Algorithms and Arrhythmia: How AI is revolutionising healthcare

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Kablamo’s Allan Waddell recently explored Health and AI for Health Care IT. Here’s the piece or you can read it on their site:

Artificial intelligence (AI), neural networks and machine learning can be ethereal concepts to the average punter, but when applied to the health sector their benefits come into sharp focus.

When technology can save a life, it suddenly becomes meaningful. Magnetic fields and radio waves took on a new meaning with the introduction of the MRI machine, and the same will happen with the application of today’s technologies in the health sector. 

We’re just starting to see the impact AI and image recognition can have on healthcare, but it is poised to be the technology’s biggest contribution to society yet.

Earlier this year, a group of Chinese and US researchers developed a program to automatically diagnose childhood illnesses including meningitis, asthma, gastro and the flu. This AI program works faster and, in some cases, more accurately than doctors.

However, as in the early stages of every new discovery, there are obstacles to navigate. Privacy concerns, investment requirements and regulatory issues are just some of the hurdles that need to be overcome. 

Despite the challenges, there are  potential benefits. Doctors are an invaluable part of society, but they are still human, and misdiagnoses happen. According to research, there are approximately 140,000 cases of diagnostic errors in Australia each year, with 21,000 resulting in serious harm and more than 2,000 resulting in death. 

Modern AI promises to solve this issue through the power of neural networks. Unlike traditional software that only does what it’s told, neural networks can teach themselves new skills with enough training data. By reviewing mammograms with and without cancerous cells, for example, a neural network can learn to identify malignant cells in new mammograms.

In 2016, a research team achieved just this. The Houston-based team built a program that analysed mammograms 30 times faster than a human, and with 99 per cent accuracy. More recently, Maryland researchers used AI to diagnose cervical cancer with 91 per cent accuracy, vastly improving the 69 per cent human success rate. 

These diagnoses were all made without an expensive medical professional, and without the cost of a clinic. 

The upshot is AI could offer better diagnosis, to more people, for less money, in less time, allowing doctors to focus on patients that truly need their care. Not only can technology improve current diagnostic methods, but it can also create new ones; neural networks will eventually identify links between symptoms and illnesses that human researchers would never have found.

Unfortunately, the AI healthcare revolution has a down side, and a price many Australians seem unwilling to pay.

To be effective, neural networks need the training data of many thousands of people in order to learn which symptoms correspond to which diagnoses. In the China/US study, 600,000 Chinese health records were used as training data, a feat possible thanks to the sheer size of the country, as well as China’s less stringent privacy culture.

In Australia, we’re far more protective of our data and cognizant of the implications of sharing too much. 

Privacy aside, there are challenges around getting consistent data, both to teach programs and to feed them for diagnosis. 

Inconsistent standards are used across the private and public sector, even between doctors in the same clinic. While getting clean data is technically possible, it could be a regulatory and administrative nightmare.

Despite the obstacles, AI’s potential benefits to healthcare are not just worth pursuing, they should be a priority. Just as governments are now (rightly) planning for the arrival of self-driving cars, we need to plan for an AI powered healthcare system today.

Standards on access to data need to be agreed upon, along with a transparent and open opt-out process. A standardisation of medical data is also long overdue. More than just setting us up for the benefits of AI, patients would see immediate benefit from more consistent data recording.

It’s a long road between here and a world of automated and accurate AI powered healthcare, but it’s one we should start preparing for today. 

Without this preparation we’ll see more noble but half-baked ideas launched before they’re ready, eroding public trust. It’s a world we can see, but one we can only reach with a clear-eyed vision of the journey ahead.  

Amazon AWS Summit Intel


Great to be able to share this from the AWS Summit and Paul Migliorini, Amazon Web Services’s ANZ lead (as reported by CRN, read the whole story here).

When asked whether AWS's largest partners like Accenture, Deloitte and DXC were getting in on the machine learning action as well, Migliorini said global systems integrators are investing heavily in those areas, but are working with consultancies of all sizes.

"You're looking at these organisations with really deep specific capabilities… Kablamo, DiUS, and Intellify, these sorts of companies… they're working with these larger integrators as well in that really cohesive way for customers. And I think that's one really nice thing about the evolution of the way the partner ecosystems are working today."

Miglironi wrapped up with his three key messages for the channel, which included his call for partners to challenge AWS harder.

"The first is that success will come from thinking long term about customer success, which means that putting a focus on outcomes, no matter how small project or revenue is, everyone will be rewarded by customers for the long term. So we want our partners together with us to think long term and to put customer outcomes ahead of any other short term game.

Amazon Summit News: Kablamo Named Finalist Partner in ML

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Kablamo is proud to have been named a finalist in Data, Analytics and Machine Learning today. CRN covered the story (read here):

Amazon Web Services has named its top partners for 2018, with Melbourne-based Versent being named best consulting partner for the third year in a row.

The awards were handed out during AWS Partner Summit in Sydney this week, selected by a panel of AWS experts.

Video: Why "Build it and they will come" doesn't always work

Watch Victoria dismiss the Field of Dreams’ “build it and they will come” fallacy when it comes to building great UX, or read her comments below.

I find that the way products are traditionally made is "build it and they will come" approach. So, a few people in IT sit in a corner by themselves, make a product. Then they get a manual 200 pages long, give it to the user and say, "Use it for the next 10 years." And that takes an effect. So, if, if somebody feels like something is forced upon them, they are less likely to use it. They're not sure how it integrates with the process, and it might be flat-out wrong. It might actually incl ... increase the burden on their wellbeing.

Using the process where the user is in the beginning, and getting that journey, and seeing how this product can improve them. And doing that from the beginning, so the user feels like they're involved in the process. They feel like they're contributing to it. So that when it comes out on the other side, they're not only love using the product, they're an advocate for it.

Video: Lessons learned from design done wrong

Watch Victoria and Allan talk about why design can go wrong and how to avoid the pitfalls. Read the transcript below.

One thing I see very frequently is UX happens in the beginning, development happens second. And so you do the interview, you do the research, you do the user stories, you have the design, give it to the developer, you walk away and you work on something else.

Now in real life, things change when they get developed so, you would have the journey and you would have all of the principles imbedded in that however, you would start working on one of features making sure that's up to scratch, having the screens, the-the designs and then passing on data onto development and you don't walk away because what I find, more often than not, the developer goes we can do ninety percent but this ten percent it's not really feasible so we would go oh, right let's rethink this so you can tackle this right there and then so you can come up with a better solution. Sometimes the solution is actually better than what you originally came up with. And so you tackle that there, everything becomes unblocked and you can start working on-, on other things. So you have design check-ins. 

Victoria's right. That's exactly like, what happens is-is-is sometimes, you know, th--I think any business where there is silos, you're going to have challenges. Um, if you're not thinking about cross functional and the way make cross functional work. Um, it's very easy to go, 'well, let's just stay in solitude, feel safe and secure and we'll have designers a thing over here and we'll make the best design possible and then we'll have this development over here and the best development possible'. Because cross functional is too hard. If you think cross functional is too hard, you--like you really have not been working in the industry long enough because the idea is if you--you have to make that process work if you want to get the agility and the, and the flexibility that Victoria's described. 

I think any business that is still holding onto um, either ivory towers or the way in each of those disciplines without factoring in the results of the other--of any other discipline, that's when it really falls apart. 

Video: How to improve the user experience

Introducing Freddy, Kablamo’s Dev dog, and watch Allan Waddell and Victoria Adams weigh in on what’s needed to make UX work. Here’s a snippet:

It takes experience to know how to engage customers in the right way. It's not as simple as just putting a wire frame in front of a bunch of people and getting a result. You have to know what your tests are for. You have to know what hypotheses you're validating, specifically, and you have to get those answers and be able to measure that in the right way and then understand those results. It's like saying the difference between data and information. You get a whole bunch of data back, but it doesn't really mean what you think it means unless you thought about that preemptively.

Kablamo Appoints Kirsty Trask To Leadership Team

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Great to see ARN and others cover Kirsty’s arrival at Kablamo as regional manager for Melbourne and a welcome addition to our leadership team. All the better because it’s International Women’s Day. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Cloud software and product developer Kablamo has appointed Kirsty Trask as its regional manager Melbourne.

Trask joins from call recording services provider Dubber where she was a senior product manager.

In her new role at Kablamo, she will oversee the growth across Victoria, software and product development and also coaching teams within client organisations to "adopt and embrace an Agile culture".

Kablamo co-CEO Angus Dorney said Trask’s experience in managing high-performance teams and track record delivering innovative software-centric solutions made her the perfect fit.

“I didn’t want to hire someone with just ‘go-to-market’ experience, that’s a dime-a-dozen,” Dorney said. “I wanted someone who was more strategic, had experience with software and product strategy, someone who can lead the customer journey from a blank sheet of paper all the way through to taking a new product to market."

Trask is a member of the Australian Computer Society’s Women in Victoria Group, and has also worked to encourage more women to pursue careers in technology as part of Females in Information Technology and Telecommunications (FITT).

Read the full story on ARN here.


Ten ways to attract and keep the best tech talent (when everyone says it’s impossible)


There is no question that strong tech talent is scarce, but how come some companies get the lion's share of the best and the brightest? Kablamo is a small but fast-growing cloud application development business and, so far, we seem to have a good formula for attracting and retaining really great technical talent, including some engineers with budding global reputations. How? Here are ten ways for organisations large and small that want to do the same. 

  1. Give them choices, change and challenge: The best technical talent needs to live in an environment of rapid customisation and variability – that’s the way they like it. No single solution is ever the same and you can't do cookie cutter. That means your tech team needs to constantly be able to find unique solutions to unique problems. Give them puzzles, hard puzzles and they will thrive.

  2. Forget the flash: Focus on skills and substance, rather than superficial polish. No one likes the developer who speaks the loudest but doesn’t have anyone understanding them. You want to promote as spirit of humility in that we’re here to look after each other and our customers, and stay committed to achieving the smartest answers – smart doesn’t mean shiny, it means real.

  3. Talk about Humans not Human Resources: Thinking of people as resources to be managed is counter-productive. Don’t have a rigid performance management framework. Don’t do mandatory breakfasts or culture-boosting posters. The traditional idea is building a beautiful office where you have employees who never want to leave from sunrise to, well, sunrise again. That’s old fashioned. Instead, work with a more flexible approach to geographic placement. When you attract the best, you trust and you adapt. And when you’re thinking about building human, rather than transactional relationships, you start to get materially better outcomes. 

  4. The best techs are looking for fast and different: Fewer and fewer top graduates from IT programs want to work for a big enterprise tech consultancies. The best tech talent are avoiding slow-moving enterprises and traditional IT vendors because it means a lack of interesting work. They’re not afraid of hard work, but they thrive when each day is different and things are fast-moving. And they now have more choice than ever.

  5. Count on gravity: Ultimately, we get drawn to the people we’d like to work with. This is especially true of tech talent. Great tech talent flocks together. Being interviewed by an outstanding technical mind, implies a wealth of opportunity in development and ground-breaking work. It’s the learning environment that pulls exceptionally bright minds together to tackle challenges in AI, machine learning, robotics, cloud and more. 

  6. Use real values not phoney corporate talk: Businesses talk a lot about values these days, but don’t even get us started on acronyms which sit on an about us pages gathering cobwebs. Yet actions speak louder than words. Not unlike other leading tech companies, Kablamo has already produced several open source projects. We actually built tech for techies that will never pay us a cent – we did this because the team believed in doing it. This also demonstrates commitment to our global developer community about what we contribute, what we stand for and what world we’re trying to create. The right (read: best) people get this. 

  7. Let them roam free: Top tech talent are mobile and flexible. These girls and guys embrace different communication tools and channels in order to make things happen. They work from home, from the train, or during unusual hours of the night – but they do so on their own terms. Unshackle your workforce. The worst trend is companies requiring a return to work-from-base model. 

  8. Treat them like adults and be transparent: You want your tech team to know the things that matter to the business – in other words, treat them like adults. Humans generally like some level of predictability when it comes to major changes to their work environment. It’s common sense, so we apply that basic knowledge to our business, and remain transparent with our team.

  9. Drive competition hard but leave egos at the door: We do ‘Thunder Dome’ at Kablamo, inspired by the movie Mad Max. Our Thunderdome involves someone throwing in a new idea, and having 20 or so engineers brainstorm, thrash, and debate it over drinks and a good time. It’s run by the engineering team and owned by them. Some of our people spend the weekend coding their own projects. It’s a way of life. So don’t get in its way; encourage it.

  10. Don’t force roles on great people who don’t want them: Some engineers strive to become managers. Some engineers strive to become subject matter experts. The latter approach shouldn’t stop anyone from achieving significant leadership positions on your team. Some individuals want to keep working with tools, follow a technical career path, and avoid the distraction or lack of passion for managing people. Too much to ask for? We tell them they can do that if they want to. A humans-first approach will keep driving both individual careers and your mission forward. 

All You Need To Know About Elasticsearch But Were Afraid To Ask.

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When we find sticking points and technical hurdles that come up again and again for us as developers, we try to channel our frustration into something productive —like actually putting down in words something of use for other developers.

That’s what prompted Kablamo’s Ben Boyter to write 5,000 words plus on elasticsearch. Download it below.

It’s aimed at developers who need to write a search interface which is backed by elasticsearch. If you need to perform basic searches across documents with facets then you’ll definitely want to check it out. (It will not cover the setup or use of tools for elastic such as Kibana.)

Here’s a common scenario . . . The architect has decreed that for your next application you will use elasticsearch to provide a rich search experience. Your Operations/DevOp’s person has spun up some instances with elastic, deployed a cluster or through some other means provided you an elastic search HTTP endpoint. Now what? The team is looking to you to provide some guidance, to get them started and set the direction.

Ben’s pointers should be enough for anyone to get started with elastic, produce a modern search interface and know how to do most things. Anything beyond this should be fairly easy to pick up from the elastic documentation once you have this grounding.

Our Friendly AI Survey

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At Kablamo, we work with artificial intelligence at a pretty high technical level and with often very specific objectives (e.g., archival video management).

Being at the coal face means it sometimes really helps to gather a more general, everyday, "real" world take on how people think of AI and how they think it could change our future.

This survey is about helping us all to understand that perspective a little better (and, hey, it might even be fun).

My Business Talks To Allan --Entrepreneur reveals: ‘Why I hired a co-CEO’

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Kablamo co-CEO and Founder, Allan Waddell, recently appeared in MyBusiness to talk about the experience of going from solo to co-CEO. Full story below or you can read it on MyBusiness

It’s said to be lonely at the top when running a business, but as this business owner explains, appointing a co-CEO can be a beneficial way of positioning the company, and oneself, for growth.

Allan Waddell (pictured, left) founded Kablamo, a cloud software development firm, in May 2017, having previously built and sold another business. And, as he admits, he naturally gravitated towards the actual work of the business more than the running of the business itself, especially managing its finances.

For a mixture of business and personal reasons, he decided not to continue running Kablamo alone. So, mid last year, he took the plunge and appointed a co-CEO, Angus Dorney.

My Business spoke with Mr Waddell to find out why he took this approach, whether it has been worthwhile and what insights he can share from his journey so far.

Why did you decide to take on a co-CEO?

Someone wise once said to me, “You’ll be happiest at work when you are kicking goals doing what you do well”. Having already built and sold another consulting business, I knew what my strengths were, but most importantly I knew where I needed support.

When it comes to the technical, product development and sales sides of the business, I’m completely in my element. But I always knew I’d feel more comfortable if I had someone handling the financial and operations aspects of Kablamo.

That’s what makes Angus such a perfect fit; I come up with the ideas and he executes them.

How long did it take you to make that decision?

In the past, I’ve been bitten by having too much undeserved confidence in my leadership team, so since starting Kablamo, I have been aligning myself with mentors and leaders whom I’d one day think could make the leap from mentor to business partner.

Angus is someone I’ve known and respected for a long time, and we were both considering the opportunity for more than a year.

What fears did you have about the move, and how have/are you allaying those fears?

Leadership, and leader change, makes a team nervous. The Kablamo team is made up of incredibly smart people, but smart people naturally have a great deal of self-awareness, which can go hand in hand with self-doubt.

Bringing highly skilled and experienced oversight can sometimes trigger defensive behaviour and fear. Because of this, I didn’t expect the team to trust a new leader immediately, but with Angus, I already knew he would be a great fit culturally, so I could see trust on the horizon.

Did you hunt more widely for the ideal candidate before making the appointment?

I knew Kablamo would benefit from having someone drive the operational side of the business.

Having known Angus for sometime, he was always at the top of my list to share the helm with me at Kablamo — not only is he a great human being, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone with the wealth of experience he has.

He was a perfect fit, both in terms of his skills and how he fit into Kablamo culturally.

What has having a co-CEO enabled you to do so far that you would have been restricted from by flying solo?

Personally, the biggest benefits of having Angus as co-CEO is that I now have more time and our team has more executive skills.

While leading Kablamo by myself, I was in charge of everything — from business management, HR and sales to account management and operations.

Having Angus oversee the operations and financial side of Kablamo gives me more time to focus on building our vision — both from a business and product standpoint — as well as ensuring our culture is second to none.

What challenges have you faced in terms of decision-making and lines of authority, both from employees, clients and even between yourselves?

I anticipated some teething issues with bringing on a new leader, but the key to making this transition run as smoothly as possible was transparency. I was completely honest and up front with the team about why I was bringing Angus on board, and what responsibilities he would have in the business.

Equally, Angus and I clearly defined between ourselves how we would divide the CEO role.

Of course, at the start there were times when it was difficult to hand over control, but by communicating clearly and frequently, we’ve been able to solidify the relationship. When it comes to clients, Angus is well known and highly respected throughout the industry, so he was embraced almost instantly.

What challenges have arisen specifically because of the co-CEO model?

I won’t lie, the co-CEO model did take some getting used to. While I was leading Kablamo myself, I had the final say in everything and my decisions were largely made without scrutiny. With Angus, I now have eyeballs on me and my decisions, which I never had in the past.

While this was the whole idea of moving to the co-CEO model, the change from autonomy to observation was abrupt.

The key to addressing this, we’ve found, is clear and constant communication — if one of us doesn’t agree with the decision the other has made, we discuss it. We don’t let disagreements or clashes of opinion fester.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about the co-CEO model?

This model isn’t for everyone. If by nature you have counter-dependency issues, this power-sharing model will end your happiness.

There are a few key things to keep in mind if you want to explore the co-CEO model.

The first is to have a prior relationship with whoever you’re considering. If you already know much about how they work and how you each get along, you’ll have a greater insight into how the model will work in practice — without this, you’re basically crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

Second, communication is absolutely critical. I can’t stress this enough. You both need to know exactly where you stand, and the only way to achieve this is to speak with each other frankly and frequently.

Finally, sharing for sharing’s sake will inevitably lead to complications. You must have clearly defined realms of responsibility. There will naturally be some overlap, but if you’re absolutely clear on what parts of the business fall under whose control, then each CEO is empowered to own their part.

How facial recognition can unlock video archive value


Kablamo’s co-CEO, Angus Dorney, recently spoke to ComputerWorld about how facial recognition and AI can unlock tremendous amounts of value in video archives. Read the full story here. An excerpt is below.

Archive value

The capability also has enterprise applications – particularly for media organisations wanting to find relevant footage or stills in their video archives.

“They have millions of hours of video content and its typically stored in multiple legacy systems, there is no or varying meta-tagging, and the search processes for finding content are extremely old and they’re manual and they cut across multiple systems,” explains Angus Dorney, co-CEO of Sydney and Melbourne-based cloud technology firm Kablamo.

“If you’re a newsmaker in a media organisation or work for a government archive and somebody asks you for a specific piece of footage it’s very difficult and time consuming and expensive to try and find,” he adds.

Kablamo builds solutions that have a “YouTube-like user experience” to find relevant archive footage. Using AWS face and object recognition tools, users simply type in a person or thing “and get a list back of prioritised rankings, where it is, and be able to click and access that example right away,” Dorney – a former Rackspace general manager – says.

The machine learning models behind the capability, over time, can refine and adjust their behaviour, making results more accurate and more useful to users.

“You really have a computer starting to function like a human brain around these things which is incredibly exciting,” Dorney adds.

Importing Custom Findings into AWS Security Hub

Often, organizations have a suite of security products to help maintain their on-premises networks, their cloud networks and to help enforce the best practices they put in place. The AWS Security Hub service was announced at re:Invent 2018 and gives security administrators a centralized view of all of these tools by aggregating their findings in a common format, either within the current account or using a master account.

Though Security Hub is in preview, you can access it in your console now and it comes with out-of-the-box support for AWS services such as GuardDuty, Macie and Inspector as well as from 3rd party providers like Rapid7, Qualys, Splunk, Twistlock and much more.

In addition to the officially supported providers, you can also construct your own providers which will import findings directly into the Security Hub findings dashboard.

Writing a Custom Finding Provider

Troy Hunt created the Have I Been Pwned service which allows you to receive notifications whenever your e-mail address has been detected in a data breach that has been publicly disclosed. In addition to the e-mails, an API is also freely available to query for all breaches a particular identity has been involved in. Here is the template that will regularly poll the API for a number of e-mail addresses and produce findings in the Security Hub findings dashboard:

The template creates a Lambda which is triggered periodically by CloudWatch Events. The Lambda then iterates through a list of e-mail addresses and queries the Have I Been Pwned API to determine if any breaches have been detected. If they have, they are included in a batch_import_findings call to import the findings. Findings that are included in subsequent calls which share a common ID, will be updated.

The findings must conform to the AWS Security Findings Format which has optional and mandatory fields, including fields which represent the severity of the finding and finding or resource-specific custom properties. Normally, findings are required to target a specific AWS or 3rd party product, however each account comes with a default product which you can use to import your custom findings with.

Findings shown in the dashboard can be expanded to see the full description and additional detail. Custom Actions can also be created and executed against findings, which triggers a CloudWatch Event so that any supported targets can be executed, such as Lambda or Step Functions.

Once you have findings in the system, you can construct your own Insights which are views give you an overview of findings that match your predefined filters and grouping. The above screenshot shows an overview of the breaches for all Have I Been Pwned findings available.


There are some issues I found when developing for the Security Hub, which are important to note if you plan on developing your own integrations. It should be noted that since the service is still in Preview as of writing this article, these issues may or may not be fixed by the time the service reaches General Availability.

Findings cannot be deleted, but are retained for 90 days

There is currently no functionality to permanently delete a finding, however they have a 90 day retention period after which time the finding will be purged. You can archive findings during this period but unfiltered searches will still return these findings.

Updateable attributes may not update

The AWS Security Findings Format states which attributes can be updated with subsequent import calls, however some of these fields such as “Title” do not seem to update despite successful return codes from the API.

Date formats are sensitive

Though the format specifies any ISO8601-formatted string can be used in its date fields, any value with timezone information is rejected if it is not formatted in Zulu time. Additionally, errors in failed findings are not returned in the response contrary to what the documentation states. You must execute the call with a debugging log level to actually see the error messages.

Fields have undocumented maximum lengths

Also undocumented is that some fields have a maximum length. The “Description” field for example has a maximum length of 1024 characters so you'll need to trim values which are longer than that.


Despite the issues, AWS Security Hub is great offering for organizations looking to build their own SIEM and/or consolidate their findings into a centrally managed account. If you would like to hear more about how your organization might benefit from this new service, get in touch with us to find out more.

Just tell me how to use Go Modules

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I recently started using Go’s new inbuilt vendoring tool, Go Modules, and having come from both govendor and dep, this new tool was more of a change than I expected. 

I’m a fan of quick guides – just tell me what to do so I can start using it now. I don’t need an essay on why I should be using it or painful detail on the tool’s inner workings.

Unfortunately, a quick guide like this doesn’t seem to exist, so I’m writing one here. You’re welcome.

Put your code somewhere other than the gopath

You can technically use Go Modules inside the gopath, but you’ll have to manually set GO111MODULES=on in your environment variables. 

That being said, the whole point of modules is to not have to put your code in the gopath, so don’t do that.

Initialise Go Modules

Run this command in your go project:

go mod init <modulename>

‘Module name’ is whatever you want to call your module. This name should be fairly unique, because if you have module name clashes you’re gonna have a bad time. 

This creates a go.mod file, which you don’t need to touch.

Use go get to add the dependencies to the go.mod file

Just run this:

go get -u ./...

This will add all of your project’s current dependencies to the go.mod file and create a go.sum file. You don’t need to touch that file either. 

Vendor those dependencies

Run this:

go mod vendor

This will create a vendor folder and add copies of each dependency listed in your go.mod file to that folder. This folder also can’t be edited, so again, there’s no need to touch it. 

Update a dependency

Just run:

go get -u <repo url>
go mod vendor

This will update the dependency version in the go.mod file, and then update the code in your vendor folder for that dependency.

This should be enough for you to get up and running with Go Modules on your go project.

Why two CEOs can be better than one

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“Co-CEO… how’s that going for you?” This is a question I’ve been asked many times in my first six months sharing the helm of fast-growing cloud software engineering company, Kablamo.

Typically, the tone of the question gives away the enquirer’s underlying scepticism, but I get it. It’s an unorthodox leadership model, so it’s understandable that people are curious about it.

Historically, most famous CEOs are associated with an enduring personal brand, a big ego, strong individual decision-making skills, exceptional intelligence, and “star player” brilliance. None of these traditional CEO characteristics can be divided in two.

Also, it is more natural for humans to seek power than to share it. And I think this is the main reason so many people ask me about the Co-CEO model.

Honestly, I was nervous when I decided to join Kablamo as Co-CEO, sharing the CEO duties with the Founder, Allan. I was nervous because our decision to adopt an uncommon, shared leadership model put at stake the experience and engagement of our wonderful Kablamo team. I was also nervous because our commitment was public… and I hate to fail. (There’s still ego as a Co-CEO!) 

Almost six months into the journey at Kablamo, I now believe that the Co-CEO model can bring more benefit to an organisation than the single CEO model. The reason why Co-CEOs can be even more effective than an individual CEO can be summed up in one word – Diversity.

That said, having Co-CEOs would not work for every business. There are essential factors that two (or more) leaders need to make a Co-CEO model work, and fortunately Allan and I seem to have them. From my experience, here are the most important characteristics Co-CEOs need to make the combination a success:

  • Share common values: This is non-negotiable. Co CEOs must have common principles for how to treat people, how to behave, and what type of company and culture they want to build.

  • Embrace your differences: Here’s where the power of diversity between Co CEOs can beat individual CEO brilliance. For example, at Kablamo, Allan brings the creativity and technical vision to our team and my strengths are more organisational and strategic. Our skills compliment each other and allow us to focus on the aspects of the role in which we both excel.

  • Communicate again and again: Open, honest and regular communication between the Co-CEOs and the rest of the team is imperative. Importantly, the feedback loop between Co-CEOs needs to be direct, and as close to real-time as possible.

  • Trust each other: This is also non-negotiable. Once trust is gone, the Co-CEO combination is dead. I deliberately put this point last because, by doing the three former points well, Co-CEOs dramatically improve their chances of maintaining trust.

Allan and I are only at the start of our Co-CEO journey together at Kablamo but, so far, the signs are good. With each new customer win, with each conflict resolved, with each new hire, and with each great customer outcome, our Co-CEO partnership becomes stronger. (It also helps that we have an outstanding team of leaders, visionaries and thinkers at Kablamo to support us.)

At Kablamo, we strive to “Make with Heart and Mind”. So long as we both make decisions and act in line with this value, I am confident that both our Co-CEO combination, and Kablamo itself, have a very bright future.

Allan Talks AI and Slime Moulds in The Australian

slime mould.jpeg

The future of tech?

The Australian has just published Allan Waddell’s take on the biological future of AI. You can read it at The Australian here or the original text below:

Artificial intelligence is taking off. Virtual assistants, computer chips, cameras and software packages are increasingly taking advantage of machine learning to create pseudo-intelligent, versatile problem-solvers. Neural networks, AI modelled on the human brain, strike fear into anyone convinced that AI is ­already too close to being alive. The truth is it has ­always been easy to tell the artificial and the living apart — until now.

This biological-artificial distinction is about to get blurrier, and all of us need to pay attention. Among other developments, ­researchers at ­Lehigh University recently ­secured funding to grow neural networks out of living cells. ­Essentially, the researchers are going to recreate the neural-network architecture of an artificially intelligent algorithm using living cells. Theoretically, the ­algorithm should work identically in a petri dish as it does in a computer; the structure of the neural network is irrelevant in computational systems. This is a property of computers for which Justin Garson coined the term “medium independence”. In 2003, Garson said the medium used for computation didn’t matter — a computer could be made out of silicon or wood — as long as the logical basis of the computation was unchanged.

While this research is revolutionary, procedures involving cell-based neural networks have ethicists, law professors, philosophers and scientists raising concerns about using cerebral ­organoids — what you might think of as minibrains — for neurological research. Regular human brains are generally unavailable for study, so minibrains are a great ­research alternative. However, because minibrains are, well, ­actual brain material, ethicists worry they could become conscious if they reach a certain level of complexity. It takes only a small leap to raise these same concerns about growing cell-based neural networks. After all, neural networks are designed to work in the same way as a brain. So, what’s the difference between a human (or more likely, simple organism) brain and a neural network in a petri dish? And what if a research team combined these two approaches and grew neural networks out of human brain cells? All of these questions and more are rapidly forcing their way into public discussion as our biotechnology advances.

And it doesn’t stop there. The next big thing could actually be more advanced organisms like the slime mould. ­Believe it or not, slime moulds are solving organisational problems that have confounded the brightest math­ematicians in human history, and the mould isn’t even trying. Japanese and British ­researchers created a miniature map of Tokyo, stuck a bit of Physarum polycephalum mould on Tokyo, and put some oatmeal on other major cities in the greater Tokyo Area. Within a week, the mould had recreated a pathway model of Tokyo’s train system, simply by doing what mould does best: growing and seeking out ­nutrients. The New Jersey Institute of Technology boasts a “Swarm Lab” that studies “swarm intelligence” found in everything from colonies of ants to dollops of mould, in an attempt to learn how organisms make decisions — ­research that could one day refine the algorithms behind self-driving cars, among other things.

Network design by slime mould is an astounding breakthrough. Consider that when Japan began building its high-speed rail network in the late- 1950s, it was financed in part with an $US80 million loan from the World Bank. Adjusting for inflation, that totals more than $US680m, and some estimates put the actual cost of the train system at twice the original loan amount. Of course, a lot of this money was spent on materials and paying construction workers, but using general project cost estimates from a civil engineer, we can guess at a design cost of roughly $US54m. So, give a little mould a week to grow, and it will replicate tens of millions of dollars of design work for practically nothing. Furthermore, Tokyo’s rail system wasn’t designed and built all in one go; the rail system has been in some stage of development since 1872. The design produced by the mould nearly mimicked the final result of more than a century of development.

Network design is no simple task and the problems involved are some of the hardest to solve in computer science, generally ­requiring lots of approximations and algorithms. The slime mould isn’t concerned about the fancy mathematics, though. It simply spreads out, finds food, and then develops the most energy-efficient way to move nutrients around its mouldy network-body. The ­researchers involved in this project crunched some numbers and determined that, if constructed, the mould’s design would be “comparable in efficiency, reliability, and cost to the real-world infrastructure of Tokyo’s train network”.

The humble slime mould is teaching a lesson many business leaders should heed. Technologies like AI and machine learning are developing at an amazing pace, but we don’t yet know where they’re taking us. What we do know is that just like the mould, environments need to have the right conditions for these new technologies to thrive.

Allan Waddell is founder and CEO of Australian enterprise IT specialist Kablamo.

How do you architect culture at scale?

Angus Dorney and Allan Waddell tackle the question of how you build culture and then scale it. Watch the video or read the transcript below.

Great teams on the horizon….

Great teams on the horizon….

Angus: Whew! (laughs)

Allan: You got this.

Angus: Yeah, I got this. Well, I think architecting culture at scale is, I think, important's things to do if you're going to architect culture at scale. First of all, you have to define an organization stands for really and I think that the values are in an organization's DNA are set extremely early on in the life, the lifecycle of that organization. It's something that you can't change as the organization grows up. And so, I believe, that in order to scale culture in an organization, you have to be very clear in what your values are early, those values have to different, they can't just be innovation on a tea and trust like every other single business in the world. They have to different. They have to meaningful. They have to be something that, ah, g-, is going to motivate your employees and engage them as they grow and, if you set the blueprints early, then that can be a guiding light for scaling locally and internationally.

Allan: Completely agree. One of the key things a scale is, you need to be attractive the developmental, the capability market as opposed .. and that needs to marry into, I mean, y-, your internal values might not necessarily be the same as what you present your clients, um, but they need to be, they need to be, but they need to be alive, if that makes sense. And so, when you talk about cultural scale, attracting great people is one of the benefits, well, of having great culture and then also attracting great clients.

Angus: Yeah, uh, I think that a lot of organizations will say, "Here's our values", and print out a poster and stick in on the wall,

Allan: Hmm (affirmative).

Angus: and that's completely ineffective so it's actually about defining what it is that you stand that for and the behaviors that, how you stand for as an organization but it's about reinforcing those things with, um, the way that you act, the things that you do so you have to build customs and forums and reinforcing mechanisms around those values themselves. And, you know, whether that's with the group meetings that you facilitate, definitely the way that the leadership team acts, the types of behavior that's acceptable and [inaudible 00:02:46] on a daily basis in the organization, the recognition, the awards that you give out, all of these things serve to reinforce those set of values rather than just sticking a, a poster up on the wall and hoping that that's going to influence the way people behave.

Allan: Absolutely, I think it's, culture is not just about what leadership decides-

Angus: Yeah.

Allan: It’s, you know, your team has to embody that culture and that's the only way, w-, client, if, you know, if clients have your team on site you can't, (laughs) deploy, ready, win and go. Remember that we're humble. Like it doesn't work that way. But the leaders on the ground have to really believe that and be cultural leaders for their team,

Allan: .. just recently we had a, one of our old hands back at the office, he, and, um, one of our team was talking about the experience they were having on site and how that related so much back to the values that we have, how it related back to the integrity and the humility, and I stopped what they were doing for a moment and believed it was their chance to really operate in that mode? And, I think that's like a watershed moment for us, when we go, "This is, you know, we think we're going the right thing.". I don't think there is necessarily a direct path to building a culture scale, it's a journey, and you have to adapt and you have be on, everyone has to be on the bus together, .. but that was a really good indicator that we're on to something.

What every CIO should know about Cloud

Watch Angus and Allan talk about CIOs, Cloud and oranges or read the full transcript below.

What should every CIO know about Cloud, well, every CIO should know something about Cloud. I think we can agree on that part.


But, look, I don't have time for... I shouldn't put it that way. I think the era of the CIO that declared that we're a Cloud first business just because everybody else is doing that. I think that's finished and what we're seeing in Australia and you know from my experience internationally, as well, in some of the more advanced Cloud markets is, we're seeing people with technical understanding of what Cloud and other advances in technology can do for their business and that's what CIOs really need.

They need to understand how Cloud gives them and their businesses the freedom to be remarkable, not just we're gonna go there because everybody else is and that might deliver us some cost savings.

It's a variable topic, but I think that, you know. I think first of all, the move to, the move to Cloud is actually a, a move to make your business more nimble. Now I'm, that's the opportunity that lays in front of you. It's not always about cost savings. It's great that cost savings are a by product but that's exactly what it is, it's a by product of making a business more nimble.

I think, I think the agile model that, enables you to, you know to, to be more nimble. You, you need to be okay with value in some states and it's more about getting in there and trying uh, and doing some proof of concepts and you know, and just start building trust and start practicing the ways to make your business more nimble. It's not just about moving applications into, into any eco system.

It's always a great first step, but there has to be back in your mind. It has to be, actually you know, how do we transform this, how do we transform this business into being something that is going to adapt to oncoming competition.

Yeah, and the, the, the, the new generation of CIOs coming in. I think also need to realize that the partners that have got them to this point, can't get them to where they need to go next.


And, and it gets back to that conversation around the inter priority service delivery model. You can't get what you need from one or two big technology sourcing partners, I think. The best CIOs now understand that they need to engage specialists to deliver that transformation in their organisation. That's a very different perspective to what a CIO would have had in the past.

Yeah. Yeah, and I said if I bought apples today, 10 apples isn't gonna equal one orange. Like, it's like you could have a billion apples, you're not gonna get the orange they need, you know to be able to, at the level what they, they need to do.

I'm gonna have to get you to explain to me what that actually means later.

I don't know. I don't know. I just like apples. (laughing).