Tech and the City Calendar | Tech and the City

Choose your own career hacks, Melbourne.

Tech, data, culture, workshops.

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22 November join Law Squared’s Demetrio Zema shares insights, tips, and secrets on:

  • The importance of developing a mission, vision and values for your business;
  • How using your mission, vision and values to attract the right people in your business;
  • Role of an Advisory Board and why every scale-up should have one;
  • Recruiting, the do’s, don’ts and procedures to put in place when hiring your “Dream Team”

Bookings essential: click Here

LEDs and me. Moduware. Week one




  • Moduware are offering free introductions to programming their tiles
  • MeetUp group meets once a month at WeWork, Collins Street.
  • Coding = language. It’s like writing a long form poem. There’s rules and spelling and syntax and grammar. If you can handle writing, you can code.

The What

My quest to attend as many cool tech events in Melbourne as I can brings me to WeWork, Collins Street, following a mad dash from RMIT Swanston Street, and the ceramics department’s annual auction of student works.

(Incidentally, I won one of the pieces that I bid on. So, it’s been a productive night.)

I’m with a friend, who may be many things, but a coder or programmer are not two of them. I tell him that I don’t really know what to expect from tonight, but a last minute check of the details of my MeetUp suggests that we’ll be sitting this one out, as I was meant to bring a lap top, as well as my smartphone, and we only have our phones.


No biggie.

Alex Chernov is our host and there are three reps from Moduware, all keen to feed us pizza and to chat. One of them, Cato, mentions that he thinks you could eat for free in Melbourne every night, if you wanted to, at events just like this one. I agree, and I will nevermore to wonder whether I’m the only person who suspected this. They absolutely do!

I tell the Moduware crew that I think Melbourne has more, and more interesting, tech events than anywhere else in the world, (although admittedly I didn’t do the tech geek thing in Berlin or London, as I was too busy doing the ‘grown up gap year’ thing, and hanging out with friends I hadn’t seen since I was in my twenties, as though we were still in our twenties.) This left very little room to get to Berlin’s FabLab. I was too busy tracing David Bowie’s footsteps.

I tell them that Menlo Park and San Francisco’s dearth of interesting MeetUps really shocked me, and that it’s not my imagination that my hometown has some cutting edge events, and thoughts, and agendas that I never expected it to have. At least, not in a competitive / comparative sense, As any number of Americans and Europeans pointed out, Melbourne is the arse end of the arse end of the world and ‘so very far away.’


Alex wants to know how much I understand about the subject matter, and I tell him I know more than people give me credit for.

As a middle aged woman, without a tech degree, (thank goodness) I understand the assumption, but we have laws against that kind of bias for a reason. These days I may look like the Mom from ‘The User is My Mom‘ but that belies the reality that I was there when the Privacy Act was a bill being read in the Parliament (the legislative equivalent of being a twinkle in your Dad’s eye) and I’m an expert in electronic transactions in ANZ.  Not to mention, that I influenced HL7 messaging and ePrescribing globally and am likely the reason that  you can even debate whether to opt in or out because that isn’t how it was originally going to be.  To show I don’t need to resort to irrelevant boasting, I mention that I taught myself HTML when MySpace was a thing. So, there’s that.

My credentials are dead set bona fide, but my colleague’s are doubtful.  I let them know that we are fine with just looking over someone’s shoulder thanks. (If hacking into HTML taught me one thing, it’s that I don’t want to be a coder. I just want to understand how coding happens, in java, and see how this new vertically integrated programmable Scala jewellery works.

Ok, so it’s not wearable. That doesn’t make it a bad analogy…

Tonight’s event is the first in a series designed to foster a Moduware user community in Melbourne.


It’s LED night, and I’m immediately drawn to the ‘disco’ sequence, with my friend about twenty seconds ahead of me in doing the exact same thing.

The lag is caused by his Moduware base unit being on already, and my needing to locate the on switch for mine, which I establish by a process of elimination.

The ‘on’ switch has to be here somewhere…

I press all the bits that look like buttons, before finding a panel the size of a phone nano sim card, that doesn’t really scream ‘pick me’ but proves to be the key to the castle.


I’m in.

Future events will centre on the other tiles that Moduware have developed.

Next month’s will look at the thermostat function, for example, that isn’t a thermometer but can tell ambient and surface temperature, up to a point. (Word of caution. It will melt and isn’t waterproof. So, it has some limitations.)

The breathlyser, digital projector and conferencing tiles; barometer and measurement tool, which I’m told can size up the dimensions of a space, and measure distance, without you needing to get up from your chair sound very promising.

I suggest that if it can do this, then it might be useful to helping one triangulate how best to pocket a billiard ball.  This is met with an eyebrow raise but the theory is not disputed.

I’m urged to go on Github, which I do have a registered account for, but have never accessed.

I’m not sure this it the exact right tipping point for me. I don’t play billiards all that often.

About Moduware

Moduware started life as a simple power pack, and it still serves this purpose. The product evolved from a phone case that proved to be nonviable, due to the rapid fire evolution of smart phone design, and the variety of brands in the market. It’s explained to me that the tiles augment one’s phone with hardware, the way that an application augments the phone’s existing functions with new software.Wireless speakers are the most relatable example of this in real life already.
When we open the packs, I notice that they are all named after Star Trek ships and this impresses Alex. So it should. He mentions that the product intent is to be a tricorder and I can see the potential, although it rather reminds me of a Sony Walkman and that is never a bad thing. (Retro tech is an emerging trend in my GenX opinion. Speaking as someone who collected vinyl in the 90s when everyone was chucking it away. )

The Where

WeWork takes up several levels of 401 Collins Street. It’s a co-working space with locations scattered globally.

I can see why digital nomads might not choose to come to Melbourne, given this prime CBD location. I imagine that cashed up millenial entrepreneurs and people wouldn’t travel to Melbourne if they had to co-work out at Maidstone or Boronia.Ballarat, Bendigo or Macedon might manage to pull it off.

Confusingly, there is no signage in the lobby or the lift telling us how to get to reception, so that’s a bit of a design fail.

When we do get in, (with Moduware’s help,) the look and lay out is uncannily familiar, largely because I spent a month at WeWork’s Medellin location, as part of grown up gap year. It’s dream like in some ways. Everything is here, but in a slightly different place.

WeWork offered free beer on tap in Medellin but only during business hours which I think says a lot about the Colombian work ethic. I don’t ask if they do that in Melbourne, because I don’t drink beer.

On reflection, I’m hard pressed to think of any multi-storey places that would fit the bill in St Kilda or Carlton or Fitzroy, so the CBD may have been the most obvious choice of location. WeWork inhabit nine storeys. About the same number as they did in Colombia. It must be the way we work works.

The Ask

Moduware is hoping to develop a developer community however it’s also conducting market research.

Influencing how tech companies develop new things is right up my alley so I am in my element.

My friend and I are interviewed separately and we are also filmed, responding to questions about whether we would use the tech, how much we would pay and what our ideas are for future developments.

Now you’re talking!

One of the motives behind the blog and this my TechPol renaissance is a quest to understand the future of work and how to influence technology and its ethical development. What better way than to do this than to meet with developers? Or be a developer?

There is a github for this, but on reflection I would like:

  • a casting tool. I mention this because I left my ChromeCast i Lisbon after loaning it to a flat mate and it is still on grown up gap year with the person who was going to get it back to me but prevented from doing this by an erupting volcano.
  • a way to integrate the breathalyser into a key fob to prevent the car from starting as this would mimic and enhance existing tech and a key ring option so that the tile can attach
  • A walkman style belt hook or a wrist watch bracelet so that you can wear your tiles like Scala and be hands free. This would also mean you could wear them through airport security which is a fun way of expanding any luggage allowance.
  • a speech to text function for recording random thoughts, that works like a communicator from Star Trek (TM). by activating a tile attached to the breast by a brooch.

The Sweetener

People who attend a Moduware workshop at WeWork receive a discount code and have the option of picking up their product from the office, thereby saving on the purchase of their Moduware and the shipping.



‘Spark Your Creativity’ – an evening with Dara Simkin


Quote of the night

“Perfection is procrastination in a sparkly dress” – Dara Simkin, 2018

Tonight I’m at ‘Spark Your Creativity.

Our presenter is U.S. citizen Dara Simkin.  Dara’s been in Oz long enough to grasp what ‘yeah nah’ means and have her first exposure to Monty Python –  which makes me feel quite sorry for Americans.

I wonder whether she’s watched Pete and Dud in the art gallery, and I think that if she hasn’t then she should, and so should you, and so here it is.


  • Get used to feeling uncomfortable. Being creative requires you to get out of your comfort zone on purpose.
  • Experiment. Practice makes perfect.
  • The future is uncertain and already upon us. Have a think about what you’ll do when the robots take over.

The What

I’m one of 25 people in the audience. It’s Monday and the most difficult night of the week to get people to events.

Melbourne’s weather continues to snap freeze the balls off a brass monkey. I am rugged up under a hat and several layers, including alpaca wool mittens. Brr!

From the get-go everyone declares themselves sufficiently creative, and claimsthey’ve never been told to be more so, ever, which begs the question why are they here then?

We do a few ‘get to know you’ / ‘let’s practice how this works’ exercises. My suspicion that people aren’t always the best judge of their own measure is confirmed during this phase.

Both partners, paired with me, exhibit the rigidity that I described as being a ‘creativity killer’ earlier in the evening.

One of them does what Dara specifically asked us not to do and allows me to take the lead without contributing a thing. It’s a silly handshake for Pete’s sake. I may not be a mason but how hard can it be?

Quite hard as it turns out. We start off easy using the ‘wrong; hand, which is fine, but also a bit sinister and a bit judgy if you’re a south paw. In the absence of any assistance I Monty Python the situation, and add a wink, wink and a tug of the ear, for good measure. This is more physically taxing than you might imagine. It’s on a par with patting your head while rubbing your tummy in terms of degree of difficulty. It succeeds in breaking the ice and making us looks silly, so that’s a win.

My next partner hits almost all of Dara’s buttons without the slightest glimmer of ironic realisation. He fancies himself quite creative but is undone by his:

  1. unimaginative and all too plausible ‘and then’ scenarios; and
  2. semi-public query, issued in self deprecation, (and to no one in particular,) that he “doesn’t understand how a simple trip to Bali resulted in our becoming drug runners.”

Point two is a long story, punctuated at the end with the live equivalent of canned laughter at the above ‘joke’. It involves improv and and two people telling what is meant to be a made up story. His reaction to me having fun, and being ridiculous, is on point.  He personifies the Holy Trilogy, the Triple J – the ‘judge, joke, justify’ that Dara says we tend to use when we fear ridicule from others.

It looks to me as though he’s deeply uncomfortable with being creative, as well as with anybody around him being creative, whatever he might like to wish was true.


As someone half my age might say and get away with: “I got no shame, bro.”

The Where

I’m at General Assembly, William Street in its events room, – a chair-filled space, chopped in half for the night by partitions.

The wifi password is ‘yellowpencil.’ It’s painted on the wall.

The Melbourne office is one of a few dozen G.A. branches scattered globally. This one is close to the Yarra, and to Flinders Street, and the Immigration Museum.

G.A. started life as a co-working venture, before branching out into what you might call ‘knowledge sharing*’ which is why I’m here tonight.

The Salient Points

Dara is a delight. Her style is authentic, her enthusiasm is right-sized and her evidence-based approach is persuasive, and logical.

Anyone who advocates a modicum of caution when you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and who comes with a lot less ‘woo’ than I’m used to seeing and hearing from entrepreneurs gets my vote.


A slice of one of Dara’s slides…

‘Creativity’ has morphed into a ‘hero word‘.

By this I take it Dara means that people like to think they have desirable attributes in spades, as long as others hold that attribute in some esteem. In other words, being creative has developed cachet. 

It’s OK to play

Dara advocates play and humour in the workplace, in the right proportions, and gosh knows the number of people I’ve met who thought I wasn’t taking my job seriously because I had a sense of humour.


Practice makes perfect

Dara cites Nita Leland, (whom she admits she hasn’t read) but likes Nita’s idea of paying ‘relaxed attention’ to your surroundings and your feelings, meaning, literally stopping to smell the roses, be present in the moment and take a breather once in a while.

To assist you, try leaving your phone at home, once in a while, and put your phone down and time how long that lasts.

The Ask

General Assembly’s free events are designed to get you interested in their paid courses, workshops and conferences and tonight is no exception.

Fortunately, the pitch is never a hard sell, which I like, because it means I’m more open to the hearing the bait and making the switch than I otherwise would be.

I would actually consider going to Project Play because:

  1. it’s less than $100, which is very reasonable for this type of event;
  2. I get a discount for having attended tonight, and you can too, if you attend Spark Your Creativity II on 20 August; and
  3. the line up features an expert in divergent thinking and members of the IDEO group, who codified design thinking, or claim they did, which I find interesting.

Dara is also a life coach and has a more in-depth creativity seminar she’ll be hosting at G.A. that you might like to attend.

Dara Creativity



* I hesitate to call knowledge sharing ‘education‘ as I’ve formed the opinion that both sets of providers would strongly object to the label and for wildly, different reasons.