Tuesday, 28 August 2012

SyncNorwich 3: Lightning Talks on a diverse array of topics

Disclaimer: These are my personal thoughts and feelings about attending the SyncNorwich meetings.

It gives me immense pride and pleasure to hear so many people telling me how good and different SyncNorwich is compared to other similar groups in the Norwich area. Between 60 and 70 people turned up for the Lightning Talks event on Thursday 16th August. All manner of people were there, including developers, small company owners, marketing people, hardware people, designers, investment directors, recruiters, photographers, journalists and even an IP lawyer. Several people commented on the positive vibrant atmosphere at the event. This is of course down to the people who attend. They are what makes these events so enjoyable!

Of course SyncNorwich couldn’t hold events without its sponsors. Thanks go out to Smart421 for the BBQ and drinks, to Blurtit for the venue, to Pandr for the logo and to James Neal Photography for the official photographs. The photos can be found here.

The event started with plenty of free beer and hotdogs. John Fagan and Jon Witte had two barbecues going and cooked up about 70 pork and vegetarian sausages and onions. There was plenty to go round and a keen queue of hungry people soon formed.

Lightning talks are multiple presentations limited to five minutes for each speaker. These lightning talks were in the style of ignite talks where each speaker's slides change automatically every 15 seconds. This is an incredibly challenging format to organise and to present. Each of the speakers carried it off with great flair and John Fagan’s organisation of the evening was flawless. There were three sessions. The first with three speakers and the last two with four speakers each. There was a single 30 second slide with a countdown between each speaker and a short session for the audience to ask questions of the speakers in between each set of talks. It worked brilliantly. The evening presentations were as follows:

Agile and 40 page contracts - Graham Masterson @Smart421
Agile recruiting - Jim Marshall @Ifftner
Responsive Design -Brad Koehler @KoehlerBear
Learning to hack together MVP’s - Richard Burton @ricburton
3sixty: Bootstrapping lessons learnt - Paul Russell @paulrussell
Collaborative Consumption and yours2share - Sophie Garrett @yours2share
ShopOfMe - Travis lee Street @TravisLeeStreet
Business Angels & Business Angels - Trevor Overall @TrevorOverall
Why Norwich needs a FabLab - Rob Holden-Pratt @robhp
Young Rewired State - Chris Heath @cjheath
Scratch’ing software on the Raspberry Pi - Jonny Butcher @jjbncfc

All the videos can be found here.
Originally I was just going to describe the highlights, but as I read back over the list of presentations I realised that was most of them!

Graham Masterson started by explaining Smart421’s approach to Agile contract negotiation and some of the common pitfalls and hurdles that they encounter. This was a great way to start the evening. I had never really seen Agilists as the hippies of software development before! I have worked with Jim Marshall on a number of occasions and it was brilliant to see how he has made his recruitment process more agile over the years as he has looked at ways to provide more value for his clients. Ifftner solutions even have daily standup meetings! It was evident from his presentation that Brad Koehler really knows his stuff when it comes to designing web experiences that work across multiple browsers on multiple devices.

Richard Burton was brilliant and just plain hilarious and oozed charisma. He has written a number of Minimal Viable Products and just got them out there for people to use with quite a lot of success. This inspired me to do the same. Paul Russell is an extremely clever individual. He has put a lot of thought and work into his 3sixty application, which is an enabler for anonymous feedback aimed at individuals and SMEs. Sophie Garrett is a dedicated advocate of collective consumption. I have seen her speak on the subject twice now and she is always excellent. There is no one in the whole world like Travis Lee Street! With only an afternoon to write and practice his lightning talk, he pulled it off flawlessly and with his usual style, humour, enthusiasm and charisma.

Trevor Overall is a very welcome newcomer to SyncNorwich. He gave us five minutes on Business Angels that was interesting, informative and lead to some very good and revealing questions. Rob Holden-Pratt is doing sterling work getting a Fablab for Norwich. This is exactly the sort of thing that SyncNorwich members should be involved with. His presentation suggested that things are starting to come together and that Norwich's Fablab is not far off. Chris Heath is the geek’s geek (and I mean that in a good way)! Getting young people involved in software development is a primary focus of SyncNorwich and Chris is out there doing it. Not only did he get Norfolk kids programming in a competition, but he lead them to victory.

The final lighting talk of the evening was an inspiration to all. Jonny Butcher, younger brother of SyncNorwich’s own Seb Butcher, is 15 and had never done a presentation before. With unbelievable confidence he got up in front of between 60 and 70 people to tell us about his experiences of the Raspberry PI on his work experience. Never having done any sort of programming before he took to the Raspberry PI like a duck to water and developed a racing game. Along the way he experienced something we’ve all faced. Believing all his work had been stored, he turned off the Raspberry PI only to discover he’d lost everything. The end of his work experience was spent frantically rewriting the application. Did he manage it? Of course he did! This young man is going places and I hope that SyncNorwich was a significant step on an incredible career!

Socialising is a very important aspect of SyncNorwich and a great many of the attendees stayed behind after the talks to finish the free beer before descending on the Woolie. Many were still there when I reached my 10.30pm curfew.

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