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Showing posts from 2012

TDD - is it worth it? by Phil Nash

This is the introduction of a very good blog post written by my very good friend Phil Nash . Please click on the link at the bottom for the full post. There are many articles on the subject of what TDD is, why and when it is worth it, and which attempt to counter common objections. This is not one of those. Well. Maybe a bit. This is more specifically a response to Marco Arment 's comments in his podcast, Build & Analyze , episodes 107 and 108 . Episode 108 was the last episode so there is an air of finality to the subject matter. Many Mac and iOS developers (as well as developers for other platforms) listen to the show and, while you'd hope they can all think for themselves and reach their own conclusions, it's undeniable that opinions, if not already well formed, may easily be swayed by what a respected figure says in a high profile, and well polished, medium. This can be unfortunate. I'm sure Marco didn't intend to do any damage. I've listened to

NRUG: Run for the hills, Ruby 2.0 is coming.

I don’t get to embrace my inner geek very often. By inner geek I mean the part of me that is still hopelessly in love with software development, especially at the code level. This is why I love the Norwich Ruby User’s Group . Pandr were our hosts at Blurtit in Norwich and there were about a dozen of us talking geek for an hour. Tonight’s presentation was from Tom Crinson . Tom's been a Ruby developer for 6 years now, starting off with Rails and then learning everything he could get his hands on with Ruby. Tom was the founder of IPRUG (Ipswich Ruby User Group), he's run Railscamps and presented at LRUG too. You could say, he know's what he's talking about. Tom spoke about Ruby 2.0.  It's coming along with some interesting new features too, some dangerous and crazy, some really handy, some you'll wonder why they weren't in there from the start. Tom gave us an overview about each of the new features, explained how they can be useful or not. Although I do

Devin Townsend & Fear Factory

The Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton is one of those venues, like the Glasgow Barrowlands where I see loads of bands advertise that they’re playing, but under normal circumstances I’d have no reason to go and see them there. On this particular tour it turns out Wolverhampton was the most convenient place for us to get to to see Devin Townsend and Fear Factory . What a great venue! It had one of the clearest sound systems with more definition of sound than you get in a lot of venues, but it was stupidly loud. Ear plugs were even on sale behind the bar. And being the midlands, everyone was really friendly. Looking back, Fear Factory are one of those bands that I thought I really liked when I was at school, but it turns out it was just a couple of songs from the Demanufacture album. When they made a comeback with Mechanize in 2010 I got into them again and bought up their back catalogue. I still only like a few songs from Demanufacture, but the rest of their albums are great especially

Ironbridge & The Severn Trow

Charlotte and I have been keen to return to Ironbridge ever since we dropped in briefly on our way back from Wales in 2010. Last week we were seeing Devin Townsend and Fear Factory in Wolverhampton, so it made sense to take an extra day and visit Ironbridge. We found an incredible little B&B, the Severn Trow . A former house of ill repute, the Severn Trow has many wonderful features including four poster beds (which got me many brownie points), very friendly and accommodating owners and free WiFi! It rained pretty much the whole time we were there and by the time we’d dragged ourselves out of bed in Wolverhampton and driven across to Ironbridge it was already early afternoon. We had an extremely nice lunch in the somewhat trendy Malthouse . The afternoon was spent wandering in and out of the many gift and ornament shops along the river and chatting to the friendly shopkeepers. In the evening we went looking for and failed to find Da Vinci’s and ended up in another Italian acr

SyncNorwich Really Starting To Pay Off

When the SyncNorwich co-founders and I set up the group in the summer, we had no idea of the amazing response we’d get: over 400 members and a series of fantastic packed events before we even made it to Christmas. But what’s even more satisfying for us that we’re now starting to hear about the real, tangible benefits that the group is having in the local tech community. We know several people have already found new jobs because of contacts made between companies and recruiters at SyncNorwich events (more on that in a future blog post) and local tech start-ups are also reporting great progress towards success thanks to the feedback and advice they’ve received from fellow members. Take the young founders of Incredibli , for example. Lauren Hine and Andy Parker launched the first version of their new online group-funding service in the autumn, just months after graduating from UEA’s Norwich Business School. They’d looked at the graduate jobs market with a growing sense of doom an

SyncCity: Here comes SyncIpswich

The SyncNorwich team are very excited about our first new SyncCity! SyncIpswich has been setup and is being run by Carl Farmer of Chrysalis Technology . Carl and his team will be bringing a SyncNorwich like group for people interested in technology, Agile and startup companies to Ipswich. The first meetup is scheduled for March and is going to fantastic. I expect you’ll see some of the SyncNorwich team there too! Please give Carl all the support that you can. Follow SyncIpswich on twitter here .

An Introduction to MongoDB from Ross Lawley of 10gen

What: An Introduction to MongoDB from Ross Lawley of 10gen When: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 @ 7pm Where: The Reindeer , 10 Dereham Road, Norwich, NR2 4AY Sign-up: The expert speaker at the first East Anglia MongodDB User's Group event will be Ross Lawley of 10gen . MongoDB (from "humongous") is a scalable, high-performance, open source NoSQL database. It stores data as a collection of documents and is one of the most prominent and widely adopted NoSQL data stores. This talk will cover: Getting started using MongoDB using the JavaScript shell. How to creating schemas in a document-oriented DB Look at how you can scale with MongoDB (replica sets, master/slave, auto-sharding) Interesting features for developers (geospatial indexing, capped collections, file storage, upserts and more) There will be time for questions at the end -- plus MongoDB swag to be grabbed.

SyncNorwich 6 Review: Aviva Christmas Special at Carrow Road

SyncNorwich is going from strength to strength. A year and a day before the Aviva Christmas Special at Carrow Road , I was sat in the Coach and Horses on Thorpe Road for the very first Agile East Anglia meeting. A year ago there were half a dozen of us, tonight, after the addition of Norwich Startups and Norwich Developer Community and rebranding as SyncNorwich in June, there were 110 of us in one of the most prestigious venues in Norwich. It’s difficult to describe how incredible that feels, so I won’t try, anyone who was there will have seen how much it meant to me. Tonight’s event was sponsored by Aviva. SyncNorwich is very grateful to them for hiring the venue, buying a drink for everyone and three fantastic speakers. First up is Juliana Meyer who gives an introduction to SyncNorwich for those who are new to the group and a recap of many of the events that SyncNorwich has been involved with over the last six months. I have seen variations of this presentation many times, bu

ACCU Christmas Dinner 2012

I was back in London on Wednesday night for the ACCU Christmas dinner and this time I had Charlotte with me. I always enjoy catching up with the core ACCU London crowd and as usual it was a very good night. I’m still not drinking, but the wine was flowing for two couples we’ve know for many years, which meant a it was quite lively. After dinner at the usual Pizza Express on the The Strand we ended up back in ACCU favorite Chandos, just off Trafalgar square. One man has drawn me to work at the banks in London twice and never managed to meet my wife on either occasion (despite being invited to the wedding)! On Wednesday night they finally met...

Marcus Brigstocke: The Brig Society

I don’t always agree with Marcus Brigstocke ’s political views, but he is a fantastic comedian! It’s a shame that on this occasion he didn’t feel he had the audience with him. Some of the laughs were a little slow coming and even over the head of some of the audience, including me at times, but he was hilarious and his observations of recent events genius. We will definitely be going to see him again when he comes back to Norwich. He’s just as good on stage as he is on the radio and the television. Some of the audience were quite concerned when he relieved them of some of their money during the performance. You’ll have to go and see The Brig Society to find out if they got it back. Still not sure about the beard though.

Agile East Anglia: A Short History

December 2011 to June 2012 Agile East Anglia was started by Paul Grenyer as an Extreme Tuesday Club (xTc) inspired pub meet on Monday December 5th 2011 at the Coach and Horses on Thorpe Road in Norwich. Attended by a handful of people from local firm Aviva it was followed on Monday 9th January 2012 by  a less well attended meeting at the same place. On a cold and snowy Monday 6th February, with sponsorship from Ipswich based consultancy firm Smart421, Agile East Anglia put on a presentation on Agile User Stories given by well known Agile consultant Rachel Davies at The Assembly House in Norwich. Around 20 people attended, predominantly from Aviva, but also people from other firms such as Archant, Smart421, Axon Active AG and Proxama. On Monday March 26th Agile East Anglia put on a second Agile presentation, this time it was a Dialogue Sheets workshop given by Agile consultant Allan Kelly. Again it was at the Assembly House in Norwich and sponsored by Smart421. Around 20 peopl


I am sure this is one of those shows that appeals to women of a certain age. Jenny Eclair says as much during the show. I am of course neither. Jenny Eclair is great on Radio 4, but just like Jo Caulfield , over the top and disappointing on stage. There were a number of funny moments, but most of it was too much. However, judging by the reaction of the thin crowd in the Playhouse I was in a minority. It wasn’t a night wasted (an evening out with Charlotte never is), but I won’t be bothering again.

Hot Source November Talkie

This was my second Hot Source talkie and my first time at their regular venue, the NUCA Duke Street Lecture Theatre. What a fantastic building! First up was John Marshall from UK Trade and Investment , who told us about the money he has to give away to companies to help them increase exports. We’re hoping John will be doing a two minute slot at SyncNorwich next week and something longer next year. He was charismatic, funny (in a good way) and very engaging. Then came the fantastically inspiring Gi Fernando telling us about Freeformers which is on a mission to help underprivileged and undervalued young people break through and find work and opportunity for themselves.  Again this was another engaging and fascinating presentation. It was incredible to hear about young people learning to code in very short spaces of time and turning out prototype apps. Hopefully Hot Source and SyncNorwich can work together to bring Gi back and work some of his magic in Norfolk. Tim Ferguson of Avi

SyncNorwich at Hot Source

On Thursday Juliana Meyer and I will be doing a presentation at the Hot Source November Talkie . Juliana will be giving an introduction to SyncNorwich and I’ll be speaking about SyncConf . SyncNorwich and Hot Source compliment each other well and it’s about time we interacted with each other more. I attended my first Hot Source in September and Tom Wood was kind enough to come along to the last SyncNorwich. Hopefully there will be lots more reciprocation from members of both Hot Source and SyncNorwich. If you can make, please come along and support us.

SyncNorwich 5 Review

SyncNorwich 5 felt like a real homecoming, reminiscent of our first meeting as SyncNorwich back in July. Not only were we back at Blurtit with the truly amazing Kathryn Wright , but the BBQ was back and we had presentations from startups! Of course the free drinks were still in abundance and the crowd has grown and evolved, but this was home. This was the first time Seb Butcher had organised and fronted one of events. Despite forgetting to tell everyone his name, he did a stellar job coordinating some very interesting presentations. First up were Lauren and Andy from Incredibli . Lauren and Andy are good friends of SyncNorwich and have been to many of our events. This is the first time I’ve got to hear about their startup properly and they both spoke extremely well. I am very impressed with their idea and hope they get the funding they are looking for. SyncNorwich will be putting a campaign through Incredibli in the new year. Watch this space. Juliana Meyer ’s been threatening


Skyfall was amazing! I really enjoyed it, but it isn’t a Bond film. It is an action thriller with some Bond references. It may well be closer to Ian Fleming's Bond and it’s certainly the best Daniel Craig Bond film. It’s pretty much wall to wall action, except when Bond meets Sliva. Although Javier Bardem is superb throughout the rest of the film as Silva, his opening scene, although necessary, is really rather boring. As he walked into view, talking from the far end of a long room I actually thought it was Topol! I couldn’t find much technically wrong with the film, although the tube train that crashed, at rush hour, only had the driver on board. The final scenes with Bond back at his home in the highlands caused me quite a lot of anxiety. I was convinced Kincade was going to get killed. And Bond films, Her Majesty’s Secret Service aside, should have a happy ending. What they did to the Aston Martin was just criminal. Go and see this film.

The SyncNorwich Aviva Christmas Special at Carrow Road

What: The SyncNorwich Aviva Christmas Special at Carrow Road When: Thursday 6th December 2012 from 6pm Where: Carrow Road , Norwich, NR1 1JE Full Details: SyncNorwich is delighted to have Aviva join regular sponsors Smart421 for a Christmas special. We’re very early this month as we were really keen to get Carrow Road . The evening will will start with three ignite style lightning talks: SyncNorwich - Juliana Meyer @SyncNorwich Meetmy, love to share - Keith Beecham @_meetmy_ Innovation Fund - William Harvey - @lowcarbonfund Making a splash with no cash (FXhome) - Tom McLoughlin, @tommclough We will then be handing over to Aviva for three presentations by different speakers including Rob Houghton , Solutions Delivery Director for Developed Markets at Aviva. Jason Vettraino and Jason Steele will be speaking about The joys and perils of Mobile Apps - A discussion of the innovation opportunities, multi-platform issues and Testing hell

SyncConf 15th February 2013

What: SyncConf - SyncNorwich ’s first one day conference When: Friday 15th February 2013 from 8am Where: Open , 20 Bank Plain, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 4SF Full Details: Tickets: (on sale now) Building on its thriving tech and startup community, SyncNorwich presents SyncConf 2013, a one-day Agile and Tech Conference in the heart of Norfolk in the heart of Winter. Syncing local and international speakers, people, ideas, innovations & investors together. Conference profits to kickstart local startup. We have an incredible lineup of speakers including Kevlin Henney, Alan Kelly, Benjamin Mitchell, Giovanni Asproni, Liz Keogh and Gary Gale (Nokia).

SyncNorwich at The Common Room Review

On Saturday 10th November we brought the first SyncNorwich Corner to The Common Room Prototype at St. Laurences church on St. Benedicts in Norwich. Visitors to SyncNorwich corner experienced three highly engaging lightning talks. One each from SyncNorwich regulars Sophie Garrett and Julie Bishop and another from new comer William Harvey. Collaborative Consumption and yours2share - Sophie Garrett @yours2share WTF is Recruitment - Julie Bishop - @jobhopjulie Innovation Fund - William Harvey - @lowcarbonfund These were followed by Paul Russell developing and deploying a brand new web application from scratch in about an hour. This was a new experiment for us and worked really well as Paul explains here . SyncNorwich was thrilled to be invited to be involved with The Common Room despite the freezing cold! More pictures here , here and here .

Steel Panther

Steel Panther are very entertaining and I enjoyed the show, but I am going to go against the grain as I was rather underwhelmed. There was way too much just messing about on stage talking rubbish. It was amusing for a while, but then it became bigger than the music. Perhaps this is what most Steel Panther fans go to their shows for, which is fine, but I really like the music and that’s what I wanted to hear. I’m also fairly sure that Mike Star was miming most of the time and it wouldn’t surprise me if most of the rest of the band were too. This is just not acceptable in 2012, even if the act is based on the 1980s. However, I love Lexxi Foxxx and his mirrors, simply hilarious. Would I go and see them again? I don’t know, the jury is still out. I’ll certainly be getting their next album though.

Why I'm Taking Ruby Seriously

When: Thursday 8th November at 7.30pm Where: Blurtit , Seymour House, 30-34 Muspole Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR3 1DJ So, after deciding not to speak at any events until 2014, I seem to have got myself a speaking gig at tomorrow night’s Norwich Ruby User’s group . I don’t know very much at all about Ruby. Very much like JavaScript, I’d written it off as a bit of a toy language. Now I feel differently (even about JavaScript too). So why don’t you come along tomorrow night for a discussion on why I’ve changed my mind.


This was a strange gig. To start off with it was at the playhouse which is a seated venue with quite a steep gradient and we were sat right at the front. This meant that we could hear the drums and the guitar amplifiers directly, rather than through the PA, which was mostly behind us. I’m still not sure how we could hear the vocals so well, maybe it was the monitors, and we could hardly hear the keyboards, which is not a bad thing. Karnataka are a great band, with a dreadful guitarist. Honestly, I really don’t know why they bother with him. Sometimes he plays badly, other times he’s not quite playing the right stuff. The rest of the band, especially the drummer seem really tight. I felt a little sorry for Hayley as her voice took a little while to warm up and she’s obviously not 100% comfortable on stage yet. When she gets going she’s incredible. The other strange thing was that for most of the second half of the set the drummer’s high hat was falling apart. He spent

No More Big Bangs

In the 80s I used to watch Top of the Pops religiously. By the 90s it was rubbish and I gave up and it wasn’t too much longer before the BBC did (ok, so it was 2006). I remember seeing International Rescue by Fuzzbox on Top of the pops vividly and absolutely loving it. Although for me their absolute classic is the Self . Big Bang was one my most played albums in my early teen years and I still enjoy it today. I never saw the band live, although they played at the Waterfront in Norwich, I was too young to go. They played at the Whitby Goth Weekend not too long ago and I didn’t find out until afterwards. Now with the death of guitarist Jo Dunne I guess I’ll never get to see them. It’s a real shame because they really were fantastic and Jo Dunne will be missed.

SyncNorwich 4 Reviews

SyncNorwich 4 was the best attended SyncNorwich event so far with around 80 people. We heard from Daniel Wagner Hall , who was talking about testing at google and Simon "Agile Pirate" Cromarty who did an iteration planning workshop. Our hosts for this event were Epic Studios who provided us with a huge space! Building and Testing software at Google Scale Review by  Matthew Draycott I really enjoyed Daniel's talk at this week's SyncNorwich event - he took a difficult topic (Software Testing) and presented it in an engaging way; injecting humour throughout to hold the audiences interest for nearly two hours! I've never been a great one for testing anything but Daniels convincing arguments supported by lessons he's learnt at Google are enough to make anyone re-evaluate their opinions on the topic and see why it's a crucial element of the development / release process - if you missed this, you missed a stonker! Iteration Planning Review by Vickie

SyncNorwich 5: Local Startup Stories: The Money Centre & mBaSo

Date: Thursday 15th Novemver 2012 Time: 6pm Location: Blurtit (TBC) Sign-up: Mark Alexander Mark Alexander started a business from a bungalow in Old Catton which grew to rank 38 in The Times Profit Track 100 in 2008. That business was called The Money Centre, a commercial finance brokerage which generated over 90% of its leads via online marketing. Since retiring from that business in 2009 Mark started a blog about his buy to let property portfolio which has attracted 173,000 subscribers and is ranked by Amazon’s Alexa algorithm in the UK’s top 2,000 most popular websites. To put that into perspective, ranks ahead of the Norwich City Football Club and Aviva websites!!! Expect a fun packed 40 minutes as Mark shares his incredibly inspirational stories and a few “party games” he’s designed for business purposes. It’s not often that a Norwich based millionaire who’s made his money off the back of a tech start up a

The East Anglia MongoDB Users Group

The East Anglia MongoDB Users Group  is a place for developers to learn more about the non-relational, open source, document-oriented database MongoDB. MongoDB is the leading NoSQL database and many of the key committers often travel to the UK. So if you are facing challenges with MySQL or Postgres or Oracle and want to explore a more flexible, scalable alternative, please join us at one of the quarterly sessions.

A Weekend in Munich

Our eldest son Jude (9) expressed an interest in going on a plane around about the time our middle son was born and we agreed to take him. Our third son came along in the meantime and we had to keep putting it off as we moved house and I moved jobs, etc. Once we got settled in the new house we kept our promise and booked a weekend away. I’ve long ago used up my KLM miles so flying three of us out of Norwich was going to be too expensive. So we decided to fly from Stanstead with Easyjet and we decided to go to Munich as I spent some time there in the summer of 2006 and knew it reasonably well. I also know a good hotel there. I’ve heard lots of bad things about "London" airports and low cost flyers. However, Stanstead was great! No queues and friendly, helpful polite staff. Actually, there was one queue for passport control on the way back, but we were through in about 15 minutes. I couldn’t have asked for more. Easyjet was the same. Very polite staff and very helpful. There

WASP 30th Anniversary Tour Review

In 1989 Alice Cooper released Poison. I loved it. With a father who was into The Moody Blues, I had been brought up on overly dramatic and to a certain extent over produced music. So it was no wonder that I would like much the same stuff and want to push it further. Poison is the song that got me into heavy metal, but as I look back on it from 2012 it really doesn’t seem that heavy! Bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Europe and Guns and Roses all had songs and albums out at around the same time. The band I liked the most at the time was Def Leppard, but that’s another story! Second to Def Leppard were WASP, who a friend at school had introduced me to by accident when a WASP album was the B side of a cassette tape of something else (I don’t remember what now) they lent me. I think the album was The Last Command. I loved that too and set about collecting the rest of the albums as soon as I could. In those days it meant borrowing them from the library if my friends didn’t already have t

Norwich Networking Hub

From all the interest in SyncNorwich it is clear that there is a vast amount of technology based business going on in Norwich. But it’s not limited to technology. The Norfolk Network is bringing businesses from all sectors together as well. And so is Warings cafe. For the last few months I have been based out of St. Peter’s House on Cattlemarket Street and one of mine and my teams regular haunts is Warings Cafe two doors down. But it’s not just me and my colleagues who meet there! On a number occasions I have seen Lucy Marks from the Norfolk Network, Seb Butcher from Purple Tuesday and SyncNorwich, as well as many of the other contacts I have made through SyncNorwich all networking there. It is often full of people I don’t know clearly networking and meeting clients. I wouldn't have thought Warings Cafe, situated at the back of Castle Mall would have been ideally situated to attract Norwich business networkers, but clearly it is. Maybe it’s the quality of the tea, coffee

SyncNorwich at Aviva October 2012 Review

On Thursday 4th October we show cased SyncNorwich at Aviva . The intention was to stimulate interest in SyncNorwich from Aviva employees and get more of them along to meetups. Every month the Solution Design and Service Design teams at Aviva General Insurance have an all afternoon meeting. This is where they discuss matters pertinent to the department and often have external speakers. Today it was SyncNorwich’s turn. One of SyncNorwich’s most popular meetup formats is lightning talks . Lightning talks are multiple presentations limited to five minutes for each speaker. The lightning talks that SyncNorwich do are in the style of ignite talks where each speaker's slides change automatically every 15 seconds. After each round of talks there is an opportunity to ask questions to all of the speakers. SyncNorwich’s official photographer, James Neale from James Neale Photography was also on hand taking photographs. The meeting started off with an introduction to SyncNorwich from Ju