Sunday, 30 June 2013

SyncIpswich June 2013 Review

It’s clear from the comments on the SyncIpswich website and the buzz at the events that the local community feel a great deal of affection for the group. That’s exactly how it should be, just like it is with SyncNorwich and I am immensely proud to have been involved with the founding of both.

The latest event on Thursday 27th of June was a great deal of fun and exceptionally interesting. I learned a lot. It started off with Vickie Allen who told us about SyncDevelopHER, a group she’s starting in Norwich to promote women in IT. This is the third time I’ve seen the presentation and she gets better each time. Tonight she had it finely tuned. It always gets the same warm reception and the same question. To find out what that question is and to see if it can be answered, go along to the first SyncDevelopHER event in October.

Next up Ross Scrivener told us about his one man startup 365project, which is a photograph community website that encourages its members to take and upload a photo every day. He’s been on a fascinating journey, but the most surprising, and for me puzzling thing about it all is that he seems to have absolutely no interest in making any serious money from it. It seems a shame.

The final speaker was Justin Bowser, co-owner and Head of Online Business at HTK, a local Ipswich company. He told us about his company’s experience with offshoring. This is something I’ve gained a lot of experience with over the last 18 months and I relished the opportunity to discuss it in an open forum.

Carl Farmer is doing some fantastic work with SyncIpswich. Long may it continue.

SQL Relay June 2013 Review

SQL Relay is by far the best conference I have attended for quite some time!

SQL Relay is an annual community run series of SQL Server training events across the UK. The aim is to enhance the existing SQL Server community in the UK by bringing world class training to your region. Each SQL Relay spans 2 weeks, running 1-day conferences in a number of regions throughout the UK. With speakers from Microsoft, global IT companies and a host of MVPs, and covering topics from DBA, business intelligence and development. Each event is run by the local SQL Server user group leaders.

SQL Relay 2013 Norwich was run by Mark Pryce-Maher of Norfolk SQL Community at the Kings Centre on Thursday 20th June.  I estimate that between thirty and forty people attended and much to my surprise there was only a handful of the regular Norwich tech crowd.

So what made if by far the best conference I have attended for quite some time? Quite simply it was the quality of the speakers and their ability to engage with, entertain and inform the audience effortlessly.

I was fascinated by the new in memory table feature of SQL Server described by Anthony Saxby of Microsoft and Tobiasz Koprowski’s talk about disaster recovery was hysterical, while also being extremely useful. Even the sponsor presentations like Gavin McLaughlin’s  SQL Server and Solid State Storage was interesting and useful.

I’m already looking forward to the next one, which will hopefully be held in November.

NorDev1 Review: Liz Keogh: Lean vs. Agile: Fight! & Phil Trelford: F# eye for the C# guy

Norwich is a beautiful city. Especially when viewed from the top of St. James' Mill, the venue for the latest group for technologists in Norwich, Norfolk Developers. Norfolk Developers complements the existing tech community and peels back the high level going straight to the heart of software development practices and processes. It aims to bring local, national and international speakers and workshops to Norwich.

On Wednesday evening we made a pretty good start with Norwich favorite and regular Liz Keogh who came from London and Phil Trelford from Ely (Ely can of course be considered nation or local, depending on your point of view). So all we need to work on now is an international speaker!

I love it when Liz keogh comes to speak in Norwich! I first brought her here in June last year for the final Agile East Anglia and then in February of this year for SyncConf. What’s even better is that Liz seems to love coming to see us too and I have plans for her to come back in February. As always Liz was sensational and highly entertaining, even though there were some very important lessons to learn about Agile and lean. I’m not going to tell you who wins the fight because I know Liz wants to use the presentation elsewhere.

I saw Phil Trelford do F# eye for the C# guy before in Cambridge and wished at the time that we could do presentations at that technical level in Norwich. And now we can! In fact we have. Phil has a vast wealth of knowledge of F#, topped only by his enthusiasm for it. The presentation was the same format, a few slides and then lots and lots of code! However this time I was very inspired to install Visual Studio and getting hacking in F#.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Mobile Market Share

I’ve just started reading Little Miss Geek: Bridging the Gap Between Girls and Technology by Belinda Parmar. One of the early chapters is entitled Five Reasons Why A Technology CEO Should care. One of the reasons is that Women Are Untapped Consumers In The Market. The basic argument is that if you can sell more products by targeting different groups of people in the market, why wouldn’t you? Businesses are there to make money and many of them, especially tech manufacturing businesses do that by selling more products. The more people you appeal to, the more products you sell, the more money you make. It’s common sense and not rocket science. I don’t see how anyone can argue with it.

However, this blog post isn’t about women in technology it’s about attitudes in mobile development. Reading this section of Little Miss Geek reminded me of a common argument  I have with many mobile developers. I’m always surprised, no shocked when a company or individual is only developing an application for iPhone or just for Android. Or they only want to learn about native iPhone development or are only interested in Android development because Apple is so restrictive. I could go on, but I won’t.

Whatever the actual share of the market is, iPhones and Android based phones both have a large part of it. It’s no argument to only target Android because they have a bigger share than the iPhone. What about all those iPhone users you’re not targeting.  Would you prefer to have 100% of the Android market and 0% of the iPhone market or 100% of both? Targeting only a single platform is not commercial suicide, but it does significantly reduce your potential consumers and therefore your profits, and profit is what it’s all about, right?

When I was a child I stopped programming my BBC because no one would ever use the software I wrote. I didn’t write any software for quite a while until we got a PC. Then I wrote a lot of C and later, professionally huge amounts of C++. I wrote a C++ based testing framework and strived to make it compile on as many platforms as possible as i wanted lots of people to use it. C++ is a pernickety language and people use it on all sorts of strange platforms with any number of varying compilers. If my framework wouldn’t compile with their compiler on their platform they wouldn’t (in fact couldn't) use it and I would lose a potential user. The different mobile platforms are just as pernickety as C++. If you don’t have something that works on all of them you lose potential users and revenue.

I’m not going to discuss cross platform mobile development versus native mobile development, that’s a whole other blog post and I am hoping that Boydlee Pollentine will put that one to bed at MobDevCon next week. My point is that if you target men, but not women or iPhones but not Android phones you restrict your potential sales, revenue and profit. And we all want more profit, right?

Friday, 28 June 2013

Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidons Children 1)

By Alastair Reynolds
ISBN: 978-0575088306

Alastair Reynolds is still by far my favorite author and I loved this book, once it got going. I understand how important it is to build characters, but I like to get straight into the action and that started from about a third of the way through. This book is clearly the foundation for some much bigger stuff and I’m really looking forward to it.

I love books that force you to concentrate. Blue Remembered Earth takes you on a mystery tour and there is always something you don’t know that feels imperative to find out, right to the end. I also didn’t see most of the twists or surprises coming, which is always refreshing. I didn’t like the main character Geoffrey much. He was just too reactionary and angry with everyone all the time.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

NorDev 2: Simon Elliston Ball: Glimpse & Phil Nash: Is it really possible to TDD iOS apps?

What: Simon Elliston Ball: Glimpse & Phil Nash: Is it really possible to TDD iOS apps?

When: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 @ 6:30p

Where: Virgin Wines, 4th Floor, St James' Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN


Phil Nash: Is it really possible to TDD iOS apps? 

How feasible is it to develop iOS (or any mobile) apps using Test Driven Development?

Mobile brings with it numerous challenges and differences in culture and mindset that have led some to question if it is worth even trying.

We'll look at some of those challenges and how to overcome them - as well as when it might be better to take a different approach.We'll be using iOS in our examples but many of the concepts generalise to other platforms. Some familiarity with iOS development will be needed in places, though. A basic understanding of TDD is also assumed.

All the principles discussed have been used in high-profile real-world applications.

Phil has spent much of the last three decades trying to work out how to transform percussive actions on a keyboard into patterns of electrical pulses that seem to make some people happy. Along the way he has discovered that sometimes you need to get other people involved too and generally tries to hang out with those that care about the craft as much as he does.

Outside of contract work, consulting, training and coaching he has authored open source projects such as Catch (a C++ & Objective-C test framework) and several iOS apps. If you're not careful he also speaks at conferences and events.

Simon Elliston Ball: Glimpse - Open Source diagnostics for the web 

Glimpse is an open source diagnostics framework which shows all the vital server-side info you need right in your browser. We’ll start with a tour, and then I will show you how easy it is to write your own plugins for Glimpse, both private to your project and public open source.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Charting the Conference*

Marie Cooper and I have been hard at work the last couple of weeks promoting MobDevCon, Norfolk’s first mobile development conference. We have a five minute presentation telling people about the venue, the speakers and their topics, the technologies and the sponsors. We always get a very warm welcome.

We started off at SyncNorwich’s May event, then a week later we did Hot Source’s May Talkie in Norwich and then SyncIpswich’s May event on the same night! The picture, taken by Ben Taylor, show’s Marie and I talking to Hot Source in front of the huge screens at The Forum. Chris Spalton put together a Hot Source sketch note that included us:

Later this month we’ll be speaking at SQL Relay in Norwich and then at the first Norfolk Developers event before going back to SyncIpswich to hopefully catch a bigger crowd!

* Yes, that is a Marillion reference.

MobDevCon 2013: Elite Sponsor Announced

MobDevCon is delighted to announce that Basho, the makers of the Riak database as Elite sponsor. Basho will be there on the day and will be giving the sponsors presentation just before the end note. They will also be on hand throughout the day to answer any questions you might have about Riak and how it can be used in a mobile context.

Basho's elite sponsorship comes hot on the heels of their sponsorship of the highly successful SyncConf in February, further strengthening their ties with Norfolk. We're looking forward to welcoming Basho back in July and, hopefully, many more times after that.