Making it in Madeira

Living outside of the big cities or big technology/financial hubs sometimes is the synonym of being left out of everything whats going on and being far away of many opportunities for your own professional development. On these places the ecosystem is vibrant with lots of events and meetups, either focused on networking or to share knowledge about a given topic.

Unfortunately for those leaving far away of these centers, even though remote working is more prevalent nowadays, we still are not able to attend and be part of these things regularly.

That is why I see with great pleasure the recent grow in this kind of activity in Funchal. Institutions like the University of Madeira, Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute, Startup Madeira and some other people, have been organizing recently several of this events and promoting an entrepreneurial mindset and a culture of innovation. This might turn the city’s ecosystem more dynamic and help exploring new and open opportunities, specially related with technology and the digital economy, in an island that is somewhat dependent on tourism.

As an example in the last few weeks, we’ve had a informal business networking event called “Afterwork” which as been happening  with some regularity, we had some talks in several fields given by experts in M-ITI open to the public and we also had a workshop of “marketing for startups” given by Felipe Ávila Da Costa from Infraspeak (previously UPTEC).

Of course this should be just the staring of a long walk, but is good to see some movement in this area. Because I see much potential in other areas, that are not tied to location or raw materials, to be developed and “shipped”  to the rest of the world from Madeira, we just have to change to a doing mindset and explore the existing global opportunities while living here.

Foto by Tiago Aguiar (

And lets get real, who doesn’t prefer to work and live in a beautiful island with great weather all year round, instead of endure crazy cold winters and burning hot summers?

Also, have I already talked about the great co-working spaces we have here? Perhaps I will do it in a future post.

Personal Portugal Technology and Internet

Pixels Camp 2016

A few weeks ago took place in Lisbon the first edition of Pixels Camp (aka Codebits 2.0), an event that I try to attend whenever it happens (see previous posts about it). It is the biggest technology focused event/conference in Portugal with a number of attendees close to 1000.

This year the venue changed to LX Factory, even though the place is really cool, it is not as well located as the previous venue, at least to people who don’t live in Lisbon and arrive to the airport. The venue was well decorated and with a cool atmosphere, giving you the feeling that it was the place to be. However, this year there was less room for the teams working on the projects and not everybody was able to get a table/spot (it appeared to me that the venue was a little bit smaller than the previous one).

From the dozens of great talks that were given on the 4 stages of the event, many of whose I was not able to see since I was competing in the 48h programming competition, bellow are two that I really liked:

Chrome Dev Tools Masterclass

IPFS, The Interplanetary Filesystem

If you have some curiosity you may find the remaining on their youtube channel.

All this is great but the main activity of Pixels Camp is the 48h programing competition and this year we had another great batch of cools projects being developed (total of 60, if I remember correctly).

As usual I entered the contest, this time with the fellow Whitesmithians, Rui and Pedro. We chose to develop a GPS based game, you know, since it seemed to be a popular thing this summer and we though the medium still has great potential to do really entertaining stuff.

The idea already had a few years but never had been implemented and at its core was quite simple. It took some ideas from the classic game “pong” and adapted it to be played in a fun way while navigating through a real world area.

We called it PonGO and essentially the users must agree on a playing field, such as city block, a city or even bigger areas, then they connect their phones and the ball starts rolling. The players have to move around with their phones (which they use to see the map and track everyone’s position) trying to catch the ball and throw it to the other side of the map. The player that is able to do it more times wins the game. Here is sketch we did while discussing the project:

Initial Sketch
Initial Sketch

As you can see in the above image, that would be on the phone’s screen, the player (in yellow) reached close enough to the ball so it can play it, now he has to change the direction to one of the opposite sides (marked as green). The other players (in blue), will have to run to catch the ball before it gets out. Spread across the map you can see some power ups that give users special capabilities.

That’s it, it might seem easy but doing it in less that 48h is not. We ended with a working version of the game but the power ups were not implemented due to time constrains. Here are some screenshots of the final result(we used the map view instead of the satellite view so it might look a little different):

In game screenshotsIn game action










The code itself is a mess (it was an hackathon what were you expecting) and can be found here and here.

At the end, it was a great event as usual and I would also like to congratulate some of my coworkers at Whitesmith that took home the 7th place in the competition. Next year I hope to be there again (and you should too).

Portugal Random Bits

Democratizing the Eurozone

Yesterday one of the most influential figures of this year’s European political scene visited Portugal. I was totally unaware of the event but thanks to the reddit’s community I was able to discover the video of the talk given by Yanis Varoufakis at the University of Coimbra. It’s a long video but I can assure you it is worthy of your time, both the lecture and the discussion that followed.

The issues addressed and discussed in the video are very pertinent and, independently of your political views, deserve to be object of reflection and broader discussion in order to solve the current state of affairs in Europe.

P.S.: Mr. Varoufakis lecture only begins on minute 00:40.

Movies Portugal

Capitão Falcão

Last week was (finally) the premiere of the film “Capitão Falcão“, the first Portuguese super-hero. Since I was one of the “few” that saw the pilot, when this project was supposed to be some kind of TV show, I had high expectations for it (believe me, the pilot was good).

The film is supposed to be a gross satire of the Portuguese regime before the 25th of April of 1974, where everyone that opposes the government is portrayed as a villain.

So this weekend i didn’t lose the chance and went to see it. In the remaining of this post i will make a tiny review of the movie without any spoilers.

Overall it was a good movie, it has its funny moments, hilarious portraits of real life characters and it mocks some political views. The argument is good enough for you to not lose interest in whats going on and the making is within of what is expectable for this kind of movie, without an astronomical budget.

It is good but could be better, as one of my friends said, the movie recycles lots of great jokes and funny content from the 30 minute pilot across the film, without enough new content to maintain the needed density and rhythm. This way there are some moments in the film where that void is filled with longer and repetitive fighting scenes.

Summing up, “Capitão Falcão” is a breath of fresh air in the Portuguese cinema, that I recommend and hope that it leads the way for more good and original movies made in this country.

Note: There might be surprises after the credits


Raw Open Data

Last month I attended an interesting event here in Coimbra, about the concept of Open Data, which is described in Wikipedia like this:

Open data is the idea that certain data should be freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other mechanisms of control.

During the event several topics were discussed around this issue, but the ones that caught my attention were focused on the European directives about this subject, the Portuguese case (our government approach on this issue), licenses that should be used on this kind of content and data visualizations.

The major arguments used to incite companies, public entities and essentially governments to release their data in an open format, so it can be used by the general public and other entities were:

  • it fosters innovation
  • gives the ability to improve existing products and services
  • increases the transparency of the organization
  • raises the quality of the citizen’s participation in a democracy

In the morning Cristiana Sappa, argued that all this data should have a license that gives permission to the users to reuse it for both commercial and non-commercial purposes, allows the creation of derivative works and doesn’t have any “Share alike” condition. One good example is Creative Commons Zero (CC0).

In the afternoon, the Portuguese case was presented, where several initiatives were explained like, Portal de Transparência Municipal and Portal do Software Público. Despite all the effort, at the end of this talk i was left with the impression that there is still much to be done and that the quantity and quality of the released data is not there yet.

The day ended with a talk given by Paolo Ciuccarelli about data visualizations. In this talk he defended the need to turn the raw data into something that people could perceive what was being shown to them and reason about it. He then gave many excellent examples of amazing work that he and his team had done in the past. I would like to leave one reference to a tool, called RAW, that was presented which, helps the common user in the creation of nice visualizations for his data. You should check it out.

Concluding this post, i would like to leave here some useful links that were shared during the event and where interesting public data is published. Here they are:

Personal Portugal

RubyConf Portugal

In the beginning of last week, during the days 13 and 14, I and some guys from Whitesmith went to Braga for the first RubyConf Portugal. I’m not a huge fan of Ruby but since i work with it from time to time, i took the chance to learn a little bit more about it and improve my understanding of the language.

The event was pretty cool and if you go through the agenda in the site you can see that the speakers that gave the talks are well known individuals in this community. The good stuff about this conference started with the choice of the city of Braga to host the event, since this kind of stuff in Portugal always happens in Lisbon or Oporto.

The venue was in an amazing spot, called “Bom Jesus”, that has a nice view over the city as you can see in the photo below:

Photo from Braga
Venue Location: Braga

I liked some of the talks, essentially the ones that are related with my work, the rest didn’t said much to me but this is normal and it happens in every event. The funny part was that in this event we spent more time hearing about other languages (Javascript, Go, Rust, C) than ruby even though they were related with the ruby ecosystem.

The host of the event was Jeremy Walker, and he did a great job from the start where he showed up dressed as a roman guy (seems it was the theme of the event) until the end of the last talk.

Regarding the contents of the conference, in the first day i really enjoyed the talks “Building better web APIS with rails” and “Writing fast ruby“, this last one was already available online (video, slides).

Talk photo
Carlos Sousa’s talk in the first day

In the second day the two presentations that i liked the most were: “TBA” (according to the speaker that was exactly the name of the talk) and “Search Your Feelings: Multi-Table Full Text Search in Postgres“, both without too much ruby. One addressed Rust and the other Postgres, two topics I’m really interested in improving my skills at the moment.

Photo of TBA talk
Steve Klabnik’s Talk

Aside from the talks the rest of the event (food, party, etc) was great. The only complain that I have is about the conditions of the room where the talks were given, since those who were unfortunate (or late) to stay in the back of the room had some issues to properly see the slides (as you can see in the last photo, I was in the middle of the room).

Finally I must congratulate the guys at Group Buddies for the organization of this conference. I hope this kind of events become more common here in Portugal and happen outside Lisbon, so more regions of the country can benefit from them.

Edit: For those unable to be there, the organization just released some photos and videos taken during the event. You can find them here and here.

Personal Portugal

Codebits 2014

The 3 days passed so fast that i got the sensation that the event took place in only one day. The only regret I felt in this year’s event was related with the fact that our team was unable to get the project ready for the presentation in 48h.

We were developing a service that would  pay developers (using MEO Wallet) who contribute to open source projects, with bounties associated to specific issues, as soon as their pull request is merged in Github.

The rest of the event was awesome as always and all the speakers of the talks i was able to attend (Christian Heilmann, Miguel Duarte, Miguel Mota Veiga, …) were up to the job.

So next year the organization can count with my application to the event again.


Cheap, Safe and Friendly

As a Portuguese citizen, after i come across an article named “Top 15 Cheap, Safe and Friendly Countries” and saw my country in this list, i have to leave here my two cents about the subject. I’m not gonna evaluate or judge the process and the origin of the data that led the author to his conclusion, but reinforce the raking given to Portugal and even argue why it should have been placed in a even better position.

For those who dismiss reading the full article here is the final score given by the author (data available here):

top15 ranking

As you can see, despite of being in the list, the country ranks far behind the top ones in these 3 categories. Based on the hacker news discussion, i will add some aspects that people claimed as important when moving/traveling to a foreign country:

  • Health Care
  • Quality of the food
  • Racial/Sexual/Religious discrimination

For the first aspect, the last World Health Organization ranking of health systems can give you a hint even though it’s relatively old and it’s methodology had been criticized. The second aspect depends on individual tastes but based on comments around the web, it seems fairly well appreciated. Finally, according to this document from the European commission, Portugal is relatively in line with the rest of the European union regarding any kind of discrimination (which i suppose it’s not bad at all).

After that i will leave two opinions, that i found in the discussion and thought that are extremely positive:

I’ve spent significant time in #3 (Morocco) and #4 (UAE) and would be hesitant to return. As a solo female these places are hostile once you leave the confines of the westernized areas. If you are just hanging out the business districts and make heavy use of taxis you’re fine but what’s the point..
#15 Portugal on the other hand? If you can work remotely and can get a visa, I’d put it at the top. Amazing country, affordable, fantastic people and the language isn’t complicated to pick up if you have any Romance knowledge. (by marquis)

I have lived in Portugal (Lisbon) for about two years. One of the cheapest countries in Europe, friendly, people are warm towards foreigners. Country itself is very beautiful and great food (one of the best fish cuisine).However, there are not many tech startups. (by morazow)

In response to the second one, it’s true that there isn’t many but we are working on it.

And for those interested, the better part of the country isn’t attached to it, just fly a little bit further south and west and you will find Madeira island. Meanwhile i will leave you with a short introduction to Portugal.