Welcome our new sponsors Amazon Development Centre Scotland!

Welcome aboard to our new sponsors Amazon, specifically their Scottish Development Centre based in Edinburgh’s central Waverley Gate.


Amazon Development Centre Scotland is responsible for devising, creating and growing major features and websites for Amazon worldwide. From interactive UI design to large-scale distributed systems and machine learning, they do whatever it takes to deliver great experiences. Their developers, designers and leaders are frequently seen at local tech events.

They are looking for outstanding Software Development Engineers, Machine Learning Engineers and Software Development Managers to join their centre. Positions offer the opportunity to really make a difference to the business by inventing, enhancing and building world class websites and systems and working on exciting and challenging projects. Examples include: all dynamic and personalised merchandising for Amazon worldwide, personalised advertising and real-time bidding on ad exchanges, the Amazon Storyteller app which creates storyboards from movie scripts and Intelligent Recruiting Systems where they search the internet for great job candidates, analyse their profiles and intelligently match them to jobs. The technologies they use include Amazon Web Services, Java, modern JavaScript frameworks, HTML5 and CSS3, R and Python.

Thanks to them and FanDuel for sponsoring Open Tech Calendar. We’re only going to have 2 sponsors, so that’s the lot. Their help in ensuring we have time to develop and grow this project is much appreciated.

On which note, more new features are coming very soon … but of course, because we’re Open Source any excitement about what they are is just ruined.

Welcome our new sponsors FanDuel!

Welcome aboard to our new sponsors FanDuel!


FanDuel specialize in one day leagues for American sports. Players can play against other users in any of the 12,000+ leagues offered per day, with entry fees ranging from $1 all the way up to $5,300. FanDuel pays out up to $1,000,000 per day in cash prizes.

FanDuel is a US company employing 82 people with most of it’s engineering, development, and design teams based in Edinburgh. Currently in TechCube, they are about to move to new offices in central Edinburgh.

Their development teams use agile techniques and continuous deployment with testing to create a fantasy sports engine that handles 3 million entries a week on average, with over 25 thousand of those per hour at busy times. The core technologies are normally Python, Java and JavaScript, but they look into whatever tool is right for the job and are currently rolling out native mobile apps.

To support a metrics-driven approach to the business, they are building a data warehouse using Hadoop and Amazon’s Redshift. This is all hosted on Amazon Web Services using automated configuration and deployment tools like Puppet.

You can find out more information about them here, and if you’re looking for a job and think this sounds like an interesting problem to tackle check out their Careers page here.

Thanks to our previous sponsors Toshiba Medical Visualization Systems who have helped us out from the start. We are looking for a 2nd sponsor – get in touch if your interested!


Show events on your WordPress blog!

We now have a WordPress extension to let you show events on your blog. You can filter these down to be from several cities or groups only if you wish.

Step 1. Install the Plugin

Download the “OpenACalendar” plugin from the official WordPress site and uncompress it into your wp-content/plugins folder. Or you can install it directly from your WordPress admin panel by searching for “OpenACalendar”.

Step 2. Tell it where to import events from

Go to the “Settings” menu and select “OpenACalendar.”. Create a new pool with the name “Open Tech Calendar”.

Add a new source to that pool with the URL “opentechcalendar.co.uk”.  Here you can select the filters you want – curated list, area, group, country or venue. You can get these from the URL of the page on the site. For instance if you want to filter Edinburgh events only go to the Edinburgh page at http://opentechcalendar.co.uk/area/62-edinburgh and take “62” from the URL to put into the events filter.

You can add several sources to the same pool – so if you are a big fan of 3 different meetups, you can filter by 3 different groups and events from all 3 groups will be mixed together.

When you add a source, there is a button to fetch events from that source immediately. Do so – but in the future that will happen automatically (if your WordPress cron is setup correctly).

Before you go, note the ID of the pool – it’s probably 1.

Step 3. Add a widget to the side bar

Go to the “Appearance” menu and select “Widgets”. Drag a “OpenACalendar – Events” widget into your layout. Put in the Pool ID you just created.

Step 4. Add a Short Code to any pages to list events.

On a page, you can type in

[openacalendar_events poolid=1]

to list events. You can add several other attributes (listed here).

 That’s it!

Any features you want or comments, get in touch! Version 2.0.1 was released from an open night at Edinburgh Hacklab – guess how they list events on the sidebar of their site?

Just explicitly encourage new people to come to your meetup

Lots of the tips we post here for organising tech events are about making people feel welcome and able to contribute to your meetup. Little things can make a big difference in setting the right atmosphere. For instance, if you are meeting in a pub have several big printed signs on the table. No-one likes going up to strangers and asking them if they are this geeky meetup – several big signs needed.

But here’s maybe the ultimate in things you can do to encourage people – just explicitly do something for new people and clearly say so.

Rachel Willmer of Luzme suggested something we’ve now tried twice at Techmeetup Edinburgh, which is to have a pre-meetup meetup in the pub and explicitly say it’s for people who haven’t been to Techmeetup before. We did this once in December and got a crowd of about 15-20, half of which were new. One of them also noticed the event was looking for speakers to show fun 5-min hacks and volunteered to speak at her first Techmeetup! We did this again last night, and got about 10 new people.

In doing this, we very clearly said that this was for welcoming new people. Here’s the announcement for the first one and for the second. We also explicitly reached out beyond our normal advertising channels, tweeting to other groups who may be interested. Because this was a special event rather than a monthly occurrence, we could do this.

Your mileage may vary; Techmeetup Edinburgh is now over 100 people and so a pre-meetup of 10 or 20 people is great for easing people in. If you are a small meetup, maybe this isn’t the best way. But do think about what you are doing to welcome people in, and make sure you are doing something.

New Features Released

We are pleased to announce a whole bunch of new features! We are very pleased with this release, as many of the new features are improvements to the user interface and the common tasks people do on the site. We think the basic structure of the site is working fine and are now in the process of smoothing out the rough edges. Below are a selection of the changes:

Continue reading “New Features Released”

We’re going Open Source!

This is something we have been asked about many times before, and we have decided to do it: we’re going Open Source.

We will Open Source the engine that allows you to run a Wiki Calendar. This engine allows you to run a single calendar, or several calendars on one site.

Open Tech Calendar and Has A Calendar will continue to run as normal, the former for the tech community and the later for people who want a hosted solution.

When will this happen? At least a couple of weeks. We are half way through a major new feature we want to roll out first. That feature has now been released! We will release the code very soon. Released!

What license will it be under? Duuno yet. Probably BSD.

What will it be called? Dunno. Any suggestions? We now have a name, but please excuse us keeping it under wraps for now. OpenACalendar

Will there be a hosted version available? Yes, we will continue to run Has A Calendar.

What are the requirements? Briefly, PHP & Postgresql.

What is the code quality like? …… It works.  …… It has some passing tests.  Um, we’ll work to improve this … with your help!

As you can see, we haven’t worked out many details yet. But we wanted to make it official.

Survey & Game

We’re running a short survey at the moment. This will help guide our future development and we are keen to hear from everyone – attendees and organisers. If you had a minute, it would be appreciated – 1 page and all questions are optional.

We also made a quick mini-game for our 404 page that uses real event data.

Our 404 game

We wanted something silly and fun, but that also made clear what we do. Jump over here to play it.

Apart from the survey, if you have any comments or feedback do get in touch – always happy to hear comments!

Major new version released!

A major new version of Open Tech Calendar has been released! Read on for what’s new.

One part of being Open is that we want people to submit any events they know about, and we have tried to make that easier.

Add from the calendar. Click on the plus sign on any future date to add a event there.

Click To Add Cal

Search for a group. When adding an event, you can search for a group on the page and add directly.

Search Groups

Type in any date and time and we’ll guess. For example “2nd dec 2013 7pm to 9pm”, “2nd wed dec between 19:30 and 22:00” (Note that’s the 2nd Wed in Dec, not Wed the 2nd) or “fri 7pm for 3 hours 30 mins”.

Another part of being open is encouraging people to use our data. We still do this, and we have added Atom feeds several days before events happen as well as Atom feeds as events are created. Click export to see the variety of feeds available. You can choose how many days before.

Other features include … Continue reading “Major new version released!”

Twitter should not be your only communications channel

A lot of events use Twitter to communicate with attendees and allow 2 way communication, and that’s fine. It’s a popular tool, and there are a lot of good things about it.

But the problem comes when some events use only Twitter to communicate with attendees, under the mistaken delusion that that will include everyone and it’s fine. TL;DR of the rest of this article: doing this will exclude large numbers of people.

Firstly, not everyone is on Twitter. Wouldn’t have thought this point needed made, but apparently it does.

Secondly, not everyone follows the right people on Twitter. This applies doubly if you are organising an event and tweet details from your personal account and not some kind of event account. How vain are you to assume that everyone who matters to your event follows your personal account?

Thirdly, even if they do it’s very easy to miss a Tweet. If you don’t check Twitter regularly it’s easy to miss old Tweets, especially as they show new Tweets first.

And even if you do see a Tweet going past containing a fact you need to remember it’s to easy for it to slip past without you having recorded it, and next time you try to look for it it’s almost impossible to find. (eg “Where is tonight’s event? I know someone tweeted it last week but now I can’t find it!”)

Now we get on the two way communication part. Again, there’s nothing wrong with doing this – the problem comes if you only do this and make no other communication channels open.

Firstly, it’s 140 characters. You can’t discuss any details, or any points of finesse, or a complex situation. You just can’t. Communication is superficial.

Secondly, almost all communication is public and many people aren’t happy with that. Maybe the nature of their comment means they want to discuss it in private?

And lastly, remember that for large segments of the population, Twitter is not a safe space. Not in the slightest. Really not. If someone does not feel comfortable using Twitter, are you happy excluding them from your communications, remembering that they may already feel excluded from many other things already?

TL;DR So by all means use Twitter as one of your communication channels – it can work great. We’re happy with it – follow us here. But do not use Twitter as your only communication channel, unless you are happy excluding a large number of people.

So what should you use? That depends on what your are doing and what is relevant for your audience. Obviously we hope you’ll add tech events to our calendar but at the end of the day, you know your audience and it’s for you to decide what’s effective.


Edit: The original article had one very angry and harsh sentence, which I regret and have toned down.