Sunday, 13 December 2015

Uncle Bob Comes to Norwich

Ever since I started Agile East Anglia (one of the groups which merged to form SyncNorwich) I’ve had the ambition of bringing great speakers to Norwich. It started with Rachel Davies, Allan Kelly and Liz Keogh. Then I was able to fulfil another ambition by having Kevlin Henney open the first tech conference I ran in Norwich. Since then we’ve had a whole host of stars from the software world come to Norwich to speak, including Russel Winder, Jon Jagger and the fantastic Jon Skeet. Getting speakers who are based in the UK to come and speak is relatively easy. Getting international speakers relies mostly on timing.

There are a handful of software engineers who have changed the face of programming for the better for everyone. Robert ‘Uncle Bob’ Martin is one such software engineer. I first saw Uncle Bob speak at an ACCU conference many years ago and he was fantastically entertaining and informative. I was then lucky enough to see Bob again at Skills Matter one evening when I was being interviewed at a bank in London. Again, he was totally sensational and I’ve been working towards getting him to speak in Norwich ever since. After a few false starts, it finally all came together last night, in Norwich.

Bob was training at Skills Matter in London and agreed to come and see us in Norwich at the end of his final day there. So we put our faith in Abellio Greater Anglia to get him to Norwich in time for the later than usual kick off. Our faith was well placed as the 17:30 from London Liverpool street rolled into Norwich on time.

I was manning the door, as I often do, when one of the guys I used to work with at Aviva appeared, grinning from ear-to-ear, and asking me “Is he here? Is he really here?”. I wasn’t the only one who was excited!

Bob has a huge personality and this is enhanced by a commanding voice with a very entertaining tone. He started off by asking us how many biological parents and grandparents and great grandparents, etc. we all had. And this led into the topic on man’s evolution and migration from Africa to the rest of the world, clearly a topic of great interest to uncle Bob.

Then we got into architecture. Bob took us through how to design systems in a way which decouples them from frameworks used to deploy and interact with them. He explained the importance of interface boundaries, how they help make systems easier to write automated tests for and allow many of the architectural decisions to be delayed as long as possible. In one example, the decision on which database to use was deferred for so long that it was never needed.

Bob was as entertaining as he was informative. A strong message delivered with elegance and well timed humour. The hour flew by and after a couple of questions, Bob grabbed a beer, signed some books and spoke to everyone. We know he enjoyed his time with us and we loved having him here. We hope Bob will be back soon.

I’m not yet done with the speakers I want to bring to Norwich. Another speaker we’ve tried to get time and again is Michael Feathers and he’s coming to open NorDevCon in February. Also on my list are Dan North, Mike Cohn, Kent Beck,  Andrei Alexandrescu, Scott Meyers and James Coplien.

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