Thursday, 31 March 2016

Making Connections: Epos Now & Kevlin Henney

Norfolk is very lucky to have a thriving tech scene, one which supports growth and encourages its members to help each other where they can. Adrian Pickering from Epos Now experienced this firsthand when he was after an experienced educator for his developers and was introduced to Kevlin Henney.

Adrian saw Kevlin give a talk on ineffective coding habits in 2015 at the annual nor(DEV):con and thought he might be the right person to help train his developers. "He’s a world-class speaker and educator of object-orientated programming best practices.  More than just being hugely capable and knowledgeable, Kevlin is witty and charming, making his lectures pleasurable and memorable. He gave a two-day workshop on code quality, TDD and SOLID practices for our developers at Epos Now, with a lecture-style presentation on day one and a workshop on day two.”

"I ran a software craftsmanship seminar and workshop for them” says Kevlin "covering a range of development practices from alternative ways to think about code and techniques to testing approaches and how to improve their existing code and practices.”

Not being a native Norfolk-ian, Kevlin was in a unique position to see our tech scene from an unbiased point of view. "It seems to have a particular character, very much its own, well interconnected and vibrant. My hometown of Bristol has an increasing number of technical meetups, often very focused (by technology, by process or by discipline for example), and a couple of conferences, but the style and connectedness feels quite different.”

"There are a few key players in the Norfolk tech scene who are fundamental to its very existence and growth” Adrian explains. "These include Paul Grenyer, Huw Sayer, Fiona Lettice, John Fagan and Dom Davis (and countless others). They help to ensure that local events are inclusive and welcoming and their enthusiasm and drive are contagious.”


Join Norfolk Developers here: http://norfolkdevelopers.com

The cloud - What really is it? Why should I be using it?

Cloud computing means storing and accessing data and applications over the Internet, instead of your computer's hard drive. In essence the Cloud is a metaphor for the Internet. Nearly every internet user is using the Cloud in some way, they just might not realise it. The Cloud can be broadly divided into 3 different types:

Public cloud - owned and operated by third-party providers so no hardware or maintenance costs and offers a pay as you go approach to their IT services. Easily scalable.

Private cloud - bespoke infrastructures designed to cater for a specific business, hosted at a data centre or on-site.

Hybrid cloud -  combine the best bits of both public and private clouds depending on the operation you’re looking to perform.

More and more businesses are consuming IT through the cloud, but switching from in-house hosting to the Cloud can seem like a big step for some businesses.  As with most things in life and online, there are pro’s and cons associated with both sides of the Cloud coin. So, we’ve taken a closer look at cloud hosting versus in-house hosting to help you make an informed decision about what’s best for your business.

Cloud hosting

Pros


  • Easily scalable, can be added to as and when needed to help accommodate fluctuating demand or business growth. 
  • Employees can connect from anywhere at any time using their computers, mobile devices and tablets.
  • Your data can be backed up as regularly as every 15 minutes. This minimises data loss in a disaster situation.  
  • No need for on-site hardware or capital expenses, making Cloud computing a cost-effective solution and the solutions are on-demand so you only pay for the options you want.

Cons


  • If the internet goes down on either your side or the provider’s side you will not have access to the software.
  • Third party cloud services could have access to your data, however it is very unlikely.


In-house

Pros


  • Keeps critical data in-house so only you have access to your data.
  • Your own choice of hardware, as well as the option to upgrade hardware when you want to.

Cons


  • The significant cost of the purchasing and maintaining hardware and high-speed internet required for the software to run efficiently.
  • The technical skills required to maintain the server and keep it up to date with the most recent technology.
  • The need for specialist security tools to keep the software and database secure.
  • More susceptible to data loss during disaster situations. How often you take the data off-site will reflect how much data you lose in those situations.
  • No uptime guarantees.
  • Cost of electricity, air conditioning e.t.c to keep the server running.
  • Upgrading hardware requires a long installation process.

With lower cost of ownership, built-in business security, access to features and functionality and a whole list of other benefits to your business, more and more modern businesses are switching to the cloud.


Sunday, 27 March 2016

Norwich City Council Leader's Reception

When you think about networking and presentation venues in Norwich the castle doesn’t immediately spring to mind, but it should. Think about it. The castle has a prominent position within the city, offers fantastic views of the city, has plenty of open space inside for mingling and/or dinner tables and has, it turns out, a fantastic auditorium.  This was the setting for the Leader’s of Norwich City Council Business Reception.

As I walked across the bridge towards the keep, lamenting the old days when you could walk up the various steps which wind their way around the mound, I bumped into Huw Sayer who had just completed a circuit of the top of the mound. This is something I had never done, which is odd when you realise I was born and raised in Norwich and have visited the castle many, many times. Huw suggested we do the circuit together, so we did and took in the fantastic city of Norwich.

We were welcomed into the castle’s rotunda where drinks were available and we could mingle with the other guests. I took the opportunity to catch up with one of Naked Element’s competitors and we discussed our businesses and our involvement in the early days of SyncNorwich. At 6.30pm we were invited to the auditorium for the presentations.

Councillor Alan Waters, the leader of Norwich City Council, opened proceedings in his usual jovial, friendly and informative way. He reminded us that Norfolk has the happiest workforce and the happiest children in the country. Norwich City Council has been nominated for council of the year and is spending £80M on house building, is funding the Northern Distributor and constantly striving for equality in the region.

The most interesting and important things Alan had to say were around the devolution of the East of England, which includes Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. If it goes ahead this will mean more local control over areas such as health, skills and transport investment. The region will shortly be entering a period of extended consultation with a final decision being made in the summer.


Next up was Jason Wolfe of ServiceTick, a thriving local technology company, who told us about their growth. A group of ex-Norwich Union colleagues created a web agency called Internet Geeks. As with a lot of service based companies, it’s difficult to scale beyond a certain point. Internet Geeks took the decision to build a product and ServiceTick was born. ServiceTick helps companies take action from their customer feedback. ServiceTick spawned a second business and product called SessionCam, which records a user's journey through your website.

The third speaker tonight was Richard Peat, from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) who told us about an initiative in Norfolk called the Enterprise Advisor Network, where the LEP encouraging business owners to form partnerships with schools to help them develop a plan for increased learning. Richard was followed by Philip Roffe, a local business owner, who is keen to help high school students in making the right career moves when leaving school.

The final speaker tonight was Louise Smith, Director of Public Health at Norfolk County Council who is interested in how everyone can be physically and mentally as healthy as possible. Louise has been looking at how work and health affect each other. There are an estimated 34 million days a year lost to sickness with a £12B cost to the economy. Symptoms include back pain, muscle pain, mental health issues and stress. Lifestyle has a huge impact and can cause obesity, heart disease and cancer. Lots of productivity is also lost due to alcohol.

Louise explained that employers should make health a priority as it will reduce sick leave and improve staff morale and retention. Employers must involve employees to get the best results. Learning how to talk to someone with mental health issues, reducing smoking breaks and helping people to give up and increasing staff physical activity will all help.


Following an interesting question and answers session with all the speakers, which included Jane Chittenden admirably reminding everyone of the Norwich Digital City project, we returned to the rotunda where we were seated for more drinks and canapes.

I was sat with nine others, including one representative from the council, for the traditional discussion of issues facing Norfolk businesses. This is an excellent opportunity for us to air our views and influence the council.

The majority of the conversation was around the aspirations of students in schools, especially outside of the city and in West Norfolk. The general opinion was that many parents don’t have aspirations themselves, due to a multitude of reasons, and therefore do not encourage and in a lot of cases actively discourage their children from aspiring to more than they have achieved themselves. We were each encouraged to contact the schools we had attended and offer to talk about our journey to help inspire students.

All in all this, my second Norwich Council Leader’s Reception, was interesting, informative and I was involved in some very useful discussions and inspired to try and make a difference. The receptions are quite infrequent, but I am looking forward to the next one, and hope to speak about Naked Element, Norfolk Developers and NorDevCon.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Experts in Integration

Integration is all around us.  It’s what makes stuff work together seamlessly and, when done well, it means we don’t even notice it.

An integration is essentially joining two or more things together. In tech terms we all take advantage of an integration every day when we charge our mobile phones or tablets. Our chargers plug into the mains with a three pin plug where there is a large alternating current voltage. Our chargers transform that large voltage into the smaller, direct current voltage required to charge our devices’ battery.  The charger also provides a smaller plug which fits into our devices. Our chargers integrate our devices with the mains supply so that they can charge safely.

Here at Naked Element, we are experts in integrating radically different computer systems with very different organisations of data (map locations, for example) so that they can talk to each other seamlessly. For example, we can:

  • take your database system and get it to talk to your sales system. Or your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Or take any one or more of them and get them to talk to your website.
  • get your marketing system talking directly to twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Mailchimp or Google Adwords.
  • enhance any of your systems so that they can look up your clients’ addresses and postcodes directly from Royal Mail data and display their location on a map.
  • get your vital business process systems talking to your suppliers or clients systems.
  • help you remove that costly, error prone manual step between any two or more systems. 

 An ever increasing number of companies suffer delays and losses due to a reliance on old or outdated systems for sales, fulfilment and many of their other business processes.

One of our clients is a company with a highly specialised product; the nature of their product means the choices they have to offer each customer are almost endless. Previously their field agents would make notes of all the requirements and options a customer had decided upon, then enter the order manually into the internal database when back in the office. The potential for error was high and the delay between taking the details and fulfilling the order was significant in a competitive market.

We were able to build them a cloud based ordering system for their field agents to use. We made use of our experience of integration and data mapping to speak directly to their internal database to automatically place orders in their existing system. We improved the efficiency and accuracy of their sales and order process which resulted in a significant return on their investment with us.

Give us a call today to discuss how we can help you make similar savings: +44 (0) 1603 383 458

Friday, 25 March 2016

The software developer who didn't like typing

It’s Easter so time for something different.

We spend as much time as we can reading to our kids. When they were younger they enjoyed books such as The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water: “Everybody knows that crocodiles love water, but this little crocodile is different. He doesn’t like water at all. In fact, he prefers climbing trees!”

My eldest son (12) is vegetarian, but like a lot of children he doesn’t really like many vegetables. I always thought I should write a book called The Vegetarian Who Doesn’t Like Vegetables for other children who don’t like vegetables. I am increasingly of the opinion that this would be very unfair on my son, as I am the software developer who doesn’t like typing!

I’ve always been impatient. That’s how I got into software development at the age of 8. I was too impatient to wait for the games to load from tape on my Acorn Electron, so I started writing my own programs instead, which was far more satisfying, even if I did frequently hit the limits of the hardware.

But I never really liked typing and I still don’t. I’ve got better at it over the years, but I don’t think it is something I will ever enjoy or find comfortable. This is a shame as it’s about the only practical way of writing computer software. I couldn’t imagine trying to describe syntax and copy and pasting to a voice recognition system and the chances are my fingers on the keys would be quicker anyway.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Breakfast with John Beer of the Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering

We were delighted to have John Beer of the Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering speak at the fourth Norfolk Developers breakfast at the Maids Head in Norwich.

I’ve heard a lot in the last week about how the problem with getting young people leaving school in Norfolk into jobs is a lack of aspiration. I’ll go into some of the reasons I’ve heard this is the case in another post. What’s interesting is what’s being done about it in West Norfolk.

The Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering is a £350M development being built on the old Burnham Market RAF base. The intention is to attract Artificial Intelligence and other high tech firms to the region. As well as office space, the site will include a conference centre, incubator space and a new site for a local academy allowing it to double in size to 1500 students in anticipation of the growth expect in the region as a result of building the centre. Local infrastructure improvements, including an upgrade to Ely station, and 600MB broadband are also planned as part of the development.

John Beer is clearly passionate about making a difference and I believe that the Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering will do just that. I also think it will even out the distribution of tech jobs and firms in Norfolk. At the moment, as you would expect, it’s very Norwich centric.

John told us about the plans for the centre, the history of the project, the companies involved and his personal story along the way. It was fascinating and would have easily made a much longer session.

The Norfolk Developers breakfasts are held quarterly with the intention of exposing people with a more general interest in tech to the group. They take place in the Oak Room of the Maids Head in Norwich which comfortably holds 20 people and the excellent breakfast is from the buffet.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Norfolk Developers March 2016 Update

The first bit of good news is that the JavaScript workshop was a huge success and you can read more about it and some of the future plans for Norfolk Developers here: http://paulgrenyer.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/javascripting-across-universe.html


Another piece of good news is that the NorfolK Developers breakfast with John Beer of the Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering on Wednesday is sold out. We’re currently lining up the June breakfast to feature Nigel Lubbock of Steeles Law who will be talking about software licensing. We’ll announce the meetup once it’s confirmed and you can RSVP.


April


On April 13th we have Ian Massingham of AWS coming to give his presentation on ‘Building Serverless Applications with AWS’, which he was unable to give at the conference. He will be speaking alongside Tom Morgan of Modality Systems who will be talking about his first Hackathon experience. You can RSVP here: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/229484964/


May


We’re currently planning a special Norfolk Developers event in West Norfolk which we hope will be on Wednesday 11th of May. More details as we get them.


On Thursday May 12th Christos Matskas, another popular NorDevCon speaker, is doing a double header on ‘Cross platform mobile development with the power of Xamarin’ & ‘Introduction to Microsoft's Azure cloud platform’. You can RSVP here: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/229484964/


June


We’re still planning our main June event, but the rest of June will be full of workshops as well as the Norfolk Developers breakfast mentioned above.


On the 15th of June Rupert Redington will be giving his updated and improved beginners JavaScript workshop. You can RSVP here: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/229713572/


The immensely popular Tim Ruffles will be returning on the 20th and 21st of June for a two day workshop on AngularJS 2. You can RSVP here: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/229709161/


Phil Nash will be giving a long awaited Switft (iOS) two day workshop on the 29th and 30th of June. Details to follow. You can RSVP here: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/229709196/


July


In July we’re hoping Steve Engledow will be able to give his postponed talk on What you need to know about Email.


August


In August we’re hoping to do an Agile event with food.


Steve Jones - Devops Survey


Please take a look at and complete Steve Jones’ survey on DevOps: https://t.co/CDh8s87GE6


Kaloyan Vylchev - Internship required


Kaloyan Vylchev is looking for internships in any IT sphere. He would like to develop in programming (object oriented) but for the moment feel he lacks experience. He has basic knowledge of programming, but has never done any serious project work. Kaloyan is studying Applied Computer Science at UAE and got hooked on JavaScript after the recent Norfolk Developers workshop.




If you can help Kaloyan, please drop him a line: kaloyan.vylchev@gmail.com.


Alex Adams - New contract required


Alex Adams is looking for full-stack web development contract. JS frontend with either PHP, C# or JS backend. DB either SQL server, MySQL or MariaDB. He’s looking to build his skills so exposure to AngularJS and React would be nice. More C# or some Node would be nice too. As would Agile. Open to getting on with MongoDB or Postgres as well.


Alex is available to start from 12th April onwards: alex@jujudigital.com


Xamarin Experience Required


Alex Adams has a contact looking for someone with the following Xamarin experience:


  • Experience in Xamarin.Forms (not just Xamarin.ios or Xamarin.Android).
  • XAML experience to create UI elements.
  • Portable Class Library with JSON request/response serialization.
  • Experience in handling Photo/Video uploads.
  • Exposure to image maps needing various portions of an image to be selectable.


You can contact Adam here: alex@jujudigital.com



Saturday, 19 March 2016

Event: Building Serverless Applications with AWS & Hackathon 101 - Lessons Learnt

What: Building Serverless Applications with AWS & Hackathon 101 - Lessons Learnt

When: Wednesday 13th April 2016, 6.30pm to 9.30pm

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

RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/229484964/

Ian Massingham of AWS returns to Norfolk Developers to give his cancelled NorDevCon 2016 session.


Building Serverless Applications with AWS 
Ian Massingham (@IanMmmm)

It is important that you spend as much time as possible on what differentiates the application or service that you are building. Managing infrastructure can detract from this goal. Attend this session and learn how you can let AWS do the undifferentiated heavy lifting for you whilst you focus on building a robust, scalable and highly available applications and services by utilising AWS services such as AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon S3 and more. Forget about infrastructure and focus on your code and the outcomes that you want to achieve.

Ian Massingham

Ian Massingham is a Technical Evangelist at Amazon Web Services and has been working with cloud computing technologies since 2008. In his role he works to increase the awareness of AWS cloud services and works with customers of all sizes, from start-ups to large enterprises, to help them benefit from the adoption of AWS.


Ian has more than 15 years’ experience in the IT industry, covering operations and engineering within hosting and cloud service providers.



Hackathon 101 - Lessons Learnt 
Tom Morgan (@tomorgan)

If you've never been to a hackathon before, the concept can be daunting. A deadly combination of technical snobbery and social awkwardness? Who wants to spend their free time doing that?! I've finally confronted my worst fears and attended my first hackathon - and it was not at all what I expected. Now, I'd like to dispel what I believe are commonly-held myths by those who have never been, as well as dispense some advice to first-time attendees. I'll keep it light and (hopefully) entertaining, and will cover what I think our team did well, what we could have done better, who we should have listened to, and what was completely different to what I expected.

Tom Morgan

I'm a Skype for Business MVP, working for Modality Systems, a software development company in Norwich. In March, I took part in the Hacking Health hackathon together with a team of other devs and QA from Modality, plus some pharmacy students and business experts we meet at at the event. Our solution (MediPhone) won the People's Choice award.

Friday, 18 March 2016

JavaScripting across the universe

I’ve been using JavaScript reluctantly on and off for years. I’m currently working on a project that is highly dependant on JQuery based, handwritten JavaScript. Just as Rupert described in this workshop, I am one of the world’s copy-and-paste JavaScripters, so I thought it was about time I looked at it more closely to see what I was missing. I recently took on an apprentice who also needed to learn JavaScript, so a Norfolk Developers workshop was ideal for us.

We all know there’s a software development skills shortage nationally and very much so locally and this is something Norfolk Developers is trying to do something about by introducing a series of introductory workshops aimed at those with little or no experience. Initially Norfolk Developers will be concentrating on web development skills such as HTML & CSS, JavaScript and JQuery. There are also plans for introductory workshops for iOS and Android mobile development. The group will also continue to cater for the more experienced developers with their regular series of intermediate and advanced workshops.

We all know JavaScript is evil, right? Yes, but it’s a necessary evil and there are reasons it’s evil. This was very well explained by Rupert Redington at Norfolk Developers’ JavaScript Starter Kit, beginners full day workshop. It was created in two weeks and suffered a little because of that, but we are where we are.


What was really great about the workshop for me was that I was able to learn and understand the details of the language I had missed before, such as the different ways things are compared for equality in the language.

After an interesting and in depth introduction to the language Rupert introduced us to NodeSchool, which is a series of tasks designed to help you learn and write JavaScript one step at a time in a rewarding way. You write the code to solve a problem, run the test and it tells you whether you have it right or not. I could have done that for hours!

In the afternoon we brought together a lot of what we had learnt in the morning to write a simple one page web application which used our browser’s API (Application Programming Interface) to find our current location and an external API to look up where the nearest public toilets were to us. It was fantastic to see what we’d learnt solving a real world problem.

Rupert will be back in the summer running an updated beginners JavaScript workshop.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

SyncDevelopHER: Code Club!

SyncDevelopHER are offering a free taster session of their Code Club for young people who are interested in coding.

The session runs from 10.30am – 1.30pm on Saturday April 16th and is designed for coders who haven’t attended one of the SyncDevelopHER Code Clubs in the past. The taster morning is free but you must register here to attend.

Code Club is a group where 12-18 year olds can learn to code in a supportive environment.  There are mentors on hand to help with a variety of different tasks that the students will do. For those with no knowledge there are mentors on hand who can get you started with the basics.

The organisation, founded by Vickie Allen, began in order to promote gender equality in the tech industry and the first ever DevelopHER Awards took place in November last year.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

SQL Workshops are coming back to Norwich – have your say.

On 19th January this year Norfolk Developers ran the ‘An introduction to working with a relational database using SQL’ workshop. We would like to know what sort of follow-up SQL workshop(s) you would be interested attending. We’re also intending to run the same beginners workshop again, so if you’re interested in attending, please join: norfolkdevelopers.com

Huw LLoyd has very kindly provided us with the following ideas for follow-up workshops:

(1) For a 'follow up' course/workshop (i.e. for people who attended the first and want to go further), a natural progression is to build upon the central idea of the introductory workshop which is notion of databases serving particular questions.

So we have:

i). What kinds of questions a database can support (recap and expansion).
ii) The kinds of questions we are interested in for some business function, and the implications for this in terms of record structures.
iii). The writing of richer queries, use of filters (where clause), functions (summation, count, average), and joins.

(2) For a separate day, people might also be interested in building sql scripts: transactions, use of temporary tables, possible use of variables.

(3) For programmers there are a number of design issues which could be highlighted with a day's workshop and discussion, central to this is the issue of impedance mismatch with respect to object-oriented class hierarchies.

(4) To round out the offering to 5 days, a day could also be spent on design considerations for record structures with respect to entity models and normalisation.

As you can see there are plenty of options for a single or multiple follow-up days. Please read through the suggestions and let me (paul@nakedelement.co.uk) know which would be of interest to you. We’re also happy to tailor workshops, so if there are other aspects of SQL (or indeed anything else related to software) you would like to learn about please do let me know.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Decapitated - Norwich Waterfront March 2016

Solid. Tight. Clear. Crisp. Heavy. Are all words that describe Polish progressive death masters Decapitated at the Waterfront in Norwich tonight. The was no repeat of the guitar sound problems from Bloodstock in 2014. And incredibly the PA at the Waterfront was crystal clear too. Maybe the band brought their own.

Drawing heavily from 2014 Blood Mantra, Decapitated played 11 songs in an hour as co-headliners with Sylosis. These included a couple from my favorite album Organic Hallucinosis and even something from Nihility.

It’s about time Decapitated released a new album and then hopefully they’ll be back to Norwich.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Event: What's your biggest time management challenge?

What: What's your biggest time management challenge?

When: Wednesday 16th March 2016, 6.30pm to 9pm

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

RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/225119249/

Speaker: Ermine Amies (@Sandler_Ermine)

Frustrated by not enough hours in your day? Annoyed that you don't get everything done on time? Over committed? Drowning in email? Procrastinating when you don't want to?  Not making progress on the really important projects at home or at work?

Ermine has stepped in to replace the speaker who cancelled. This hands on session will help you work out how to take control of your time management hell. If you were at Ermine's sold out session at NorDevCon, come for a top up and be ready to make a plan to succeed this spring.

If you didn't  go to NorDevCon, then you may have heard Ermine got rave reviews. You'll be provoked into thinking about where time goes and some practical steps to take to get back into control and improve your results.

Ermine's no nonsense approach makes this session suitable for everyone - from founders and CEOs to new hires. Her good humour and deep understanding of how the human psyche plays games means you'll have fun too.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Testing Private

A friend and former colleague of mine, Chris 'Frankie' Salt, recently popped up on Facebook messenger and asked me a question:

“I wonder if you'd mind answering a Java question for me? It's more of a best practices thing. So, encapsulation vs availability of methods for testing. Splitting your code into functions makes it a lot more readable and it makes sense to make these private as they will only ever be used once. However unit testing demands access to these private methods, I know there are ways around this but I was interested in your opinion.”

Me? Have an opinion about unit testing? Many stranger things have happened!

Encapsulation is all about hiding code away so that you can change it with minimal or no impact on other parts of the code base which use it indirectly. You shouldn't (ever) compromise encapsulation for the sake of testing. Every private method you write must be callable from at least one public method or via a chain of other private methods which is ultimately called from a public method. Otherwise, reflection shenanigans aside, it would never get called at all.

Does that mean reflection is the solution to testing private methods? No. It's a great tool for poking values into objects which are initialised using reflection at runtime, so that you don't have to add a public non-default constructor or public setters, but beyond that it should be avoided for testing.

Two solutions sprang to mind, triangulation and sprout classes. Read more.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

A Question of Space

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" - Captain Kirk, Wrath of Khan 1982.

From a Norfolk Developers, Naked Element and a personal point of view NorDevCon 2016 was a huge success. We had the largest number of attendees we’ve ever had by a significant margin. The Thursday workshops attracted a total of about thirty people, Friday saw over 400 and there were about 250 on Saturday. Surely the best of times.

In his presentation, “Silicon Broad: Bridges not Valleys” Jon Bradford, former MD of TechStars, said that NorDevCon needed to move to a new, larger venue and be 800 people next year. It’s true that in terms of numbers NorDevCon has come a long way from the 160 people who attended its first incarnation, SyncConf.

Our current venue is almost certainly the only option for the five track conference format we use. However, with 400 people in the main auditorium the sponsors and lunch area gets a little tight. The other four rooms we use have capacities of 120, 100, 40 and 18. When you take an average that’s 80 people in each room. Immediately it’s obvious that an even distribution of people wouldn’t work. Of course, people don’t usually distribute themselves evenly. It’s difficult to know which sessions are going to be the most popular, so knowing where to put which speakers is difficult and ultimately, we get it wrong sometimes.

While it’s fantastic that the conference is so popular, there are times when delegates can’t get to see the speakers they want because a room is full and almost every time there’s another room with only a handful of people in it. The worst of times.

So what to do about it? There are a number of options.

I’ve already identified that another venue isn’t really an option.

We could ask people to specify which sessions they would like to attend in advance and place the speakers accordingly. This would take quite a bit more organisation and is difficult as the programme is often changing right up until the day.

We could restrict the number of people on any one day to about 350, that would go some way towards relieving the overcrowding.

We’ve spent a long time scaling vertically (increasing the number of people on one day). We could consider scaling horizontally (more days, with less people each day) and perhaps dropping the smallest conference room. The issue with this is people having to spend more time away from work, which, given the eco system of small companies in Norfolk, isn’t likely to be popular.

This is usually where I would present the ideal solution, drawn from a consideration of all the options. However, this is one of those problems which requires a lot more thought and discussion with experienced individuals. The discussions and head scratching continue.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Business as usual for Norfolk Developers in March 2016


I hope you’re all recovering from NorDevCon and that you enjoyed the conference. Despite a packed conference, it’s Norfolk Developers as usual in March with our regular evening event on the 16th, a hands on JavaScript full day workshop also on the 16th and the fourth NorDev breakfast on the 23rd. Details below.

JavaScript Starter Kit - Beginners Full Day Workshop

When: Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 9:00am to 4:45pm

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

Price: £55.00

RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/227939409/

Level: beginner
Prerequisites: Laptop with wifi, modern browser, text editor

This day-long workshop aims to cover enough ground to give you a broad base from which to start your quest. We'll use plenty of practical exercises to  explore the language. We'll cover some of the tricky parts which often mystify people - especially handling asynchronous code, which is one of the language's great strengths. We'll spend most of our time in the browser, but we'll also play around with node.js, JavaScript's foremost server-side environment. There'll be time to survey some of the different tools and frameworks which are popular with JavaScripters at the moment. As well as all this we'll explore JavaScript's history, its culture and community, and the factors behind its explosive growth. Perhaps most importantly we'll introduce a set of resources which'll help you continue your learning independently.



How email works & Which cloud is best for the enterprise?

When: Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 6:30pm to 9:00pm

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

RSVP:  http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/225119249/

How email works... and why you should care - A brief history of some of the aged protocols that underpin the internet and email in particular, a look at the security implications of the way email works, and some steps you can take to improve your safety.

Which cloud is best for the enterprise? - As public cloud adoption continues to gather pace, MigSolv Norwich has a Cloud platform to rival both Amazon and Microsoft Azure.  In the session we’ll cover the different available cloud environments, how to set up your portal, manage your servers and billing system and look at the help and support options.



NorDev Breakfast with John Beer of The Centre for Advanced Knowledge Engineering

When: Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 7:30am to 8:30am

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

Price: £11.00

RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/224772217/

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 region's 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.



Tuesday, 1 March 2016

nor(DEV):con 2016 a HUGE success!

nor(DEV):con attracted over 400 people this year, the biggest turnout yet! There were international speakers, fully booked workshops and a great atmosphere over the whole weekend.

This year's new business track proved popular, especially Ermine Amies' 'Time Bandits' session, with delegates taking away practical tips and advice on how to better use their time, and Jon Bradford's 'Silicon Broad: Bridges not Valleys' about the future of tech startups.

The EDP covered the conference, which will be held from Thursday 23rd to Saturday 25th February next year, and already has a number of big names lined up!

Keep an eye on the nor(DEV):con website, or follow them on Facebook and twitter to be kept up to date.

Lastly, a massive thank you to everyone who supported and attended the conference, it was a HUGE success because of you!

Words: Lauren Gwynn