Turing Fest 2017 Reflections

A few members of Information Services (and possibly beyond) attended Turing Fest at the start of August. Turing Fest describes itself as “four conferences in one; covering the product, strategy, engineering and marketing strands of technology. Spread over two days these four tracks shared knowledge and discussed topics at the cutting edge of technology with world-class engineers and technologists from a variety of industries.” It was held at the EICC here in Edinburgh.

Let’s hear how they got on and what thoughts they came away with.

Craig Campbell – Web Support Analyst, WGI, Napier Placement Student

Turning Fest at the start of August in our beautiful capital city of Edinburgh was the first conference I have ever attended. As a 3rd year student on work placement, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this high-profile tech gathering. It was split over 2 days with multiple tracks each day concentrating on different aspects with day one being Product and Strategy and day two being Marketing and Engineering.

One of the first things that surprised me was how the vibe of a friendly/close gathering of professionals was kept intact even with over 1300 attendees which apparently is one thing that Turing Fest prides itself on and I completely agree! I connected with and spoke to multiple recruiters and like-minded entrepreneurs from various parts of the world. As a student desperate to network with potential future employment opportunities this was literally a dream come true for me!

My personal highlights of the conference were:

  • Sitting in the front row of the Product track room and a rather friendly person asking me about Edinburgh in general and the best tourist things to do. Myself (being completely oblivious to who this person actually was) gave the usual responses any normal Scottish person would and suggested the big few tourist attractions of Edinburgh and some Whiskey related journeys that would be interesting for any visiting American. We were then interrupted by the representative introducing Michael Pryor co-founder of Trello and the gentleman I had just been chatting to abruptly stood up and walked on stage…slightly star-struck I felt this exchange basically made my day!


  • Seeing TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher truly at large during his live interview with ex- Y-Combinator and ex-google employee Qasar Younis. It was done in the style of a Fireside chat and I was so surprised at how open and almost no holes barred it was! They discussed the politics of Silicon Valley, Venture Capitalism and how Qasar’s life experiences have helped him to be so successful.


  • Seeing “Effective Open Source Interactions” discussed by a fellow Scotsman Mike McQuaid of GitHub and learning how he deals with multiple contributors of code around the world on live projects he is in charge of. This mainly centred on the dynamics of version control and how this can both boost and hinder progress within projects.

I also left Turing Fest with a couple of quotes I think are worth mentioning:

“Fail hard and Fail fast”Michael Pryor with regards to startups and getting used to failure before greatness.

“You are only as good as your team and the knowledge within it”Jane Austin, Director of Design and User Experience at MOO

Being part of this one-of-a-kind tech gathering was a privilege and I am extremely grateful to have been sent along by the University and supported by my team. I would highly recommend it to anyone considering attending next year. The friendly atmosphere and truly inspiring presentations are not to be missed!

Brendan Owers – Service Manager, WGI

I opted for a ticket to the second day, which focussed on Engineering and Marketing. A number of talks on these tracks seemed to align well with the ambitions of the Notifications Service rollout. I took the most from talks surrounding working in an open environment; coding in the open and interacting within the open source community.

Coding in the open in the Government

Anna Shipman, Open Source Lead for the Government’s Digital Service discussed the Government’s recent change in culture within their development unit. In the past few years much of the code they have written was written in the open, or later published under open source licenses; all their code is ‘in the open’; publicly.

In practice this brought both benefits and challenges, the main challenge being the difficulty in getting this shift in culture started and adopted. Anna discussed a variety of benefits that soon followed this shift in culture, including:

  • an enhanced security awareness
  • constructive code reviews
  • better commenting, and encouraging good practice
  • architectural principles were being followed
  • it became easier to work with others, and share learning
  • transparency
  • utilising cheap, free open repositories, leading to a reduction in access control costs
  • every new service now has to meet their digital standard; created by government

Full slide deck here 

Final Thoughts

The main takeaway I took from the day was taken from Anna’s slides; “Make things open, it makes things better“. It certainly came at a good time with the service I am involved with.

I’d recommend Turing Fest to anyone working within technology, there was a good mix of discussions, and although I didn’t attend many from the Marketing track (or any from the first day), they appeared to be well received when scanning through social media, and hearing the audience interact with presenters in the room next door!

Turing Fest website