Thursday, 4 February 2016

Digital City Walk

Naked Element are proud to be part of the forthcoming Digital City Walk. Held over five days, the trail aims to encourage young people to visit Norwich tech businesses to find out more about what they do and what it might be like to work in the tech industry.
Norwich is a Tech City and younger people should be made aware of the opportunities available in our Fine City. We are at No. 1 on the map, along with Axon VibeSean Clark Ltd and Applin Skinner. Our colleagues Rainbird AI are at No. 7 and Neon Tribe are at No. 11.
The walk takes place during half term between the 15th and 19th of February and we will be available every day except Thursday. Come and say hi and find out what we're all about!

Monday, 1 February 2016

The Inconsistency of Dream Theater

Images and Words was a huge part of my teenage years. I also enjoyed Awake, A Change of Seasons and the first half of Falling Into Infinity. I don’t know what happened to Dream Theater after that. The following albums, right up until the eponymous Dream Theater album in 2013 were listenable, but boring and spent most of their time on the shelf for me. However, the eponymous album was a real return to form and I played and enjoyed it a lot.

Now it’s 2016 and Dream Theater have releases a 2 hour concept album called The Astonishing. It’s a dystopian science fiction theme and I love long albums (like the new Swallow The Sun album at 3 hours) so it should have been perfect for me. From the second listen I was struggling. My feeling all the way through was where are the riffs, where is the metal?

I bought the new Axel Rudy Pell, Avantasia and Primal Fear albums at the same time and all were instantly more listenable, enjoyable and digestible. Hopefully Dream Theater will get their act together next time around. I think they need to catch up with the other prog metal bands they influenced such as Threshold, Scar Symmetry and Pagan’s Mind.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Break-away for breakfast

Breakaway is a relaxed yet focused networking breakfast. It all kicks off around 7.15am. As people arrive they relax by grabbing a hot drink, chatting and greeting familiar faces and one or two new ones. From about 7.30 they sit down and  each member does ‘one minuter’, Some people talk about their business and some about current trends relevant to their sector. Paul spoke about The Norfolk Developers Conference (NorDevCon) business track which this year is better for business than ever before. The majority of conference delegates are part of an SME so the opportunity for B2B networking is extensive. Nick Applin said some very kind words to the group based on his experience from NorDevCon in 2015 and we hope to see a few more faces from Breakaway this year.

Most people at Breakaway opt for a lovely full English breakfast with locally sourced home made sausages. If an English breakfast isn’t to your taste there is a choice of pastries, cereal, yoghurt, fruit, toast and jams.

At every Breakaway breakfast there is a ten minute slot given by one of the members. On this occasion Kirsty Favell told us about cats, cardigans and copywriting. It was a funny and informative talk with great content, everything you’d expect from a very talented copywriter. Kirsty taught us that all writing must start with a SFD and if you want to know what that is you’ll need to ask myself or Paul!

Breakaway finishes off with another round robin with everyone talking about the referrals and the successes they’ve had in the last week. We always get a warm welcome from Breakaway and really enjoy going. The fun and good humour is usually as free flowing as the coffee and we can’t wait to go along again.

Words: Emily Jayne Crittenden & Paul Grenyer

Friday, 29 January 2016

Have a day off!

Sometimes I have to take an unexpected day off. Today is one of those days. It’s not something I like doing, but with a young family sometimes it’s necessary. I’m one of the few lucky people who really enjoys what they do, so I’m working on one project or another most of the time.  When I can’t work for whatever reason, I find it quite hard as it feels like all the things I have to do are mounting up. My solution is to put them all on my todo list and then it doesn’t usually take long to plough through them when I’m working again.

Some people tell me that I’m a workaholic, but I don’t feel like a person who compulsively works excessively hard and long hours. In fact I’m dreadful at long hours.

One of my favorite films when I was a teenager was pretty woman. In the film Vivian, played by Julie Roberts, talks Edward, played by Richard Gear into taking a day off. Complete shock ripples through Edward's office at the news he is taking a day off. Vivian takes Edward to a park and confiscates his mobile phone mid conversation. She succeeds in getting Edward to relax. He ends up, still in his suit, minus his shoes and socks, under a tree.  Pretty Woman is a Cinderella story where Vivian melts the heart of the hard nosed businessman. The park scene is where she begins to change him for the better.

I’m no hard nosed business man, but I am sometimes overly focussed when I should be relaxing. Taking a day off is not usually something I enjoy, but it often does me good and is good for those around me.

Monday, 25 January 2016

The Journey Continues

On Sunday I saw Threshold for the tenth time. To say they’re my favorite band is an understatement. I’ve seen them more than any other band, but Marillion, Paradise Lost, The Wildhearts and Skin aren’t far behind.

As is common with lots of bands at the moment, there were two support acts. I struggled to see the point of Damnation Angel, although their singer was clearly very talented. Spheric Universe Experience, from France, on the other had were really quite good. Proggy, heavy and well worth the £10 for an album.

If I’m honest, For The Journey is my least favorite of the recent Threshold albums, so I was apprehensive about hearing it all the way through. I was delighted, however, to find they were opening with Freaks and Mission Profile before diving into For The Journey. I shouldn’t have been apprehensive as live it was amazing from beginning to end. Although by no means the best song from the Hypothetical album, Oceanborn, which followed, is a superb live track and had me thinking back to when Mac was in the band. Then there was the superb and unexpected Pilot in the Sky of Dreams which had Damien Wilson splitting the crowd, walking among us and kissing a lady who had put herself right in front of him. Before the encore they finished with Ashes, which was, unfortunately, the only track from For the Journey’s predecessor, March of Progress.

The encore consisted of the Art of Reason and of course Slipstream. Both brilliant. Damien Wilson of coursed joined the crowd straight after and I was able to get the new album signed. I’d bumped into Pete Morton earlier and was able to distract Richard West for clearing away his keyboards too.

They’re still my favorites and I expect when they play again I’ll see them again. Hopefully they’ll do another set like they did at the garage a few years ago with a few songs from each of their albums. And you never know, they may even play in Norwich.

SyncNorwich: The Brandbank Story

I often find myself describing the structure of tech companies in Norfolk to people. In terms of size we have Aviva at the top, a lower layer of large SMEs such as Validus, Proxama, Virgin Wines and EPoS Now in the middle and then countless micro businesses and smaller SMEs at the bottom. I’ve been aware of Brandbank for a while, but they’ve always been a bit of an enigma to me. It turns out it’s not just me and this is something they’re keen to do something about. It also turns out that with a two hundred strong workforce in Norwich alone, they deserve to be mentioned in the middle layer.

To help raise their profile locally, Brandbank are engaging in a number of local activities with the tech and business communities in Norwich. Their CIO Jeremy Glenn has spoken at the Norfolk Network, the company is a partner sponsor of NorDevCon and on Thursday Jeremy spoke about Brandbank to SyncNorwich at Whitespace. Why do Brandbank want to raise their profile locally? They need more software developers. They need quite a few of them and they need them quickly to help sustain the company's growth.

The core business of Brandbank is to help retailers get their products online. They’re one of only a few companies who do this and they do it for a lot of large supermarkets as well as thousands of other clients. Following their inception in the late 90s, Brandbank have seen incredible growth in revenue, with very modest profits and only broke even in 2007. Since then they have seen steady growth in profits. In late 2014 they were bought by Nielsen.

Jeremy told us all about his background, how he came to join Brandbank and then how he became a director. He described many of the different things Brandbank has tried over the years, what had worked and what hadn’t and what they learned from it. Jeremy also described the horrific process of preparing to be acquired, the false starts and intensive due diligence.

Although clearly a shrewd businessman, Jeremy clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously. It was interesting to finally find out what Brandbank do and the delivery was entertaining. It will be equally interesting to see how Norwich’s previously best kept secret grows over the coming years.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Breakfast with John Beer of The Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering

What: Breakfast with John Beer of The Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering

When: 7.30 to 8.30am, Wednesday, 23rd March, 2016

Where: The Oak Room, The Maids Head Hotel, Tombland, Norwich, NR3 1LB

How much: £11


‘The Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering’ a catalyst for changing the Employment, Skills and Aspirations Landscape of the East of England 

Aspirations of the current and future generations of school students in rural areas is at an alarming low. Norfolk is no exception to this phenomena. The presentations objective is to outline these challenges and how we all, jointly, can strategically change the East of England regions Employment, Skills, Education and Aspirations landscape by creating a world renowned Centre for Knowledge Engineering i.e. AI and Deep Learning, Data Analytics, Bio-Informatics and Cyber Security. The East of England has now 3 world leading regional research hubs creating major breakthroughs in search engine technologies, Bio Med and food research but still not seen as a ‘powerhouse’. The objective is for the East of England to become the UK’s powerhouse of the Knowledge Engineering sector.

John Beer

After leaving school at 15.5 years I joined the GPO Overseas Telecommunications on a 3 year Telecoms Technician apprenticeship and then subsequently moving to senior management positions in Xerox, Fujitsu Europe and Canon EMEA responsible for Strategic Alliances, Mergers and Acquisitions, Strategy and Analysis. In 1996 I received a grant from the DTI to create a search engine platform for exporting SME’s engaging with Mike Lynch’s Autonomy team. I later co-founded an Unstructured Search API company based in New Zealand (later to become global) of which I successfully exited in 2011. I am currently an investor and advisor in and to a number of companies in the Search, Content Monetisation, and Knowledge Extraction space and since 2012 have been the CEO of Downham Market Developments Ltd the developer of ‘The Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering’ a new £350M commercial and education campus on the 80 Acre site of the Ex WW2 RAF Downham Market.

Event: The Miracle of Generators & Three years a full-time Go programmer.

What: The Miracle of Generators & Three years a full-time Go programmer.

When: 6.30pm to 9pm, Wednesday 3rd February, 2016

Where: The King's Centre, King Street, Norwich, NR1 1PH


The Miracle of Generators
Bobil Stokke (@bodill)

The ECMAScript 2015 specification introduced iterators, which generalise iteration over common data structures, as well as providing an interface for allowing you to iterate over any custom data structures using common language constructs. ES2015 also introduced generator functions, which make writing arbitrary iterators a lot easier and less boilerplatey.

But generators aren’t just for making simple iterators over data structures. Because they’re bidirectional—they don’t only produce output, they can also take input—they’re actually coroutines, which means there’s no end to the sort of fun you can apply them to. We’re going to explore how we can use them to make asynchronous programming in JavaScript a lot more elegant—to chart a path out of callback hell. And then we’re going to take a look at what we’ve really discovered: one of the most fearsome mysteries of computer science, suddenly laid bare before us.

Three years a full-time Go programmer 
Elliott Stoneham (@ElliottStoneham)

The Go programming language (search term "golang") turned six years old last November, for around half of that time Elliott has been writing in Go day-to-day. In this talk he will share why the novelty of such a new language hasn't worn off yet, and in particular why he thinks Go is actually about saving development time and cost. But most programmers are not attracted to Go not for the long-term benefits, initially the ease of creating parallel code is exciting ("go myFuncName()" will do it). So Elliott will use some live examples to illustrate coding patterns for concurrency and parallelism, which is always fun. He will finish by talking about how organisations typically start using Go by creating some small peripheral service, then give examples of organisations that have gone well beyond this to use Go at scale.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Don't promote your developers

Yes you read correctly. Don’t promote your developers. They deserve to stay where they are.

Having worked for a number of companies who believe the only way to show their appreciation for hard working developers is to give them more responsibility, I am a firm believer in doing the exact opposite. Companies move successful developers into other areas of their business, often into people management, and take away what makes the developer good at their job, or at the very least dilute their skills by asking them to focus on people rather than code. But there’s a reason your developer is good at what they do. Most developers are not ‘people people’, they are software people and for very good reasons.

If the software development team is writing the core product or system the business is using day-to-day, moving those developers away from developing will have a significant impact on productivity and quality. Even promoting a developer to an architect, for the purposes of paying them more, is often wrong. Software architects are not the same as building architects, they still need to code and code regularly. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule and a developer may want to make a career change. If they want to move to something very different, let them. If they want more responsibility, make it over the design and or make them the team or project technical lead, but make sure someone else does the people management of the team.

Perhaps some companies feel the need to justify the pay rise on offer, giving the developer more diverse responsibilities in order to do so, but why would you move someone from a job they excel at into a job they’ll struggle with just to pay them more money? Tech firms need to understand that their software developers are at least as important as their people managers, if not more so, and recognise the importance of technical excellence. The solution as a business owner is to keep talking to your developers, make sure they’re doing what is best for them, and your business, and regularly increase their pay in line with everyone else in the company. A good developer is a valuable asset, so reward them by letting them shine in their role. Listen to what they have to say and let them manage code, not people.

Ideas: Paul Grenyer
Words: Lauren Gwynn

Monday, 18 January 2016

Norfolk Chamber Careers Focus Group

On Friday 15th of January I attended the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce’s careers focus group at the invitation of Caroline Williams. The focus group was looking at the careers service in schools and what could be done to get schools and businesses working together more effectively. Joining us to hear and collate our views were two members of the British Chamber of Commerce. The remainder of the focus group was made up from members of the Norfolk Chamber, leaders of local businesses, schools and colleges. There were 17 of us in total.

Before I arrived I wasn’t really sure who was going to be there or what to expect. However, it turned out be a great opportunity to catch up with a couple of people I hadn’t seen for a long time and to make some great new connections. The real eye-opener was what I learned about the school careers system in Norfolk, what many of the forward thinking schools are achieving and how businesses like mine can help to make a difference.

I also had the opportunity to talk to some of the further education establishments in Norwich and to try and help influence which new skills they offer to their students. There is a major shortage of software engineers in Norwich and Norfolk and one of the ways we need to address this is to produce more homegrown talent with the right skills for local software companies.

The event was chaired and well structured; the allocated  two hours just flew by. The conversations were engaging and informative as well as there being a lot of laughter from a group of people clearly committed to making a positive difference to the young people in the education system in Norfolk.

And of course an excellent lunch helped too!