How to Kick More @#% Per Minute Using the Cloud

“The ability to write code is pretty much a super power in today”s society.”

Matt Cutts

I think I had the idea for this talk on accident. I think most my good ideas are accidents. And yes, I just implied this talk was a good idea. I stand by that implication.

We had just released a new update at Iron.io, either announcing a new partnership or a new product, and I reshared the announcement on Google+. I commented that we were kicking more ass per minute every day.

The post, as you can tell by my vague recall, was no more or less important than our other announcements. The phrase, though, would stick with me. It became my new unit of measurement. As I pondered it some more, I realised that kicking ass was a developer’s main job: creating something cool, making something faster, more stable, more awesome. As a developer, I know that’s not what developers spend a lot of their time on. Sometimes you wind up provisioning servers or finding ways to make the architecture that is elegant in concept work in the decidedly clumsy Real World.

That was the first spark for this talk: the realisation that our purpose, at Iron.io, was to help programmers, hackers, and engineers kick more ass per minute by letting them focus on kicking ass while we take care of the more mundane parts.

The second spark came while I was sitting at home, watching Iron Man. I kept amusing myself by finding correlations between Iron Man and Iron.io, and I realised something: a super hero’s job is, literally, to kick ass. And most super heroes have an assistant, a butler, a computer, or some other type of aid that takes care of the mundane parts of their lives (paying taxes, preparing food, repairing capes) so they can focus on kicking ass.

That was when I realised that Iron.io wanted to be the Alfred to your Batman.

The final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I realised I needed a demo and it needed to be unlike an ordinary presentation. I have a background in theatre and performance art, so I have a weakness for interactivity and surprising the audience. So I made my slides in deck.js, hooked them up to App Engine’s Channel API, and integrated Twilio’s API so messages that were texted to me could appear on the slides themselves during the presentation. I could then integrate IronWorker and IronMQ to text the audience members back during the presentation. When I made the plot diagram for the slides (you know, the one they taught you back in middle school: rising action, climax, falling action), I used the response texts as the climax. I implemented an artificial delay and made it possible to queue up more and more workers to process the queue of messages to send, showing the parallel processing capabilities of the platform. In essence, the room started with disparate beeps when one worker was running, then erupted into an orchestra of cell phones as I queued up more and more workers. I then ran through the code that powered the workers, explained the architecture, and issued my call-to-action: we’ve made it easy, so it’s time to go forth and kick ass.

The slides are available here. They were tested in Chrome, but (probably) work in any modern browser. As a side-effect of using the Channel API in my presentation, I could control my slides wirelessly from a tablet. I’ll release that code as an open source repository on Github when I get a moment.