Sunday, 16 October 2016

Norfolk Developers: How email works... & Fabric

James Taylor

What: How email works... & Fabric

When: Wednesday, 9th November 2016, 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Where: The Union Building, 51-59 Rose Lane, Norwich, NR1 1BY


How email works... and why you should care. 
Steve Engledow (@stilvoid)

A brief history of some of the aged protocols that underpin the internet and email in particular, a look at the security implications of the way email works, and some steps you can take to improve your safety.

Fabric: Fast one line consistent deployments across multiple servers 
James Taylor (@jmons)

For small organizations, or even hobbyists, deploying modern systems can become annoyingly complex. There are several solutions which we’ll look at briefly, before doing a deep dive and demonstration of how I use “Fabric” to do controlled continual deployments with no stress and maximum fun. In this session we will be doing a live-code demonstration, as well as taking continual questions and heckling is encouraged. Even if you can’t code, but manage sysops or coders, hopefully you’ll get to see what low stress deployments can look like.

James Taylor

James works at Proxama by day inventing new and interesting methods of payments, and works on various startups at night (@getimperium, tether). He despises all programming languages, but some more than others, and is currently the NorDevCon "Just a Minute : Technical Edition" reigning champion (mainly due to a rant about PHP). (This profile contains an annoying mismatched bracket.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Good Code: Kevlin Henney Full Day Workshop

What: Good Code: Kevlin Henney Full Day Workshop

When: Wednesday, 23rd November 2016, 10am

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

How much: £35.00


Good Code 
Kevlin Henney (@kevlinhenney)

We often talk about good code — that we would like to write it, that there isn't enough of it, that it should not be considered an optional attribute of a codebase. We often talk about it but, when it comes to being precise, we don't always agree what constitutes good code, nor do we necessarily share a common view on its value.

This one-day tutorial and workshop explores what properties we want from a codebase and, therefore, what we can deduce to be good. These conclusions can sometimes be surprising and counter-intuitive! This session will explore some common guidelines on what is considered good, from expression to subsystem, from naming to tests, from fluent to SOLID. We will look at the consequences of good and not-so-good code from point of view of economics, day-to-day work, people and runtime performance and reliability.

Kevlin Henney

Kevlin is an independent consultant and trainer based in the UK. His development interests are in patterns, programming, practice and process. He has been a columnist for various magazines and web sites, including Better Software, The Register Application Development Advisor, Java Report and the C/C++ Users Journal. Kevlin is co-author of A Pattern Language for Distributed Computing and On Patterns and Pattern Languages, two volumes in the Pattern-Oriented Software Architecture series. He is also editor of the 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know book.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Naked Element’s software for Fountain reduces processing time by 95%

Fountain Partnership Limited are a digital marketing company based in Norwich, established in 2008. With a team of experts, Fountain are able to identify a company’s growth opportunities and build a customised strategy for the best results and command market share. Their strategies drive browsers to client’s websites, increasing opportunities to convert browsers into customers and then increase customer value by testing and measuring. In order to do this, they specialise in the optimization of search engines and conversion rates, as well as pay per click advertising. In order to do this, Fountain uses a combination of pay-per-click advertising, search engine optimisation and conversion rate optimisation.

The problem Fountain were faced with was a time consuming one. When advertisements needing changing or updating it was a painstaking process. They had to upload a new set of adverts from a spreadsheet, going through each one manually to pause all of the old adverts in order to make room for the new ones. it would take days in some cases.

“What was taking 20 hours of work is only now taking an hour.”

Naked Element were chosen to build a script which would allow Fountain to manage one of their largest clients in Google AdWords, saving time and ultimately money. This particular client currently had 75 individual accounts. What the Fountain team were doing to update these was logging into an account, creating the new adverts, then log out of that account, then log into the next one 75 times over!

So what was Naked Element’s solution? In simple terms a script was created that allowed the user to specify AdWords accounts, campaigns and ad groups and then to enter a search, replacing each with a phrase or word. When running, the script would look through all of the ad groups in the campaigns specified and would copy the ads found with the search phrase, update the field with the updated phrase and pause the previous ads.

For example: A client has a campaign called ‘Car Sales’ with three ad groups – blue, red and black. Within those groups there are ads with the description “newest model”. The search phrase “newest model” is entered, followed by the update phrase “drive away today” and the script is run. All of the previous ads with “newest model” will be paused and replaced with the new ads containing the phrase “drive away today”.

“By developing this software to improve process efficiency, Naked Element has saved us four weeks worth of work per year!” said Laura Jennings, Strategic Director at Fountain. “The script they built us is saving up to 95% of our processing time. What was taking 20 hours of work is now only taking an hour – a big saving. ” When software produces such immediate benefits, the advantages are clear.

“The process of working with Naked Element was really straightforward, they tried hard to extract the correct information from us. Lewis, the developer, came out to see us several times. Documentation was also really easy to understand.” The only issue Fountain had was during the creation of the script, as it didn’t always work quite as expected. “However Lewis was quick to identify and resolve the problems. It was never too much trouble to sort out an issue and assistance was always available via telephone.”

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Ever wondered what an algorithm is?

Algorithms are everywhere. Our children are even taught about them at school, but have you ever found yourself wondering what an algorithm actually is? Maybe you’ve thought they’re something used by computers and created by computer programmers, but don’t really know what they are?

The dictionary defines  an algorithm as:

“A set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps.”

Algorithms come in all shapes and sizes. They can be extremely complicated, but they can also be very simple and easy to understand.

Examples of more complex algorithms include those used to price financial products in a bank or to determine the best route between two points in a satellite navigation system. Simpler algorithms include those used to sort lists of numbers, such as Bubble Sort.

Bubble Sort

Bubble Sort is one of the easiest algorithms to understand. As its name suggests, it’s an algorithm used for sorting. Often the easiest list of things to sort are numbers. Bubble Sort works by comparing each number in the list to the number next to it and swapping them with each other if the numbers are in the wrong order. This process is performed again and again until a pass over the list requires no swaps. At this point the list is sorted. Knowing when to stop sorting the list is just as important as knowing how to sort the list. As we know when to stop (when a pass has no swaps), Bubble Sort can be used for lists of any size.

The easiest way to demonstrate Bubble Sort is with a simple example. Take the list of numbers:

3, 2, 1

We can use Bubble Sort to reverse the list. The first time we pass over the list the first two numbers are 3 and 2. 3 is greater than 2 so we swap them over:

2, 3, 1

Next we compare 3 and 1. 3 is greater than 1, so we swap them over:

2, 1, 3

There are no more pairs of numbers to compare on this pass and there were two swaps (3 & 2 and 3 & 1) so we pass over the list again. The first two numbers on the second pass are 2 and 1. 2 is greater than 1, so we swap them over:

1, 2, 3

Even though we have successfully reversed the list, we’re not finished. Next we compare 2 and 3. 2 is not greater than 3 so we don’t swap them. There are no more pairs of numbers to compare on the second pass and there was a single swap (1 & 3) so we pass over the list again.

1, 2, 3

The first two numbers to compare are 1 and 2. 1 is not greater than 2, so we don’t swap them. Then we compare 2 and 3. 2 is not greater than 3 so we don’t swap them. There are no more pairs of numbers to compare on the third pass and there were no swaps so we’ve finished and successfully reversed the list.

Sorting Algorithms in the Real World

Bubble Sort is taught to trainee software engineers as it’s easy to understand and implement. However, it’s rarely actually used in the real world as it’s inefficient and there are other more efficient sorting algorithms, such as Quicksort, which are only a little more difficult to understand implement.

Sorting occurs in all sorts of systems in the real world. One example is in the software used to sort mail into the order a postman will deliver it as he walks along his round. Postcodes and other address elements are read into the system and sophisticated algorithms used to sort the mail into the correct order.

The next time someone mentions algorithms to you, remember it’s a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Humanizing Tech & The evolution of SEO and is it dead?

What: Humanizing Tech & The evolution of SEO and is it dead?

When: Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 6:30pm to 9:00pm

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

How much: Free


Humanizing Tech 
Karen Longdin

Being brilliant technically is only half the battle when it comes to being successful within a business. An exploration of how to humanize technology to two ends:

To converse with your business, get your point heard and your projects sponsored.

And to manage and lead other technical people and teams who may know more, better or different to you; what happens when your technical knowledge is no longer enough?

Karen Longdin 

As Head of IT Development and Architecture for Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK, Karen heads up a team of developers and QA engineers working across Web, back end, reporting and third party systems. Previously having been Head of IT at Stansted Airport and Acting IT Director of Suffolk Police Karen has worked across a variety of industries both private and public sector with a mix of internal and outsource arrangements and across the breadth of technical disciplines. Beginning her career in software testing and moving through various process disciplines most of Karen’s work has been enabled by great business relationships looking for outcomes that work on both sides of the fence. Having been responsible for some heavy weight austerity driven programmes and then the technical separation of Stansted Airport from Heathrow post sale, working now in an environment that is driving investment for profit is a breath of fresh air and allows some much needed time to reflect on, and share, some of the skills and tips Karen’s gained over the years.

The evolution of SEO and is it dead? 
Ellie Morgan

It’s 2016 and once again SEO is dead. We review why SEO is still important and look at the evolutive journey SEO and digital marketing practices have taken over the past 10 years.

Ellie Morgan

Ellie heads up the dedicated search division at Studio 24 and is a, dedicated digital marketing professional. An Illustration graduate from Anglia Ruskin University, she fell down the rabbit hole of online marketing at the Norwich-based empire Jarrold & Sons. Following this, she moved to Westland Horticulture group working over several websites mainly with SEO, content management, email design and marketing.Since being at Studio 24, Ellie has worked with a variety of brands giving her and the search team a wealth of knowledge to work with budgets of all sizes, while providing the best possible results. For Ellie the most important thing about SEO and digital marketing is to consider the user above all else.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Spring Boot in Action

by Craig Walls
ISBN-13: 978-1617292545

You can be pretty sure of what you’re going to get with a Manning ‘In Action’ book and Spring Boot in Action is no exception.  It’s clear, friendly while not being over familiar and above all a pleasure to read. In fact I struggled to put it down. I’ve got back into reading recently, but this is the first technical book I have fully read for quite a while.

The thing is I’m a huge fan of Java. This brings me into a lot of ridicule. There are lots of other software development technologies such as Ruby on Rails and Node.js which are arguably more productive because they do a lot of the standard web application boilerplate for you. The Spring library provides the Java developer with a lot of web application boilerplate as well, but there is no getting away the fact that Java is more verbose than some of the other options and you need a lot more code and configuration to wire the boilerplate together.

Enter Spring Boot. Spring Boot is about taking away a lot of the pain of developing Java web applications with Spring. Spring Boot automatically configures most of a Spring Web application for you. It takes care of most of the dependency management and servlet configuration and creates and injects commonly used beans into the application context as, when, and if they are needed. This drastically reduces the amount of code and configuration you need to write and it’s clever enough to work out which dependencies you need and employs tested configurations to make sure they play nicely together. Plus you can reduce the amount of code further by writing your application in Groovy or a combination of Groovy and Java. You can even take advantage of Grails.

Suddenly Java becomes a lot more competitive in terms of productivity with Ruby on Rails and Node.js, with the added advantage of a statically type, non-interpreted language running on the JVM. I’ve frequently seen Java Spring web applications outperforming similar Ruby on Rails applications. These are very exciting times indeed for Java.

Spring Boot in Action clearly explains all of this and more including running an embedded tomcat and testing with Selenium. It’s not a long book and the last 35% or so is appendices, but it’s the sort of useful information you need as a Spring Boot developer. Being short also means that Spring Boot does feel like a massive mountain to climb and conquer.  If I had one criticism of the book, it would be that the chapter on deployment should be near the beginning, not right at the end.

Naked Element will soon be developing their first Spring Boot application and we’re really looking forward to it.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

The New One Minute Manager

Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson
ISBN-13: 978-0008128043

I'm not and have never been a people person, but I try. I am and have always been a techy. I managed teams at two different companies before I formed Naked Element. In both cases I was as green as I was cabbage looking. I had a lot to learn about managing up and down and what encourages and discourages people. Unfortunately I didn't have the best guidance either.

When I want to get better at software development or Agile or something else technical, I consult experienced people to learn. In most cases, for me, this involves reading a book. So why should it be any different for people? Well, people are more complex than software development, Agile or any other tech, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from other's experience.

The One Minute Manager is a book about people and how to get the best from them. It describes three practices to help. One of the best things about the book isn't just the excellent advice with clear examples and explanation, but the fact it's easy to read and takes only a few hours. I read most of it one evening and finished it the next morning.

I'm not going to list the practices here - go read the book. It showed me what I was doing wrong, why what I was  doing didn't work and how I could improve. It's not a silver bullet, there is work I am going to have to do to get better.

The only criticism I have, other that some of the cheesy dialogue, is that there are no written examples of the first practice. I'm having to go to other sources for this, but at least they're readily available.

If you feel you could be better at managing people, and even if you think you're already good at it, start with this book and get better. I've already started doing the practices and I'm looking forward to the results.

Monday, 29 August 2016

The Medusa Chronicles

The Medusa Chronicles
Alastair Reynolds & Stephen Baxter
ISBN-13: 978-1473210189

Arthur C. Clarke was my favourite author for many years and I loved his collaborations with Stephen Baxter. Baxter brought a new dimension to Clarke's, not just science fiction, but science based fiction. The stories became more human, more exciting and had better characters. So when my current favourite author, Alastair Reynolds, got together with Stephen Baxter to write a story based on other writings by Arthur C. Clarke it had the potential to be something fantastic. And it is!

I love stories with references to other stories and pop culture and the Medusa Chronicles is riddled with them. I've complained about Interstellar (film) being a rehash of Clarke's 2001 in a previous review and there are plenty of references and similarities to 2001 here, especially with the exploration of inner Jupiter and the events which take place inside the sun.  However, in the Medusa Chronicles, this is the amazing climax to an all round superb story.

The main character, Howard Falcon, is superbly flippant, sarcastic, cynical and intelligent. He is surrounded by other equally brilliant and well thought out characters. The machine, Adam, is one of the better rehashings of HAL and captures, the young and naïve, yet brilliantly intelligent and developing intelligence perfectly.

If, like me, you're longing for Reynolds to recapture his Revelation space glory, then the Medusa Chronicles, along with Slow Bullets, is the book for you and it goes a long, long way.

Next I'm moving on to The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. A new author for me and, apparently, superb space opera.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Talking Technology 2016

Naked Element are going to be at the Norfolk Chamber Talking Technology 2016 event on 21st September, why not come along and see us?

Talking Technology 2016

An interactive event aimed at developing the use of digital skills and innovative technologies in business to boost productivity and profitability.  

Talking Technology will feature expert local and national key note speakers, practical workshops, an expert exhibition and plenty of networking opportunities, including a networking lunch.

  • 15 speakers
  • 4 workshops
  • 16 exhibitors (including Naked Element!)
  • 150+ businesses
Register for your tickets here:

We look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Pure Metal Comes to Norwich: Arch Enemy & Soilwork

I don’t recall if I’ve seen Soilwork before, but I’ve always been aware of them. When I discovered they would be playing with Arch Enemy I bought up a lot of their stuff and started listening to it. As metal goes it’s ok and very listenable. Live they were much the same. Thier sound wasn’t all it could have been, and I initially put that down to the Waterfront PA. For a bunch of clearly aging blokes they were really rather good and had lots of energy. I wouldn’t go to just see them again, but I’d check them out if they were on the same bill as someone else I wanted to see.

Arch Enemy are one of my all time favorite bands. I’ve seen them several times, but never in a venue as small as the Waterfront. I’ve never been disappointed with Arch Enemy and on this occasion they were better than all of the bands (including Symphony X, Fear Factory and Vallenfyre) I saw last weekend at Bloodstock. Which is disappointing in itself!

This was the first time I’d seen Arch Enemy with the singer who replaced Angela Gossow a couple years ago, Alissa White-gluz. Alissa was every bit as good as Angela, if not better.

I couldn’t have asked for a much better set, my favorites from Doomsday Machine (although a run through of the whole album would have been even better), several of my favorites from Khaos Legions and from War Eternal, as well old favorites like Dead Eyes See No Future and We Will Rise.

They played a sold, entertaining 90 minutes. Michael Amott can really play (guitar). Unlike Soilwork, I could hear every note, suggesting the PA at the waterfront wasn’t that bad, but Soilwork’s setup was.

What we need now is a new album and a headline slot at Bloodstock 2017.