Table XI Blog


Why we host a conference just to help our competitors


OpsConf attendees track how they're connected to each other

If you think it’s crazy to gather 19 of our competitors from 16 companies across three continents just to give them free advice … well, yeah, you would actually not be the first person to think that.

But the truth is that I started OpsConf — short for Operations Conference — at a time when I desperately needed some free advice of my own. Table XI was growing, and we were figuring things out on the fly. In the development world, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you’re the smartest, that you have all the answers you need. But two years ago, trying to figure out how to scale Table XI without giving up the things that make us great, it was pretty clear that I did not have all the answers. I needed a bigger sounding board. So I built one.

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Madison+ Ruby 2014: 5 Questions with Noel Rappin

madison-plus-ruby-93px-tallAfter months of anticipation it's finally here: Today kicks off Madison+ Ruby  in Madison, WI. I had the chance to sit down with Table XI Senior Developer Noel Rappin to find out makes Madison+Ruby a truly special conference.

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City of Broad Shoulders: Play, Make, Share

Poster for the "City of Broad Shoulders" event

Next week, join us for the City of Broad Shoulders, a three-night event coinciding with RailsConf that will highlight Chicago's enduring entrepreneurial spirit. Along with partners in crime Dev Bootcamp, 8th Light, and DevMynd, Table XI will be co-sponsoring a Speakeasy Night, a Maker Night, and a Windy City Night, where attendees will get to play games, build cool stuff, and learn how to tell a good story.

Speakeasy Night (April 22):  Chicago's history from the 20th century is steeped in tales of the Roaring '20s, Al Capone, and other prohibition-era lore. Slip into this speakeasy-themed saloon for rousing games of blackjack, dice, Werewolf, and Munchkin—no secret password required.

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Data by Design: May Table Talks

For years the term "Big Data" has buzzed on the lips of CEOs and executives and bounced off board room walls. Companies understand the opportunity their data represents to customize products and services to their customers, streamline operational efficiency, and unearth market insights that provide a competitive advantage. But knowing how best to apply data is one thing—telling a story through data in a way that illuminates is an art unto itself.

CNN Money recently published an insightful piece on this subject. Author Olof Schybergson says, "It's about turning information into meaningful insights people can use, giving data a human shape and a connection with the messy real world that we live in... Designers have it ingrained to focus on simplicity and bring a singular focus to delighting the end user—regardless of whether they are a business user or consumer. Designers know how to take complex or disparate information and make it tangible, understandable, and importantly, more human."

We'll be tackling this with the experts for our May Table Talks: Data by Design. Joining us for lunch on Thursday, May 23 will be Datascope Analytics partner Aaron Wolf, designer Sharlene King, DataMade founder Derek Eder, Chicago Data Visualization Meetup organizer Josh Doyle, and Table XI COO Mark Rickmeier, each of whom will treat us to a PechaKucha-style presentation on the topic.

Follow along at #tabletalks, and make sure to check out past Table Talks at Table XI's PechaKucha channel.

If you're interested in joining Table Talks as a guest just request an invitation through our website here.

May Table Talks: Data by Design

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How To Be The Most Interesting Man in the World

In September I had the opportunity to give a lightning talk (a five minute presentation) to Windy City Rails - a conference of over 200 Ruby on Rails programmers from all over the midwest.

The title of my presentation was How to Be The Most Interesting Man In The World. Sadly, I am not The Most Interesting Man In the World. The more accurate title would be "How to have a conversation with anyone and have them feel that it was the most interesting conversation they've had all day"... but that doesn't fit on a single slide in 60 point font.

Though I work in business development for Table XI, my background is in computer programming. Talking to people is not something that comes naturally to me - for most of my childhood I shared in the social anxieties that make for the stereotypes of software developers. My talk was about lessons I've learned for hacking face-to-face conversations and how I learned to talk to people by treating it as an engineering challenge.

The video of the lightning round talks were just posted online. You can find mine at the 20:40 mark below. (Vimeo doesn't have an option to deeplink to a specific time in a video, but you can skip there once it has loaded to that point.)

Lightning Talks from ChicagoRuby on Vimeo.

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More than Corn in Indiana

Web banner for The Combine, a tech conference taking place in Bloomington, Indiana.You wouldn't know it unless you were looking, but over the last few years, Indianapolis has developed quite the booming tech startup scene.

The Combine is a tech conference going on this weekend in Bloomington, IN, which hopes to nurture this environment by tapping into the talent coming out of Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, one of the country's consistently top-ranked business schools.

Our own Greg Baugues will be speaking at the conference at 10am this Saturday, Oct. 22, giving a presentation called "How to Be the Most Interesting Man in the World." It's a talk about hacking face-to-face conversations and the lessons he's learned for making the most of networking opportunities.

Are you headed to The Combine? What are you looking forward to seeing—besides Greg's talk, of course?

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Notes from Social Dev Camp 2011

Social Dev CampThe Social Dev Camp logo took place here in the Windy City this past weekend, and I had the pleasure of attending. First off, many thanks and congratulations to Tim Courtney, Andy Angelos, Veronica Ludwig, and Heidi Massey (and many others that I didn't talk to) for their hard work in organizing and pulling off this event so smoothly.

There were some wonderful presentations, but the best part was just having so many members of the Chicago tech community in one place. I ended up missing a few sessions on Saturday simply because great conversations kept running over.

Off the top of my head, here's what stood out:

  • Mike McGee and Neal Sales-Griffin of Code Academy. Responding to the shortage of Ruby on Rails developers, as well as the desire to make programming more accessible, Neal and Mike have recently launched a twelve-week program for coding noobs to get their feet wet and learn to build web apps.
  • Heidi Massey and Eric Lannert of I.C. Stars. I.C. Stars teaches tech skills to people who didn't have a chance to go to college. Their stats are outstanding: The average participant starts the program earning $9,000/year; the average graduate makes $30,000 their first year out and $80,000 by their fifth year; and 81% of all graduates stay in the tech field.
  • Dave Kadavy, author of Design for Hackers. Dave's on the front end of a national tour pimping his recently published book. He's got great tips for aesthetically challenged left-brainers.
  • Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of Reddit. Though his plane from New York was cancelled due to Irene, he managed to Skype in for his keynote. For a guy who created something so huge (a top 50 site on the internet in terms of traffic), he was very humble, and very funny. Seeing him speak was like seeing a celebrity. He's since gone on to cofound Hipmunk and Breadpig.

I'll be posting more about individual sessions in the coming days, so check back here if you're interested.

Did you go to Social Dev Camp? What were your top picks and takeaways?

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Jordan and Greg go to Summer Camp

The Social Dev Camp logo.Social Dev Camp, that is. On August 13-15, Jordan Ho and Greg Baugues attended the third annual Social Dev Camp Chicago, an "unconference" for social application and platform developers that explores the emerging trends in new media. This year's guest speakers included Ben Huh, the CEO of the web's largest comedy network,; Michael Slaby, the former CTO of President Obama's election campaign; and Andrew Mason, the CEO of Groupon, which graced the August cover of Forbes as the fastest growing company of all time.

The biggest takeaways from the conference were ideological rather than technical. "Human nature admires complexity and rewards simplicity," Huh said, advising that people make their applications as simple as possible and not "over engineer." Slaby spoke of the importance of establishing a clear goal and always working toward it (in his case, getting Obama elected). Technology should never be employed for its own sake, but only where it supports that greater objective.

Slaby also trotted out some interesting web stats from the campaign that demonstrate how social media is changing politics. Of the $700 million the Obama camp raised, $500 million came from online donations. Though for a time Slaby was the only staffer who knew how to build websites, at its height the campaign employed more than 100 paid workers dedicated to social media efforts, as compared to Senator McCain's 10. Slaby himself worked a total of 603 days, with only five days off.

All in all, it was a great weekend. We learned a ton, met cool people, and are already looking forward to next year's event. Perhaps most significantly, it renewed some of our faith in Chicago's tech conferences.

Check out some of the other upcoming conferences we'll be attending:

Tech in the Middle: This one-day event focuses on expanding mobile application and cloud computing knowledge in the Midwest.
September 11 / Illinois Institute of Technology

Chicago COUNTS
, a conference uniting non-profits and technology.  Greg will be doing a repeat performance of "How to Not Get Screwed" which he has given at the ICNC and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
September 12 /Illinois Institute of Technology

midVentures Launch: A two-day conference for entrepreneurs, VCs, and media that showcases new and innovative start-ups and applications in the technology space. September 27-28 / UIC Forum

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Michael Slaby, CTO of the Obama Campaign

Michael Slaby portrait My favorite talk from Social Dev Camp Chicago was Michael Slaby (@michaelslaby), former CTO of the Obama campaign.

The full notes follow, but some of my favorite tidbits are:

  • Obama had over 100 paid staffers doing new media - McCain campaign had 10
  • $500M of the $700M raised by the campaign was raised online
  • Until they announced Palin, we thought we could win alaska.
  • In the first six months of the campaign, Michael was the only guy who knew HTML/Javascript
  • Worked 600ish days - had five days off (?!)

Social Dev Camp Notes: Killer Social Apps

Logo cloud of social appsKiller Social Apps: Five Trends Shaping the Future of Brand Engagement


Goal of this Presentation
- Identify Trends
- trend is a fad comes into popularity and then it goes away
- help us identify unment needs of the marketplace
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