The Next Web and the launch of Lily

Written by Sjoerd Romkes on 15th June 2017

On the 18th and 19th of May, the annual The Next Web Conference took place in Amsterdam. Our TNW crew existed of 27 people, all eager to either join the notorious hack battle, learn about the future of technology, or launch the beta version of Lily.

On our way to The Next Web

While eight of our crew were already hacking away at TNW’s Battle of the Sensors on Wednesday, we were still in our office in Groningen. Four of us departed in the evening towards Amsterdam by car, as the traffic is horrible in the morning and we wanted to be early at TNW’s first conference day.

During the two hour drive to our hostel; Luuk was photoshopping the last needed digital materials for Lily, Mark set up a Wi-Fi hotspot through 4G and improved the Lily website, my co-driver Allard was providing music and directions, and a Bluetooth speaker played heavy drum ‘n bass through Spotify. What if you told someone 20 years ago this was all possible in a tiny black car blasting 130 km p/h on a highway? If only I could help out by putting the car in autopilot mode.

It’s a totally normal situation these days, but I guess this shows why we won’t live and work without the newest technologies anymore. We love it, it helps us to be more efficient and makes things a lot easier. Once we arrived at our lovely hostel the Train Lodge, we were welcomed with some cold beers and the great stories from the hack battle boys.

Day one: don’t disturb your users

After a good night sleep and nice breakfast, our first conference day started. It all took place at the Westergasterrein, where the Westergasfabriek is located. An impressive venue and the grand opening hit the right spot to get us into the mood.

After all the spectacle the interesting opening talk was, ironically enough, about Calm Technology by Amber Case. In a nutshell, she explained that technology is here to help us be more human. When developing new products or services, make sure they disturb your users as little as possible. Your product isn’t the only thing someone is using during the day; be aware of the time and attention.

Funnily enough, we’ve held off on building notifications in Lily (our personal assistant for teams) as it is very difficult to create default notifications that contain a high value for every user. Besides that, by constantly improving the user experience and lowering the amount of manual input, a user has time to focus on the client they’re talking to instead of being held back by ‘the system’.

Other interesting talks I attended were by Ray Chan (9GAG) talking about the future generation and the interesting differences when comparing survey results between millennials from European and Asian countries.

Danny Lopez (Blippar) spoke about augmented reality and the impact on our society. My guess is that once AR (like QR codes) is automatically shown when using a smartphone camera (and not in a separate app), it will really take off.

Mikko Hypponen (F-Secure) did a great talk about security, IoT, and the recent WannaCry ransomware attack. Once again, his point was to think about non-tech savvy users when creating products and services