I've been attending some of the technical events in the East Anglia region for a few years now, starting with SyncNorwich back in 2011. IJYI have presented at NorDev and run SyncNorwich's sister event SyncIpswich. The Norwich events are organised by Paul Grenyer (@pjgrenyer) of Naked Element (@nakedelement).
As appetite grew within a thriving tech and startup community, SyncNorwich spawned SyncConf in 2013 which grew into what's now NorDEVCon. A couple of us attended last year and found it so useful that last Friday we closed our office and took the whole team up to the Kings Centre in Norwich to attend NorDEVCon 2015.
NorDEVCon now has 5 "tracks" to chose from occupying pretty much all of the space at the Kings Centre across three floors - A tech track, a design and tech track, a business track, a workshop track and an agile track. This means there's something for everyone in IT, even if you're not a developer.
Huw Sawyer (@huwsayer) gave an introduction on “Being a #TechNation Cluster - how we got here and what it means.” referring to a Tech City UK report on the growth of digital clusters. It's great to see such recognition of what's been achieved and how people are getting involved in the tech community.
Jon Skeet (@jonskeet) then gave an energetic opening keynote on "Developing Passion, in many senses". Jon is a Java developer at Google and writes books on C# (whilst also pushing feature requests and bug reports to the Microsoft C# team). I've seen some of Jon's talks before, most notably the "Abusing C#" piece he did at last years conference - probably the most entertaining technical talk I've seen! This one was different though, partially since there's a new business track at NorDEVCon and so Jon tried to keep the technical content to a minimum. Jon spoke about how he finds passion in his work, even for tasks that some people may find beneath them. He often pulls at interesting threads and unravels a ball of wool (resulting in the intracicies of the infamous "Mongolian Vowel Separator")! He noted that the colleague who takes an interest in what they are doing is often more fun to work with, and spoke about how it's important to know your limits in what you're doing and find a "Work / Life Balance". One interesting point that Jon made was that the conference wasn't so much about learning, but for gaining enthusiasm and passion for what we do as developers, to spark interest and to want to go away and learn more.
Next up, we saw Dom Davis (@idomdavis) speak about RainBird AI's (@RainbirdAI) use of Docker containers to allow them to easily unit test their software, even with very tight restrictions on dependency versions. Another energetic speaker, I've seen Dom present before, often with a huge collection of rapidly changing stock image slides. This time Dom chose to concentrate on the subject at hand, leaving a shell cursor on the screen behind him, and ensuring that we all fully understood how Docker could allow us to more easily manage our software environments. Of course, there was also the obligatory selfie...
We stayed seated to watch Anders Fisher (@atleastimtrying) from Developer Mountain and Richard Astbury (@richorama) from two10degrees, both representing Ipswich (yay!) do a live coding session, with Anders coding the UI and Richard writing the back end, hoping to meet in the middle and have a usable piece of voting software. They committed their code to github and created a deployment into Microsoft Azure to allow their audience to test the software as they were working. Everything went swimmingly, and before long the audience were voting on the live system (mainly for the "Anders is cheating" option). There were also hooks into Yo!, a curious iPhone app that allows you to simply send a "Yo!" to someone, in this case to send a message to Ander's phone whenever a deployment took place.
After a buffet lunch, we watched Jon Skeet report on the new features of C# 6, a release unusual in the fact that there's no main focus, simply dealing with many of the language feature requests that have accumulated over the years.
A notable session of the afternoon was Kevlin Henney's (@kevlinhenney) "Seven Ineffective Habits of Many Programmers" in which he spoke about some of the accepted norms of software development that make code less readable or simply harder to understand. We definitely picked up some useful hints and tips here to ensure that code is as much about reading as it is writing.
A thoroughly entertaining closing keynote was presented by Rupert Redington (@rupertredington) and Harry Harrold (@harryharrold) involving green screens, fire and ticker tape explosions! In this session they examined the agile manifesto and discussed ways that it could be updated to fit more with today's software teams. NorDEVCon definitely went out with a BANG!
One of my favourite parts of NorDEVCon was actually what went on after the conference itself closed. We brought conference dinner tickets which involved dinner with a twist - conference speakers were distributed across tables and with each course, attendees changes seats. This meant we had the opportunity to have, in some cases a one-on-one chat with some of the speakers. I spent starters with Dr Neil Garner (@Neil_Proxama) of Proxama PLC discussing general business and mobile payment solutions. Mains was spent with Kevlin Henney and Jon Skeet discussing code hygiene and how it can be reflective of a programmers general logic cleanliness, and calendar and date / time implementations, in particular a .NET library that Jon is involved in - NodaTime. With dessert, I had a chat with Seb Rose (@sebrose) whose sessions I missed through the day, and discussed agile and TDD. All of the speakers were highly supportive of what we're doing at IJYI and offered some great advice.
So there we have it. A packed day with some fantastic sessions, and an further enthusiasm for software development. If you're involved in software development, as a developer, business analyst, tester, project manager, scrum master or any other role, I highly suggest you attend next year. The conference is great value for money and you will come away with a whole list of things to investigate further and a passion to learn more.
About the author
Experienced Lead Developer / Technical Architect with a strong consultancy background and experience working with blue chip companies such as SEGA, Aviva, Willis Group, Mitsubishi Electric, British Gas and PayPoint.