Monday, 28 January 2013

It's time to SyncIpswich

What: SyncIpswich March; Building and Testing software at Google Scale

When: Thursday 21st March @ 6pm

Where: A central Ipswich location


I was born about a mile from where I now live. The hospital is flats now and my children were born at the new hospital outside the city. I live about fifty yards from the house where I grew up in a city I spent my entire teenage years trying to get away from. I did get away, until I was in my late twenties. Now that I’m back I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else and I’m proud to be from Norwich. Part of being proud to be from Norwich is the friendly rivalry between us and Ipswich (even if, like me, you’re not a football supporter). So I am absolutely delighted to be able to SyncIpswich for the first time in March.

The phenomenal success of SyncNorwich has taken everyone, including me, by surprise. It’s only natural that we would want to take this winning formula to other places (I can’t say cities, because obviously Ipswich is only a town! I’m not saying cities are better or anything, honest!). The first of our SyncCities outside of Norwich is SyncIpswich.  It’s being run by fellow Smart421 associate and the owner of Chrysalis Technology, Carl Farmer, a very capable pair of hands that I met at Agile Cambridge some years ago.

The first SyncIpswich is on Thursday 21st of March between 6pm and 8pm at a still to be determined venue in central Ipswich. It’s going to be covering software quality on an epic scale. It will begin with a summary of SyncNorwich & SyncCity from me as well as an introduction to SyncIpswich and their sponsors.

Next up is a two part talk by Daniel Wagner-Hall of Google. He will cover testing principles & approaches, common hurdles and how Google go about testing. Some of you will remember Dan’s talk at SyncNorwich in October. Unfortunately we lost the video, so now is an ideal opportunity to see it again if you missed it.  There will be drinks and nibbles courtesy of SyncIpswich’s sponsors.

Daniel Wagner-Hall is a Software Engineer in Test at Google, working with teams across the whole company to supply infrastructure and libraries to enable effective, efficient development and automated testing at massive scale. He is a committer to the Selenium project, but wishes people would use it less than they do.

Google has over 100 million lines of code, all building in a single codebase, on a single branch. They make 60 changes per minute, and run more automated test cases per day than the populations of many countries. Daniel will talk about the development models they use, and their approaches to scalable testing, covering problems at a team level (which apply broadly), as well as those which only crop up when you add a few zeros to the end of every metric!

A return to Ipswich from Norwich is only £16.50. Some of you may know that we’ve had a regular delegation from Ipswich to SyncNorwich since it was Agile East Anglia and more recently to the East Anglia MongoDB User Group too. So let’s return the favour and visit Ipswich in force.

Friday, 25 January 2013

SyncNorwich to fund startup and jobs in East of England

Norwich-based software development and start-up special interest group, SyncNorwich, will give all profits from its February conference to kick-start a local business

25 January 2013 - Norwich, UK SyncNorwich, a special interest group for software developers and entrepreneurs, will give all profits from its 2013 conference to a local tech start-up. The move is designed to provide seed funding to a new business that can prove it has the best chance of success and go on to create local jobs. SyncConf will take place at the Open Venue in Norwich on 15 February 2013.

To be eligible, all candidates will need to apply to take part in a Dragon’s Den style competition to be held at a future SyncNorwich event. Each candidate will receive coaching by Richard Patey of StartUpNorfolk, before pitching their business to a panel of judges made up of local, independent entrepreneurs. The funds will be awarded to the winner shortly afterwards.

More details about the competition will be released soon; in the meantime, write to

Paul Grenyer, co-founder of SyncNorwich and director of Naked Element Ltd, said: “Our first conference in February 2013 will host some of the best speakers in the software development industry in the UK. We are really pleased our speakers are visiting Norwich as part of their international conference speaking circuit. It will certainly deliver plenty of education, inspiration and information. But unlike other conferences, all profits will be ploughed straight back into the east of England. We want to catapult a local business forward in the hope that they will go on to become a local employer in the near future.”

John Fagan, co-founder of SyncNorwich and Head of Software Engineering at Axon Active AG, Switzerland said: “We are really excited about the possibility of funding a local tech start-up here in Norwich. The ideal scenario is to find a recent graduate with a great idea, who needs a little capital to build and test their concept in the marketplace. The funding will be our way of giving something back to the community. If we can help them on their way and see them generate more local jobs, then it will be mission accomplished and we can start looking forward to 2014.”

Full details of the SyncNorwich conference schedule and speaker profiles can be viewed at

Complementing the high level of technical content at the Agile and Tech SyncConf is the speakers’ dinner in the evening, an opportunity for delegates and business leaders to meet the speakers and network. SyncNorwich invites all delegates, as well as those who cannot be with us during the conference, to join us in the evening for the speakers’ dinner.

SyncNorwich has attracted over 400 members since starting in June 2012, and continues to grow. Its rapid growth is an indicator that the IT industry could be a major force in economic growth for Norwich. 

SyncNorwich strives to build a thriving technology community and enable local business growth. There is a lot of innovation and creativity here in Norwich, a vibrant and cultural city with lots to offer including a world-class university and the Norwich Research Park; Norfolk is also the home of Lotus cars..

SyncNorwich is a community open to all technology enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to meet, discuss ideas, share experiences and breed new talent, and to provide a platform for exciting new business to form. It caters for people who share a passion for technology, coding, agile and lean processes, start-ups, and those who want to share ideas through social events.

A range of events are free to attend, thanks to sponsorship from local technology companies such as Smart421, bgo and others.

The 2013 Conference will take place at Open, Norwich, on 15 February. Visit for speaker profiles and the full conference schedule.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

SyncConf Speakers Dinner £39

SyncConf is now less than a month away. Tickets are selling very well, but there are still plenty left. You can buy your ticket here.

One of the jewels in the SyncConf crown is the dinner in the evening. It will be hosted at local Norwich restaurant
The Library from 7.30pm. During the course of the meal the speakers will remain seated at their tables while the delegates move around between courses. This is a unique opportunity and your chance to quiz you favorite speakers of the day. The dinner price includes three courses and two glasses of wine all for only £39! Please book your speakers dinner ticket here:

The speakers dinner is open to everyone, even if you were not able to attend the conference during the day.
Apparently Rob Newman always comes to Norwich to try out new material as no one’s opinion matters this far up the M11! I wish I’d pointed out that the M11 stops a good 60 miles before it gets to Norwich.

When I was at school we went on a trip during some sort of design and technology week and on the coach one of my schoolmates had brought a recording of The Mary Whitehouse Experience from the radio. It was brilliant! Shortly after I got addicted to the TV show. When Punt & Dennis and Newman & Baddiel parted company I continued watching Newman & Baddiel on their new show religiously. I saw Punt & Dennis when they came to the Theatre Royal in Norwich, enjoyed them on Radio 2’s It’s Been a Bad Week and more recently on Radio 4’s Now Show. You could say I’m pretty addicted the Newman & Cos particular sense of humour.

However, I had never seen Rob Newman live or without David Baddiel (on the TV) so I was really keen to see him, especially as he was playing in Norwich (on a very snowy night). My only disappointment throughout the whole night was the total lack of reference to The Mary Whitehouse Experience or Newman & Baddiel. We didn’t even get a “That’s you that is!”.

Rob Newman is clearly very intelligent, well educated and extremely articulate. A far cry from the impression given in the old days. If he doesn’t speak Russian fluently then he is very good at convincing an audience that he can. I had forgotten about his voice, which is kind of posh with a slight impediment. I found the material very funny. Rob was clearly showing off just how much stuff he knows, but that’s fine. We enjoy that. On a couple of occasions he played the Ukulele, reasonable well but with plenty of room for improvement. He was even kind enough to pose for a photo which I completely failed to take properly. That got a laugh. At just over an hour this show was the perfect length for the material.

Would I go and see Rob Newman again? Yes, I would. Especially if there’s a Mary Whitehouse Experience reunion.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

East Anglia MongoDB User Group First Meetup Review

When I saw the advert on the 10gen site for sponsored regional meetup groups and decided to start one I thought I’d be lucky to get 10 people join the group and half that number to the meetups. Yet again, I was wrong! Despite being an advocate of the technical community in Norwich, it still takes me by surprise just how vibrant it is. As I write this the membership of the East Anglia MongoDB User Group stands at 46 and we had between 25 and 30 people come to the first meeting on Wednesday. We even had some of the regular SyncNorwich crowd from Ipswich!

I wanted to start with the big guns, so tonight we had Ross Lawley from MongoDB creators 10gen come and give us an overview of MongoDB and its features and configuration. Although the presentation was very high level, it gave just the right level of detail. At about 35 minutes it was just the right length and led to my second pleasent surprise! There was at least 20 minutes of questions from the group following the presentation. I was really pleased to get this level of interest from the group and even more pleased that everyone was able to get an indepth answer from Ross.

The Reindeer was a great venue too. Several people arrived early to eat and stayed behind afterwards. The small room they have at the back of the pub was just the right size for 30 people theatre style. Although it would be a struggle if we got any bigger.

Next time we have Trisha Gee, also from 10gen speaking to us on Wednesday 10th April. Signup here.

Friday, 11 January 2013

SyncNorwich & SyncConf on Future Radio

Yesterday lunchtime Seb Butcher and John Fagan spoke to Julie Bishop on Future Radio’s Norwich Today with Richard & Julie about SyncNorwich and the upcoming first SyncNorwich conference, SyncConf. Julie Bishop is of course SyncNorwich’s very own “Chic Geek” and was very keen to have John and Seb on the show.

John, Seb and Julie did us all proud. While Seb explained what SyncNorwich is all about and how it started, John was put on the stop a provided a brilliant off the cuff description of Agile. Julie went on the quiz John about the conference, the speakers and the future Dragon's Den event that will be used to give away the profits from the conference to a local startup later in the year.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I’ve never forgiven myself for missing the first Lord of the Rings film at the cinema, so I was determined to see the first Hobbit film there. We saw it in normal 2D. Overall I enjoyed the film. It’s very good and there are some fantastic action scenes. The scene with Gollum is absolutely hilarious in places.

However, and it’s a big however, it’s just too long. They’ve made up stuff that wasn’t in the original book, like the white orc and radagast who was missing from the Fellowship of the ring. Most of the scene with the dwarves at Bagend is tedious. They’ve brought in other Characters from the Lord of the Rings who were not in the Hobbit and worst of all Martin Freeman is still a dreadful actor.

Fili and Kili, and the rest of the dwarves for that matter, are very well cast. Richard Armitage is incredible as Thorin, but I couldn’t help thinking his appearance was based on Damian Wilson from Threshold now that he has the beard! The final two hours of the film are, for the most part, genius and I’m already looking forward to the second one.

Damian Wilson

Your chance to kickstart your startup career

John Fagan writes:

Think you could be the next Steve Jobs?  

Have you heard about SyncNorwich and SyncConf?  If not, you should look us up and start getting involved.  Maybe it could lead to a job working for a local company, or your future career as a tech entrepreneur!  Read on and you will find out how this could be a reality.

SyncNorwich is the Norwich based Tech and Startup community.   We meetup every month to have a beer and hear from awesome local, national and international speakers.  Topics covered include software development, startups, investing, entrepreneurism, developing ideas and much more.  The community has grown from Zero to 400+ members in 6 months.  It is a prime opportunity to learn, network and get inspired every month.  Thanks to some amazing local sponsors, all our events are free including a lot of the beer!  We’d like to increase the number of students attending our events, so it would be great to see you there.

But it does not stop there.....

SyncNorwich presents to you SyncConf 2013, a one-day Agile and Tech Conference in Norwich. Syncing local and international speakers, ideas and investors.  We have some excellent speakers from the international Agile and Tech community.  The Agile Software Development track is a one day master class from some of the leading Agile experts in UK.  The Tech track covers some interesting topics, such as Big Data, NoSQL, Graph databases, Contiguous Integration, Location API's and more.  We have speakers, from Guardian, Nokia, Alertme, the Founder of (remember them?), and more!

Even better, we have a special Student rate of £25, which is cheap as chips.  

To get your ticket go to

Now it really gets interesting...

OK, so you think you could be the next Steve Jobs?  Well, all conference profits will be invested in a local startup, here in Norwich.  Yes, that could be you.  Do you have a great idea?  If yes, we will be holding a future Dragons Den style SyncNorwich event where you can pitch for the cash.  If you win, you get the cash, simple as that.  What's the catch?  We will ask you to hand it back if you become profitable one day.  How much will it be?  It could be between £5,000 to £10,000.  The more tickets we sell the closer we will get to £10,000.  So help us promote the event, so we can make the biggest impact together.

So come along to SyncNorwich, get your SyncConf ticket, get thinking about your idea, its your future.


Friday, 4 January 2013

SyncLunch January 2013 - Darren Cook on Data Analysis Review

I don’t usually blog a review of the SyncNorwich lunches, but the January SyncLunch was something special, we had a speaker! Darren Cook contacted me before Christmas expressing a desire to come and speak to the group. However we didn’t have any meetings on the days he was available, so as the January lunch hadn’t been booked at that time I booked it for one of those days.

Darren Cook is a professional data analyst, software developer and entrepreneur. He is director at QQ Trends, a company that solves difficult software and data challenges for its clients. He is currently based in Tokyo, but originally from Norwich, and was in Norfolk over the holiday period this year. He talked about how eating more chocolate allows you to extract more value from your data.

Darren has a gentle engaging style that is very easy to listen to and understand. He actually spoke about how the amount of chocolate a country eats is statistically relative to the number of Nobel prizes it has. This had me baffled for a while, but was clear once Darren explained the reason for the correlation. Darren’s presentation was very interesting and entertaining. I am hoping that we can have him speak at one of our larger meetings the next time he’s in the UK.

Next month we’re moving to a new restaurant for the SyncLunches. The February SyncLunch with be on Wednesday 6th February at The Library at 1pm.


by William Gibson

ISBN: 0006480411

I read this book as it was recommended to me by a friend as a classic. I’m sure it was revolutionary in its time, but I didn't enjoy it. I found it very difficult to follow. It was suggested to me that I should sit down and try and read it all in a couple of sittings. It would probably have made more sense if I had and I may try and do that in the future.

I just didn’t warm to the main character, Case. However I don’t think you’re meant to. All the drugs references did nothing for me either. Maybe I didn’t play hard enough in my youth.  I also think software and virtual reality has come on too far for what was in the book to seem magical and new.

Unless I re-read Neuromancer and enjoy it, I won’t be reading any more William Gibson.