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July 2007 GeekDinner

Well, another GeekDinner has come and gone. The July 2007 GeekDinner went off fairly smoothly last night, and I think everybody was fairly pleased with how it turned out.

The venue (Krugmann's grill) wasn't completely organised: they had people eating in part of our part of the venue right up until about 6:45, and then had to ask us all to go and stand by the bar while they rearranged all the tables, as they hadn't realised we had projectors and equipment. To be fair, our booking was for 7:30, although I don't know why, as we've said that the dinner was at 6:30 for 7:00 from the beginning. Anyway, that said and done, everything else went off fairly smoothly: the food was decent, the service was not bad, and there was plenty of space for everybody to sit where they could see the speakers and screens.

We were quite worried at first about the venue layout: there was a big partition halfway across the venue which cut the two sides off, and meant that anywhere that we put the screen would only be visible by half the attendees. In the end, it worked out fine, because we had two screens and two projectors, with a split, and the speakers stood in the middle where everybody could see them. There was still a sense of "us and them" in terms of the two sides of the venue, but it wasn't too serious.

That brings me to the awesomeness of Antoine and Ryan, and the guys from SimplyAV. They donated a screen and projector each, and the splitting equipment to enable the two-screen system, and came and spent an hour or so beforehand setting up and testing everything.

The speakers were pretty good. Dave Carman gave a good (if a little too long and technical) talk on the community wifi mesh down in Scarborough, which was very inspiring. Ian Gilfillan gave a nice talk about his experiences in writing a technical book. Alan Levin stood up and started a discussion about whether peering was actually needed in South Africa right now, and managed to let Andy's heckling slide right past him. Then came a talk I had looked forward to, but been somewhat worried about: Johan Wegner and Sam Paddock from GetWine. I invited them to come along to the dinner, and asked them if they'd like to speak about their experiences selling wine on the internet in South Africa's current technological climate, but I wasn't sure whether they would just give us a marketing blurb, or what. As it turns out, their talk was perfect. Johan gave us an overview of the business and its history, and how it got to where it is today, and Sam talked about the technical side of the business, and ended with lessons he'd learned from trying to sell things over the internet. It was very interesting, and prompted some good questions. It certainly didn't hurt that they had generously sponsored the wine for the event (and offered to sponsor future events too!). Finally, Aslam Khan gave a really good talk about Behaviour Driven Development. It was engaging and interesting, for both the non-technical and technical listeners, in spite of the fact that it was basically about writing proper unit-tests for your programs. (Update: he has written about the dinner and linked to his slides.)

I was very pleased with how the evening turned out, and as I said, I think everybody enjoyed it. We didn't have as big a turn-out as last time, and I would have preferred to have a few more non-technical talks than we did (for those in the audience who don't know what all the acronyms mean), but I think it was a success for all that. Photos will be up sometime this weekend.

Now, of course, we have to start thinking about the next one...