Saturday, 27 December 2014

Norfolk Developers: Let's get function with F# in January

Norfolk Developers are extremely lucky to have Phil Trelford returning for both the evening event and a workshop the following day. Details are below. Please sign-up now.

What: Functional Hands on Workshop with Phil Trelford

When: Thursday, January 8, 2015 @ 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

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

How much: £20.00


Prerequisites: A laptop with F# installed.

Ham or Spam

In this session, we'll learn about the Naive Bayes classifier, and take a classic Machine Learning problem, recognizing Spam from Ham.

Hands On FParsec

FParsec is a parser combinator library for F# that let's you quickly build a recursive-descent text parser.

This session will introduce parsing domain-specific and general purpose languages using FParsec. Along the way we'll also cover creating a simple Abstract Syntax Tree (AST) with discriminated unions, and interpreting or compiling the language using pattern matching.

What: Write your own compiler in 24 hours with Phil Trelford

When: Wednesday, January 7, 2015 @ 6:30

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


Write your own compiler in 24 hours
Phil Trelford (@ptrelford)

Compiler writers are often seen as the stuff of myth and legend.

In this session we'll step behind the proverbial curtain and reveal how compilers actually work.

Expect plenty of live code samples, primarily in F#, covering language design and parsing, all-the-way through to emitting code. This session is aimed as a primer for those interested in writing an external DSL, general purpose language or just understanding how these things work.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

It's Friday I'm in Love

I booked tickets for the wrong night and I’m so glad I did! The Cure announced two dates at the Hammersmith Apollo in December and I was ready at 9am on the day they went on sale as if I failed to get them there was no way Charlotte would forgive me. When the list of gigs came up I selected the latest one as I assumed that would be the least popular. Little did I know that they’d added a third date last minute and that was the date I had bought tickets for. After the initial panic with what I thought was the wrong date on the confirmation email I decided it didn’t matter.

After the second of the three nights I looked up the setlist online. Charlotte has told me of a number of bands she wants to see and asked me to look out for tickets. The first was Placebo. I’m not the biggest Placebo fan ever, but I thought as long as they play Nancy Boy, which I like, it’ll be fine. They didn’t. I’m not the biggest fan of the Cure, but I love Friday I’m in Love. They didn’t play it on either of the first two nights, so I wasn’t really looking forward to the gig.

We arrived in time for the support band, The Trees. They started off well, but became very inconsistent in their playing and the lead singer was a pretentious muppet. I don’t think we’ll be bothering with them again.

The Cure came on soon after. They were good from the start. I knew very little that they played up until In Between Days but it was all great. We were in seats and most people were stood up around us. Some people had just sat down when Robert Smith said “I know I’m going to regret this!” and started playing Friday I’m in Love. We really weren’t expecting it to be played and were both over the moon. It’s the only song we stood for.

The remainder of the first set consisted of 23 songs. The last 10 or so were quite heavy by Cure standards and really amazing. I was surprised how many I recognised and there were quite a few from Wish, which is an album I really like. The four encores consisted of more songs I didn’t know plus all the classics you’d expect like Boys Don’t Cry and Love Cats. All played brilliantly. In fact in the end the only thing that could have made it better for me would have been Killing an Arab and Letter for Elise.

(Thanks to Penny Batson for the photo).

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Five minutes with me, Norfolk Developers, SyncNorwich and NorDevCon

Recently I was interview by Mark Pryce-Maher for his 'Five Minutes With" series of audio interviews. He asked me about me, SyncNorwich, Norfolk Developers and the up coming Norfolk Developers Conference (NorDevCon). You can listen to the full interview here.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Norfolk Developers: Write your own compiler in 24 hours (F#)

What: Write your own compiler in 24 hours

When: Wednesday 7 January 2015 @ 6.30pm

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


Compiler writers are often seen as the stuff of myth and legend.

In this session we'll step behind the proverbial curtain and reveal how compilers actually work.

Expect plenty of live code samples, primarily in F#, covering language design and parsing, all-the-way through to emitting code. This session is aimed as a primer for those interested in writing an external DSL, general purpose language or just understanding how these things work.

Phil Trelford

Phil Trelford is a Software Developer and Architect. He's been using .Net since v1.1 and programming in F# for over 7 years. Phil is a regular speaker, trainer, blogger, open source author and co-organizer of the London F# Meetup.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Battle of the Five Armies

I enjoyed the Battle of the Five Armies a lot more than the Desolation of Smaug. The first 90 minutes with the battle with the dragon and the arrival of the Elves just flew by. Then the main battle, which was most of the rest of the film was done extremely well and it didn’t feel like there was too much of it this time. Billy Connolly was superb, as you would expect and Richard Armitage proved even more than before what a fantastic actor he is. Evangeline Lilly was mesmerizing, very different from how she is in Lost.

With the exception of Feely and Keely the other dwarves weren’t featured much as individuals, which is a shame. Having read the book and listened to the audio book many times it was horrible knowing who was going to die and waiting for it to happen.

The new story that was added was very good and all fitted well. However the Orcs from the North never seemed to arrive, let alone get defeated. I’m sure just the killing of the white orc wouldn’t have defeated them. Maybe the eagles and Beorn were enough to finish them off, but the film didn’t show it. Maybe that’s been saved for the DVD extras next year.

Overall it’s a good film, but there are some bits of story missing.

MS Society Official Charity of NorDevCon 2015

The MS Society proudly sponsoring NorDevCon 2015. 

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects more than 100,000 people in the UK. The MS Society is a national registered charity committed to improving treatment and care for people with MS and funds vital research to help beat the disease for good.

We spoke to Anita O’Hara Corporate Partnerships Manager and passionate campaigner for  people affected by MS about what attracted the charity to NorDevCon 2015. Anita explains “this conference presents a fantastic opportunity for us to raise awareness of MS and share with the conference the vital work that MS Society does and why it’s so important. The conference attracts people from all over the county and further afield so it’s a great way to generate interest about getting involved with the MS Society to a large group of people.”

The conference is ripe with small to medium sized tech companies, both established and up-and-coming and as Anita points out the technology industry “is an area that is growing rapidly so we’d look to get involved with this industry in particular.”

As well as providing a fantastic fundraising opportunity Anita also reveals that they hope to gain and exchange knowledge from the 2015 conference. “NorDevCon will give us an insight into what’s happening in the tech worlds and the issues they’re facing, in particular looking at what Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies they have in place as there may be ways that we can help them develop them.”

“We’ve got branches of the MS Society local to Norwich so there may be an opportunity to get in directly  on the ground and link up our volunteers with local companies who have issues in-house” adds Anita.

As a disease that affects the nervous system, MS brings a unique range of disabilities and can have a different effect on different people. Anita explains how “we’re uniquely placed to help employers with information on accessibility and raise awareness of people affected by MS in the workplace. Research shows that 70-80% of people with MS will be unemployed within 10 years so we can educate employers and help them to understand and tackle the issue. We can help people stay in work longer so that they’re contributing to the economy longer and everyone benefits.”

From speaking with Anita not only is her passion for helping  people with MS clear but so is her appreciation of being part of NorDevCon 2015. “We’re a smaller charity and less well known than some of the bigger names out there so any opportunity to spread the word about the MS Society is brilliant and we’re just so grateful to Paul and the NorDevCon team for giving us this opportunity.”

The NorDevCon team approached the MS society after considering a list of worth-while causes, but with MS close to the heart of members of the NorDevCon team, this is a fantastic opportunity for both parties to do well by doing good.

You can buy your tickets for NorDevCon and see the full programme here.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Norfolk Developers December 2014 News Letter

The Joy of Generators & Philosophers, Knowledge and Children's TV Programmes
Wow! What a fantastically busy year. We’ve just been adding it all up and in 2014 we ran 11 regular evening meetups, 9 full or half day workshops, 4 special events, 3 lunches and 1 conference. That’s 28 events! We’ve also grown organically to over 500 members!

We decided not to run an event in December as there’s so much else going on and it’s difficult to get people to attend.  Plus, Dom and Ben left Norwich temporarily to go to London and be Techstars with Rainbird.

Don’t worry though, Norfolk Developers will be back with a full programme starting in January.


The regular evening event sees Phil Trelford, who spoke at the very first Norfolk Developers event, returning to Norwich for the third time to speak about functional programming in F#, with his presentation ‘Write your own compiler in 24 hours’. This is followed the next day by a full day F# workshop featuring ‘Ham or Spam’ and ‘Hands On FParsec’. More detail are on the website. The workshop will cost £20.00 per person.

The first Norwich Tech Lunch of 2015, the lunch we run every month together with SyncNorwich, will be on Wednesday 21st of January at 12.30pm at All Bar One in Norwich. You can RSVP here. These lunches are great! They’re very informal and lots of fun. In November the Norwich Tech Lunch fell on the same day as the Norfolk Software Leaders lunch, so we all grouped together. More than 20 people attended.

On Thursday 22nd of January we have our first special, ‘Learn Wordpress in a Day’. The workshop is being given by London company WP Courses. This course teaches you all the basics of building, running and marketing websites using WordPress, the world’s leading website solution. In one day, you will build your own stunning website, which will be hosted free for one year. The course runs from 9.30am to 5pm and is limited to 12 places. The cost of the course is £150 and you can RSVP here.


February is packed also! On Wednesday the 4th we have our regular evening meeting where local games company, Freekstorm will be speaking alongside a yet to be confirmed speaker on SQL from Redgate in Cambridge. You can RSVP here.

The February Norwich Tech Lunch is on Wednesday 18th of February. You can RSVP here.

Then we’re into a series of conference events. On Thursday 26th February, the evening before the conference, we have a very special pre-conference event with Kevlin Henney speaking about The Rule of Three and Allan Kelly telling us that Every Business is a Software Business. The event a 5pm for 5.30pm start. Each speaker has 30 minutes and there will be free beer! Everyone is welcome, whether attending the conference or not and it’s free. You can RSVP here.

Following on from the pre-conference special is the pre-conference dinner at All Bar One from 7.30pm. Everyone is welcome! We’ve got a fixed price (£11) menu this time and you pay and make your choices when you RSVP. You will then need to pay for your own drinks after the meal. You can RSVP here, places are limited to 40.

Then of Friday 27th of February it’s the Norfolk Developer’s Conference (NorDevCon). 2015 sees the return of the tech, Agile and workshop tracks and the addition of the business track and three graphic design sessions. The keynotes are given by Jon Skeet, returning after a superb performance last year and by Rupert and Harry of Neontribe, who will be closing the conference. Other highlights include 90 minutes on C# 6 from Jon Skeet, the first ever NorDevCon session from Norwich Winter conference regular Letitia Fearon, and Ali Clabburn of local company Liftshare speaking about how to get the best from developers when you haven’t got a clue. AWS will be returning to Norwich for a third time to give a 90 minute hands on workshop on continuous integration. With 29 sessions over 5 tracks, there’s something for everyone. Check out the agenda here.


We’ll be skipping the first Wednesday in March as it’s so close to the conference. The March Norwich Tech Lunch is on Wednesday 18th. You can RSVP here.

We’re hoping to organise an evening meeting towards the end of the month.


In late April we’re hoping to have a visit from one of the original creators of the Agile manifesto to do a couple of sessions on Agile at the evening session. Watch this space.

The Norwich Tech Lunch is on Wednesday 15th of April. You can RSVP here.

On Thursday 16th of April, in conjunction with the Norwich Ruby Users Group (NRUG), we’ll be doing a full day hands on workshop on Ruby on Rails from scratch. The cost is £30 and includes lunch. You can RSVP here.

The Norfolk Developers Team would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year and we look forward to seeing you all in 2015.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

NorDevCon 2015 was featured in the EDP (local paper) this week!

It's been an exciting week for NorDevCon 2015. Not only are tickets selling well (over 100 sold for the conference and about half the wine reception and dinner tickets sold), but NorDevCon was featured in the Eastern Daily Press this week.

Ben Woods, the business editor, wrote a piece on how the conference is calling on East Anglian businesses to back Norwich’s technology sector. You can read the full piece here.

Please go along and leave a comment!

In the next few weeks we'll have some more exciting additions to the conference agenda and about new sponsors for the conference.

In the meantime you can buy your tickets and find out about sponsorship opportunities on the NorDevCon website here.

Please spread the word about the conference as it's going to be fantastic for agilists, developers, designers and businesses.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ever wondered what we do at Naked Element?

Here at Naked Element we design and build made to measure, enterprise software and cross platform mobile apps.

What’s more our entire business has been built upon the quality of the work we produce as well as our collaborative partnerships with clients. This means that our clients not only get what they want, but what they need and what’s truly best for their business.

But, what does made to measure, enterprise software and cross platform mobile apps really mean? Let’s break it down:

Made to measure – Everything we design and build is truly bespoke. The market has shown that the one-size-fits-all approach to software development can no longer provide a solution for many of today's business needs.

Enterprise Software – is the term used to describe purpose-designed business orientated software solutions that are designed to satisfy the needs of a particular company as well as individual users. Our enterprise software can stand alone or be integrated as an extension of customer’s existing software so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Cross platform – imagine Apple and Android as two different countries with two different languages.
Most (developers) people from either country will speak the native language, or mother-tongue of that country. Naked Element live (create software) in a third country that has its own language that is understood by both the other countries, halving the effort of working in both countries at once.

So what does this mean in the real world?

It becomes much clearer if we apply this to real life and most of us use lots of different types of enterprise software everyday, perhaps without even realising it, such as:

  • The websites of e-commerce giants eBay and Amazon
  • Online payment processing systems such as PayPal
  • Booking platforms for hotels, holiday providers and anything else you can think of where you book online
  • Mobile apps that deliver a specific functions like ordering food via brands such as and Dominos Pizza
  • All social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Project management tools 

So, as you can see our made to measure, enterprise software and cross platform mobile apps are all about catering for that next level of functionality and delivering intelligent, high quality user experiences that add value to your business.

How We Work

As one of the select few companies across the UK to apply the tried and tested agile approach to our business, everything we do centres around effective customer engagement.

We design, build and take care of every detail involved in developing software, but you remain in control at all times. You get to see, feel and touch your software as it is developed. The software will be used in your business, so it’s important you have your say throughout the process. The benefits to our customers of this level of collaboration are that:

  • Expectations will be clearly understood, agreed and exceeded
  • Working and potentially releasable software is developed in short time frames
  • Functionality can be defined throughout, reducing the overall project lead time and in turn the cost
  • We can respond quickly to change and customers don’t end up paying for work they don’t need
  • Projects are broken down into manageable chunks, reviewed and agreed ensuring the client is happy every step of the way
  • Delays and any associated costs are reduced
  • You are in the driving seat and can directly influence the direction of a solution checking it is fit for purpose and addresses the need it was developed for in the first place.

We know that no two customers’ requirements are exactly the same and whilst we always pride ourselves on our effective internal and external communication processes we don’t over complicate things and encourage clients to just pick up the phone or pop by, as people solve problems not processes.

Our Process

Before we put pen to paper, or even cut code, we define a project’s user stories. This is a term used by Agile methodologies for the who, what, where and why of a project’s requirements and defines the features the software needs to include.

Every project we carry out is broken down into manageable development chunks called iterations. The user stories help us understand the features that are important to the customer and allow us to estimate what will be delivered within each iteration, how many are required and how long the overall project will take. This means our customers have a clear indication of a project's costs and never get any nasty surprises once a project is complete. This process also means that both parties can track progress and at Naked Element we only ever charge per complete iteration after delivering working software the client is happy with.

We have successfully used this process in a wide range of projects to date and we’re so confident that clients will be delighted with the quality of our work and the rate at which we deliver, we don’t usually require any upfront costs or commitment beyond the current iteration.

To see how Naked Element can help your business, please drop us a line or give us a call:

Phone: 01603 383 458

You can also follow us on:


Thursday, 16 October 2014

Breakaway Networking Norwich

There are loads of networking groups in Norwich, even more than there are tech groups! I haven’t been to that many. In fact it’s only four. There’s an breakfast club that I attend every other Thursday, another run my Lorna Burrows that I tried once, the BNI and now Breakaway Networking.

Breakaway Networking meet at the Refectory at Norwich Cathedral every Thursday morning at 7am. I was invited along to their ‘Big Breakfast’ by Nick Applin who is their current chairman and runs his business out of Whitespace, just like Matt and I do with Naked Element. The Big Breakfast happens every 6 months or so and involves inviting lots of guests and listening to a guest speaker. I believe that their regular meetings are smaller affairs, attendees being predominantly members. I’m looking forward to finding out.

The Big Breakfast started off with the usual informal networking over tea and coffee. I met some new people and bumped into some of the usual networkers I see everywhere (you know who you are!). At around 7.30am we all took to our tables in groups of about eight and Nick welcomed us all and suggested we did a quick round table to get to know each other before the food arrived. This we did. On my table I was joined by someone from the Benjamin Foundation, Breakaway’s charity for 2014, someone who worked in Health and Safety, another who cleaned computer workstations, a bathroom designer and fitter, someone in HR from Office to Office, a recruiter and singles matcher and a security consultant (the traditional kind, not internet security). All of them had a story to tell and all of it was interesting.

Following the breakfast Nick introduced Lee Todd, director at Just Regional, a local news magazine. Lee gave a fantastic talk and described how he saw the way news is consumed changing and suggested to Archant that they start a publication that concentrates more on local news. They weren’t interested so he left Archant and started up on his own, working a number of jobs to fund his dream. Just Regional is now very successful and employs a number of people.

The morning was rounded of with a presentation of £1000 to Break. About £350 was raised from the Big Breakfast and the members of Breakaway made it up to £1000.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Gone Girl

Don’t bother. Gone Girl, although clever, is overly drawn out and nothing new. It’s 18 rating appears to be due to a single bloody scene and some serious language towards the end. Neither added anything to the story. The second quarter of the film is extremely slow.

Ben Affleck doesn’t really make the lead role his own and is completely overshadowed by Rosamund Pike and Carrie Coone.

Go and see Dracula Untold instead. We wish we had.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

NorDev: Natural Language Processing & How to diagnose SQL Server performance issues

What: Natural Language Processing & How to diagnose SQL Server performance

When: Thursday, 6th November 2014 @ 6.30pm

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


Natural Language Processing of A&E Patient Notes
Richard Astbury (@richorama)

Richard will be talking about a recent project where he took 7 years of patient data from the A&E at Leeds General Hospital, and ran it through some natural language processing algorithms to extract rich information. This helped to inform clinical decision making, save money, and support the wider community of services in Leeds.
He'll be talking about the challenges on the project, and the tools, tricks and techniques used to extract useful information from hand-typed notes.

Richard helps software businesses around Europe migrate their applications to the cloud. Richard is a Microsoft MVP for Windows Azure, an experienced Node/js and .NET developer, and Senior Consultant at two10degrees. He lives in Woodbridge, Suffolk.

How to diagnose SQL Server performance issues like a Pro. 
Mark Pryce-Maher (@tsqltidy)

In this session, Mark will run through the tools that Microsoft use to track down performance issues with SQL Server. He will demonstrate how to use these freely available tools; SQLDiag, SQLNexus and ClearTrace to not only diagnose your SQL Server issues but make to look like a SQL god to your boss.

Mark is the owner and principle consultant at Iceni Solutions, a SQL Server Business and Oracle  consultancy in the UK with clients in a variety of sectors from banking to aerospace. He specialises in Administration and Performance tuning. Mark is a MCITP and MSCA in SQL Server 2008 & 2012 and has spoken a a number a a number of SQL Server conferences in the UK.

NorDev: An Evening with AWS video now online

Norfolk Developers was delighted to welcome Ian Massingham of Amazon Web Services (AWS) to Norwich last week to give an introduction to AWS. The video is now on our YouTube channel and you can also watch it below:

Introduction to AWS

What it is, why is was created and what are the fundamental services that make up the service.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Girl with the Curly Hair - Aspergers and Me

Alis Rowe
ISBN-13: 978-0956269324

We were recommended the Girl with the Curly Hair soon after our eldest son was diagnosed with Aspergers. I read about 70% of it while I was at Bloodstock this year. It was very easy to read and immediately gave me insight into some of the things that our son was feeling and why.

Alis Rowe is clearly an extreme case and it was also reassuring to know our son isn’t. I am very grateful to her for writing this book. It makes it clear that people with Aspergers sometimes struggle to understand how people without Aspergers feel and why they behave in the way that they do. It also made me realise people with Aspergers who may seem very selfish, are not really.

In Alis’ case there is a clear understanding and acceptance that people without Aspergers feel differently to her. I am hoping that as our son (11) matures he will come to understand the world around him as well as Alis does.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Top Ten Albums (Post Ice Bucket Challenge)

I was recently asked on Facebook by Matt Roach to list my top 10 albums. I’m a huge (rock) music fan with a collection in excess of 1,500 albums (which, interestingly doesn’t include any INXS) and although I managed to put a list together I was kinda happy with in about 10 minutes, it was a hugely difficult task for me. Here, in no particular order, is what I came up with.

Misplaced Childhood by Marillion

This is a fantastic musical and emotional journey. Fish’s 35 minute description of his broken heart together with Steve Rothery’s better-than-gilmour guitar playing is just incredible. I love listening to this album, but i have to be careful as it always puts me in a melancholy mood which can make behaving like a normal human being difficult for the rest of the day.

The Crimson Idol by WASP

It’s difficult to explain why this is such a good album. The way WASP use BC Rich guitars, the drumming, the chorus hooks and the story to this magnificent concept album are certainly part it. The highlight is the best guitar solo ever which forms part of The Idol, followed by the gentle come down of Hold on My Heart and the final emotional roller coaster of the Great Misconception of Me. But really the whole album is fantastic and I was very lucky to be able to see WASP perform it all the way through.

A Momentary Lapse of Reason by Pink Floyd

Thought by most as the poorest of the Pink Floyd albums, A Momentary Lapse of Reason was the first not to feature Roger Waters and is mostly a David Gilmour solo album. Some of Pink Floyd’s more experimental albums fail to be anything more than rubbish. Momentary brings together classic rock arrangements with experimentation that just blows you away on every listen. The guitar playing and lyrical content is fantastic.

Inner Circle by Evergrey

Inner Circle is everything a progressive metal album should be, but without any of the Dream Theater-esq technicality. Openers A Touch of Blessing and Ambassador are the masterpieces of Thomas Englunds career. It’s difficult when a band write an album as good as this, because they inevitably fail to better it and everything they do is compared to it.

Aeronautics by Masterplan

This is a straight power metal record and the highlight of Masterplan’s career to date. The great guitar riffs coupled with Jorn Lande’s impressive vocals make this unbeatable in the genre. There isn’t a bad track on the album, but the highlight is the love story played out by Headbangers Ballroom.

Critical Mass by Threshold

There had to be a Threshold album in here somewhere and it’s so difficult to choose between Critical Mass, Hypothetical and Subsurface, but it has to be Critical Mass. Mac’s vocals are fantastic all the way through and although Richard West’s lyrics are often overly religious and preachy, each song flows into the next and Karl Groom’s guitar playing is at it’s best.

Ghost Reveries by Opeth

It’s difficult to choose an Opeth album because most of them are so good. It would have be easy to default to Blackwater Park or the first of their albums I really got into, My Arms Your Hearse, bit Ghost Reveries is fantastic all the way through. Death metal bands are often cast as talentless and tuneless, but you only have to listen to the first track of this album to appreciate the skill and talent of this group.

The Arrival by Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy were the first death metal band I got into and they have remained my favorite since. Most of their albums have had an element progressive and The Arrival is progressive all the way through with every track as good as the previous one. As usual for Hypocrisy this is a concept album based on alien abduction. It has a different sound to their other albums, it’s still crushingly heavy, but many of the riffs are played higher up the fretboard.

Dusk and Her Embrace by Cradle of Filth

This album was one of the saviors of the 90s. It’s the first of the full length Cradle of Filth albums with the huge gothic, orchestral production that they and the Black Metal genre became famous for. Every track is superb and has a slightly different feel. Although it’s a good 50 minutes long, it usually leaves you wanting more.

Doomsday Machine by Arch Enemy

There had to be an Arch Enemy album in my list (I wish there was space for an Amon Amarth album too). All of the albums featuring Angela Gossow and now Alissa White-Gluz are fantastic and it was difficult to choose. Doomsday Machine was the first of their albums I really got into and I think it has the best riffs, even if it is quite over produced in places.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Epic Hootup Review

It was over breakfast, early one morning, that Julie ‘Jobhop’ Bishop asked me if I’d speak at the upcoming Epic Hootup. It was only for 15 minutes, so I said I would. The  Epic Hootup is a relaxed gathering during Social Media Week with speakers describing how social media is changing business today. I didn’t really have much that I could say directly about how social media was affecting Naked Element, but social media is how we got SyncNorwich, Norfolk Developers, etc. going and how we keep them going. Naked Element’s support of Norfolk Developers has a clear positive effect on Naked Element so I decided to talk about the Norfolk Tech community and Especially as I think is one of the forgotten social media platforms.

The event was held at Epic Studios in Norwich on Tuesday 23rd of September and was run by Chris Greenfield of Bright Yellow Marketing and Julie Bishop of Jobhop. About 200 people attended from the 300 or so tickets that were taken.

This was my first non-technical event of this type and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. All the key speakers had lots of interesting things to say about how they use social media within their businesses. It was really good to hear how Virgin Money ran their campaigns and the things that they learnt. I’ve long ‘known’ Laura Holland from twitter, but never met her in the flesh. It was great to hear how they use social media at ESE Direct and to meet her afterwards. Ian Pollard, Senior Product Manager at Auto Trader, was a particular highlight as he pointed out how Rick Astley had defined how customer service should be in his song from the late 80s:

Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

Although I’ve introduced other people in front of bigger crowds, I think this was the biggest crowd I’d ever presented too. It was also great to see so many women. Over 50% of the people there were women. I’m used to predominantly male crowds.

The best thing for me was that the audience really took part. I like audience participation, it helps me understand that what I am saying is being absorbed.  The crowd laughed in all the right places, put their hands up when they needed to and even answered questions. It was great to get lots of positive feedback afterwards too. It appears that my humour was appreciated and my passion came across clearly.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

What We Did on Our Holiday

Waring! Spoilers!

Charlotte and I love Outnumbered. We’re lucky to have intelligent, resourceful children, so it makes us laugh a lot. What We Did on Our Holiday is written by the same team and I think Andy Hamilton and everything he does is just fantastic. I didn’t think this would be my sort of film as it doesn’t have guns, aliens or Kira Knightly in it, but it was great.

Not only was it a great story well written, it was mostly superbly cast. Billy Connolly in particular was very good. In fact the only thing that let the film down a little was how badly cast David Tennant was. He just wasn’t very good.

The idea of three young children building a raft from what they found on a beach, loading their dead grandfather onto it, pushing it out to sea and setting fire to it the way he asked was just genius.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Be Part of the Tech Nation!

Tech City UK, along with Duedil, MTM London and Angelist, have launched a short survey as part of their Tech Nation report - the first ever to map UK’s digital capabilities.

As a nationwide survey we want to make sure Norwich is properly represented. This will be great in highlighting the expertise that exists here and revealing the support that is needed to help you grow.  If enough Norwich companies respond, we will be profiled separately in their final report - please help to get Norwich on their map!

By participating you will be entered into a draw for the chance to win one of 10 iPad mini 3s, tickets to the NOAH Conference, and most importantly, have your company profiled in the final Tech Nation report.

You can take the survey here.

If you have any difficulties please email: 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Norfolk Developers Publish First Ever Video!

Norfolk Developers has been filming its speakers for nearly 12 months, but never actually managed to publish a video. This has mostly been due to lack of time and skills to edit the videos and get them online. However, Naked Element and Norfolk Developers have a new recruit, Emily Crittenden who is gradually working through the backlog. Here is the first of many:

The Joy of Generators
Rupert Redington (@rupertredington)

In the near future Javascript will gain a raft of new features, amongst them generator functions. In this session we'll figure out what they are (you might already know from encounters with similar features in other languages) and explore a few surprising applications. For the most part we'll focus on using generators to flatten out asynchronous code - including an introduction to Koa, a next-generation, generator-based web-framework. The session will be illustrated with examples from a map of the UK's public loos.

Rupert ran away from the theatre to become a web developer at the turn of the century, since then he's been making mistakes at Norwich's Neontribe as fast as he can; he learns from a reasonable percentage of them. Recently he's been using Javascript to help teenagers talk to doctors, Americans to buy airline tickets and everybody to find their way to the loo.

Ermine Sandler: Increasing business influence

Ermine Sandler has been on my radar for a little while. Mostly via twitter. It was clear to me straightaway that she is a huge personality in the local business community. I was lucky enough to bump into her at a SyncNorwich event a while ago and a week or so later we got together to find out what each other was doing. It was a productive meeting and I believe things are starting to come of it already. During the meeting Ermine invited me along to a free workshop she was running on increasing business influence. I’m involved in a lot of things outside work and my free time is at a premium, but I was determined to make it along as I definitely need to be exposed to more non-tech events and people.

I’m really glad I did. It was excellent.

Despite having checked the dress code via twitter and being told that people were coming along in whatever they were wearing at work, I do wish I’d upgraded my shorts and sandals! Next time.

The event started, as so many do, with informal networking and an extremely nice buffet. It  was good to see some other people I already knew, including a client. I was very pleased to meet Chelsea Bales who used to work in the conference centre at St. Andrews House where the workshop was being held. She is now studying event management at UEA. Chelsea is a superb contact for me as I organise a lot of events.

After a little while the workshop was about to start and we were ushered into the seminar room where I was at the back sandwiched between another of the team at Naked Element and my client. I could see from the off that we were in for a fun and raucous time.

Ermine explained to us about a golden rule her mother taught her when she was younger.

“Do as you would be done by.”

And then proceeded to tell us that it was wrong and it’s better, in business and the workplace at least, to understand the type of person you’re dealing with and treat them accordingly. The rest of the workshop was dedicated to identifying and understanding the four main categories it can help to classify people into:

  • Eagles (D-style)
  • Parrots (I-style)
  • Doves (S-style)
  • Owls (C-style)

I’m not going to explain the details of the DISC styles as they’re readily available on the internet and you really should go along to see Ermine to find out about them.

What followed was one of the most enjoyable sessions I have taken part in for quite some time. Ermine has a huge amount of charisma, which encouraged a large amount of highly informative and amusing audience participation. My favorite type of learning is when I’m having fun and interacting with others and laughing.

What I would dearly love to see are more free sessions like this and to get some of the more enterprising techies I know along to see if we can get more of them out of their shell and I say that as someone who can still see plenty of swirly patterns in their peripheral vision.

Since the workshop I have completed an assessment, sent to me by Ermine, to determine my DISC type. I don’t have the results yet, but my fingers are tightly crossed for Owl!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Norfolk Developers 2014 Autumn Collection

Norfolk Developers is an extremely active group. Every month, usually on the first Wednesday we run our regular evening event at 6.30pm at the Kings Centre, which consists of two 45 minutes tech presentations. Usually one presentation is given by a local speaker and the other by a visiting speaker. Most months we we also run a full or half day hands on workshop, also at the Kings Centre. And of course, every February, there’s NorDevCon, Norfolk Developer’s one day Agile and Tech conference.

It’s been a busy year already and there’s even more to choose from in the autumn.

Starting with the September full day hands on workshop is being run by Rainbird on Monday, 15th. Norfolk Developers is delighted that Rainbird have chosen to run their first hack day with us. Rainbird is a cloud-based artificial intelligence platform that enables developers, businesses and students to create powerful expert systems on any subject.  The Rainbird development process starts with a visual process similar to mind-mapping (they call it knowledge mapping) and is backed by a new XML-based knowledge representation format called RBLang.  During this inaugural Rainbird Hack Day, 30 developers will have just one day to conceptualise, collaborate, create, build and present a Rainbird driven application that demonstrate creativity and innovation around any theme. Developers can enter individually although small teams of 2-4 are recommended. To get your creative juices flowing, access to Rainbird will be available in advance (from 1st September) and there will be an introductory webinar run 10.00am on Friday 5th September.

We’re starting early in October with An Evening with AWS (Amazon Web Services) on Wednesday, 1st. AWS are returning to Norwich to take both 45 minute sessions. They asked us what we’d like to hear about and so far a number of people have asked for an introduction to AWS. This is looking like the most likely topic, but will be confirmed nearer the time. There are currently plans for an AWS workshop on the following day, which will most likely provide hands on exercises based on the material covered the night before.

Our regular October hands on workshop is at the Kings Centre on Tuesday 21st October and is a Behavior Driven Development (BDD) full day workshop with Seb Rose. It’s a practical introduction to using examples to specify software. You will learn to break down complex business requirements with your stakeholders using examples in their own language, giving you the tools to explore their ideas before any software is written. You'll use pens, cards and other bits of paper, so you won't need to know any tools in advance, or even remember your laptop! This course works best when we get a mix of product owners (or BAs), testers and developers all coming along - because you're all essential to a successful outcome. This workshop is based on our successful BDD training at Kickstart Academy, using exercises and examples that have been tested on hundreds of delegates. Seb Rose has been a consultant, coach, designer, analyst and developer for over 30 years.

November sees the return of Tim Ruffles and the hugely popular and previously oversubscribed Introduction to AngularJS hands on full day workshop at the Kings Centre on Monday the 3rd. If you missed out last time, now’s your chance. This is followed on Tuesday 4th of November by an AngularJS Advanced/Internals full day hands on workshop, also with Tim Ruffles at the Kings Centre. We’re still waiting for the final details from Tim, but you can sign up for both workshops now on the Norfolk Developers meetup site.

My belief, from what I see going on around me, including the drop in attendance at a lot of technical meetups is that Norwich has reached saturation point. This is why when Mark Pryce-Maher contacted me about starting up the SQL users group in Norwich again I was pleased that he thought merging it with Norfolk Developers was a good idea. This means that every quarter we’ll have at least one SQL or database based session at one of our evening events and hopefully some SQL and database based workshops too.

The first of these events is in November on Thursday 6th at Kings Centre at 6.30pm. Again we’re missing our regular first wednesday of the month slot so we don’t compete with bonfire night. Mark Pryce-Maher will be giving a SQL based presentation and NorDevCon and workshop favorite Richard Astbury will be talking about an interesting project he worked on a little while back, where his team took patient notes from an A&E department, and wrote some code to do natural language processing to extract valuable information from the free text. This was then used to inform clinical decision making in the hospital.

That’s all we have confirmed for the autumn at the moment. We’re in discussions for something big in December. It’s all going to depends on availability and the speaker being in this county. All I can tell you at the moment is that it’s one of the original authors of the Agile Manifesto. You’ll have to wait and see to find out which one.

Even though it’s many months away, we’re already deep into planning NorDevCon, which will take place on Friday 27th of February at the Knigs Centre in Norwich. Now in it's third year, NorDevCon has traditionally been a tech and Agile conference. This year we expanded to include a track on Cloud & Big Data, a hands on workshop track and a local speaker and SyncDevelopHER (a local group promoting women in IT) track. This year we attracted about 170 people from 180 ticket sales. Mostly those who attended were developers, business owners and Agile practitioners. Next year we are hoping to attract 200+ techies and Agilists and around 100 business people, who aren't necessarily techy but have an interest in technology. To do this we are going to make some of the sessions more business focused. Every session will have a rating indicating how techy and how business focused it is to help people decided which sessions to attach.  But of course if you’re in it for the hard-core tech and agile content you won’t be disappointed either!

A number of speakers have already been confirmed and we hope to have the rest confirmed by the end of September. I’m delighted to be able to tell you that Jon Skeet, who was hugely popular at this year’s conference, will be giving the opening keynote at next year’s conference and telling us about Developing Passion in many Senses. Jon will also be giving a session on C# 6.0. The also hugely popular Harry Harrold and Rupert Redington will be giving the closing keynote and speaking about "Agile apocrypha and an ad-hoc manifesto”. This will be as entertaining as it is informative and give a more gentle wind down at the end of an intense day. Other confirmed speakers include:
  • Ali Clabburn
  • Allan Kelly
  • Anders Fisher
  • Blair Keen
  • Chris Bennett
  • Colin Mower
  • Emma Mulqueen
  • Hannah tometzki
  • Jan Machacek
  • Julie Bishop
  • Kevlin Henney
  • Letitia Fearon
  • Rachel Davis
  • Rainbird
  • Richard Astbury
  • Ruth John
  • Seb Rose

You can expect all the good stuff from last year like the wine reception and conference dinner and we’ll be publishing the sponsorship packages as soon as they’re finalised over the next few weeks.

Kevlin Henney and one other will also be giving short presentations at the pre-conference event the evening before at the Kings Centre. This will be followed be an informal dinner at a local restaurant.

I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s an exciting and busy time for Norfolk Developers. We put these events on for you, the Norfolk Tech Community, so please do come along and enjoy!

Originally published here.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

NorDev: An evening with AWS

What: Norfolk Developers: An Evening with AWS

When: Wednesday 1st October 2014 @ 6.30pm

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


Level: Beginner

Introduction to AWS

What it is, why is was created and what are the fundamental services that make up the service.

AWS Demo

Demo showing the deployment of basic AWS services such as EC2, S3, ELB, CloudFront & RDS. Deployment of a (very simple) php application into this environment using all of these service components.

Norfolk Developers: Rainbird Hack Day

What: Rainbird Hack Day

When: Monday 15th September 2014 @ 9.30am to 5.30pm

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

How much: £15


Level: beginner / introduction

"Rainbird is a cloud-based artificial intelligence platform that enables developers, businesses and students to create powerful expert systems on any subject. The Rainbird development process starts with a visual process similar to mind-mapping (we call it knowledge mapping) and is backed by a new XML-based knowledge representation format called RBLang.  

As your knowledge base matures,the results can be published as a powerful web tool or an API that other people can consult with to retrieve the knowledge and solve problems."

During this inaugural Rainbird Hack Day, 30 developers from Norfolk Developers will have just one day to conceptualise, collaborate, create, build and present a Rainbird driven application that demonstrate creativity and innovation around any theme. Developers can enter individually although small teams of 2-4 are recommended. You can either form a team in advance or just come along on the day and team up. To get your creative juices flowing, access to Rainbird will be available in advance (from 1st September) and there will be an introductory webinar run 10.00am on Friday 5th September.

Here’s what to expect on the day:

  • An introduction by Rainbird CEO & Founder, Ben Taylor
  • A technical crash course by Rainbird Head of Software Development, Dom Davis
  • Extensive developer support by members of the Rainbird team throughout
  • An opportunity to imagine and collaborate with developers using this exciting new technology
  • A chance to present your hack to your colleagues at the end of the day
  • A prize for the best hack
  • Free T-shirt, and other nerdy gifts plus good food and refreshments
  • We’re a friendly bunch some come along and get stuck in!


  • Laptop with Chrome/Firefox
  • Rainbird Account*
  • Knowledge of XML would be beneficial but not mandatory
  • Knowledge of Mind Mapping would be beneficial but not mandatory
  • Optional: reference material on a subject you know a lot about (doesn’t need to be technical). We will look at turning this into a Rainbird Knowledge Base, although we have an example that people can build if they don’t have an idea for their own

*A link to sign up will be sent to attendees nearer the time.

Draft running order

9.30am Coffee, Croissant and Introductions
10.00am Welcome by James Duez (Chairman)
10:15am Introduction by Ben Taylor (CEO)
10:45am Rainbird Crash Course - Dom Davis (Head of Software Development)

11.15am Hack Session1

1.00pm Lunch

1.30pm Hack Session2

3.30pm Pitch time (8 minute slots)
4.45pm Prize giving and summary
5.00pm End


This is my first film review for quite some time! We haven’t stopped going to see films, I’ve just been so busy with Norfolk Developers, NorDevCon and Naked Element. Hopefully normal service will resume soon!

Usually Charlotte falling asleep is the sign of a good film. However, that’s not the case with Lucy. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was dreadful, but it certainly was awful. It’s a shame because it’s an excellent idea, it’s just very poorly executed. Scarlett Johansson does nothing for me and I feel sorry for Morgan Freeman as in my opinion his agent found him a lemon.

Some of the bits of the film didn’t fit, like why Lucy ended up in a prison cell when the rest of the mules boarded their planes for Europe and when she was on a plane later she appeared to disintegrate and then woke up in a hospital bed. It’s almost like the producers got bored halfway through and couldn’t be bothered to finish it properly. It’s rare that I think a film should be longer, but Lucy should have been and they should have worked harder to make it a good film.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Bloodstock 2014 Review


Just like last year I stayed in a Travelodge in Derby the night before Bloodstock, which makes the first day shorter as I don’t need to leave Norwich at stupid o’clock to catch the bands I want to see. After a short jaunt down the A38 to the Burton-on-Trent Central Premier Inn to meet Andy (who was late as usual) we got to the arena just as Bloodshot Dawn were starting their final song. It was amazing! Progressive death metal. I'll be ordering something of theirs as soon as I can.

Next up were the first band of the day I'd actually planned to see, Entombed AD. Basically the same band I used to go and see when I was at University, although they were just called Entombed then, and basically the same performance. Still good though.

Then came Primordial. Every year there are bands I don't know announced on the bill that sound interesting so I buy some of their stuff. Primordial were the first of these bands. I really like the couple of albums I bought and the performance was excellent. Dark, moody and well played. I've always been into My Dying Bride and more recently Swallow the Sun and really like this sort of doomy metal. Primordial are in much the same vain.

I'd never heard of Flotsam And Jetsam and as they were described as old school thrash, I didn't have high hopes and to begin with it looked like my fears were realised. Then, about a third of the way through their set, they played a new track that was just amazing and they continued to improve from that point on.

Most people only know Prong for 'Snap your fingers, snap your neck'. I had that album when I was at school, but never got around to buying it on CD until I heard they were playing at Bloodstock. It's great and Prong's performance was even better all the way through. They have a unique thrashy sound that really just works.

Triptykon were as expected, which was mediocre. I've got all their stuff and I quite like it, but I have to be in the right mood. They're one of those doom metal bands that are verging on good. They played well, but there was little interaction with the crowd.

I skipped Hatebreed on the main stage, mostly because they're rubbish and went to see Winterfylleth in the Sophie Lancaster tent, which was also a good way of missing the torrential rain. I was told they were a bit black metally and they were! Although no corpse paint, which is also refreshing. The British band were having some sort of technical difficulty but when they did play they were very good.

Dimmu Borgir also had their share of “Technical Bullshit” and were half an hour late to the stage, played one song, had more technical difficulties and disappeared for another five minutes. When they came back they played a, shortened, blinder. These days Dimmu are always good and they do seem to play lots of their songs that I like, which, to be fair, is most of them!

I had intended to go and see Rotting Christ as although I quite like the recent Down EPs, I'm not a fan of their original albums at all. The problem is I got comfortable in the Rock Society tent and Down were not only quite good, but Phil Anselmo is very charismatic and quite entertaining. So I stayed put. At least until I got cold...


As I walked into the Arena from parking the car, Evil Scarecrow, a band I know nothing about were playing. Apparently they're unsigned and have played Bloodstock a number of times before. They were hilarious. They reminded me of Devin Townsend doing Ziltoid. They had cheap, but great stage props and lots of silly dances that the audience were all to happy to do, some of them dressed as tin foil robots. Just brilliant.

Shining shouldn't have been allowed on any stage at Bloodstock.

In 1993 I really got into Megadeth and a friend of mine from school lent me all their stuff and some Iron Maiden too. He wasn't really into Metal any more unless it was death metal. He mostly liked Grunge then. One of the Death Metal bands he liked was Vader and he played me a music video of theirs. I didn't really like it. In 2005 I found myself in San Francisco wandering round a large record store and there was The Beast by Vader. So I thought I'd give it a go, along with an album by Zyklon (are you seeing the BOA 2014 connections here?). I loved them both, especially the Vader album. As I found out more about them I discovered other Polish progressive death metal bands like Behemoth and Decapitated. I love them too. In the years since I've seen both Vader and Behemoth twice, but never managed to see Decapitated until today. They were fantastic. Like many of the other bands on the Bloodstock bill this year, they suffered from a poor guitar sound and in Decapitated's case in particular they could have done with a second guitarist. However, they were tight heavy and really rather wonderful.

I first saw Orphaned Land at ProgPower, the very short lived Power and Progressive Metal festival, in 2006 and thought they were good. It took me quite a while to get into their album Mabool and I never really got into the follow up, The Never Ending Way of the Warrior. However, their latest album All Is One is fantastic and I have played it relentlessly. I missed orphaned Land in Norwich recently so I was glad they were playing Bloodstock and they were very good, especially when they did Brother, my favourite track from the album, if not from the band. The vocalist is especially good. Again the guitar sound could have been better. As an Israeli band they of course mentioned the war in Gaza and how Palestinians were their friends.

I ignored Crowbar from the Rock Society tent.

For a band with one good album and two good songs on another album and a history of being crap when I've seen them before, Lacuna Coil were definite contenders for band of the day. Looking like they had a new drummer and a guitarist down, they put on the best show I have seen them do. I really enjoyed it.

Lacuna Coil's fly in the ointment was Children of Bodem. Fast, heavy, entertaining and lots of fun, Children of Bodem were just superb. You can't fault them in any way. Their new album is another one I've had on constant play and it's really helped me appreciate some of their other more recently albums too. These guys should get a headlining slot.

What's going on with Carcass? They are the band of the day, but what was going on with the guitarists? They seemed frequently out of tune and out of time. It didn't stop them being brutally heavy or entertaining between songs. A few seconds into the second song the power was pulled as someone had collapsed in the crowd. This resulted in the band being asked to cut their set short, which they refused to do and whinged about. Good on them though. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed their set.

I didn't have high hopes for Emperor as, even though it was the first album of theirs I bought (along with Godless Savage Garden by Dimmu Borgir in Glasgow) I'm not the biggest fan of it now. In some ways my fears were realised as they didn't play a single song I really knew (nothing from Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk or IX Equilibrium), but the problem is they play them so well and the music really is quite good, so again I came home (in the rain) having really enjoyed their set.


I opened the Premier Inn curtains on Sunday morning to find torrential rain, so we skipped our usual VIP area breakfast and had it in the Beefeater next to the hotel instead before adorning full wets and heading for Catton Hall.

After the long walk from the car I caught the tail end of Arthemis, but they didn't make enough of an impression on me for me to be able to remember anything about their set.

I was really looking forward to Aborted and they were incredible. A tight, excellent performance playing lots of stuff from their new album. With bands like Aborted (and Decapitated) it doesn't matter what they play because it's all good. The only thing that let them down was their attitude to the crowd and the over exaggerated “don't give a damn” attitude that was completely unnecessary. It won't stop me seeing them again though.

I was hoping Revamp would be so much more, but I was being unrealistic as although their album is very listenable, it's not great. I love Floor Jansen. She was great in After Forever and singing with Star One and I can't wait to hear what she's like with Nightwish, but Revamp just really never got going. The problems with Floor's microphone didn't help through the second song, but at least provided some entertainment.

I remember having an argument at school about Biohazard. One of my classmates was really into them but would argue relentlessly that they're not a metal band. I know different. They were excellent. Full of energy, great songs and as you would expect, got loads of the crowd up on stage at the end. They were good enough to get me to order one of their old albums.

Graveyard's flight was delayed, so they were moved to the Sophie Lancaster stage later in the evening and replaced by Avatar. I'm not really sure what to say about them and their little drummer boy attire. They reminded me of Deathstars (who once played the indoor festival), but not as good.

I missed Obituary the last time they played Bloodstock as we had a new baby. I was very disappointed as I've been into them since World Demise and regularly get out their old and new stuff but have never seen them. They were fantastic. I didn't recognise a single song, but they're another of those bands that just sound great, so it doesn't matter what they play.

By this time we'd been thrown out of the Rock Society tent as the wind had made it unsafe and I was cold and tired, so I decided to skip Saxon (who I don't like anyway), Amon Amarth and Megadeth. I've seen Amon Amarth twice before at Bloodstock and Megadeth many times in various places. Apparently Megadeth were very good, but getting home to my family a night early was too appealing.

As usual, I'm already looking forward to next year.