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Stir Trek 2015- Ultron Edition Recap

It’s true— there was a private screening of the new Avengers movie on opening night. But we went to Columbus to hang out in movie theaters for an even more compelling reason, our second year at Stir Trek! 

Stir Trek is a one-day conference in Columbus, Ohio focused on teaching software developers the best in new technologies, techniques, and tools. Last year we came back with tons of inspirational ideas and helpful tips. And this year didn’t disappoint. 

TL;DR: Another year of great sessions, but one of our favorites was by our colleague, Mike Hagesfeld, about how improv comedy can improve your communication skills and help your career.


Swag bag arrived for next week! #swag #stirtrek

A photo posted by Dustin Graves (@digraves) on Apr 22, 2015 at 9:01am PDT

Some of Our Favorite Sessions

Or get all the slides and code examples from Github.


Key Takeaways

Our team pitched in to share what they each got out of the event this year.

Michael Hagesfeld 

Stir Trek 2015 was generally another well-done effort from the folks in Columbus. Overall there was a good balance between pure tech demos, process-oriented presentations, and soft-skills talks. My personal favorite was by Jared Faris on estimation (“How Long Will it Take?”). 

I feel like most discussions of estimation in software, especially in Agile development, try to draw the focus away from hours and actual time. Instead, they use the abstract world of Fibonacci values and t-shirt sizes.

Faris’ talk did a great job of reminding us that at the end of the day someone is going to pay for the work we do, and they want to know how long something is going to take. He did a great job connecting the two camps, though. He stressed that you can convert your S/M/L estimations into hours per user story, thus getting a real-world number you can use. Faris’ focus on the necessity of accurate estimation, and evaluation of different methods (top-down vs. bottom-up), with their pros and cons, was very helpful in helping me clarify my own hard time in doing estimations. 

My biggest takeaway was this: estimation takes time. Estimation is hard work. Estimation may not feel productive because no code comes out as a result. But estimation is necessary, accurate estimation is critical, and if you (the developer) don’t do it? Someone else will, someone with a smaller knowledge base, and we’ll all pay the price.

Justin Meyers

Chris Love's presentation, "10 Things to Make Your Site Faster and Make More Money Today" shared great takeaways that can help your site, and highlighted why site speed is important for the user experience.

"Speed is good user experience."

  • 57% percent of users will abandon your site if it's not available in under three seconds.
  • The average website today has 99 file requests! That is way too many.
  • Do you know how much it costs to load your page on different connections and in different countries? Find out at (it's eye opening!). 
  • Bundle and minify your CSS and JS to lower the number of file requests and increase speed.

Besides Chris Love's presentation, I also enjoyed "No More Static Comps: Toward a Modern Design Process" by Eric Browning which detailed the evolving nature of designing on the web. He offered some alternatives to the traditional static PSD mock-up such as, element collages (which we use at Aztek) and a client design brief that shows related aesthetic ideas and defines business goals early on.

Chris Bohatka

This year was my 5th time at Stir Trek, and what set this year apart was that my colleague, Mike Hagesfeld, presented in the Soft Skills theater. He knocked it out of the park, and I couldn't be happier for him. I also attended sessions on software estimation, JavaScript requirements and dependency libraries, smartwatches, and design patterns. 

Whether it’s Top-Down or Bottom-Up, I learned how to create accurate estimates that I can stand behind while satisfying business needs for billing. I found great tools, like Browserify or RequireJs, to eliminate loosely coupled JavaScript dependencies and make my code more testable. I now have the tools and knowledge necessary to begin writing apps for the Apple Watch or Pebble. And I can use the Null Object pattern to make my code more readable. 

After learning all these tips from Stir Trek, I am ditching the T-Shirt sizes in favor of Fermi Estimation, developing some smartwatch app ideas, and sharing what I learned with others.

Alex Yosa

My second time at Stir Trek was even more of a blur than the first. Everyone in attendance shared the same mindset: obtain as much information as you can, and try to find that "sweet spot" where you are attending talks that are both focused on familiar technologies, and those outside of your wheelhouse entirely.

I had the privilege of getting a high-level overview of some JavaScript libraries I had never even heard of ("RequireJS vs. Browserify" with Jeff Valore), learning how to integrate improvisation/communication into my daily work ("Yes And!" with our very own Mike Hagesfeld), and getting a good lesson on estimation, including some very close-to-home examples showing just how much improvement we all can make ("How Long Will It Take?" with Jared Faris). At the end of the day, it was an overwhelming pile of information floating through my head. Luckily, I've gotten a little better at retaining and categorizing information since last year!

Dustin Graves

This was my first year at Stir Trek. Between the novelty of spending a day in a movie theater and the joy in being surrounded by like-minded people, it was an exceptional way to spend a work day. I was a little disappointed that I did not see much in the talks that I would consider new information. But reinforcement of ideas is not a complete waste. I did enjoy Steve Smith's talk "Real World Design Patterns". Many patterns I use every day I never took the time to rigorously examine, and it was nice to have a different perspective on them.

Keith Rowe

This was my second year and was a terrific follow-up. I could not have been happier spending the day with several of the Aztek production team at an awesome event (and a beautiful spring day) in Columbus. I thought from the event registration to the speakers, topics, and even the breakfast at this year’s event was more fulfilling than the last.

My biggest takeaway came from listening to complete strangers discuss and compliment Mike Hagesfeld’s session. It showed me how one person can provide such a positive influence on others. This was truly an awesome experience and I would encourage all to attend next year.

TJ Bowman

This was my first year attending the Stir Trek conference. I couldn’t miss it due to all of the hype from the rest of the Aztek team, and I have to say that it was well deserved. Hosting the event inside of a movie theater was an interesting change up from previous conferences that I had attended. This made the talks much more comfortable and easier to digest.

My favorite talk was probably “Real World Design Patterns” by Steve Smith. I liked the point that he made about the pattern names being a common language among developers. Even though our execution may differ slightly between companies or projects, it gives us the ability to effectively communicate concepts to one another. I also learned a few useful patterns that I had never heard of before which I hope to use in the near future.

Did you attend Stir Trek this year? What were your favorite sessions?




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