Thursday, 31 December 2015

An introduction to working with a relational database using SQL - Workshop

When: Tuesday, January 19, 2016

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

How much: £99

Sign-up: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/226508456/

Level: Beginner
Prerequisites: Laptop

This one day workshop is designed to provide a familiarity with basic RDBMS concepts and the syntax required to construct simple SQL statements used to create, manipulate and report upon database records.

The workshop will be problem-centred and attendees will be invited to think about example problems in order to facilitate their appreciation of what a database is and why databases are used.

Once the basic concepts have been introduced, the remainder of the day will entail hands on practice writing and testing SQL statements using a database client program (Postgres). A worksheet will be provided to help guide this process. There will also be time for breaks and joint questions.

Attendees should be comfortable with running desktop applications (e.g. using Microsoft Word or Excel). No specialist knowledge is required to attend. Attendees are expected to bring their own laptops with them. As a preliminary to the workshop, attendees who do not have the relevant software installed will be guided through the installation process. Attendees will therefore need their relevant passwords to authenticate installation.

Summary of presentation

Installation procedure -- est. 45 minutes

1. A few remarks about learning new ideas, and new technologies. Distinguishing 'what a thing is' from 'the value of thing' -- est. 30 minutes

2. The value of an SQL RDBMS -- est. 90 mins

2.1 The idea of data persistence.

2.2 A shopping transaction history at a superstore example using index cards (an everyday example is used to allow everyone to focus upon what is new for them).

2.3 An example of using text files to persist the data is shown. The pros and cons of using text files as a form of persistence is discussed.

2.4 An example using a spreadsheet to persist the data is shown. The pros and cons of using spreadsheets is discussed.

2.5 The idea of a data persistence media that supports queries.

2.6 A summary of key limitations of the use of index cards, text files and spreadsheets is presented and discussed.

2.7 An SQL RDBMS is introduced as something that helps to resolve the problems previously identified.

2.8 Discussion

3. The basic structure of an SQL RDMBS -- est. 90 mins

3.1 What a relation is in this context of a relational database

3.2 Databases, tables, & records

3.3 SQL as a set of expressions to be used to manipulate and query databases, tables, and records including a brief glance through standard SQL commands, a step by step introduction to the SQL commands for CRUD and a brief caveat on syntactic differences used by different database vendors.

3.4 Some additional problems that relational databases help to resolve

3.5 A summary of what has been covered so far.

3.6 Discussion

[Break for lunch]

4. Working through the worksheets provided that elaborate on the shopping transacton data previously introduced -- est. 240 mins

4.1 Simple use of the four commands

4.2 Applying the commands to multiple rows of a table

4.3 Data types in more depth

4.4 Performing queries that use ids

4.5 Performaing other queuries

4.6 Additional exercises using different databases (optional)

5 Questions and discussion about what has been covered -- est 0 to 60 mins

6 What next? -- est 30 mins

6.1 A reminder about learning other commands in order to maintain a database

6.2 The complexities of database design: Inroductory steps into an important component of information technology.

6.3 References for further study

6.4 Closing remarks and feedback forms

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

We can learn a lot from Lemmy

Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister was the main man in British rock band Motorhead, a group he formed after being fired from Hawkwind in 1975. He sadly died yesterday, at the age of 70, after a very brief fight with cancer.

Although well known and popular, Motorhead never hit the real big time, in the UK at least. Right up to the point Lemmy died they were still only playing theatres, as opposed to arenas or stadiums. In fact they were regulars at the LCR in Norwich which has a capacity of only about 2000, but as business owners I think there is a lot we can learn from his example.

Motorhead followed the strict pattern of album, tour, album, tour… releasing an album every few years and following it up with a multidate national and international tour. What does this tell us? It tells us that when you have a formula that works, stick to it. You could argue that Motorhead didn’t sustain the growth they probably deserved, but they were doing enough to keep doing what they wanted to do.

Lemmy never gave up. He stuck to his guns and did what he wanted to do, the way he wanted to do it. He was good at it. Even when his lifestyle started to affect his health, he kept going. I’m not suggesting it’s always a good idea to keep going no matter what, but you have to admire Lemmy’s single minded determination. In the end it was cancer that got Lemmy, not his lifestyle.

As Allan Kelly taught me a long time ago, it’s important to fail fast and fail cheap. Lemmy understood this too. In 2011 Motorhead headlined the Bloodstock festival and part way through the show Lemmy cut the set short, played Ace of Spades and left the stage. For whatever reason the band weren’t playing their best (the official reason was the band had come down with a virus). Lemmy realised this and called an end to it.

I’ve been a heavy metal fan ever since I discovered the Final Countdown by Europe and Poison by Alice Cooper. For me Motorhead were mostly there in the background. I saw them just once in Manchester on the Inferno tour (supported by Sepultura). They’ve got a lot of great songs, but my favorite was always Born to Raise Hell from the Bastards album.


Lemmy famously said “Born to Lose, Live to win.” As business owners we love to win and it so often feels like we’re going to lose, but if Lemmy is anything to go by, it’s the drive to keep going that’s important.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Star Wars the Force Awakens

I didn’t like Star Wars The Force Awakens. It was too Disney. There were so many repeated scenarios from A New Hope that it felt like a poorer, rehash of the same film. Kylo Ren was a great bad guy until he began questioning his beliefs and took his helmet off. Then he just fell apart and became really weak.

I know it’s about 30 years since Return of the Jedi and Star Wars doesn’t really do flashbacks and that of course lots of things must have happened in the story, but I can’t see how they can go back and tell them in any detail, unless they do episode 6.5. How Han and Leia’s son turned to the darkside could probably make a fantastic file which also covers how and why Luke went into exile.

Han Solo was still by far the best character, but his lines weren’t funny and not delivered with the same style as the previous films. And what’s happened to Princess Leia’s voice? Very strange. It was so disappointing to see how naively solo died.

I spent quite a while waiting for the film to get going and then realised it was half over. It never really got going and was far to predictable.

They must do better next time.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

NorDevCon 2016: Bigger and better than ever before!

NorDevCon 2016 is bigger and better than ever before and here is why …

Thursday 25th February 2016

We have some amazing pre-conference workshops for you to participate to get you in the mood for Nor(DEV):con on the 26th.  An Exploration of Symbiotic Design Practice from Michael Feathers, Taste of Chef on Azure from Chef.io and Android workshop: From Zero to Hero delivered by Paul Lammertsma.

Afterwards there is even more Nor(DEV):con appetizers in the form of Letitia Fearon’s Observe, assume and experiment and Ashwini Laxminarayana Fun & Games with Git & Jenkins who will be giving us a pre-conference special each at the King's Centre which kicks off at the earlier time of 5.30pm and is followed by our pre-conference dinner which this year will be held at the Library Restaurant. To attend the pre-conference special and the dinner please RSVP via norfolkdevelopers.com.

Friday 26th February 2016

We’ve Keynotes from the fantastic Michael Feathers who is coming all the way from Florida to open with Feature Orthogonality and Health In Large Code Bases for us and we’ve got the wonderful Jon Jagger to close the Friday of the conference with Pair Programming.

We have TechStars Jon Bradford talking about Silicon Broad: Bridges not Valleys, Rainbird’s Dom Davis telling us how to Fake it until you make it, Lisa Price asking us Are you a code Monkey or Agile Junkie? and of course, Nor(DEV):con wouldn’t be complete without Jon Skeet who will be telling us all about the Changing state of immutability in C#.

With all of this as well as workshops on the day from RedHat, Letitia and Neon Tribe, technical sessions from Pete Goodliffe, James Taylor and Darren Cook. Agile Sessions from Seb Rose, Christos Matskas and Unruly's Rachel Davis and Lewis Moore and business sessions from Ermine Amies, James Tarling and Matthew Draycott plus many more.

In the lunch break there will be a buffet and we’ll be having a bit of fun by having a tech version of Radio 4’s Just a Minute hosted by Huw Sayer.

As always there is a wine reception sponsored by the Wine and Business Club that follows the conference closing keynote and this has already sold out, but there is also a conference dinner at the King's Centre where you can talk to your favourite speakers and have a few glasses of wine and a 3 course meal all for £35.

Saturday 27th February 2016

Richard Astbury will be opening with his keynote on The State of Art which will be a great start for our first Saturday Nor(DEV):con. Dom Davis will be back for us with Agile Smagile as will Paul Lammertsma with his Android session on Wears the Party, we have Tjelvar Olsson Saving the World One Image at a Time and a Machine Learning workshop given by Burkhard Kloss.


See the full agenda here: http://www.nordevcon.com/agenda/

We also have some sponsorship opportunities remaining: http://www.nordevcon.com/sponsorship/

Saturday, 19 December 2015

It's the end of another very successful year for Norfolk Developers!

With our last event over, it’s the end of another successful and very busy year for Norfolk Developers. In all 497 people have attended regular evening meetups, 204 have attended workshops, 124 have come for lunch and 54 came for breakfast. 41 attended Agile on the Bench, 42 the pre-conference special, 21 the pre-conference dinner and of course 263 attended NorDevCon. That’s a massive 1156 people attending Norfolk Developers events in 2015.

Emily, Ryan and I would like to thank each and everyone of you for the contribution you've made to the group. We simply could not do it without you.

We are, of course, all looking forward to the break now until our first workshop in January, An Introduction to Relational Databases at the Kings Centre on Tuesday 19th of January. Our first regular meetup is in February, The Miracle of Generators with Bodil Stokke & Go with Elliott Stoneham on Wednesday the 3rd.

The conference, including the workshops and pre-conference special and dinner are all coming up at the end of February and the details are on the NorDevCon website.

We’d like to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year and look forward to seeing you at Norfolk Developers next year!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Is choosing a tablet hard to swallow?

With a mind boggling array of tablets available we wanted to take a closer look at the range of tablets out there. Which one could be the best investment for you?

We see tablets everywhere. We’re asked to do surveys on them in the street, we see people catching up on yesterday’s TV on the bus and they’re even popping up in restaurants as a new way to order our food. Just the other day our director took his children to have their feet measured in a well known high street shoe brand, the sales assistant inserted a tablet into the measuring device to take the measurements and keep the kids occupied at the same time.

TechReport.com recently wrote that in the second quarter of 2015, the worldwide tablet market reduced by 7% from the same period in the previous year. From the first quarter of 2015 to the second quarter, the two top tablet makers, Apple and Samsung, saw a reduction in their gross share of the tablet market from 45% to 41%. Is this the beginning of the end for the tablet? Well no, probably not. During this time there was little new hardware. These numbers probably show people hanging onto their old tablets longer, not a decline in the use of tablets.

If you’re a business and thinking of going paperless, tablets are a great investment.

You must first decide whether your business would be best suited to a tablet that runs Android, Windows or iOS (Apple’s operating system). This is a decision that is highly individual to your business needs, but it is worth bearing in mind that Windows tablets are generally more powerful, and can run more like a laptop than either Android or Apple tablets. But for the pleasure of a laptop-like performance you can end up paying laptop prices. Apple have always sat at the higher end of the price scale but the millions of Apple fans across the world would say that you get what you pay for. You can pick up an Android tablet for less than £100 which has led to Google's Android platform putting up a formidable fight against iPad's monster market share. Once you’ve decided between the big three, there is a wide range of tablets out there that will suit your needs.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is a great choice for Windows users. This tablet really is a laptop replacement and you can even buy a keyboard cover as an optional extra. If you’d prefer a tablet that can turn into a more traditional laptop, then the Dell XPS 12 could be the way to go. It’s hingeless keyboard dock is included in the price. Alternatively, the HP Pavilion x2 is a tablet that can turn into a netbook, with a removable keyboard.

For iOS users, Apple’s iPad Pro is a great choice for business use. It’s the biggest tablet Apple has made to date, specifically made with business use in mind. Again, you can purchase a keyboard cover and stylus to go with it. The keyboard cover and Apple Pencil stylus make the iPad better for business, especially for creative users. It also debuts Apple's new split-screen multitasking which is great for business owners trying to tackle their to-do-lists.

If want your business to run on Android tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is a great iPad alternative. This tablet is very similar to Apple’s iPad Air 2 but also includes a microSD card reader, which makes it very easy to expand the capacity of your tablet. The Samsung Multimedia Dock accessory improves at-the-desk productivity and it’s defence-grade mobile data security from Samsung KNOX™ means you can keep corporate data secure.

If your business requires you to be out in the elements then you may well want to invest in one of the water resistant tablets. The Sony Xperia Z4 is a great choice if you’re after a more sleek design, but if you want something a bit more robust then the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active has a rubber shield around it. It’s a great choice for those who have to travel a lot on business - connect the keyboard dock and Sony Xperia Z4 is a versatile tool for writing emails and documents on the go.

But what about if you’re after a tablet to use at home? First consider which operating system you want to run on. It’s worth bearing in mind that whilst Android and Apple tablets are essentially large smartphones, Windows tablets actually have the same power as your laptop and can perform tasks as such. If you want something that does everything your laptop can do, but in tablet form, then Windows tablets are the way to go.

The iPad mini and the Nexus 7 both have relatively small screens (about 7”) but are light and easy to carry around. Perfect if you want to watch TV or films when you’re out and about. If you want a bigger screen then you could go for an iPad or Samsung Galaxy tablet (about 10”), but these are heavier and bigger if you want to put them in your bag to take out with you. The Windows Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro both have even bigger screens. You could also try the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact or the Nexus 9 if you want something in-between the two screen sizes (8 or 9”).

Make sure when you’re looking for a tablet that you know what you want to use it for. If you want to watch a lot of films on it, then a widescreen tablet could be better for you, whereas if you intend to use it for web browsing you may want a screen that’s more square in shape - this is called aspect ratio. Also, make sure you get a decent amount of pixel density (screen resolution) - how much you need, again, depends on what you want to do with your tablet. Whether you want to just browse the web (less pixel density is fine) or watch films (the more pixel density, the better).

When you’re purchasing a tablet, make sure you understand what you need it for and what you need it to do. This will be a major factor, whether you’re buying for business or pleasure.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

A Taste of Chef on Azure from Alex Manly and John Fitzpatrick at NorDevCon

The ’Taste of Chef on Azure Workshop’ is a hands on coding session aimed at technical practitioners who want to learn to do more on the Azure platform with Chef. Participants will write recipes that describe system configuration policies, use Chef Provisioning to create new instances, automatically apply recipes and use Chef Provisioning to create a sample full-stack application topology that includes additional Azure services.

The workshop provides an introduction to Chef with a specific focus on Azure integration, and the course is intended to answer common beginner questions about using Chef, managing Azure infrastructure within the Chef framework and guide students through basic deployment scenarios.

About Alex

I have over 15 years’ technical sales, technical consulting, web application development and automation experience. I am an expert in JEE, continuous integration, continuous delivery and many of the toolsets used to implement these solutions.

I am currently a Solutions Architect for Chef Software, but previous to Chef, I was the Vice President of Product Development at MidVision.  I helped to design and built the RapidDeploy product which primarily is used for deployment automation of middleware systems.

I have previously spoken at many meetups and webinars including Beltech2015, the Jenkins User Conference in Boston and Berlin (https://www.cloudbees.com/company/events/juc) and the Jenkins CI User Event 2014 –http://www.jcicph.dk/ on the subject of automated application deployments.

Chef's workshop is on Thursday 25th of February at the Kings Centre in Norwich and tickets cost just £20 + fees.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Android workshop: From Zero to Hero from Paul Lammertsma

In this crazy 6 hour workshop we’ll kick-start your Android development career. You need an intermediate level in Java or general Object Oriented (OO) programming to get the most out of this workshop. Don’t be afraid to join if you are lacking in this area, I’ll help you out during the workshop.

We will begin with a general presentation on Android architecture and key concepts and a short technical presentation on what you will learn and do yourself in the lesson exercises, followed by 5 lessons themselves. You won’t be on your own; I’ll be constantly walking around to answer your questions or help you out when you get stuck. Finally, we will give hints and tips on useful Android tools and how you can continue to develop your Android superpowers!

Android Wear Presentation

The popularity of smart wearables has reached an all-time high, and Android Wear seems to have revolutionized the market. As a developer, it’s surprisingly easy to enhance your existing apps to use Wear features, but it’s a lot more fun to explore its capabilities! Join me in discovering what Wear can do for you, and how specialized apps, a unique notification system and gorgeous watch faces have won the hearts of gadget-lovers. The code included in the talk is open source.

About Paul

Paul (@officesunshine) found his way into mobile technologies through mobile device interaction and his need to scratch an itch for entrepreneurship. Co-founding Pixplicity in 2011, Paul has helped grow the company into a familiar name between Dutch app builders, with brands such as De Telegraaf, Consumentenbond and Mercedes-Benz. His passion for Android has always compelled him to keep up with the latest developments and share knowledge by contributing into the open-source and co-organizing GDG The Dutch Android User Group. He can frequently be seen giving ‘as-technical-as-technically-possible’ tech talks & workshops at conferences across the globe.

Paul's workshop is on Thursday 25th of February at the Kings Centre in Norwich and tickets cost just £20 + fees.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

An Exploration of Symbiotic Design Practice workshop at NorDevCon from Michael Feathers

Feature Orthogonality and Health In Large Code Bases

Too often as software developers we take features as given – EE are there to give the customers whatever they want. The thing we neglect to realize is that feature choice impacts the longevity and maintainability of systems. In this keynote, Michael Feathers will explore this idea and describe now we can move toward a model where business weighs these impacts in the context of systems development.

Collection Pipeline Design Techniques

The resurgence of functional programming has had an odd manifestation in today’s technologies. Although we’re learning the value of immutability and starting to see that we don’t need class hierarchies to solve every problem, the type of code that we’re writing is actually stricter than what has been common in traditional functional programming languages. We’re using LINQ, Rx, Java Streams, and Ruby Enumerable to compose pipelines that transform data from stage to stage without access to any other state. This calls for a different design approach. In this session, Michael Feathers will outline strategies you can use to decide when and how to use this style.

Workshop: An Exploration of Symbiotic Design Practice

Decades ago, Melvin Conway coined what is now called Conway’s Law: “organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations.” Conway’s Law is a deep insight but it is only the tip of the iceberg when we try to understand the interaction between organization and software. We fail to appreciate that we can use team structure, day to day process, and the interface between business and development as levers to affect the quality of design and code. With this perspective we can also see that concerns like technical debt and portfolio management lend themselves to new solutions when we understand software’s sensitivities upon its environment.

In this workshop, we’ll explore the intersection between software and organization through a series of group exercises and discuss ways of putting this understanding into practice.

About Michael

Michael Feathers (@mfeathers) is the Founder and Director of R7K Research & Conveyance, a company specializing in software and organization design. Prior to forming R7K, Michael was the Chief Scientist of Obtiva and a consultant with Object Mentor International. Over the past 20 years he has consulted with hundreds of organizations, supporting them with general software design issues, process change and code revitalization. A frequent presenter at national and international conferences, Michael is also the author of the book Working Effectively with Legacy Code (Prentice Hall, 2004).

Michael's workshop is on Thursday 25th of February at the Kings Centre in Norwich and tickets cost just £20 + fees.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Uncle Bob Comes to Norwich

Ever since I started Agile East Anglia (one of the groups which merged to form SyncNorwich) I’ve had the ambition of bringing great speakers to Norwich. It started with Rachel Davies, Allan Kelly and Liz Keogh. Then I was able to fulfil another ambition by having Kevlin Henney open the first tech conference I ran in Norwich. Since then we’ve had a whole host of stars from the software world come to Norwich to speak, including Russel Winder, Jon Jagger and the fantastic Jon Skeet. Getting speakers who are based in the UK to come and speak is relatively easy. Getting international speakers relies mostly on timing.

There are a handful of software engineers who have changed the face of programming for the better for everyone. Robert ‘Uncle Bob’ Martin is one such software engineer. I first saw Uncle Bob speak at an ACCU conference many years ago and he was fantastically entertaining and informative. I was then lucky enough to see Bob again at Skills Matter one evening when I was being interviewed at a bank in London. Again, he was totally sensational and I’ve been working towards getting him to speak in Norwich ever since. After a few false starts, it finally all came together last night, in Norwich.

Bob was training at Skills Matter in London and agreed to come and see us in Norwich at the end of his final day there. So we put our faith in Abellio Greater Anglia to get him to Norwich in time for the later than usual kick off. Our faith was well placed as the 17:30 from London Liverpool street rolled into Norwich on time.

I was manning the door, as I often do, when one of the guys I used to work with at Aviva appeared, grinning from ear-to-ear, and asking me “Is he here? Is he really here?”. I wasn’t the only one who was excited!

Bob has a huge personality and this is enhanced by a commanding voice with a very entertaining tone. He started off by asking us how many biological parents and grandparents and great grandparents, etc. we all had. And this led into the topic on man’s evolution and migration from Africa to the rest of the world, clearly a topic of great interest to uncle Bob.

Then we got into architecture. Bob took us through how to design systems in a way which decouples them from frameworks used to deploy and interact with them. He explained the importance of interface boundaries, how they help make systems easier to write automated tests for and allow many of the architectural decisions to be delayed as long as possible. In one example, the decision on which database to use was deferred for so long that it was never needed.

Bob was as entertaining as he was informative. A strong message delivered with elegance and well timed humour. The hour flew by and after a couple of questions, Bob grabbed a beer, signed some books and spoke to everyone. We know he enjoyed his time with us and we loved having him here. We hope Bob will be back soon.

I’m not yet done with the speakers I want to bring to Norwich. Another speaker we’ve tried to get time and again is Michael Feathers and he’s coming to open NorDevCon in February. Also on my list are Dan North, Mike Cohn, Kent Beck,  Andrei Alexandrescu, Scott Meyers and James Coplien.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Work Experience Works For Businesses

Would Your Business Benefit From an Extra Pair of Hands? 

Why Work Experience is the answer.

I'm often asked by schools and students if I can offer work experience, everything from a few days to summer long placements. At Naked Element we’ve always found the experience enjoyable and often learned as much about ourselves as the students did about our business. Bright, ambitious and free of those bad habits we all learn along the way in the world of work, work experience students can inject energy and enthusiasm into a business.

Many employers and businesses feel that they don’t have the time or resources to commit to a work experience placement, as much as they’d like to help a young person as they’re starting out,  but there are in fact lots of benefits to your business that make work experience a win-win situation for both student and business. Here’s just a few:

Early access to emerging talent

Lots of employers find that work experience programmes are a great way to recruit top talent straight from schools and colleges. Extensive research by City & Guilds shows that staff taken on following work experience placement are more effective, require less training, have more respect for their supervisors and have a greater ability to work in teams. Plus, many small businesses struggle to find young people who have even the most basic work skills and taking on a work experience candidate is a great way to test their skills before you commit to them.

Fresh Ideas

In most cases your work experience candidate will be eager to learn or they wouldn’t be with you in the first place. In an effort to impress they’ll be keen to get stuck in and maybe even bring something new to the table. Perhaps your company is lacking a social media presence that your work experience candidate can address?

Today’s youth are tomorrow’s consumers

Research has shown that “the consumer power of under 16 year olds has grown faster than that of any other age group. This has led marketers to identify three roles which young people can fill for businesses as ‘current consumers; influencers and future purchasers’ (Miller, 1998, p 316).” Work experience helps businesses and brands get up close and personal with their target markets or future consumers.

And of course…

Giving Something Back 

One of the biggest benefits of offering someone work experience is the chance to give someone a helping hand in the often overwhelming world of work. Businesses are placing more and more emphasis on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and work experience is a great way to do your bit in up-skilling the next generation of workers. Enjoy the feel-good factor of giving someone an opportunity they might not have otherwise had and encourage their interests in business. You never know - they could be the next Gates, Branson or Jobs…

 If you’re interested in finding out more about how your business can benefit from offering work experience, get in touch with Paul on paul@nakedelement.co.uk who’ll help you get in touch with top talent.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Nor(DEV):con 2016 set to be bigger, bolder and better for businesses

Conference ShootFollowing the success of last year’s Norfolk Developers Conference (Nor(DEV):con), which attracted an unprecedented 263 speakers, delegates and sponsors, Nor(DEV):con 2016 promises to continue the record breaking trend. Run by Norwich-based web, mobile and enterprise software services provider Naked Element, the Winter conference is in it’s fourth year and will bring together delegates and companies from across the whole professional spectrum.

The conference is a meeting of minds for business and technology experts, who’ll come together to explore the fundamental role technology plays in the East of England’s economy. Nor(DEV):con will take place from Thursday 25th to Saturday 27th of February 2016 at the King’s Centre on King Street in Norwich.

Back by popular demand, the conference will feature the dedicated business presentation stream to highlight how essential technology is for the wider business economy. The 2016 agenda is peppered with business-centric sessions (indicated by blue briefcase icons).

Paul Grenyer, Nor(DEV):con organiser, said, “Once again we’re proud to lead the way with Nor(DEV):con, now in it’s fourth year. It’s all about helping the tech community to reach out to the wider business community to demonstrate how we can all work together for stronger, more efficient businesses. Norfolk continues to be tipped as one to watch in the UK’s technology sector and is already considered a centre of technical excellence. Today technology is so ingrained and intertwined with the local economy that one cannot exist without the other and Nor(DEV):con is a celebration of this.”

The content-rich conference will feature keynote speeches, workshops and talks from industry influencers, including:
  • Jon Bradford, Managing Director of Techstars in London, co-founder of F6S and tech.eu, will present ‘Silicon Broad: Bridges not Valleys. Jon will talk about how tech ecosystems evolve, tie that into tech and tech startups in London and the rest of the UK, and then talk about how this relates to the Valley. Jon will wrap up the session with advice for soon-to-be tech startups.
  • Matthew Draycott will be presenting ‘The Myth Buster…The Real Secrets to Building a Growth Business’. Matthew will discuss his philosophies for building effective high growth companies. Based on his own experience he will focus on five key tasks which he believes every owner and management team should be engaged in if they hope to build a successful, rapidly growing business.
Norwich-based Axon Vibe will be Nor(DEV):con’s Elite sponsors. John Fagan, CTO at Axon Vibe said “We are excited to support another great local technology event and welcome any opportunity that builds on Norwich’s reputation as a Tech City.  We hope we will further cement Norwich's position on the national and international stage by choosing Norwich as the platform for launching our mobile app SoJo - A live view of your world globally in 2016.”

The conference features a programme packed with interactive sessions demonstrating the latest and greatest advances in technology and will give businesses a real insight into how they can use technology to add value to their own business.  The popular dinner and evening wine reception gives delegates the chance to network as well as a thought provoking Q&A sessions with the speakers.

For more information, sponsorship opportunities or to book tickets, visit www.nordevcon.com

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Jon Skeet is back for NorDevCon 2016!

When I speak to people about NorDevCon, do you know which speaker I get asked about the most? Jon Skeet!

This is why I am delighted to be able to announce that Jon Skeet is back for NorDevCon 2016 and will be doing a regular 45 minute conference session on C#.

NorDevCon runs between the 25th and 27th of February 2016 at the Kings Centre in Norwich. Tickets are available here.

The changing state of immutability in C#
Jon Skeet (@jonskeet)

Immutability rocks, right? When a type is immutable, it’s usually easier to reason about your code, easier to share data safely, and easier to make money ooze from every USB port. That’s the promise, at least. I heard an F# developer say it, so it must be true.

Unfortunately, when a language or platform isn’t designed to encourage immutability, immutability can introduce its own pain points – and sometimes they can be subtle.

Come with me on a journey to explore the different options for implementing immutability in C#, see how it’s become somewhat simpler over the various versions, and consider what the future *might* have in store.

About Jon

Jon Skeet is a software engineer for Google in London, who plays with C# (somewhat obsessively) in his free time. He loves writing and talking about C#, and the third edition of ‘C# in Depth’ was published in September 2013. Writing less formally, Jon spends a lot of time on Stack Overflow… where ‘a lot’ is an understatement. Give him a puzzle about how C# behaves which gets him reaching for the language specification, and Jon is a happy bunny. Jon lives in Reading with his wife and three children.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Video: East of England Apprentices Networking Event

I'm very pleased to share this video, made at the first East of England Apprentices event by 3aaa, with you:


Naked Element’s Perspective on Apprenticeships in Norfolk

The summer of 2015 saw David Cameron announce radical plans to increase the number of quality apprenticeships across England as part of the government's ambitious pledge to create a massive 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. We’ve taken a closer look at apprenticeships and how they’re changing the face of the workforce in Norfolk.

What is an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training in a real world working environment with theoretical knowledge, often taught at a college or training centre. Open to school leavers as well as mature candidates, apprenticeships are an alternative to full-time education but still work towards nationally recognised qualifications, whether a BTEC Certificate, Maths, English and ICT qualification or other recognised industry specific qualifications.

Apprenticeships can take between one and four years to complete, depending on the industry, type of qualification and the requirements of the employer. One of the biggest benefits for many young people is the chance to earn while you learn. The National Minimum Wage for apprentices aged 16-18 and during the first year for those over 19, rose from £2.73 per hour to £3.30 per hour on the 1st October 2015.

Many see an apprenticeship as a best-of-both-worlds solution when deciding between continuing their studies, either at college or university, or entering the workplace.  For many industries, hands-on and first hand experience is the only way to learn the skills and techniques necessary, for example in IT and software development. Because of the practical skills learnt throughout an apprenticeship and access to the latest methods, technologies and techniques of the trade, government research shows over 90% of apprentices stay in employment after finishing their apprenticeship.

Paul Grenyer, Managing Director of Naked Element comments, “Not only are apprenticeships a credible and cheaper alternative to university for young people, but they offer a fantastic opportunity for employers to teach them what is really needed in their businesses.”

Apprenticeships in Norfolk

Norfolk County Council created the Apprenticeships Norfolk Network to “help increase the number, level, range and quality of apprenticeships in the county, as well as generating an additional 5,000 apprenticeships across Norfolk and Suffolk by 2019.” In 2013 they announced £3.5m of public funding to help subsidise 400 apprentices’ wages for SMEs who took on an apprentice for the first time. The Apprenticeships Norfolk Network places particular emphasis on the country's growing sectors including engineering, energy, advanced manufacturing, hospitality and tourism, creative industries, health and social care, agriculture, and food and drink.

Apprentices Norfolk reveal “at any one time there are thousands of apprenticeships available in a variety of industry sectors across England (and usually over 200 vacancies in Norfolk alone each month).”

What’s more, based on figures for vacancies advertised across Norfolk in June 2015, many employers are paying their apprentices far more than the apprentice National Minimum Wage - even with the October increase. Based on an average of 30 hours earning £3.30 per hour, apprentices would earn £99 per week, but figures showed that weekly wages for some Norfolk based apprenticeship vacancies were as high as £308 per week.

Businesses with apprentices in Norfolk

With over 200 vacancies for apprenticeships every month in Norfolk, more and more Norfolk based businesses of all shapes and sizes, are looking to apprenticeships to find committed and high calibre candidates to drive their business forward.

Historically there has been a stereotype that apprenticeships were only the domain of builders and hairdressers. This myth has well and truly been dispelled with apprenticeships available in businesses across the board, from graphic design and nursing, to horticulture to hospitality. Plus, everyone from one-man bands to national names like Sainsbury's and BMW are offering apprenticeship schemes in a bid to shape the next generation of the country’s workforce.

So impressed with their first apprentice back in 2009, Norwich-based KLM UK Engineering offered eight Norfolk school-leavers prestigious apprenticeships on its flagship training programme in 2013. KLM UK also played a core role in establishing the Norwich International Aviation Academy, the first of its kind in the UK, and bringing with it a further 80 engineering apprenticeships to the area every year.

Lotus, one of Norfolk’s famous exports, launched a recruitment drive in July 2015 which saw 25 apprentices join the British manufacturer’s 1000 strong taskforce.

Complimenting one of their key campaigns, ‘Developing the Talent of our Young People’ Norfolk Chamber have welcomed 4 apprentices over the last 3 years and have expressed their commitment to bringing together education and the world of work.

Naked Element took on apprentice Lewis Leeds in August and are teaching him software engineering. Lewis was immediately productive and the extra pair of hands helped Naked Element secure a project with a new client.

Support for Apprenticeships in Norfolk 

Apprenticeships have become such an important part of the future of our workforce, councils up and down the country have set up networks in support of bridging the gap between employers and budding apprentices. Take Apprenticeships Broadland for example, under the  guidance of Broadland District Council, Apprenticeships Broadland are a specialist training provider offering apprenticeships in everything from retail to dentistry and equestrianism to customer service.

Norfolk County Council have also demonstrated a commitment to apprenticeships in the region with Build Norfolk, a network led by the NPS Group of the council. Build Norfolk aims to develop the county’s construction supply chain and promotes the role apprentices will play in doing so.

What’s more, Norfolk County Council have given a membership organisation, Swarm, £50,000 to deliver a new take on apprenticeships. Swarm is a collection of businesses, with space for 80 businesses and apprentices, who have signed up to a scheme that will create groups containing 10 apprentices and 10 businesses, centred around a market town. Swarm will employ the apprentices directly in the hope that after a successful year-long apprenticeship the businesses will bring the apprentice into the business and onto their own payroll. In essence Swarm are offering small businesses in market towns the chance to try-before-you-buy and reap the rewards of having an apprentice without any of the paper pushing.

Saffron Housing set up the Saffron Apprenticeship Programme in early 2013 to help 20 local business dip their toes into the apprenticeship pool. The programme’s trust will source and employ up to 20 apprentices and contract them out to local businesses. This means businesses will benefit from having an apprentice, but the HR support and training will be supplied by the programme.

As well as organisations and training providers who are committed to supporting the growth of apprenticeships in Norfolk, there are also groups dedicated to supporting the apprentices themselves. East of England Apprentices is “about bringing together apprentices, past, present and future, to share their experiences, advice and socialise with like minded folk who are at a similar stage in their chosen careers.” The group's quarterly meet ups give apprentices the chance to give and get advice from other apprentices and provide an important support system for the growing community of apprentices in the area.

Building on success

2015 has been a pivotal year for apprenticeships in the UK. The government have pledged to create 3 million apprenticeships across England by 2020 and they’re certainly not alone in identifying the unique potential they hold, not only for the future of the workforce, but for the next generation of the country's tradesmen and women.  As we’ve seen, Norfolk based businesses have embraced the benefits of apprenticeship schemes and this could go some way towards explaining how the region is now able to boast record levels of employment.

Originally published here.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Directors Haven


How often do you find yourself thinking ‘there are just not enough hours in the day’?

How many of the following apply to you…

  • I’m always busy but feel like I’m not getting enough done
  • My to-do list just gets longer and longer
  • I seem to get pulled from pillar to post in the office and the phone never stops ringing
  • There are important things I need to address but they always get bumped down the list

Could you use a day away to catch up on those important but ignored tasks? If the answer is 'yes', then join like-minded Directors at our inaugural Directors Haven.

Set in the picturesque countryside of Burnham Market, North Norfolk, this 16th Century coaching inn is the ideal location to catch up on those important parts of your business without the interruptions of office or home life. Tackle the tasks that can make a real difference to your business and dedicate time to reflecting on where your business is, where it’s going and how you’re going to get there.

At The Hoste hotel you will find everything you need to enable you to relax, re-energise and return to work with a new lease of life - from fantastic food and drink, luxurious rooms, a sumptuous spa and, most importantly, time and space. There is also a meeting room booked for the duration of the event with free WiFi so you can work wherever you feel most comfortable.

Our haven begins on the evening of the 24th November, with the option of an evening meal in The Hoste's elegant restaurant with other Directors from across the county and swap stories on how to be effective at the helm of a healthy business.

The next morning there will be a complimentary breakfast and the day to spend as you please. If you choose to work, there are plenty of secluded spots around the hotel providing the privacy to work, like the hotel's residents' lounge which has comfortable sofas and spacious tables. Or, you could even take a walk (or even hire a bicycle!) through the delightful market town. The in-hotel spa is also a great way to relax and unwind. A complimentary lunch will be served in the afternoon and you will have full use of the private meeting room should you wish to join other Directors and work away from the distractions that come with the day-to-day running of your business.

You can book your place at Directors Haven here. If you would prefer to pay by invoice, rather than through Eventbrite and paypal, please email your request to paul@nakedelement.co.uk

This event is sponsored by Sandler Training.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

Win one of five free NorDevCon tickets and help shape Norfolk Developers in 2016

In 2016 we want to make Norfolk Developers more focussed around the needs of the community. Up to now both the regular evening events and the workshops have been based around what we thought would be interesting to you. Next year we’d like to know which topics you would like to hear about in the evenings and what you would like to learn in the workshops.

We hope that you find Norfolk Developers workshops excellent value for money and teach valuable skills. We want to increase their value to the community by providing workshops that cover the skills needed by you and/or your business. Please help us by letting us know what skills you and/or your business will need in the next twelve months. If there is someone within your organisation who is better placed to answer this question, please send this survey to them as well.

If you complete this survey you’ll put into a draw for one of five free NorDevCon tickets.

  1. What topics and speakers would you like to see at the regular Norfolk Developers evening meetups in 2016?
  2. What topics and skills would you like to see covered by a Norfolk Developers half or full day workshop in 2016?
  3. What other services could Norfolk Developers provide that would help you or your business?

Complete the survey here

Thursday, 24 September 2015

NorDevCon 2016 to Support The Curly Hair Project

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which include Asperger’s Syndrome, have been at the centre of documentaries, an oscar winning movie starring Dustin Hoffman and a best selling novel that even went on to take Broadway and the West End by storm. But most research so far has focused on the male presentation, with the challenges facing females who are affected just starting to be explored. The curly hair project (CHP) is a social enterprise with worldwide appeal, dedicated to supporting females with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) and other autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

NorDevCon 2016 will support The Curly Hair Project as its chosen good cause to help spread the word about this important project. Sam Ramsay, Associate Trainer at CHP reveals her hopes for what the exposure at the conference may mean for the project, “Firstly we’re delighted to have been invited to be a part of NorDevCon. We hope that we are able to use this forum to raise awareness in the technology industry of the challenges that those on the autistic spectrum face on a daily basis, from an industry that is very important to those on the spectrum. The online community provides great support for those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and it is suspected that there are many undiagnosed with ASD in technology and IT industries. The Curly Hair Project aims to educate those both on the spectrum and their neurotypical loved ones of the benefits that can be gained through understanding and improved communication.”

NorDevCon presents a unique opportunity for many businesses across a wide variety of sectors. We asked Sam why she thinks NorDevCon offers such a valuable opportunity for CHP; “This is a unique opportunity to reach a community who may not all have seen the amazing work that the Curly Hair Project does, for those on the Autistic Spectrum and their neurotypical loved ones.

Many people with ASD are great with technology and we would like to improve awareness of what someone with ASD can offer an organisation. We hope to educate employers when considering  ASD applicants – you will gain a highly focused, reliable and dedicated employee with a real gift for attention to detail. The ASD employee is also likely to have very logical thought processing skills – a real asset for the technology and IT industry. So don’t dismiss them because they have ASD, shortlist them!”

The NHS define ASD as “a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. It includes Asperger’s Syndrome and childhood autism.” Living with the condition, or living with someone with the condition can be challenging but also very rewarding. The Curly Hair Project (CHP) reaches people through a whole range of media from books to workshops and social media to blogs. Even if you’re not directly affected by ASD at home, Sam believes that “it is still really helpful to learn more about the condition in order to be more understanding of others at work and in social settings.”

Paul Grenyer, NorDevCon organiser and director at Naked Element, explains “My eldest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome just over a year ago, so I wanted to find out more about about what it is and what it means for him. My wife did some research, came across The Girl with the Curly Hair book and suggested I read it. I found that it was a really useful tool in understanding the disorder and some really important things, like why he reacts the way he does to certain things. In fact I found the book so insightful and useful in my own search for information about Asperger’s Syndrome, that the Curly Hair Project was the natural choice as the good cause to support at NorDevCon 2016.”

From speaking with Sam it’s clear that her passion for CHP transcends into its efforts to raise awareness of ASD as well as the important work the project do for the female ASD community. Sam reaffirms “The Curly Hair Project is thrilled to be the good cause of choice this year as we are keen to reach a new section of the community who may not have seen our work before. We are grateful for the opportunity to work alongside NorDevCon and by doing so, will hopefully add a new dimension to the world of technology in East Anglia and beyond. Thank you for inviting us, we look forward to meeting you all!”

NorDevCon 2016 will take place from the 25th - 27th February 2016 at The King’s Centre in Norwich. To buy tickets or find out about sponsorship opportunities go to www.nordevcon.com