Two Iconoclasts, One Campaign that Made History: Harper Reed and Dylan Richard to Keynote Distill


The first time I ever heard the names Harper Reed or Dylan Richard was this video, from 2008, where Harper takes Frank Gruber on a tour of the SkinnyCorp / Threadless office in Chicago.

Watch out for controversial comments about PHP vs. Ruby on Rails from 3:09 onwards. Dylan makes an appearance around 7:30.

At the time I was sharing a cramped, dank office in the corner of a converted warehouse building in Dublin city. I had just started working for myself as a freelance developer and I was trying to figure out my way in the world.

What I saw in this video was a million miles from where I was, but it was definitely in the direction I wanted to go in. I had already been inspired by the founders of Threadless, and at the time I regarded them as a model of how designers and developers could create something great that people would actually pay them for (in 2008, getting people to pay me for work I had done was a challenge).

I can’t remember exactly when I became twitter friends with Harper, but it was probably around 2009, and I think it was our mutual friend, Joe Stump who connected us. Over the next couple of years I invited Harper to all three Funconf events in Ireland. Each year it was “sorry man, I can’t, really busy”. Then one year it was “sorry, I gotta help the prez get re-elected”.

Becoming CTO of Obama for America is probably what Harper has become most famous for. But he didn’t do it alone. Harper and Dylan teamed up again on that project, with Dylan playing Director of Engineering to Harper’s CTO.

Between them they led a staff of 120 people, building and maintaining systems and infrastructure that supported the software and apps that campaign staff and volunteers would use to drive the Obama vote.

I finally got to meet Harper and Dylan in person last year in Dublin. Dylan spoke on the Developer Stage of The Summit, and Harper turned up for Founders.

I’m delighted that they have decided to join us for Distill 2014 to keynote and share their experiences over the past few years.

Distill is a developer conference for people who create and build web and mobile technology. Make sure you have a chance to see Harper and Dylan. Early bird tickets are currently on sale,!

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