Monthly Archives: March 2009

BarcampLondon6, Guardian Offices, KX London

I’m in a very warm room with about 120(?) people in the swanky new Guardian Offices in Kings Angry, London. Emma Persky is doing a good job of the welcome and *stuff* – there’s a lot of familiar faces and a few Barcamp Virgins who shyly stuck their hands up when asked :-)

So far I’ve had a strong cup of coffee – glad I brought my soy cream – am am being cooked by the very warm lights!

Backstage are one of the sponsors and I have a load of pens and stickers to give out and will also hopefully capture some of the thoughts and happenings on my ickwl Xacti cam – so do come up to me and say hello :-D

Emma has just announced a Lego competition to make a letter and then the grid (the scheduler) will be open for people to add their sessions!

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I put myself down on The Grid for the first round of talks – mine was a discussion on Arduino, electronics and how tinkerers can possibly shape the future of product design and research by designing their own wish list products…

This turned into an interesting discussion as people who attended were a mixture of those who had recently heard about arduino/tinkering with electronics, people who were interested in playing with this technology, those who were really experienced in using this technology and me, who has tinkered a bit and wants to learn more!

Peter Knight, from tinker.it made the point that arduino technology was a good platform for prototyping, but you probably wouldn’t make a gadget of the future from it. We went on to discuss various types of hacks and bending such as ‘sustainability’ ie hacking existing technology – for example someone has hacked the doorbell of The Hub so that people can let themselves in with their Oyster cards. We also talked about large scale tech that is made only to last a few months until the next upgrade – ie mobile phones – how can we reuse this technology?

Finally we talked about custom builds – how we make technology we want from our own wish lists – this is very prevelant within music enthusiasts. I talked about how making custom accessibility hacks/tools could help shape the future of accessible products.

There are several groups and companies who are evolving who are looking at this:
Open Hardware Hacking Group
HomeCamp
Hackspace
tinker.it

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Next I went to a talk on Current Cost meters – these a gadgets that you use at home to track your usage of electricity and make you aware of how much you are using/spending. People are creatively hacking them to show data in different ways, from getting their data to appear on Twitter (and even writing code to make it appear they’re still using power if they’re on hols), to building hardware that glows in relation to how much electricity you are using. We heard about a hack created at Mashed08 – a prototype using XBOX to make a game/competition to see who out of a group of friends is using the lowest reading totals over different times of the day and also making suggestions how you can fix things to make your usage more efficient. They also created some widgets so that you don’t have to go to a specific site to see the data, but can put the data on sites like Twitter or your blog and also in different ways of presenting and visualising.

He also gave the example of a friend who was leant a Current Costs meter noticed that he was using more electricity than anyone else in his friend group, some investigation tracked down that the electricity for the whole blocks showers was being attributed to this chaps bill.

Current Cost meters can also show how using an old fridge will cost more in electricity than buying a new more efficient fridge. You can borrow Current Cost meters from libraries to see test your home usage and some electricity companies even give them out for free. Even if you think you know your usage, some surprises can be outed – such as leaving a surround sound system on or halogen lights in your kitchen!

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My next talk was on Safe Stoozing!
This was all about how to make money from no interest credit card deals, for example maxing them out for a year and putting the money in a high interest account or an ISA. There are hidden terms and costs to be aware of such as a small interest charge per month, but if you are clever these are minimal!

Some tips for Stoozing:

  • Be clued up about what you are doing – read the small print
  • You are not going to spend the money – don’t buy toys
  • Do not spend on the credit card – as soon as you’ve transferred the money you chop up the card
  • You have to be meticulous with payments – set up a direct debit
  • Stoozing isn’t for the faint-hearted or be careful or you’ll end up paying back a lot of money!

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/cards/stooze-cash-credit-cards
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoozing

Remember it’s not your money!

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Processing with J4mie

We heard a quick tour of coding language: Processing, what it is, the interface how it’s code is comparable/different from other languages such as Java. Also about the book Hackers & Painters by Paul Graham – which argues that programming is an act of making and included some analogies to the creative process of painting and music making.

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Flashing Lights with Nigel Crawley

Nigel showed us how his interest in ambient info lighting was piqued by the Tabard Square housing project which has ambient light cubes which change colour by measuring air pressure on top of buildings and reflects this in various hues of light.

He’s been experimenting with DMX (like midi for lights) lighting since attending a workshop at tinker.it and started wondering how you could get Flash/Air apps to talk to lights. He created an prototype using arduino and Processing sketches with a DMX sheild, which in turn talks to Adobe Air and using all the colour hues fed out as RGB data. DMX is a serial protocol with 512 channels and can work with 32 channels . You can daisy chain items such as different lamps all with different channels such as red green blue white. OSC (Open sound control) works over local network or internet so you could have a lamp ensemble – it’s great for controlling lamps, sound synths, multimedia, etc. Nigel also has an iPhone using OSC (an app costing a couple of quid) working over wifi via a laptop to control lighting. He was also using Patchbay & Pachube air monitoring data to create baromic ambient lighting.

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Hacking with ikea and other simple pleasures – @kenlim

Ken Lim works at the Guardian and one of his pet pleasures is hacking with Ikea products – here’s what he told us…

Objective: to encourage people to make and break stuff

Why:

  • 2.0 envy
  • make 2.0 exists
  • it’s fun

Hacking in the real world is fun! We should encourage more hacking fun in the real world…

Why ikea?

  • It’s cheap
  • modular in nature
  • functional, minimalist design

Ken realised that he could make a bespoke table top and take ikea legs to make his own bespoke table.

Example: Ikea TERTIAL lamp – it has ripped off classic anglepoise lamp design and costs £6.84 – it’s quite cheap and this has enabled people to play with it, for example, someone has made a tertial lamp chandelier with 3 lamps.

Another example KROKEN towel rail that sells for £1.95 – Ken used it for a DVD mount using two of them.

  • Extremely cool example* – a guy took an Ikea table top and carved out an electric guitar from it for £15 and could, the table top was big enough to carve 3 out of one table top

Case study and lessons learnt:
Requirements
• need documentation pictures
• need both hands free
• I don’t want to hold the camera over the workspace
Solving – need documetatio pictures
• Tripods are too restrictive
• Tripod with a boom too expensive
• Solution is the tertial arm ☺

Lesson1 – don’t stress it test it

  • Solving the need for both hands free
  • the solution is the robot finger – has built an arduino box to work with a servo and cat5 cable – works with 5 lines of code!

Lesson 2: servos are awesome!
Another example is the Guardian build monitor which will let you know if the build is going okay – if they break it they get ‘the chicken’ from their build architect Phil

A proposal to managemt
The build lord
• audible warning
• obvious indication
• proactive
light saber that goes off and then you can take out the offender!

Lesson 3 – work with what you got

Things to consider
• no copy and paste… yet – cheaper 3d printing is coming
• you will break things – buy spares – stress on hardware build quality
• look around – so much awesome stuff around – prob is where you’re going to keep it all
• be a kid – have fun

There followed much fun and frivolity, and cocktail drinking into the night, here’s a nice photo of The Hodge in his jams – not a sight often seen in the Guardian Offices!

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Day two

I was woken at about 7 or 8am, depending on whether you count the clocks going forward, by a chap informing me that the floor I was sleeping on was about to be used for a talk, so I sluggishly dragged myself up after about an hour and a bit sleep – I think it was way past 5am that I looked for a floor to crash on after the Werewolf and cocktail fun – meep!

After spending some time trying to wake up and make myself presentable, I greeted my fellow BarCampers both IRL and on teh intertweets – who were also in various stages of sleep/unsleep.

I decided I needed to do something drastic to get myself going and coffee wasn’t doing it, so I joined a chi gong class – which my body did it’s best to resist, but did wake me up a little and found myself getting to know a couple of developers better by the power of push hands!

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Peter Knight from tinker.it talked about his arduino tea measuring gadget, which comprised of a set of scales with a infra-red protocol from & an oscilloscope in audacity sending 0s & 1s.

He also showed Auduino – a synth which generates audio tones, which also included some LEDs to create a very cool effect. Finally he talked about DMX for LED lighting, like midi or serial port – you can play with mains lighting that’s isolated. Tinker.it have a specially made shield All the code is on http://code.google.com/p/tinker.it

Lots of fun was had by the audience inspecting and playing with the gadgets after!

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Alex from tinker.it talked us through a list of infamous products/gadgets over recent history such as the smart fridge, nabaztag, iphone to micro printer that talks to twitter – from successful large products, to ones that didn’t get anywhere to very small, but beautiful gadgets.

She went on to break down products into five categories and discussed our relationships with them :

  • Me
  • My stuff
  • My home
  • My people
  • My city

A very interesting and thought provoking talk (unfortunately my notes aren’t very comprehensive) especially some of the questions and thoughts about micro production of products for specialist users and micro markets that came at the end.

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Ask the BBC Anything – Ian Forrester joined by any passing BBC bunnies

Basically we invited people to come and ask us questions, as usual Ian took centre stage – so I gave up trying to get a word in ;-) or videoing the session as I was craning my neck as Ian was kinda standing over me – not great for camera angles & some of our answers were personal thoughts, rather than official answers so decided it was more fun to enjoy the session than try to film it.

Questions ranged from subjects such as the BBC Archive, to the future of the BBC & licensing, to Backstage & beyond.

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Well, sadly BarCampLondon6 had to end, but it was great and I thought it was very well executed, thanks to everyone involved. Note to self: remember to *poke* the organisers of the next one very early for vegan food ;-)

Ada Lovelace Day: Delia Derbyshire – sound alchemist & bobmother of British electronica

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, a pledge day to write about a favourite or inspirational woman in technology, set up by Suw Charman Anderson. I’m always wittering on about how we can encourage more women to be interested in careers in technology, I think this is a great idea – so here’s my contribution!

Delia Derbyshire:

One of my earliest childhood memories is hiding behind the sofa when the Doctor Who theme tune came on the TV… The mesmeric sounds were a signal that scary monsters were about to invade my consciousness. I’ve grown to love the Doctor Theme tune in its own right because and of this special memory I got to hear about Delia Derbyshire and her pioneering work in music technology.

Delia Derbyshire homage - created from an obscure photo I found

Delia Derbyshire homage - created from an obscure photo I found

Fast forwarding from my childhood, I was made aware of Delia Derbyshire in 2002, via my on-going appreciation of Doctor Who, growing participation in the emerging digital arts and technology scene, and through an event called TV Swansong, which became a tribute to her. It was set in an Oxfordshire quarry with the contributions of several alumni of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop: Mark Ayres, Brian Hodgson, Peter Howell and Paddy Kingsland – they created a three day extravaganza of sounds and visuals inspired by Delia and her creations at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

So who was Delia?

Delia Ann Derbyshire, electronic music pioneer and sound synthesist, was born on 5th May 1937 and studied for a degree in mathematics and music at Girton College, Cambridge. In 1957, she applied for a job at Decca Records, but unbelievably, was turned away, as at the time they didn’t employ women in their recording studios! She worked for the United Nations in Geneva and also Boosey & Hawkes before getting a job as a trainee studio manager at BBC Maida Vale Studios in 1960.

She joined the fledgling BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1966 after requesting an attachment. Whilst at the BBC, Delia created theme tunes and scores for over 200 radio and TV programmes where her expertise in electronic music would give an edge, such as: drama, historical, futuristic or emotive pieces, but she didn’t appear in personally in the credits for these as at the time the umbrella credit ‘special sound by BBC Radiophonic Workshop’ was used. Ahead of her time, the BBC apparently also rejected many of her compositions, claiming they were too bizarre, “too lascivious for 11 year olds” and “too sophisticated for the BBC2 audience”. Outside the BBC, Delia set up Unit Delta Plus, an organisation to create and promote electronic music, they held a festival combining electronic music and visuals by Hornsey College of Art lecturers and was billed as the first concert of British electronic music. This eclectic event was attended by Sir John Betjeman, who apparently fell asleep in the front row!

Delia also went on to set up the Kaleidophon studio, producing electronic music for theatre productions and released an album with collaborators under the band name White Noise and in 1969 released an album called ‘An Electric Storm’. She also worked under the name ‘Russe Li (De La)’ (anagram of Delia), contributing to the Standard Music Library, later used on rival 70s ITV sci-fi programmes, such as The Tomorrow People and Timeslip.

In 1963 Delia probably developed one of the most important pieces of early digital music and certainly one of the first pieces of electronic music used for television: the iconic Doctor Who theme tune. She created it by recording the individual notes from electronic sources one by one onto magnetic tape, cutting the tape with a razor blade to get individual notes on little pieces of tape and sticking all the pieces of tape back together individually to make up the track and the process took weeks to complete. This and her other work became an inspiration for generations of electronic artists including the likes of Stereolab, Broadcast, Sonic Boom, Aphex Twin, Sonic Arts Network and of course The Chemical Brothers who created their own mix of the Doctor Who tune.

In the 70s Delia became disillusioned with the apparent future of electronic music and withdrew from the scene, working in an art gallery museum and bookshop. Unfortunately, the Radiophonic Workshop was closed in 1998, a casualty of the Birtist rationalisation as it wasn’t making enough revenue to cover its costs, but in the late 90s Delia Derbyshire was rediscovered by practitioner fans and her passion was re-invigorated. She started work on an album with Peter Kember, but Delia sadly passed away on 3rd July 2001 before it was finished of complications from breast cancer.

The legacy of this electronic wizard will live on though, she bequeathed her personal collection of work to Mark Ayres who, in collaboration with Manchester University, is working on digitising her works.

In 2002, a play about her work at the Radiophonic Workshop, ‘Blue Veils and Golden Sands’, was aired on Radio 4. Two years later, at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow another play about her, ‘Standing Wave – Delia Derbyshire in the ’60s’ by Nicola McCartney.

Links:

For an in-depth overview of Delia Derbyshire’s life, career and a ‘Deliaography’ visit http://www.delia-derbyshire.org
http://delia-derbyshire.dyndns.org/

BBC Radiophonic Workshop: http://www.mb21.co.uk/ether.net/radiophonics/index.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Radiophonic_Workshop
http://whitefiles.org/rwg/

If anyone has any copyright free, CC licensed images of Delia it would be great to use them to illustrate this post :- )

MIX09, Las Vegas

* these are my live notes – will edit and try to make sense later ;-)

I’m at MIX09 Microsoft’s conference for web developers and designers. I’m impressed by the big screens and sound which are crystal clear because I’m in a room with 2-3 thousand geeks so the speakers are quite far away! The keynote kicked off and with a very interesting talk by Bill Buxton, principle researcher at Microsoft Research, who spoke about the future of user experience, prototyping and good design.

He ended with a quote: ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity’ – Senca

There followed a spoof video of Scott Guthrie getting ready for MIX, after he came onstage to talk about MS products and introduce various people do quick talks about new apps such as ASP.NET MVC 1.0, Web server extensions, Microsoft Web Platform installer and SuperPreview.

Jeff Atwood & Joel Spolsky, whose podcast I watched last night, came on to talk about Stackoverflow – quotes: ‘we built stackflow not to make lots of money, but to make a cool hack’ + ‘we save money by starting programmers really young’ = *humour* :-)

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Update: Sorry, been a bit busy, but finally here’s some more of my thoughts on MIX09:

T’was a staggering four days of intense talks and workshops. I met some great people here from all over the world – I’ve especially appreciated spending time with Microsoft blog queen Betsy Aoki and Betsy Weber, Chief Evangelist at TechSmith: two very cool geek ladies. We had some great discussion on geek, media and gender issues as well as a lot of fun – they were also really kind in helping me find vegan food in Las Vegas, and also loading me up with vitamin C and herbal teabags as I had a horrid cold – such bad timing!

It was great to bump into our old Backstage colleague Matthew Cashmore and slightly surreal for us to be in Vegas together :-)

Have to mention the fab MIX09 party on the roof of Tao, where we kicked back and relaxed for a while with some yummy cocktails and great company. Ian and I had an amazing, affirming chat with Molly Holzschlag, (who is quite frankly a legend) about life, confidence, work and the great stuff that we get to do, and I also got to meet the wonderful Erica O’Grady, social media consultant at Peanut Butter Media

There were a huge variety of talks to attend and I had to flip a coin in many cases to chose between them – just to give you a flavour, here’s a shortlist of some of my favourites:

Johnny Lee – talked about some of his projects, it was great to hear how he had built his famous 3D display with head tracking and other projects with the Wiimote. He also gave us a tour of some of his favourite research projects by other people, such as mixed reality devices including haptics, tiny handheld projectors and augmented surfaces: where you leave the traditional monitor area expanding out onto tables and surfaces. Some of the prototypes that he mentioned can be attempted using easily available kit and household bits and pieces and as Johnny will be in the UK in May at Thinking Digital (Backstage are a sponsor) – it will be a great opportunity for any developers and home tinkerers to ask him how they can investigate building and forwarding open source research into some of these emerging technologies :-)

2ndfactory – these guys have created an open source toolkit for the Deep Zone image generator called Jellyfish Deep Zoom which has two main parts: the first is a client side library (.dll) that can be used for Deep Zoom development on client side, and the second is server side deep zoom slicing application that can use for dynamic generation of deep zoom images and collections

Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher Microsoft Research – his keynote kicked off the conference making some cool observations about the future of user experience, prototyping and good design – he was also around all week mingling and talking to students and attendees

Sketchflow – a prototyping tool that uses pipes with Silverlight3 that can be used to distribute your application sketches and workflow designs to your clients – I wonder what Adobe and their users will make of this?

• Joe Fletcher – discussed touch and gesture computing, citing examples from his work on Surface and its design principles. He made the point that ‘touch’ is not good for everything, but is great for specific aspects. He took us on a historical journey of interfaces from the command line to graphical user interface, to contemporary natural user interface – describing and comparing each one in turn. He finished with a quote from the film Ghost in the Shell: ‘your effort to remain what you are is what limits you’ – very true! I enjoyed his honest style of presentation and that he took a very objective look at the functionality vs. limitations of this growing technology

Deborah Adler, who spoke at the keynote on day two. She told us the story of her quest to investigate better design for pharmacy labeling for her master’s thesis after her grandmother took the wrong medicine and became ill. She created a system that uses colour coded bands for different family members, labeling in colours that people could read, intuitive icons, consistent labeling and more. She also made prototypes: “I’m not an industrial designer, so I had to make my prototypes out of plexi tubing and doll house materials” – a very interesting insight into the importance of UX and a humanised approach to working out problems. I think essential design and packaging problems like the ones Deborah encountered makes a very good case for open design principles!

• Live Joel Atwood & Jeff Spolsky podcast recording was very interesting to listen to and Ian managed to get a question in!

Objectified movie by Gary Huswit – this was the 2nd showing in the world of this movie, after last week’s SXSW. It’s a very interesting insight into the motivations and thought processes of product designers, as well as how we relate to objects and they become part of our lives and finally what happens to them when they are cast aside. The film is beautifully shot and looks great on screen, though I’d have like to seen the designer’s probed a little more on some subjects!

From a corporate point of view, there were a lot of announcements and launches from Microsoft, such as Internet Explorer 8, which was backed up with workshops to explain and probe deeper into the inner workings and features such as new menus and the interesting ‘private mode‘ – hmm what’s that for? ;-) I will have a closer look at IE 8 back home, but I’ll be sticking with FireFox3 for now ;-) Also, tons on Silverlight3 applications such as the Sketchflow application I mentioned earlier (interestingly, Silverlight isn’t bundled with IE8).

Overall, MIX09 was a really good conference with a lot to see and hear. It was really great to see some blurring/mingling between designers and developers and even some mutual appreciation ;-) The quality of the talks and workshops was excellent, but of course, this often made it really tough to chose what to attend!

If I could offer a few suggestions to the organisers for next year to make MIX even better:

• Closing thank you’s and goodbyes: it was odd that delegates just drifted off homein the afternoon – I think the organizers deserved to be seen and thanked!

• Closing round up – would have been great to have some highlights and maybe some prizes

• After party – there were loads of people wondering what to do for the evening after MIX, so would have been brill to have met up and gone somewhere – also a great chance for the organizers to let their hair down

• MIX09 women’s size t-shirts – I’ve got enough huge nightie t-shirts and women’s size conf t-shirts acknowledges that not all geeks are men ;-)

• More women developers speaking – there were some lady designers speaking , but not enough women developers

• Later starts: 8am breakfast/9am starts are too early for me, although I made it there I was a bit of a zombie till lunchtime ;-)

Maker Faire UK, Newcastle

On the way up our chatter about Twitter encouraged Alia to join the fun, but Cy wasn’t convinced. We met Andy, Tony and Ian here and have shifted some of the kit into the Maker Faire marquee and have plans for some exciting ‘makes’ – we’ve also brought some interesting demos, so if you’re in the area come and see us – we’re a mixture of BBC Backstage, R&D engineers and RAD teams. The fun for the public starts at 10am – come and say hello if you’re attending this exciting event :-)

Two views of the team (alternating between Alia & I behind the camera) everyone’s a bit tired, tho I seem to be a bit hyper!

Saturday morning

Too early:
Good morning people! I’m stumbling about at 7.30am in my hotel room in Newcastle. We had a full-on day yesterday driving up in our Tweeple Carrier and were up till 2am sorting out last minute bits and bobs for today’s Maker Faire UK at the Life Centre in Newcastle.

07:30am -ish
Alia and Ant off to the Maker Faire marquee

10:00am -ish
Ian and I arrive, we’re scolded for being late – we were having an important Backstage meeting – honest!

11:00am
I’m interviewing various people about their makes – will add some names/linkys for you later!

12:00pm
I grab James Boardwell to tell us about the Folksy and tinker.it stand

14:12pm
Things are well and truly in full swing there’s a lot of people here poking, prodding and being very enthusiastic about how much fun you can have with electronics and craft. There’s a really good buzz around the BBC stand, kids are loving the tanks and having a lot of fun with the steady cam and other demos. Ian and Ant have gone to the other Maker Faire venue to do some talks about Backstage and ideas around a BBC Micro for the 21st Century. I am manning the stall and discussing our arduino tanks with curious visitors.

15:00pm
I am about to have my lunchbreak when I spot Nick Woolley and his amazing LED hat – I have seen his hat online and was in awe of it then, so go chasing after him. I get an interview in a dark place as it’s too bright in the tent – not sure about the cam handling dark spaces, so will see in logging the footage if it’s usable!

16:00pm
Go blinking into the sunshine to try to find a vegan sammich

16:30pm
I help Chris Vallance with his interviews by guarding the satellite link up and being mindful that no-one including myself stands in front of it. I’m outside and behind a security fence, so people wandering past make helpful offers to release me from my cage ;-)

17:00pm
Final demos of the day and then it’s time to pack up.

17:30pm
Debrief in Ian’s room – Alia has had a can of RedBull and going through the shoot itinary for tomorrow, she’s the only one awake – everyone else is falling asleep.

19:00pm
We tell Alia we can’t take any more and we recieve very detailed SMS itineries for tomorrow – meet at 7:30am = argggh!

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Day two

06:00am Up and getting ready

07:15am Breakfast meet-up

08:00am Get to the Maker Faire tent – I begin with the outside establishing shots

08:30am Get a few quick interviews with some of the other makers, as well as our gang

09:15am Oooh public are let in early and from then on I am interviewing people back to back all day, such as Sarah Angliss, the chap with the Twitter Bubblino and tons of others!

13:00pm I film Ian Forrester & Ant Miller’s talks on Backstage & BBC Micro for the 21st Century

14:00pm I film Ian Forrester talking about the future of Backstage

16:30pm Mad rush to get our robot finished before the end so we can present it

17:00pm After a couple of hiccups it’s working and we show the public

18:00pm Mad rush to pack away and get home!

11:45pm Back in London

03:00am Just about packed for MIX09

06:00am Up again and rushing to get the train to Heathrow for nearly 24 hours of travel!

Software Craftsmanship Conference 2009

Last week, I attended the Software Craftsmanship Conference 2009, sponsored by Backstage and held at the BBC Media Village in London. It was a day of workshops for programmers, looking specifically at how to develop good working practices, through discipline and good habits.

Jason Gorman kindly gave me an overview of the event.

“This is a conference about building it right.”

Apart from meeting some great programmers, I attended workshops on a variety of subjects, such as:

Mapping Personal Practices with Adewale Oshineye of Google

In this session, programmers talked about processes they found really important in the development of their work, everyone drew a mind map to illustrate their thoughts and took it in turns to spend 90 seconds explaining why.

Ruby and Kata Sparring with Micah Martin of 8th Light
This was all about testing Ruby skills and honing your craft, including some sparring against your peers. It’s inspired by the spirit of martial arts: being disciplined in your working and practicing solving the same problems to improve learning. Micah performed a code kata in front of the group and at the end invited them to score him out of 10 – he came out of it scoring 7s and 8s.

Responsibility-driven Design with Mock Objects with Willem van den Ende & Marc Evers of QWAN
Willem and Marc gave a live pair programming demonstration of how to assign the right responsibilities to the right objects in a clean and cohesive design.

My Defining Moments with Steve Freeman of M3P
A series of five minute lightening talks where programmers described moments of epiphany, inspiration or when they had learned something important, here are some that stuck in my head:

• A company where sysadmins performed ‘random acts of helpfulness’
• Taking pride in who you are and what you do, don’t describe yourself as ‘just a developer’
• Developing and solving algorithm foo
• Admitting you don’t know everything and you can go to others for help
• Doing a bit more for your customer
• Cleaning up buggy code which no one else wanted to touch

It was a really inspiring and very educational day and attendees certainly seemed to get a lot out of it. When organizer Jason Gorman asked everyone at the close of conference if they would like to do it again next year, there was a resounding ‘YES’!

Connecting Women in Technology 2009

The chatter is deafening… I’m in the company of about 300 women (and maybe 3 men) who work in technology and we’re connecting. Someone alluded it to walking into a ‘tsunami of women’ and they were spot on!

Today is International Women’s Day and it’s very apt that I’m at Connecting Women in Technology 2009, participating in a light-hearted speed networking competition in the extended tea-break and meeting lots of women who work in technology in various roles. I’m the only BBC person here and yes I’m the only one wearing a geek t-shirt and I can’t help noting only a couple of us are dressed casually ie not in smart attire – so somewhat different to my usual experience of tech events. The event, hosted at Microsoft today, is a meet up of a partnership representing the women of 7 top tech companies: Microsoft, Google, Intel, Nortel, IBM, Cisco and Dell. Everyone has a clutch of dots, each company has their own colour so there’s much smiling and swapping going on as ladies attempt to get as many as poss and at least one from every company. After the exercise there are a clutch of ladies who stand up when we’re asked who got all 7 company dots and the two ladies who had collected the most dots had over 20 each and receive a big round of applause.

This event is all about “aiming to retain, inspire and empower women and grow their contribution in IT by developing a community and Network”. There’s lots of talk about career development and tips. I giggled at a cartoon shown by one of the speakers that related to how you can ruin your career with Facebook – I guess I’m not as corporate as some, but it’s a reminder to be careful about what you say which is obvious, but I guess sometimes it might be worth considering after a night out or a particuarly frustrating day ;-)

I’m presently listening to a Q&A panel and the questions are interesting, they’re centered around networking and some of the more interesting thoughts concern how women and men network differently – there’s lots of varied thoughts and I feel a bit sorry for the two guys on the panel who are definately treading carefully ;-)

At the centre of today’s proceedings is the lovely Eileen Brown, IT Evangalism Lead at Microsoft. Eileen set up Connecting Women in Technology, she’s a master at the art of networking and also a proper geek – she grew up tinkering and wanted a career at sea, so became a systems engineer on oil tankers.

Today I’ve met interesting women who I wouldn’t usually meet which is great, especially meeting women who work in other areas of technology who aren’t on the sharp end of developing – in fact I’ve only met one female developer today and it was genuinely interesting to share what systems and coding languages we used in our work and particular companies.

I really enjoyed the speed networking, the competition element was a cool way of getting people to get over their shyness or social ettiquette worries and barge right into a conversation and say hello – think I’m going to tweak & reuse this idea at the next BarCamp or BeeBCamp I attend :-)

The takeaway thought for today is to be confident and genuine with your networking foo and don’t do it for the sake of ticking boxes!