Agile Staffordshire May 2014

A reminder that Agile Staffordshire is meeting up tomorrow at Staffordshire University for the Lean Code Challenge. As usual, details are available on the Agile Staffordshire Blog and you can register your attendance on

I will be there and I hope to see you there too! New members are always welcome, it is a good opportunity to network with industry and academia.

Coding Standards – any standard you like

We (those who develop software) still argue over coding standards. I do not refer to meaningful discussions over clarity, readability or group/project management. I mean crazy, ranting and aggressive behaviour towards one another over a ‘trivial’ matter.

Before anyone jumps on my face for using the word ‘trivial’, I offer the following advice:

  • If you work at a place with a compelling reason to adopt a style, adopt it and join in on constructive discussions about its use at the appropriate time.
  • If you have a personal preference, then apply it consistently and bask in the loveliness of your own code.

I do not think code standards are trivial and pointless. I think they are important and create clarity. I think arguing about code standards is unimportant. Actually, I think arguing about code standards is more than unimportant, I think it can be destructive for communities in general. It really does not matter what the requirements are, we have programs to format source code at the speed of a key stroke.

PHP, for example, has a number of standards to consider:

That list is not exhaustive, there are many other code standards to consider and they are usually related to various application frameworks. Big choices, big decisions – so big that I can configure my IDE of choice (PhpStorm) to convert my source code to any of them, almost instantly. I can also configure hooks to format code according to a project specifications, which can even be done automatically before commits. Unless you are pair-programming and decide on a mutually acceptable standard, code in whatever standard you like and simply convert it for your needs.

Why argue? Get along with each other and create software instead; you might even catch yourself smiling more!

A Plea for Help

I will soon be talking in schools in my role as a STEM Ambassador and hope some of you might help me with an endeavour. With the introduction of a new computing curriculum in schools, I will be talking to school pupils about computing in the wide world and what an education in computing might lead to. I am not ‘selling’ computing over other subjects, I am letting people know about the opportunities that computing can lead to.

One thing I would really like to do is make a video, because listening to a myriad of lovely, interesting people will be even better than just me, talking.


I hope you’re interested. If you are, what follows is a little more detail on how you can help turn my presentation into something special.

Using a web cam, phone or other video recording device (a steady one, if you can, maybe a tripod); make a short (30 seconds to 2 minutes) video introduction of (pick any of these you like):

  • Your name, where you’re from and what you do.
  • How you know me, or met me, or even just your Bacon number.
  • Why you like (love/get fanatical/are inspired by) computing.
  • How you learned or studied computing, and what discipline you chose.
  • How you use computing in the things you do every day.
  • What you hope to do with computing in the future.
  • Why you would love to be studying computing for the first time, today.

If you decide to help me out, please leave a comment and I will organise collection and answer any questions you might have. Please keep it school safe! I don’t want to edit your message into oblivion to avoid being banned from schools. If you’re a wizard at video editing and can make an extra special job of it, please do so. I will be learning video editing as I go a long.

I volunteer my time to STEM activities, so I do not have a budget for this activity. I will be relying on your generosity and your time – both highly valued. I will need your permission to use the videos for the purpose of inspiring the new computing generation. If you wish me to follow a specific license, please tell me.

Alan Turing – Pardon Me?

In what way does it make sense for the state to forgive Alan Turing for…well, being himself? A summary from BBC News:

Computer pioneer and codebreaker Alan Turing has been given a posthumous royal pardon.

It addresses his 1952 conviction for homosexuality for which he was punished by being chemically castrated.

The conviction meant he lost his security clearance and had to stop the code-cracking work that had proved vital to the Allies in World War Two.

The pardon was granted under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling.

It would seem appropriate for the state to apologise for its past actions and recognise that this is not a good way to treat other people. Making a request for the state to forgive him posthumously seems callous.

I agree with the sentiment, and by today’s standard it would seem abhorrent to treat a homosexual, or anyone else, in the way Alan Turing was treated. However, at the time he did break the law (however absurd it seems now). I can only imagine in 1952 that people saw appealing to law congruent with appealing to morality. I guess that might still be true today. Our law changes, of course, and I prefer that it does when it makes sense to do so. We must recognise the previous state of affairs and be responsible, at least in some measure, for how those decisions might have affected others. Instead of forgiving him, how about we forgive ourselves and work towards this never happening again?

As an admirer of Alan Turing’s work, it is easy to get caught up with him and his contribution to science, but I think it is a distraction in this case.

He should not get a pardon, or an apology, or an overturned sentence for being an extraordinary academic (he was) or someone who took part in crucial work for the government during World War II (which he did). It’s incredible that Turing managed to achieve any of his potential given the time he lived in. An individual pardon addresses none of the concerns of those in a similar situation without the privilege of being an internationally recognised, brilliantly keen mind. Most people are not extraordinary academics and did not do important code breaking work during World War II, but I imagine any ‘outlaws’ were caught and convicted in much the same way as Turing. While I appreciate the message that I think Ed Miliband is trying to convey, I think it misses the mark. The implication being homosexuals that were not extraordinary academics and WW2 code breakers somehow still deserve it – they were not redeemed by their extraordinary brilliance! Can we just say sorry, at least, without caveats, to everyone that had to deal with this?

When laws exist that make it illegal to be yourself, when you do no harm to others, we know that is wrong. Let’s not come off like callous idiots after the fact by forgiving someone (anyone) for the trouble of going through it. We can get on with honouring Alan Turing while we are at it.

Brooklyn Beta 2013

I have yet to fully ‘come-down’ from Brooklyn Beta. The come-down started the moment I walked away and it was intense. I had just experienced three days of cerebral stimulation and energising company. Walking to High Street station was ‘cold-turkey’, sobering and sombre. The sombre mood ebbed as the A-train took me North towards 185th Street. I felt privileged, energised and optimistic. I have a lot to consider. Enough about me, for now. What about Brooklyn Beta?

A Conference, Literally

When I think of industry conferences, I am often reminded of commercials and big unveilings of things you sort of know about already. Brooklyn Beta is a conference, the way a conference should be done. Brooklyn Beta brings many creative and technical individuals together in a friendly and a surprisingly, given 1300+ attendees, intimate atmosphere. Personally, I wanted to spend some time with some top designers and get a feel for the design process. I was not disappointed, and I met a wider range of web types too!

The major themes I gleaned from the event:

  • Platforms make for progress
  • Make something you love
  • Create more value than you take
  • Work hard, be nice
  • Use the web to get people off the web

I will not review the talks because others have already done so, particularly in the form of sketch notes. Check out @evalottchen‘s Flickr and Elyse Viotto‘s Blog – particularly for the beautiful and practical sketch notes of the event (I am envious).

The setting for Brooklyn Beta was the Duggal Greenhouse, Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is a grand edifice, sporting a spectacular view of the Williamsburg Bridge (inadequately captured by my phone).

View of the Williamsburg Bridge from the Duggal Navy Yard, Brooklyn.
View of the Williamsburg Bridge from the Duggal Navy Yard, Brooklyn.

The Invisible Dog

I was privileged to attend a series of talks and activities over the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the main event. The Invisible Dog Art Centre is located in Brooklyn, New York. A wonderful little venue that lends itself well to the Beta crowd. There was an art exhibition on display during the event. Approximately 300 people attended the art house and were treated to a variety of talks, demonstrations and local cuisine. All this against the back drop of Brooklyn, in an area that appears to be going through a renaissance. The neighbourhood is a friendly and vibrant place with oodles of character and charm. Brooklyn is a wonderful place to walk. Street walking with a ‘coffee-to-go’ is a personal favourite.

There were a number of things to discuss, some of which I am honour bound to not discuss (love the term FriendDA). The highlights for me were David Marquet‘s talk on leadership, Cloud Typography by H&FJ and a visit from Code Club co-founder, Clare Sutcliffe. A real treat for me at The Invisible Dog sessions were the generous break times, including coffee, with ample time to talk with other attendees.

What’s Next?

There’s a lot for me to take onboard, a lot of concepts and practices to think about. I gained many insights into areas of the industry, craft and practice that I can take with me into new projects. Personally, I’m going to start with the following:

  • Change working environments as explained by David Marquet.
  • Practice sketching for the purpose of note taking – this will be a huge challenge for me.
  • Tackle my code clubs with renewed vigour, concentrate on enabling the material resources.
  • Consider design workflow and integration into current and future software development projects.

If you’re a developer, designer or other form of web professional – visit Brooklyn Beta! To everyone with whom I shared some time and a drink, thank you!

Camera Photo of Brooklyn Beta 2013 Main Event.
Camera Photo of Brooklyn Beta 2013 Main Event.

Agile Staffordshire April 2013

Agile Staffordshire is running at Staffordshire University this month. It has been difficult finding a regular location recently, but Staffordshire University has some excellent facilities to host a good evening of software development topics. April’s meeting will be of particular interest to me as it is introducing Ruby, a language I have yet to use seriously. I am really looking forward to it.

In summary, the meeting will be at Beaconside Campus in Stafford and will start at 19:00 in K102, The Octagon. Full details of the evening are available on the Agile Staffordshire Blog. I hope to see people there.