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Last night we welcomed the Full-Stack Engineering meetup back to 2 Park for another night of tech talks and good times! Founded in November 2013 by greenhouse.io Director of Engineering Mike Boufford, Full-Stack promotes a modern and holistic approach to software development. Read our Q&A with Mike to learn more about this rapidly growing new meetup group for the NYC engineering community.

Last night’s speakers—NBCUniversal Enterprise Architecture Manager Sam Boyer, HUGE Principal Architect Isaiah Belle, and open-source advocate Rocky Bernstein—talked about a range of topics, from Symfony2 and Drupal to setting up an open-source project. A recap in photos:

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Sandwiches from Num Pang hit the spot and earned rave reviews. Extra points for the vegetarian option!

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Mixing and mingling in our cafe.

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Guess the number of Gilt engineers in this picture! 

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Mike Boufford kicks off the evening.

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Gilt Lead Software Engineer Jim Englert gives a quick intro to our tech culture.

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Isaiah Belle

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Sam Boyer

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Rocky Bernstein

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The post-presentations Q&A

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The fellow in the vest is Gilt engineer Nathan Stilwell, who will present at February’s Full-Stack meetup (also at Gilt) on WebSockets.

Thanks to everyone who attended! RSVP here for next month’s Full-Stack to catch Nathan, Mike Boufford (on “Mastering JavaScript”) and Vimeo Video Systems Engineer Dieter Plaetinck (discussing metrics and GraphExplorer).

(Photos: Nancy Borowick)

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On January 16 and 17 some of my colleagues and I were in Budapest, Hungary for the first-ever Ping conference: a two-day, “by the community, for the community” get-together for Play Framework users and enthusiasts. It was great! The standard of presentations was really, really high, and the content was extremely relevant to what we’re doing here at Gilt.

All the talks were recorded and are available here under “Schedule.” Some highlights about what you’ll find:

  • In his great keynote address, Play co-creator Sadek Drobi explains why Play Framework is designed the way it is, and why functions are awesome.
  • Typesafe Senior Engineer Christopher Hunt gives an overview of some new tools that will soon be available for managing an app’s JS/assets.
  • Leanovate Software Engineer Yann Simon gives the best presentation on the cake pattern I’ve ever seen. I still don’t like the cake pattern, though :).
  • LinkedIn Lead Developer (and recent Gilt guest) Yevgeniy (Jim) Brikman gave a brilliant presentation on how you can build a dynamic page by streaming the results of Promises to the browser as the content becomes available.
  • Typesafe Play Tech Lead James Roper explained some of the performance characteristics of a Play web app (especially around thread pools and different types of executors), all with benchmarks
  • Zengularity engineers Pascal Voitot and Julien Tournay gave two really entertaining (and mind melting!) presentations: one about typesafe JSON parsing in Play, and another about Scalaz Streams.
  • Hamburg-based engineer Matthias Nehlsen gave a front-end Scala talk—a bit of a rarity—on using Scala.js for writing non-DOM related, browser-side code in Scala.js and using it with Facebook’s React.js library. Scala.js is impressively/surprisingly problem-free, Matthias says, while Angular.js doesn’t work well with immutable data structures.
  • Grant Klopper from The Guardian gave a very interesting, funny talk about how the Guardian engineering team is using Play to create their new mobile site. Other tidbits: The Guardian has open-sourced their whole frontend(!); they are doing immutable deployments and continuous delivery (Grant deployed to production during the presentation!); and load-tested their new site using the existing site. If response times in a certain part of the fleet go over a threshold, the fleet is doubled automatically; if that doesn’t fix the issue a developer gets paged.

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You’ve heard of stress-relieving office dogs and chief office mousers—now meet Giovanni, Gilt Tech’s official office horse.  He’s none too affectionate, but very low-maintenance. Whenever he gets bored, he calls his friends on his land-line.

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Recently AlleyWatch asked Steve to talk about what 2013 was like for Gilt, what 2014 will bring for the New York City tech community, and what he expects will happen for the NYC tech scene now that Mayor Bill de Blasio is in charge. Check out the full interview here!

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The crowd from last night’s NYC Tech Talks event at Gilt—not an empty seat in the house!

Last night a standing-room only (!) crowd of software engineers, CTOs and other technologists came to our Manhattan office to catch “Scaling Gilt: From Monolithic Ruby App to Distributed Scala Micro-Services,” a tech talk by our very own Yoni Goldberg. Yoni, a lead software engineer on our personalization team, gave a lively presentation that highlighted the reasons why we’ve adopted a micro-services architecture, the lessons we’ve learned along the way, and a few key questions every tech team should ask before developing a micro-services architecture of their own.

Check out Yoni’s slides here:

Yoni’s presentation was co-hosted by Gilt Tech and NYC Tech Talks, one of NYC’s top meetup groups for engineers. In addition to a fantastic crowd of tech professionals from Gilt, Facebook, Etsy, LinkedIn and other top companies, the night featured delicious food, post-presentation drinks and mingling, and lots of great conversations.

Here’s a photo-recap of the night’s fun:

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This way to the meetup!

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For dinner we ordered an assortment of scrumptious sandwiches from Num Pang, who—a few hours before the meetup—tweeted a preview pic at us along with a note: “Excited to cater at Gilt tonight!” (We were even more excited to eat their food.)

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Plenty of beer for plenty of software engineers!

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Gilt engineer/software sartorialist Nathan Stilwell greets some of our guests.

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Early arrivals hung out in our cafe.

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NYC Tech Talks co-organizer Mike Brittain officially kicked off the evening by welcoming the audience.

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Gilt CIO Steve Jacobs followed with a brief introduction to Gilt and Gilt’s tech culture before introducing Yoni.

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Yoni gives the audience a general overview of our MSA—450 micro-services and counting!

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The audience listens attentively to Yoni’s talk.

As part of his presentation, Yoni created Podium: a Node.js app that enabled attendees to submit questions in advance of the meetup and vote for their favorites. A sampling of submissions: image

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More questions for Yoni! 

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Yoni talks Scala shop with NYC-based technologist Russell Holbrook.

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Gilt engineer Ryan Caloras enjoys a post-presentation beer with some of our guests.

Thanks to everyone who attended last night’s event! Hope to see you at our next meetup: Full-Stack Engineering on Jan. 28.

(Photos by Craig Williston.)

Archana Kumar is a front-end engineer who recently joined our Gilt City team in NYC. Originally from India, she went to college in Melbourne, Australia and did her graduate studies at NYU. She’s excited to be working on the Gilt tech team, and has already earned a playful nickname around the office: “Who’s That?”  She has one dog, one husband, and a side career as a web-comic artist.

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Yesterday The Guardian published a Q&A with Gilt CEO Michelle Peluso. Just like the jewelry section on Gilt.com, the interview contains lots of gems—including this description by Michelle about our culture:

First of all, Gilt has always been a phenomenal mix of creativity, technology and analytics, and that kind of mix between super creative people and design people: you know, photographers, stylists, merchandise experts, web designers sitting alongside analytical and technology fire power. [It] is such an interesting combination and provides a very vibrant culture, a mix of right brain and left brain.

Secondly, Gilt has always been a super innovative and fast paced culture. It has to be. Everyday we’re putting on a new sale. Everyday, we’re changing with what we have in our warehouse. And so, that pace of innovation is always a part of the culture.

Third, I would say, there’s lot of celebration and fun at Gilt. We have to attract and attain the best people, so there’s so many different things we do to keep that culture vibrant and fun and innovative. We have this legendary Halloween party, picnics, pantries that are full of food, team events, shopping discounts. Just lots of things that make working at Gilt fun.

Read the full interview here!

We’re excited to welcome Deirdre O’Brien to our team in Dublin. Deirdre is a program manager and a mechanical engineer by training. She made her way into tech via engineering process support, and then moved on to developing and supporting business systems. In her last position, she worked in product engineering as a program manager—helping the cloud and platform teams to gain input and visibility from other departments and teams, and keeping projects moving along.

Welcome, Deirdre!

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On Thursday, January 16, Gilt VP Personalization Erik Lumer will be the featured presenter at the NYC Machine Learning group’s monthly meetup. Erik will talk about the art of personalization in flash ecommerce—covering the unique challenges for personalization posed by an online flash sale business, the methods that Gilt has tested to foster novelty in the recommendations of personally relevant products, and other related topics. RSVP here if you’d like to attend Erik’s talk, which starts at 7 PM at Pivotal Labs!

With nearly 4,500 members, NYC Machine Learning is one of the most popular technology-related meetup groups in New York City. What has been the key to its success? And how has the group changed over time? Recently I asked meetup co-organizer (and Errplane CEO, InfluxDB core committer, and Service Oriented Design with Ruby and Rails author) Paul Dix to share his thoughts on these and other questions:

Gilt: You started NYC Machine Learning in 2009. What sorts of meetups were you hosting then, and how were they different compared to your current events?

Paul Dix: In the very beginning I ran NYCML as a reading group. The format was something like this: I’d select a paper in machine learning research or we’d find one as a group, everyone would read the paper, and we’d meet once a month to discuss it. The first two months followed this format. In the third month, someone suggested a talk they wanted to give. Ever since then, that’s been the format of the group. Once a month, we get together to hear a talk from someone in academia, research, the start-up community, or business. The talks have covered a wide range of topics, including Artificial Intelligence, natural language processing, machine learning, search, information retrieval, big data infrastructure, and visualization.

Of the (76!) meetups you’ve hosted, which have been your favorites?

There have been so many fantastic talks that it’s hard to pick. Taking a quick look back, I’ll just pick four that caught my eye (of course, there are plenty more that I’d include in this list). In ascending order by date:

  • Princeton Professor Rob Schapire, “Playing Repeated Games: Theory, an Algorithm, Applications.” I remember covering AdaBoost in class, so I was really excited to have him come speak. And his talk was really entertaining.
  • CMU Professor Cosma Shalizi, “So, You Think You Have a Power Law, Do You? Well Isn’t That Special?” Cosma is a really well known statistician and has a great speaking style. This one was kind of a revelation to me as I had no idea that many things you think are power laws actually aren’t.
  • Microsoft Machine Learning Research Scientist John Langford’s “Terrascale Learning.” John had given a talk at NYCML before, but this one was particularly awesome. The approach he used here blew my mind and made me completely rethink how Hadoop and distributed computing work.
  • Peter Norvig. Max, my co-organizer, roped Peter into presenting, and we just put his name on the event. In my favorites because, come on, Peter Norvig!

Why did you start the group?

I started it for a couple of reasons. First was a purely selfish desire to try to stay current in machine learning and other topics that interest me. The second was that I wanted to help grow a machine learning community here in NYC. In 2007 I did an internship at Google, which holds internal machine learning meetups every two weeks. Google’s meetups weren’t open to the public, but the people who came and spoke at the meetings were great. [Google Director of Research] Peter Norvig, [Stanford professor] Mehran Sahami, and some other really heavy hitters would show up and participate in discussions or give talks. I wanted to see if I could reproduce the high caliber of those meetings for everyone here in NYC.

What do you think are the key elements of your group’s growth and success?

The most important factor has been consistency. Meeting up every month is huge. Every time I schedule a meetup, we get new members. The second factor: obviously fantastic speakers. Having presenters who come from academia and business has been great as well. With 4,500 members, we can’t get everyone in a single room—so with varied topics, there’s sure to be something every couple of months that any individual will probably be interested in. Finally, having a regular space has been really helpful. When everyone knows where to go, it’s easier. You hosted us for a while in the beginning, then we spent a few years at AOL, and for the last few years we’ve been at Pivotal. Having access to their space every month has been so helpful.

As a seasoned meetup organizer, what do you think are the essentials to organizing a great event?

All the obvious things. Have a space that’s easy for people to get to and find, offer a good setup for presenters, get an interesting speaker, and ask the speaker to provide as much detail as they can about the talk they’ll be delivering. I usually tell speakers to keep the talk between 30 minutes and an hour. People’s attention drops off after that, and besides, you want to give people time for questions and networking. I think it’s also a good idea to keep the Q&A time limited. People are there as much for the talk as they are to meet and talk to other people. Make sure there’s time built in for it.

Based on your observations, have any of the machine-learning topics that were “hot” in 2009 fizzled out or faded away?

I think recommender systems were much hotter in 2009 than they are today. I attribute that to the Netflix Prize, which was still going then. Once the team won, and Netflix decided not to implement the algorithm, it seemed everyone’s excitement calmed down. Recommendation systems are still important, but it seems they’re not as hot as they once were.

Other than your own group, what are some of your favorites in NYC?

The NYC.rb meetup is the one I’ve been going to the longest (since 2005). It’s a great group of people, and the topics reach well beyond just Ruby. I’m probably about 10x further along in programming and my career because of that group alone. Other ones of note: Ember.js, CTO School, the New York Hadoop User Group, and Go Language New York.

What are your goals for NYC Machine Learning in 2014?

I’d like to get someone from IBM’s Watson to come give a talk. I’d also like someone to give a talk on deep learning. Other than that, I’ll be happy as long as we meet up at least once a month and have a great speaker to learn from.

Thanks for chatting, Paul!

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We’re excited to tell you that Gilt CIO Steve Jacobs will serve as a panelist at the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s next NYC Tech Talent Draft panel. Steve earned his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Columbia, and will join executives from Adobe, BuzzFeed, Fog Creek Software, and other top tech companies on the panel. He and other panelists will discuss “a day in the life” of a tech exec, how to land a tech job, and other topics. The panel takes place Tuesday, January 28 at Columbia University’s Davis Auditorium and runs from 6 to 7 PM; there’s an hour of networking afterward. You don’t have to be a Columbia student to attend the event, so RSVP here if you’d like to attend!

Many thanks to the NYCEDC for once again inviting Gilt to participate in their great events program!