2014 Retrospective

At the end of 2012 I performed a simple Retrospective of the year.  I seem to have neglected to do one at the end of 2013 but it shall be a yearly habit from now on.

Conferences attended:

Presentations:

Published:

This is a big achievement for me personally.  Thank you to those that made it happen.

  • Joint Contributor with Paul Shannon in More Agile Testing by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory
  • Contributed a chapter to Build Quality In – the collection of Continuous Delivery and DevOps stories edited by Steve Smith and Matthew Skelton
Personal:

  • Co-organised my first conference – PIPELINE 2014!
  • Went skiing for the first time
  • Started Portuguese lessons
  • Took Cycling Classes and Bicycle Maintenance classes
  • Continued my Cello lessons (aiming for Grade 3 this spring)
  • Attempted the Computer Networks Coursera course and achieved a grade of 47%. I’m proud of this score as it was a pretty intense course.
  • Stepped down from the ACCU committee as I could no longer devote the proper time to it.
  • Only managed to finish reading 6 books when I’d hoped to read 18.
  • Donated blood 3 times before being temporarily suspended to investigate anaemia 😦
  • Sadly, I still have limited proficiency with the Portuguese language

Changed Jobs
In August I left my role at 7digital, I job and company I loved and spoke about, after 4 years of being with them.  I wanted to try a new challenge.  I know it sounds corny, but I really did.  I wanted to see if I could take all the things I’d learned there to somewhere new, share my knowledfe and learn even more.
I took up a Senior Engineer role at JUST EAT and it’s been great.  I’ve had much to learn and as a result have been battling my own Imposter Syndrome, but I hope I’ve been making a difference, even a small one.

Next Year

I plan to get back on top of my reading, blogging and neglected fitness – the usual stuff.

Having left 7digital in August I now longer feel comfortable presenting about the experience report about their journey towards Continuous Delivery.  Change happens there every day and I am no longer able to ‘finish’ the presentation with details of what is currently being achieved.  There are still many things I could talk about from that time though, possibly distil the learnings into something more transferable, but I believe the audiences enjoyed hearing a real life experience report.

Creating a new presentation is top of the list and I’m open to ideas and suggestions.

Conclusion

Once again I’ve achieved more than I thought – a year is a long time and we regularly fail to remember anything other than recent events.  This feeling has been compounded by my focus in the latter half of the year being centred almost exclusively on my new role at JUST EAT, which is to be expected.  A new role is challenging with a new codebase, domain, terminology and people to learn about, which is exactly what I was seeking, so I’m happy!
Here’s to 2015!
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Progressive .Net Tutorials

This week I attended the Progressive .Net Tutorials at Skillsmatter.  It’s a 3-day conference of hands-on tutorials focussing on the .Net Platform.

Day One

Don Syme talking about F# (Photo from @AnaisatSM)

On the morning of the first day I attended “Practical Functional-First Programming” starting with Don Syme giving a presentation of the benefits of using FSharp.  To me the presenation felt far too “sales-y” for my liking containing statements along the lines of F# will make you write robust code faster and with less bugs – I’m sure I’ve heard that said before about almost every language out there…  We then got our hands-on some F# with Phil Trelford introducing the F# Koans.  I’ve completed these before, and feel that they are a fantastic practical introduction and I recommend looking for Koans in any language you plan to learn.

After lunch I went to Liam Westley’s “Async and C# 5“.  This was very much the same talk I had seen at DDD9 in January last year, but as it was a tutorial we got our hands on trying out the Async ourselves – once I’d finally downloaded the VS2011 Beta of course.

Day Two

Look! It’s me in the audience 😀  (Photo from @AnaisatSM)  

For the first talk of the second day, I took a chance and saw Mark Rendle‘s “Introduction to Simple.Web“.  As Mark himself said, he’d not talked about Simple.Web before, so he was pleased that so many people came to see him talk about something no-one had heard of, but I had heard of Mark and his tool Simple.Data.  It turned out to be the beginnings of a REST framework, but unlike OpenRasta, which we use heavily at 7digital for our APIs, it has HTML representations as a main focus and works very nicely with Razor.

It’s still very much a fledgeling project which doesn’t handle errors or logging very well, and I daren’t ask about which IoC containers it integrated with, but it was only created at the end of Feb!  I’ve already taken my own fork of the repo and will see if there’s anything I can contribute.  You can read more about it on Mark’s Blog.

In the afternoon I chose Gary Short’s “End-to-End Javascript“.  I’m afraid that I’m one of those developers who shies away from the front-end and anything related to it.  As such, I’m quite perturbed by Javascript and it’s craziness and felt this talk would hopefully give me a kick up the backside to get it all figured out.  Sadly, it did not.  Instead, I felt inundated and lost track rather quickly.  It was a tall order – MongoDB as the data store, NodeJS for the middle tier and JQuery on the front end – all to be introduced and linked together in 3 hours.  I didn’t have MongoDB installed and soon got left behind trying to get that downloaded.  NodeJS installed quickly, but I couldn’t do anything without a data store.  By this point  Gary was already talking about JQuery and I gave up trying to catch up.

Day Three

I could not decide between Dan Thomas’ talk on “HTML5” or Dylan Beattie‘s tutorial on “Security and Identity in the .Net World“.  I went with Dylan as I wished to know more about OAuth as we use this for our APIs at 7digital, also with Skillsmatter recording all the talks I could catch up on the HTML5 one.

Dylan’s tutorial was probably the most organised.  He came fully prepared with printed out tutorial worksheets, also available online, which meant that everyone could move at their own pace and not get lost trying to keep up with the presenter’s typing on the projector.  He gave a quick presentation and description as to why it is important to consider identity and that it is probably best not to write your own solution when the built in tools from ASP.Net are so easy to set up – in fact he did just that whilst holding his breath to show how quick it can be done.

A third alternative, is to get someone else to do the identity checks for you, such as Google or Facebook, and use OpenID or OAuth to manage this.  The talk focused on OAuth 2.0 which seems far easier to grasp and more featured than the OAuth 1.0 we are using at 7digital.

After lunch I decided to attend Ashic Mahtab’s tutorial on “Messaging – It’s not just about Large Scale Integration“.  I had missed Ian Cooper’s talk on “Messaging 101“, plus the description included things such as dependency injection and aspect orientation – it promised to be a fun talk.  Unfortunately, it was impossible to keep up with Ashic as he typed away on the projector and many others also got lost along the way.

Coding makes us smile! (photo from @AnaisatSM)

He dived straight into coding with generics and actions, which can take a few moments to decipher if you’re not sure what the intent is.  It seemed as though he wanted to show the steps you would go through to grow a codebase which would implement dependency injection and aspect orientation from the ground up – therefore not needing any other frameworks.  He really seemed to really know what he was talking about, but it was presented in a hardcore lecture style at a very fast pace.  I got so lost that I decided to bail after the break and hang out in the breakout area getting to know the enemy guys at Huddle.

Thank you

It was a great conference, with great presenters, great talks and great attendees.  I have a lot to think about and play with now.  I also want to thank Skillsmatter for being great hosts (the food was wonderful!) and for recording the sessions I missed and making them available online.

Thoughts on the Friday of Flossie 2012

I did not know what to expect from Flossie 2012.  I’d been to the About page on their website to find out more (the programme wasn’t available at the time) and discovered that it’s open to all women, whether they code or tinker and in this loose definition I fit, but the bullet points list digital arts, social innovation, open data and knowledge management, research, education, open access and open culture.  So, I knew I wasn’t in store for something heavy on the code, but that’s fine, I wanted to expand my horizons.

I must admit, that I was also apprehensive about it being a Women’s Only event.  I’m not particularly keen on Women Only events, I feel very similar to Trisha Gee about them, but as this one was about Open Source, I felt it would be good to go along as it’s something I want to get more involved in.

Yay! Stickers 😀

Upon registration I was presented with a goodie bag stuffed with stickers from Open Source symbols like Ubuntu, GPL3 and the GNU gnu plus a Google pen and a Google crystal keyring that was so heavy it could double up as a murder weapon.

The introduction welcomed everyone in followed by a welcome from Professor Elaine Chew of the hosts Queen Mary University.  A panel of speakers was brought together which included Laura Czajkowski who is a prominent figure in the Ubuntu community and introduced us to Ubuntu Women.  Alexandra Haché then showed us a short preview video of an interesting research project she is conducting on Women Hackers.

The panel was then opened to questions and it wasn’t long before the subject turned to gender politics and sexism.  Sweeping statements containing phrases such as “women do this” and “men do that” were being thrown around.   “Men give up on problems” was one of my favourites, with the implication that women don’t, ever.  We were no longer discussing Open Source, but gender.  I say “we”, but I was sitting there wishing I had decided not to come.

There was a break in which I grabbed a cup of coffee and talked with a like-minded woman who also felt that the earlier discussion had gotten way off topic.  I guess we were wrong though, because the talk after the break was “Gender issues in Free/Libre Open Source Software Communities” in which I got lesson in all the different kinds of Feminism, which was actually fascinating as I had no idea such strongly opposing views existed under a single banner.  A shame though, as I was here to learn about Open Source.

There was a talk on Linux User Groups, which I believe stated that these places can feel unwelcoming to complete beginners, but it’s not necessarily a gender thing and that the banter exists for everyone and both genders can find this uncomfortable.  This too, devolved into a discussion about how “men discuss things differently to women” e.g. “in a more detached and impersonal manner, while women involve their feelings resulting in them feeling personally attacked”.  I also heard the view that one of the reasons women don’t like technology is because they are more “connected to their bodies than men and feel a need to be moving and not be sedentary in a chair all day”.  I’ll have to tell my male colleagues who go running and swimming at lunchtime that they are doing it wrong.

More of those sweeping statements that made me feel sick, but I saw nodding faces all around the room, so I sadly must have been alone in this.

After lunch the “Arts Strand” began, and I sat through talks about Collaboration in Art, Wearable Technology and sound projects using SuperCollider and Audacity.  These talks were fun and interesting, but were too much into the Art side of things for me, for example a teapot that changed colour when tweeted to and a necklace that shows your heart rate.

The Startup experiences of the “What Size am I?” team

The people behind “What Size Am I?” told us about their experiences as a Startup using purely Open Source technologies and how it affected their development timescales – getting up and running with Django was amazingly easy, but customisation later proved more difficult. This talk felt more like what I would have said to be “on track”, but I guess my expectations were completely out of whack with the event’s aims which seemed to be to discuss sexism in tech.

I couldn’t attend the Saturday part as I had a prior BBQ engagement, which turned out to be a Surprise Wedding, but I don’t think I would have gone anyway – as interesting as some of the talks were, I simply don’t believe I am the target audience as I would rather focus on the tech, irrespective of the speaker’s gender.