obvious that there's no shortage of great ideas for new products. Equally obvious is that starting with a great idea doesn't necessarily mean you’ll wind up with a great product. Almost every wildly successful startup has found said success with a completely different product than they originally set out to build.

How have these teams found the secret successful product hiding in the heap of (mostly unused) features their team is furiously designing, building, shipping, and supporting? Sure, you're supposed to get out of the building and talk to customers, but how do you actually do it, and what do you once you have? And what if you got into this whole industry partly because you don't actually like talking to people?

In this issue:

• 1 question you should be asking everyone you meet

• 3 folds to a piece of paper that can turn anyone into a designer

• 8 hours that just might turn your product into the next big thing

• 100 dollars you should be spending on TaskRabbit every month


David Hendee is the Director of Design at Carbon Five, a 35-person web and mobile software design and development consultancy with offices in San Francisco and Santa Monica. In his 20 years as a software developer, David has been a designer and front-end developer for countless startups, non-profits and enterprise clients including Skype, National Geographic, and Genentech. Before Carbon Five, David was co-founder and VP of Design at the boutique software consultancy Fire Engine Red and a graduate of the Architecture program at Berkeley. He currently resides in Alameda, California with his wife and a tiny dinosaur named Dorothy.


Ed Finkler

Partner, Fictive Kin @funkatron

Open Sourcing Mental Illness

In the spirit of open source, I’d like to shine a spotlight on depression. Not because it’s easy, but because it’s important. Mental illness affects many of us, but the stigma attached to it dissuades most people from talking about it openly. That’s not how we make progress. With this talk, I want to do my part.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was thirteen, and I’ve been struggling with it my whole life. In this talk, I’ll discuss how it has impacted my work as a developer, husband, and father.

By speaking openly about my own challenges and successes, I hope those struggling with mental illness will learn how to be happier and more productive, and others can better understand how to be helpful and supportive.


With over 15 years of passionate web development experience and open source advocacy, Ed Finkler loves empowering people through technology. He’s excited about creating things and sharing them with the world.

He served as web lead and security researcher at The Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) at Purdue University for 9 years. More recently, he has been helping startup teams build exciting e-commerce, social sharing, and mapping systems. He’s a proud member of the Fictive Kin team, working on Done Not Done, Gimme Bar, and lots of other cool stuff. Along with Chris Hartjes, Ed is co-host of the Development Hell podcast.

Ed spends much of his free time creating and working on open source projects such as Spaz, a long-running, award winning microblogging client. Ed also created the PHP libraries like FUnit, Resty.php, PHPSecInfo, and Inspekt.


Eli White

CTO, Musketeers.me @EliW

Anti-Spam & Anti-Gaming Tactics

Drawing on experiences of running large websites (such as digg.com) and blogs, this session will discuss numerous tactics that you can use to keep spammers and website gamers at bay. Some specific technologies and how to interface with them will be mentioned, but also generic discussions of base theory, that you can use to apply to your own website where you see fit.


Eli has been building Web Applications for over 18 years and has worked on numerous high profile projects, such as Digg, TripAdvisor, and the Hubble Space Telescope Program. He is currently a Founding Partner & CTO of Musketeers.me, and the Managing Editor of php|architect magazine. He is also an avid writer (blogs, articles and books), and has spoken at numerous conferences.


Elise Worthy

Founder, Brandworthy @eliseworthy

The History of Women in Programming

Computer programming was once seen as "women's work." Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Adele Goldberg, and others played pivotal roles in paving the way for today's computing professions. So why then do we see so few women in our community? We'll cover the history of women in computing, possible causes of the gender imbalance, and ideas for how our community can shape a future that includes more women. Co-presented with Jessica Lynn Suttles.


Elise is software developer, marketer, and aspiring polymath. She's obsessed with surfacing data for easy consumption and does so with lots of ruby and javascript. In 2012, she completed LivingSocial's Hungry Academy program. She is currently on a 6-month fitness sabbatical, finding out her body's potential and tracking improvement as she goes.


Fred George

Co-founder, Outpace Systems @fgeorge52

Implementing Programmer Anarchy

Programmer Anarchy is a post Agile process that focuses on empowering programmers by eliminating roles that interfere with domain knowledge and assumption of day to day decisions by the programmers. Originally conceived in a startup environment at Forward Internet Group in London, Programmer Anarchy is now being implemented in a traditional IT shop for an established company: MailOnline, the online newspaper arm of the Daily Mail of London. This discussion will talk about the introduction of Anarchy into a Scrum shop, the training, the transition of roles, and the redesign of HR roles.


Fred George is a consultant with over 44 years experience in the industry including over twenty years doing object programming and over a dozen years doing Agile/XP. He counts at least 70 languages with which he has written code. A veteran of the IBM‐Microsoft wars, Fred did early work in computer networking, LAN's, GUI's and objects for IBM. As an independent consultant from 1991 to 2003, he counted HP, MorganStanley, American Express, IBM, and USAA among his clients. He gave the first Agile/XP experience report at OOPSLA in 1999 about an embedded system done in Java, and has mentored many clients in use of objects in Java under an XP process. He has shared the stage at JavaOne with Martin Fowler, acting as his foil, and assisted in XP Immersion sessions with Kent Beck, Ron Jeffries, and Robert Martin. Fred spent a year as a visiting lecturer at N.C. State University teaching Java programming to over 800 undergraduates, with a generous dose of object design, patterns, and XP practices thrown in. Fred joined ThoughtWorks in 2003, delivering yet more projects using agile processes. He has worked with clients in four countries since then, including a tenmonth assignment in India (where he founded ThoughtWorks University), four months of projects in China, and a post in the London office. In 2007, he joined the London Internet advertising firm, Forward, bringing Agile practices to all aspects of the business, leaving to pursue industry change at the end of 2011. He has been writing about the postagile work at Forward under the moniker of Programmer Anarchy. He believes in objects, Lean processes, fun in programming, and the client's successes. He holds a bachelors degree from N. C. State University in Computer Science, and a masters degree from MIT in the Management of Technology. Oh, and he still writes code!


Hampton Catlin

VP of Technology, Moovweb @hcatlin

Hampton's 6 Rules of Mobile Design

If you're thinking about how to go mobile at your company or want to improve your users experience on mobile, then you've taken on the job of thinking about mobile design. Hear the designer of the original Wikipedia Mobile and his 6 Rules of Mobile design that he used to create Wikipedia Mobile and get walked through the design process he used. Learn exactly what it takes to make a fantastic mobile experience for your user, and how to think through what your users are really after when mobile. If you think mobile is just another screen size, then you are in for a shock.


Hampton Catlin is the inventor of Sass, Haml, and Wikipedia Mobile. He is also the creator of Dictionary!, a popular iPhone dictionary, and Moovweb, a powerful mobilization platform used by hundreds of Fortune 500 sites. Also, he's a fantastic kisser.


Jessica Lynn Suttles

Software Engineer, G5 @jlsuttles

The History of Women in Programming

Computer programming was once seen as "women's work." Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Adele Goldberg, and others played pivotal roles in paving the way for today's computing professions. So why then do we see so few women in our community? We'll cover the history of women in computing, possible causes of the gender imbalance, and ideas for how our community can shape a future that includes more women. Co-presented with Elise Worthy.


Jessica Lynn Suttles is vegan, loves cats, and is a software engineer at G5, where she sometimes gets to work on open source. Ruby on Rails is her main squeeze, but she spends more and more time with JavaScript. She enjoys simplicity and going with the flow.


Jim Weirich

Chief Scientist, Neo @jimweirich

Connascence Examined

Connascence (noun) is defined as (1) the common birth of two or more at the same time; production of two or more together, (2) That which is born or produced with another, or (3) the act of growing together.

In software, we are told we should reduce the coupling between our modules so that our software is easier to maintain. But what is coupling? Myers (in "Composite/Structured Design") suggests that there are seven levels of coupling, but his nomenclature is developed during the days of Structured programming and does not deal well with objects and classes.

By identifying and classifying how changes in one portion of a software program can effect other places in the program, connascence attempts to define coupling in terms of ways software can changes. In this talk we will examine the different types of connascence and come to understand how coupling effects software development.


Jim Weirich first learned about computers when his college adviser suggested he take a computer science course: "It will be useful, and you might enjoy it." With those prophetic words, Jim has been developing now for over 25 years, working with everything from crunching rocket launch data on supercomputers to wiring up servos and LEDs on micro-controllers. Currently he loves working in Ruby and Rails as the Chief Scientist at Neo (formerly New Context), but you can also find him strumming on his ukulele as time permits.


Jina Bolton

Designer, Do @jina

Realigning & Refactoring UI

Often designers and developers see Markup and CSS Refactoring as a dreaded, monolithic task. Organization, architecture, clean up, optimization, documentation all seem tedious and overwhelming. However, if you're armed with the right tools and a solid foundation, you may find refactoring to be actually quite fun. Learn some Sass, markup, and documentation tips & tricks from a product designer's perspective. Start making refactoring a regular part of your design process and development workflows.


Jina Bolton enjoys creating beautiful user experiences. She currently works as a product designer at Do, an awesome company that helps you get work done. Previously, Jina has worked at rad companies including Apple, Engine Yard, and Crush + Lovely. She also coauthored 2 books, Fancy Form Design and The Art & Science of CSS.

She is currently helping lead Team Sass Design (a task force redesigning the Sass website) and Susy Next, the upcoming version of the Susy Responsive Grid system for Compass. She also has a side project, Art in My Coffee, a curated gallery of coffee art.


John Mertic

Solutions Architect, SugarCRM @jmertic

Four web technologies you should be looking at now!

The pace of innovation is unparalleled over the past few years, with so many interesting trends emerging and technologies around with it. HTML5, REST, and a renewed focus on Javascript have laid the groundwork for solving some of the most important problems people looking to build scalable and easily integratable web apps.

In this talk, we'll look at four technologies we are seeing as key to driving a whole new class of web applications; OpenGraph, Shadow DOM, Websockets, and Webhooks.


John Mertic serves as Solutions Architect and Community Manager for SugarCRM, having several years of experience with PHP web applications and open source communities. A frequent conference speaker and an avid writer, he has been published in php|architect, IBM Developerworks, and in the Apple Developer Connection, and is the author of the book 'The Definitive Guide to SugarCRM: Better Business Applications' and the book 'Building on SugarCRM: Creating Applications the Easy Way'. He has also contributed to many open source projects, most notably the PHP project where is the creator and maintainer of the PHP Windows Installer. He also sits on the board of the OW2 Consortum, and serves as secretary of the OpenSocial foundation.


John Paul

Lead Architect, Conde Nast @johnkpaul

JavaScript - The Real Bad Parts

I’m going to explain to you, the real “bad” parts of the language. These are at least three JavaScript language features that are the most likely to trip up a JavaScript developer. Once you innately understand these three issues, you will become significantly more productive in JavaScript, and will be a lot less confused when reading through large JavaScript code bases.


John K. Paul is the lead architect of Conde Nast's platform engineering team and former lead front end software engineer at TheLadders.com. He is a contributor to numerous open source projects including learn.jquery.com. He has spoken to various startups around NYC about front end development, and scalable engineering practices, in particular, unit testing javascript. Additionally, he has taught Javascript and jQuery fundamentals to teams throughout the NYC area.


Kerri Miller

Senior Software Developer, NIRD @kerrizor

Failure for Fun and Profit!

Do you actually know how to deliberately acquire, sharpen, and retain a technical skill? In this talk, I'll discuss common strategies to enable you to be more focused, creative, and productive while learning, by using play, exploration, and ultimately failure. You'll leave knowing several "Experiential Learning" patterns and techniques that can help you turn failure into success. When was the last time you failed in a spectacular fashion? Was it really so bad? If you want to succeed, you first need to take a little time to fail.


Kerri Miller is a Senior Software Developer and Team Lead based in the Pacific Northwest. She has worked at enterprise companies, international ad agencies, boutique consultancies, start-ups, and every place in between. She mentors and teaches students and interns through RailsBridge and other programs. Having an insatiable curiosity, she has worked as a lighting designer, marionette puppeteer, sous chef, and professional poker player, and enjoys hiking, collecting Vespas, and working with glass.


Konstantin Haase

Open Source Developer, Travis CI @konstantinhaase

Death to Cookies

You might be used to being laughed at for your hatred of cookies, but fear not, this talk will give you all the arguments you need for defeating your opponents when they once more start claiming that cookies are the greatest invention since animated gifs.

In this session we will be reminded why the cookies are our death sworn nemesis and get every cookie sympathizer back in line. We will see how there is no escaping from the threat that is a free roaming cookie and explore the utopia of a cookie free society.

To do this, we pretend to be one of the misguided cookie lovers and try to protect our website against increasingly more complex attacks, without giving up on using cookies. Until we inevitable reach the point were it's simply no longer possible to offer a fully secure application.


As maintainer of Sinatra, Konstantin is an Open Source developer by heart. Ruby has become his language of choice since 2005. He regularly contributes to different widespread projects, like Rubinius, Rack, Travis, Rails, and many more.

In 2012, Konstantin received the Ruby Hero Award for his outstanding contributions to the community.

He now works on Open Source projects at Travis CI in Berlin, Germany.


Matteo Collina

PhD Student, Unibo @matteocollina

Making Things That Work With Us

In the ”Internet of Things” (IoT) vision the physical world blends with virtual one, while machine-to-machine interaction improve our daily life. Clearly, how these virtual objects are exposed to us is critical, so that their user interface must be designed to support the easiness of usage that is driven by the users’ needs, which is different from what machines requires. These two requirements must be solved, and an integrated solution should emerge, if we want to bring the IoT to the 50 billions network that is predicted to became in the next years. In this talk, you will see how these requirements cannot be met by the same communication protocol, as the user interfaces dictates a way of communication that is no suitable for the "machines". We will analyze what are the state-of-art protocols for both machines and users, and finally we will propose a solution to solve this problem.


Matteo is a code pirate. He spends most of his days programming between Node.js, Ruby, Java and Objective-C. He is also pursuing a Ph.D. on the Internet of Things and the Real-Time Web. In the summer he loves sailing the Sirocco.


Matthew Weier O'Phinney

Project Lead, Zend Framework @mwop

Beautiful Software

The hallmark of any good software developer is a passion for coding. Passion is rarely enough, however. The best developers treat coding as a craft, and consider all the details that will take the code from "working" to something extensible, maintainable, and readable. Great software developers look at both the big picture as well as the details: Is your code consistent? If I have a new edge case, how difficult is it to fix or add? Have I considered all the various sources of input? If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, will the team carry on?

In this session, we'll discuss the choices we make as developers, and how they affect both how we develop and the results we produce -- choices ranging from testing to considering scalability, to re-use with alternate configuration. The goal is to inspire developers to craft beautiful software.


Matthew's first experience of a web browser was viewing images of the spread of the Ebola virus in the early 90s, which may explain why he didn't start his web development career until the year 2000. Once the programming bug bit, however, he found it impossible to shake off.

Over the years, Matthew has honed both his programming skills and open source collaboration skills on a variety of projects, but most notably at Zend Technologies and specifically on Zend Framework, which he has steered as project lead since 2009.

When he's not coding, Matthew spends time outdoors with his family, brews beer, or plops himself in a comfy chair with his nose in a good book.


Patti Chan

Director of Project Management, Intridea @pattichan

Fitter! Happier! Chart your team's health with Fitbit, Github, and R

Learn how to measure, visualize, and improve the health and productivity of your engineering team using open source tools and APIs like R, Fitbit, and Github. Especially if your team works from home or is confined to cubicles, engineering can be a pretty sedentary lifestyle. With this set of tools, find out the best time of day to tack on a walk outside, or how active individuals are squeezing in their morning runs. See what hours are most productive for checking in code and how they correlate to healthy activity.


Having worked in almost every aspect of crafting online experiences since 2002, Patti uses her developer, UX, and project management background to guide talented teams in building intelligent solutions for innovative clients. She currently serves as Director of Project Management at Intridea, a global force building better applications for enterprises and startups.


Richard Rodger

COO, Nearform @rjrodger

How to Write Big Apps

The Seneca pattern is a way to break your application into pieces so that you can put it back together again in many different ways. You don't have to worry about architecture, database choice, network design, scaling or even which objects to define - you can defer them all! Instead you focus on the "stuff that needs to happen" right from that start.

A concrete, production implementation exists in Node.js, and you can also write components in other languages.


Richard Rodger is the COO of nearform.com, a consultancy that helps startups build and launch software products. Richard is the author of Mobile Application Development in the Cloud (Wiley 2012), and was formerly CTO of feedhenry.com, a mobile applications platform. He is a regular contributor to the Sunday Business Post newspaper, and holds degrees in Mathematics and Philosophy, and Computer Science.


Richard Watson

Developer Evangelist, Engine Yard @richwatson

Designing Cloud Aware Applications

We can’t keep building applications the same way we’ve always done and expect them to work well on cloud platforms.

Cloud computing has a number of attractive characteristics that solve business and technical problems. It promises elastic scalability, metered consumption, and on-demand self-service. But, those characteristics are not features of infrastructure. They don’t magically appear when you deploy an application to the cloud. These characteristics emerge from creating systems that conform to cloud architecture principles (I outline 7 of them in this talk), and by applying design patterns to maximize those characteristics.

Unfortunately, we’ve also got to let go of WORA (write once, run anywhere). Clouds offer different features and fail in different ways. Systems need to be engineered to be aware of these peculiarities.

In this session, Richard urges developers to think about abandoning existing and comfortable patterns and guides them towards new ones that will allow their applications to be more awesome on their chosen cloud.


Richard is a developer evangelist for Engine Yard. Previously, Richard was a research analyst for Gartner, covering cloud computing, service-oriented architecture (SOA), middleware, and application platforms. Richard was also VP of architecture for Credit Suisse, leading efforts to adopt SOA, reference data architecture, and enterprise Java. In his 20 years in software development, Richard has worked for startups, enterprise IT organizations, and software vendors including Cape Clear and IONA Technologies, leading teams developing pioneering Java Web Services and CORBA middleware.


Ron Evans

Ringleader, The Hybrid Group @deadprogram

Ruby On Robots Using Artoo: A New Platform For Robotics, Physical Computing, and the Real World Web

Artoo is a robotics platform that allows you to communicate with several different machines in Ruby programming. Just like writing a line of code for your web application, you are able to write instructive code in Artoo that communicates with the machine. Ron will be demonstrating this with Sphero's and ARdrones.


Software developer, contributor to open source, author and speaker, iconoclast. Ringleader at The Hybrid Group.


Shanley Kane

Director of Product Management, Heroku @shanley

Function and Dysfunction in Engineering-Driven Cultures

All companies and all teams have implicit beliefs, unspoken rules, unexamined norms, unsurfaced power structures. These form the basis of your culture and inform how you make technical and business decisions. In this talk, we'll explore a framework for understanding how culture really works in engineering-driven companies. We'll deconstruct what "engineering-driven" means; how power dynamics, mythologies and belief systems drive technology selection; how bias functions in team hiring and growth; and how culture moderates friction and function in other parts of the organization. You'll walk away with a better understanding of culture in engineering-driven organizations, and some ways to help build critical consciousness and healthier patterns in your team and company.


Shanley Kane is director of products and marketing at Heroku. Previously, she worked at Apigee on the developer tools product team. She is a community organizer, advocate of women in technology, and an alum of Carnegie Mellon University.