Saturday, 11 November 2017

Lisa Vincent Reconnects with her Comfort Zone at nor(DEV):biz.

My comfort zone had left the building.

Heading out on a cold, dark, Monday evening to yet another Norwich networking event is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s certainly not mine, and definitely not with the cream of the Norfolk tech sector midway through my first attack of a winter cold in I don’t know how long.

We all do things we think might help us to build relationships in business and gain favours with those people around us that might help to push us in the right direction. Accepting an invitation to the November nor(DEV):biz dinner at The Library Restaurant in Norwich was one of those such occasions.

I had worked opposite The Library for about 3 years and not actually made it into the building. Seeing as I have been known to travel many miles through the most challenging of conditions for some decent eats and beautiful architecture, I wrapped myself up and loaded with tissues, I braved the elements resolutely deciding to be back home and in bed by 9:30pm. I could get through this. I would dine and dash.

When I arrived just after 7pm, there were about 20 people gathered in the bar, discussing all manner of tech related topics I knew nothing about. A quick scan revealed that I didn’t know anyone in the room either. I hadn’t just stepped out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone had left the building, the locks had been changed and the eviction notice was nailed firmly to the front door. As my heart sank further into the 120-year old oak floor, one of the other attendees warmly introduced themselves. With that, so did another and third asked if I would like a drink. Result!

We moved upstairs to a private dining room for the main event where I got chatting to a number of people from various sectors, not just tech. We discussed work, families and life, as well as the issues people were facing in business. Which, it turns out, is the same whatever sector you’re in.

The energy in the room was very different to other ‘networking’ events I’ve been to. It felt more human and more open, more confident even. This was a group of some of the brightest minds in Norwich. Intelligent and engaging human beings who are passionate about what they do, enjoying dinner together in lovely surroundings. There was no agenda, no selling, just an unpretentious coming together of intelligent thoughts, ideas and the potential for collaboration with a genuine desire to help each other.

Between courses we listened to a personal account from Laura Flood, Lecturer in IT from City College Norwich, about her own journey into tech and how businesses can help and support new talent into the sector here in Norfolk. If Norfolk is going to be competitive, we need to build the right skills base and create the right jobs for our young people that also benefit the businesses that employ them.

Rather than being irritating, the lengthy delay before the dessert arrived at 10pm, provided a welcome opportunity to talk to even more people in the room. These included software engineers, branding specialists, digital agencies, senior business banking staff and even an accountant.

It seems that in the past, fear may have held me back from exploring the vibrant tech scene we have here in Norwich. If my experience of the nor(DEV)biz: dinner is anything to go by those fears are wholly unfounded. This is an area of business, with a culture, energy and group of individuals I would love to work with more.

I really enjoyed my evening. The food was great, the company fantastic and The Library Restaurant is a stunning location. I’m pleased to report that by the time I left, not only was I firmly reunited with my comfort zone, but we’re planning on attending the December nor(DEV)biz: dinner together.

Words: Lisa Vincent
Norfolk Developers: norfolkdevelopers.com

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

What Makes a ‘Machine’?


Defining what it is to be a machine is tricky to say the least. In everyday terms a machine is something man-made that performs an automated function. Computers are often referred to as machines but they are much more than the limited definition above. Perhaps, instead of trying to pin down exactly what a ‘machine’ is in the 21st century, it would be more pertinent to define what a machine is to us.

Isaac Asimov once described machines as ‘the true humanising influence’. In his mind machines would only be used to perform functions and carry out tasks that make life possible, leaving humans more time to do the things that make life worthwhile. Essentially through their ability to perform mundane but necessary actions, machines would allow us to indulge in every part of life outside basic functions, to allow us to enjoy what it is to be human. From a more modern writer’s point of view, machines have gone beyond their initial point of freeing us to taking us over. Stephen King focuses stories on machines gone mad in our increasingly automated world. In his film ‘Maximum Overdrive’, a classic Eighties trashy horror, any machine with moving parts becomes homicidal. Lawnmowers, Walkmans, vending machines and lorries are all affected by a passing comet’s radiation (don’t think about it too hard, it’s not meant to be taken seriously), come to life and start killing people. The only solution (spoiler alert) is to find a place where there are no machines, hide there and wait for the astrological phenomenon to pass. In the film our plucky heroes manage to find a sailing boat and a completely deserted island in the middle of a lake, but in reality finding a place without the presence of even the most basic machine would be practically impossible. In his book ‘Cell’, King uses the ubiquity of the mobile phone to reset the whole of humanity back to its animal instincts. Anyone who doesn’t have a cell phone at the time is soon killed and eaten by those that did. In his view technology and automation are so pervasive that they can plausibly (forgetting the green comet radiation) be used to cause global disasters affecting the whole of humanity. Not a virus or giant tidal waves, but machines we invented and built ourselves.

Conversely, anarchic cartoon South Park showed us that while we might think we don’t need machines, we still want them, especially when it comes to fulfilling mundane, everyday tasks. Characters in a recent episode complained that they were losing their jobs and being replaced by machines, but when given the chance to work as the electronic assistant ‘Alexa’ in the Amazon Dot device, they found the job so demeaning they quit. They realised that adding items to shopping lists and playing songs on demand were jobs that were beneath human beings and left Alexa to it. Who knew that technology would evolve to the point where an episode of South Park would prove a point made by Isaac Asimov nearly fifty years earlier?

Popular culture and plot devices aside, machines, of any kind, were created for a purpose – to make things better. Either to speed up processes, increase yield, reduce workload; to make things safer, quicker or more accurate. When we see a machine in this way, they become a tool to be used, rather than technology to be relied upon. We choose to use them, rather than to not be able to live without them. Rather than our future coming crashing down on us because of our reliance on our own creations, machines will hopefully become assistants to our way of life and give us more time to enjoy it. As Asimov said “It is machines that will do the work that makes life possible and that human beings will do all the other things that make life pleasant and worthwhile.”

Words: Lauren

Originally published: Naked Element

Saturday, 28 October 2017

W.A.S.P. Reidolize The Crimson Idol

If I had to give someone an album which was an example of heavy hetal, The Crimson Idol would fulfil the criteria. It is the best heavy metal album by any band ever and the second best album by any band ever. It’s not thrash, progressive or power metal. It’s just heavy metal.

Right from the opening track it’s clear why WASP’s 1992 masterpiece is the ultimate heavy metal album. Line up changes have always plagued WASP and by the time of the Crimson Idol, long time guitarist Chris Holmes had left the band and only Blackie Lawless was left. Did it matter? No, Blackie writes everything anyway and on The Crimson Idol he played everything except drums and lead guitar.

The first thing you notice is the the drums. They’re different and significantly better and more intricate than on any other WASP album. Then there’s the lead guitar work. Chris Holmes is good, but he’s no Bob Kulick (brother of Bruce who played with KISS in the early 90s). Of course you’ve got that signature BC Rich guitar sound and when you combine all of this, Blackie Lawless's unmistakeable vocals and a heavy dose of the ‘higher you fly the further you fall’ concept album lyrics culminating in the The Idol, the best song with the best guitar solo ever, it makes for a magnificent album.

I’ve seen WASP several times, including them playing The Crimson Idol all the way through in Nottingham in 2007. The concern then was whether latest guitarist Doug Blair would be able to perform The Idol guitar solo live as well as Bob Kulick had on record. No worries there it turns out. So I was really looking forward to seeing it again in Norwich in 2017.

However, I’m increasingly of the opinion that Blackie Lawless and long time bass player Mike Duda are beyond giving a shit and just going through the motions. They barely move, Blackie spends quite a lot of time with his back to the audience and only speaks to us briefly in the encore which consists of just four songs. Neither smile. Blackie looks a mess. Mind you, so does most of the audience. Adding insult to injury and complete contempt for the audience, Blackie doesn’t switch to an acoustic guitar for The Idol. Playing those parts on electric guitar changes and degrades the song. Fortunately Doug Blair and new drummer Aquiles Priester are superb musicians and showmen throughout. The definition in the UEA LCR PA could have been better.

Doesn’t sound like I enjoyed it does? I did! It was fantastic. It was amazing to step back into my teenage years of 25 years ago. 2015’s Golgotha is the only good WASP album since 1995’s Still Not Black Enough and the title track was a fantastic bonus in the encore. WASP have consistently released albums over a long career. They don’t seem to be going anywhere soon, so if you get the chance, go and see them. You’re unlikely to be disappointed.



Sunday, 22 October 2017

Pattern: Single CrUD Transaction

Software patterns have their roots in architecture. In 1978, Christopher Alexander published a book called ‘A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction‘ (ISBN-13: 978-0195019193) about the patterns he’d discovered designing buildings. A pattern can be thought of as a tried and tested way of doing something which can be applied in different contexts.  Think about how the Observer or Visitor pattern is implemented across languages such as Java, Ruby and JavaScript, where the different language idioms dictate slightly different implementations of the same basic pattern.

Software Patterns became popular with the publishing of the Gang of Four book, “Design patterns: elements of reusable object-oriented software” (ISBN-13: 978-0201633610) in 1994. It contains a number of patterns, most of which every developer should know, even if it’s to know to avoid the likes Singleton. However, these aren’t the only patterns! Indeed, patterns are not created, they are discovered and documented. Whole conferences are dedicated to software patterns (http://www.europlop.net/), where delegates are encouraged to bring their pattern write-ups for appraisal by their peers and the experts.

In 2000 I joined the ACCU, a group for programmers who strive for better software. I was encouraged by another member to write for the group’s magazine, but I didn’t think I’d have anything to contribute that someone better hadn’t already thought of and written about. As I gained experience I found I had quite a lot to write about and to challenge.

In the same way you’d have thought that 23 years after the Gang of Four book most if not all of the software patterns had been discovered and documented. However, it appears not and I was very surprised to find that what I’m calling the “Single CrUD Transaction” pattern, although used by many, doesn’t appear to have been written up anywhere publically. I checked with industry experts and they weren’t aware of it being written-up either.

This is my first software pattern write up and where better to share it for the first time than Norfolk Developers Magazine?

Name

Single CrUD Transaction

Intent

To create, update and delete items in a datastore within a single transaction.

Problem

Sometimes it’s necessary to create, update and delete items in a datastore in a single transaction. Traditional web applications support create, update and delete in separate transactions and require the page to be reloaded between each action.

Modern web applications allow the items of a list to be created, updated and deleted in a browser without any interaction with the server or the underlying datastore. Therefore when the list is sent to the server side it must determine which items are new, which already exist and must be updated and which have been removed from the list and must be deleted.

One simple solution is to delete all of the items from the datastore and simply replace them with the list of line items passed from the browser to the server. There are at least two potential drawbacks with this approach:

  1. If the datastore (such as a relational database) uses unique, numerical ids to identify each item in the list, the size of the ids can become very big, very quickly.
  2. If the datastore (such as a relational database) has other data which references the ids of the items in the list, the items cannot be deleted without breaking the referential integrity.

Solution

The Single CrUD Transaction pattern gets around these drawbacks by performing three operations within a single transaction:

  1. Delete all of the list items from the datastore whose ids are not in the list passed from the browser to the server.
  2. Update each of the items in the datastore whose ids match ids in the list passed from the browser to the server.
  3. Create new items in the datastore for each item in the list passed from the browser to the server which do not yet have ids.
Each action is executed within a single transaction so that if any individual action fails the list is returned to its original state.

Applicability

Use the Single CrUD transaction pattern when:

  • Datastores cannot have new items added, existing items updated and/or items removed in separate transactions.
  • Creating new ids for each item in the list each time the datastore is modified is expensive or cumbersome.
  • Removing all the items of a list from a datastore and recreating the list in the datastore breaks referential integrity.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages


  • Entire update happens within a single transaction.

Disadvantages


  • Three separate calls to the datastore within a single transaction.


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Event: Burkhard Kloss on The Ethics of Software & Panel: Talking to the clouds


Event: Burkhard Kloss on The Ethics of Software & Panel: Talking to the clouds

When: 6 November 2017 @ 6.30pm

Where: Whitespace, 2nd Floor, St James Mill, Whitefriars, Norwich, NR3 1TN

RSVP: https://www.meetup.com/preview/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/239616865

The Ethics of Software - some practical considerations
Burkhard Kloss
@georgebernhard

As Uncle Bob pointed out, software is everywhere, and without software, nothing works.

That gives us great power, and – as we all know – with great power comes great responsibility.

We have to make choices every day that affect others, sometimes in subtle and non-intuitive ways. To mention just a few:

  • What logs should we capture?
  • How does that change if we have to hand them over to the government?
  • Are our hiring practices fair? Are we sure about that?
  • Is there bias in our algorithms that unfairly disadvantages some groups of people?
  • Is the core function of our software ethical? How about if it’s deliberately misused?

I hope to raise a few of these questions, not to provide answers – I don’t have any – but to stimulate debate.

Burhard Kloss

I only came to England to walk the Pennine Way… 25 years later I still haven’t done it. I did, though, get round to starting an AI company (spectacularly unsuccessful), joining another startup long before it was cool, learning C++, and spending a lot of time on trading floors building systems for complex derivatives. Sometimes hands on, sometimes managing people. Somewhere along the way I realised you can do cool stuff quickly in Python, and I’ve never lost my fascination with making machines smarter.


Panel Discussion: Talking to the clouds

Conversational computing, the ability to talk to, an interact with a computer via voice, is becoming more and more prevalent. Most of us now have access to an intelligent assistant like Siri or Alexa, and how we interact with the devices is being defined. But are we going in the right direction. Should we be treating these devices as just "dumb computers", or should we speak to them as we do to other people?

Our panel of experts will discuss this topic with input from the audience as we look at one of the many areas where the question is not "can we?", but "should we?".

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

A review: nor(DEV):biz October 2017

The idea “Networking” strikes fear into the heart of many techies, but Norfolk Developers Business or nor(DEV):biz is different. The idea behind the monthly meetings over dinner at the Library Restaurant is to get tech companies in Norwich and Norfolk talking to each other and referring business between themselves and from external parties. It’s not just about tech companies though, we also invite people from academia (City College Norwich was represented tonight and the UEA attended the very first event), those running complementary business (such as accountants, lawyers, recruiters, etc), those looking to engage software companies and even those looking to be employed by them.

"It was relaxed and much like having a good dinner with a selection of your wittiest and most worldly wise friends !"
- Chris Sargisson, CEO Norfolk Chamber

Norwich has networking events coming out of its ears. nor(DEV):biz is different, not just because of the tech focus, but also because of the people who attend. Over the years Norfolk Developers has attracted the biggest personalities in the community (that’s you Dom Davis!) including many senior tech business owners. Yes, everyone has their one minute to speak to the group about who they are, what they do and what they’re looking for, but there’s no bell when your time is up and there’s humour, passion and interaction from the entire group. This isn’t just networking, this is building, bonding and rapport with people you may well work with in the future. It’s more than that, this is fun and raucous and entertaining. It’s a night out with friends rather than a pressure cooker for sales.

“Great event .Who would have thought that by having dinner with a bunch of techies I would learn that tomato ketchup is the best thing for smelly dog issues.. it just shows, never judge a book by its cover.” 
- Chris Marsh, AT&A BUSINESS INSURANCE BROKERS

At each nor(DEV):biz a member has the opportunity, not the obligation, to do a 15 minute spotlight. This is beyond their one minuter and the opportunity to give a more indepth overview of their business or something they are passionate about.

"Great evening arranged by Paul Grenyer and Dom Davis for the Norfolk Developers group. My highlight was Nikki and Tom Bool integrating the basics of Dog Training skills with leading a team in the workplace!"
- Anthony Pryke, Barclays 

For this, the fourth nor(DEV):biz, the spotlight was given by Nikki and Tom Bool. Nikki is a puppy trainer, while Tom runs a language services business, specialising in helping businesses market themselves and grow internationally. Nikki explained how to use positive reinforcement to encourage the right behavior in puppies, with some hilarious anecdotes. Tom went on to describe how similar techniques can be used to help foster the desired behavior in the people you work with. The spotlight fulfilled my favorite criteria by being both informative and entertaining.

"What a smashing group of people and thoroughly enjoyable puppy behaviours reflection on office management. "
 - Mike Peters, Evoke Systems

You know you’re onto a winner when you have to encourage people to leave and the conversation has moved from the table to a huddle by the doorway.  I’m already looking forward to the next nor(DEV):biz in November where we’re hoping to hear from Laura Flood and Anietie Ukpabio of City College, Norwich, about the young people they’re training to be software engineers.

If you’d like to attend nor(DEV):biz, please drop Paul an email on paul@norfolkdevelopers.com.


Monday, 25 September 2017

Norfolk Developers Magazine: AI

The first issue of the Norfolk Developers magazine (outside  of a conference) is out now and free to download!

This issue focuses on A.I., a topic we thought a good one to kick off with as everyone has an opinion about Artificial Intelligence, it affects our daily lives (see Dom Davis’ column about arguments with Alexa) and it gave us an excuse to use the awesome robot image on the front cover too.

It is because of people like you that we have  such a thriving tech community in Norwich and Norfolk, a community that has turned our Fine City into a Tech City. Without this passionate and dedicated community, there would be no reason for writers to contribute to this magazine, there would be no market for local companies to place adverts for, there would be no events to report from. Mainly, there would be no one to read it so thank you

Thursday, 24 August 2017

How much will my software cost?


The question we get asked the second most when speaking to clients and potential clients is “how much will my bespoke software cost to build?” This is extremely difficult to answer without lots of detail and even then the complexities of software development, the complexity of client requirements and clients changing needs over the course of a project make an accurate estimate challenging.

For this reason, most software development companies shy away from including prices on their website. In fact we checked the websites of a number of our competitors and the closest we found was one who offers a range of fee options from fixed price to a daily rate and a couple who ask for your budget when contacting them for more information. As a client, until you get that first email response, phone call or face-to-face meeting you’re no closer to understanding how much your software will cost. Even then it may be some time before you are any the wiser.

We can’t help you understand how much your project will cost until we speak to you. What we can tell you is how much projects have cost our existing clients. We’ve broken the figures down into the types of services we provide, the minimum project cost, the maximum project cost, the average project costs and where in the range most of the projects sit:

* All values are approximate, exclude VAT and are correct as of August 2017

To start investigating how your business problem could be solved with a bespoke application, please contact us for a chat

Monday, 21 August 2017

My Fantasy Gig: Polish Death Metal



It’s no secret that I like death metal. Three of my favorite death metal bands are all from Poland. I’ve been lucky enough to see all of them at least twice individually, but never together. I’ve often wondered why they haven’t all toured together. I’ve never been to Poland either so I’d settle for seeing them all together in their home country.

Decapitated

Opening the show I’d have Decapitated a technical death metal band. Their style, as you would expect, is heavy and progressive. While currently the smaller and less well know of the three bands on this bill, Decapitated are growing in popularity and are poised to step into the shoes of metal titans such as Lamb of God.

After getting into Vader and Behemoth I was really excited to read about another Polish death metal band and I wasn’t disappointed, especially as I also have a soft spot for progressive metal. Often with metal bands who have been around a while, their back catalogue is noisy and unpalatable. Not the case with Decapitated. They’re tight, aggressive and heavy from the first album through to the more recent ones. I’ve seen them play three times now (once even in Norwich) and their live performance demonstrates their skill as musicians.

Behemoth

I’d have Behemoth second on the bill. By far the biggest of the three bands, Behemoth are one of the best metal bands around at the moment. Currently (summer 2017) they are touring the US with Lamb of God and Slayer. I’ve seen them play three times. Once to about 10 people at a club in Bradford and twice to thousands at Bloodstock.

Their singer is often in the press, in Poland and around the world. He famously burned a bible on stage in Poland and was promptly arrested. Later he was diagnosed with and beat cancer.

In the early days Behemoth’s style of ‘blackened death metal’ was heavily influenced by US death metal giants Morbid Angel, but much more palatable. That said they’ve improved on almost every album. Their 2013 album the Satanist is a masterpiece of modern metal. Probably their least heavy album to date, but still crushing.

Vader

Headlining I’d have Vader. I’d describe them as the godfathers of Polish death metal. While not as popular or well selling as Behemoth, they belong at the top. Vader play more traditional death metal, sometimes with trashy tinges. I really struggled to get into their back catalogue. I just wasn’t ready, but every album is superb.

I’ve seen them twice, both times in small clubs. Their sound wasn’t the best, but being a huge fan I put that down to the PA in the clubs. I am sure that atop such a fine bill, they would shine and show what they can really do.

Of course the final encore would comprise of all three bands playing a metal classic together.

Monday, 14 August 2017

A Review: Express in Action

Express in Action: Node applications with Express and its companion tools

By Evan Hahn
ISBN: 978-1617292422

This is another excellent JavaScript book from Manning. It contains a great introduction to Express.js and I wish I’d read it sooner as it explains a lot of things about Express.js and how to use it, as well as the tools surrounding it and Node.js, which I had previously worked out for myself. If you’re thinking of writing a web application, especially one in JavaScript, I recommend you read this book first.

The book is far from perfect. It could have been a lot shorter. There is a fair amount of repetition and the chatty style makes it overly verbose and irritating in many places.  The author tries to cover too much and goes beyond Express.js unnecessarily in a few places. However, given that, it’s still not a huge book and quite easy to read.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

A review: JavaScript the Good Parts

By Douglas Crockford
ISBN: 978-0596517748

Every JavaScript developer with a pre-existing working knowledge of JavaScript should read this book. JavaScript is a powerful and varied language, but it was developed in a hurry and there’s plenty wrong with it. This book outlines the good bits of the language and highlights the bad bits and the bits you should just avoid. There’s also a fair amount about the author’s JSLint project in the appendices.

This book was written in 2008 and probably needs updating. It’s hard going in places and the diagrams did little to nothing to help my understanding. I’ve come away still wondering about new and constructors, but I know I just need to review them again when I need them and it’ll get clearer.  I’m still not sure which function declaration syntax is best, but I’m not sure it matters too much.


Friday, 11 August 2017

Getting to the route of the problem

In 2016, Venkat Subramaniam wrote an incredible book called ‘Test-Driving JavaScript Applications’ which, along with JavaScript tools such as Mocha, Istanbul, Prettier and Eslint, have made me fall in love with JavaScript and Node.js (well for UI development anyway). JavaScript isn’t a proper language, right? For a long time I argued not, because the tools weren’t available to develop software with unit tests, static analysis and code coverage. This has changed and now I’m starting to take JavaScript seriously, even beyond jazzing up a web based UI. I’m almost over the lack of static typing.

I’m currently using Express.js, a web framework for Node.js, a lot and Venkat includes a section on testing Express.js routes in his book. They’re a bit like controllers in the Modal View Controllers pattern:

router.get('/', function(req, res, next) {
task.all(function(err, tasks) {
res.send(tasks);
});
});

Venkat’s example test looks like this:

it('should register uri / for get', function(done) {
    // ...        

    var registeredCallback = router.get.firstCall.args[1];
    registeredCallback(req, res);
});

I’ve left out some mocking and other boilerplate for brevity and so that we can concentrate on the one bit I don’t like. Venkat describes the test in full detail in his book.  Take another look at this line:

    var registeredCallback = router.get.firstCall.args[1];

What it does is get the second argument for the first get route declared with the router. That’s what is returned by firstCall, the first declared route. So if there is more than one get route declared with the router and at some point you change the order in which they are declared or you declare another get route in-between, the test will break. It’s brittle.

In fact it’s worse. To get the second get route you’d use secondCall and so on. So although it’s probably a very large number, there are a finite number of get routes you can get from the router with this method. For me this rang alarm bells.
Google suggested this is the way that everyone is doing it. It appears to be the standard practice. It doesn’t sit at all well with me. I’d much rather be able to look up route in the router by its path. After a while printing all sorts of things to the console to find out the data structures, I was able to develop this:

var rh = {
    findGet: function(router, path) {
        for (var i = 0; i < router.get.args.length; i++)
            if (router.get.args[i][0] === path)
                return router.get.args[i];

        return null;
    },

   // ..
};

module.exports = {
    execGet: function(router, path, req, res) {
        var get = rh.findGet(router, path);
        if (get != null) get[1](req, res);
    },

    // ..
};

The findGet function takes a router and the path to test and returns all of the arguments declared for that route or null if it’s not found.  The execGet function uses those arguments to execute the route, meaning that the test now becomes:

it('should register uri / for get', function(done) {
        // ...

        execGet(router, '/', req, res);
    });

Which is not only far more expressive, but less brittle and less code per test. It means that the declaration order of the routes for the router no longer matters. Of course similar functions can be added to facilitate testing post, put and delete.

I wanted to write this up as I couldn’t find any other solution with Google. Hopefully it will encourage developers to write more tests for Express routes as they become easier and less brittle.


NorDev: JavaScript Starter Kit – Beginners Full Day Workshop


Date: 9:00 am to 4:45 pm, Thursday 5th October 2017

Location: The King’s Centre, King Street, Norwich, NR1 1PH

Price: £50.00 per person

Level: Beginner

Prerequisites: Laptop with wifi, modern browser, text editor

RSVP: https://www.meetup.com/Norfolk-Developers-NorDev/events/242461849/

JavaScript is amazing.

It is a powerful, simple, infuriating, elegant and sometimes irrational programming language which was born in a hurry and can now do almost anything you can imagine. It can make whizzy websites, speak to databases, and draw maps, it can fly drones, make games, and build apps. You can run it on your watch or on your phone, on any web page or on hundreds of virtual servers.

And if you’re reading this you’re probably contemplating learning it.

This day-long workshop aims to cover enough ground to give you a broad base from which to start your quest. We’ll use plenty of practical exercises to explore the language. We’ll cover some of the tricky parts which often mystify people – especially handling asynchronous code, which is one of the language’s great strengths. We’ll spend most of our time in the browser, but we’ll also play around with node.js, JavaScript’s foremost server-side environment. There’ll be time to survey some of the different tools and frameworks which are popular with JavaScripters at the moment. As well as all this we’ll explore JavaScript’s history, its culture and community, and the factors behind its explosive growth. Perhaps most importantly we’ll introduce a set of resources which’ll help you continue your learning independently.

You’ll need to come equipped with a laptop, and you should have a modern browser installed, along with a text editor you’re comfortable using. You don’t need to have a lot of knowledge or experience to join in, though any familiarity with another programming language will help a lot.

There’s a lot to get into one day, so please bring lunch and Neontribe will be buying the first round in the pub straight after the workshop.

Rupert Redington

Rupert ran away from the theatre to become a web developer at the turn of the century. Since then he’s been making mistakes at Neontribe as fast as he can, learning from a reasonable percentage of them. Recently he’s been using Javascript to help teenagers talk to doctors, Americans to buy airline tickets and everybody to find their way to the loo.

“Rupert did a fine job of making this an entertaining subject and his enthusiasm for js was infectious.” – Matthew Shorten

“Thoroughly enjoyed it! Presenter was excellent. Would be interested in any other JS courses that he runs.” -Stephen Pengilley

“I’d certainly sign up for other courses Rupert hosts in a flash. This was an introduction and as such it was perfectly positioned (in my humble…), but if ever there’s an “intermediate” course which goes into more depth with core principles & real-world use of loops, arrays, functions & objects that would be great.” – Steve Harman

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Vacancy: Executive PA / Office Manager


Naked Element are a software development company based in Norwich looking to recruit a self motivated, outgoing, well organised person looking for variety in a small, yet progressive tech company. There is opportunity for the right person to grow into a more specialised role, based on your strengths, as the company grows.

Salary: £18-20,000 per annum salary (depending on experience)

Hours: 37.5 hours per week

Location: New Patricks Yard, 2 Recorder Road, Norwich, Norfolk, NR1 1NR

Application Deadline: 28th July 2017

Essential skills and qualities:

  • Good client and communication skills
  • Exceptional organisation
  • Self motivated
  • You thrive in a fast-paced office environment
  • Competent user of email systems, document creation and management software packages
  • Ability to prioritise

Desirable skills and qualities:

  • An Interest in Software, Technology, Development, or any wider part of the ICT industry
  • Previous Administration and Office Management experience 
  • A Level 3 qualification or equal in Administration or Business Management

Main Responsibilities:

Office Management

  • Running the office on a day-to-day basis depending on the needs of the business, it’s directors and employees
  • Purchasing stationery and equipment
  • Liaising with suppliers
  • Answering the phone
  • Preparing agendas, documents and contracts

Company Administration

  • Book keeping
  • Managing finances
  • Financial forecasting/producing reports
  • Paying and raising invoices
  • Paying bills
  • General administration
  • Payroll

Social Media & Marketing Assistant

  • Assisting the commercial director in all elements of marketing as required
  • Setting up daily social media
  • Preparing and sending marketing material
  • Attending networking events
  • Exhibiting at events

Sales Assistant

  • Assisting the commercial director in all elements of sales as required
  • Prospecting
  • Warm calling
  • Meeting prospects & clients
  • Sandler training provided

Account & Project Management

  • Day to day running of projects
  • Project reporting
  • Liaising with all stakeholders during projects
  • Regular client reviews & other account management as necessary

 Executive PA

  • Managing diaries for both the Commercial Director & CEO
  • Booking events & meetings
  • Booking travel

Benefits

  • Pension after 3 months
  • 6 Month probationary period
  • A lovely, air-conditioned working environment in the centre of Norwich
  • Flexible working hours

This is the perfect opportunity for those looking for an interesting, never the same each day role to grow their skills. You will benefit from the guidance of staff with over 20 years experience in Business, Finance and Project Management. This is also a chance to gain an in depth insight into the software development industry.

If you would like to apply for this opportunity, please send CV’s to emma@nakedelement.co.uk 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Norfolk Developers Business Dinners Return



We are pleased to announce that Norfolk Developers Business (NorDevBiz!) is making a return. NorDevBiz is aiming is to increase awareness of Norfolk Developers member's businesses and stimulate internal and external referrals.

Our second evening meeting will be on Monday 3rd of July 2017 at the Library Restaurant in Norwich at 7.30pm.

Arrive is for 7pm for informal networking and a 7.30pm sharp start. The evening will (provisionally) be as follows:

  • Informal networking (from 7pm)
  • Introductions  - an introduction to the group from Dom Davis followed by a one minute introduction from each attendee (7.30pm)
  • Main Course
  • Spotlight -  Sean Billings will give a 10 to 15 minute introduction to his business and take questions
  • Pudding
  • Close - Dom Davis

This is a business focussed event where we will learn more about each other’s businesses with the aim of generating both internal and external referrals. Most content will not be of a technical nature.

Dress code is comfortable.

Please get in touch if you are interested in attending our business dinner. Please also note that places are limited.

paul@norfolkdevelopers.com

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Node.js the Right Way: Practical Server-Side JavaScript That Scales

By Jim R. Wilson
ISBN-13: 978-1937785734

Node.js the Right Way is a fantastic little book. It’s a small book (but then it’s Pragmatic exPress) and it doesn’t go into anything in much detail, but then that’s what makes it fantastic. It gives a useful and practical overview of writing Node.js server side applications and explains many of the tools and JavaScript patterns which will be useful to Node.js programmers.

It starts off with examples of manipulating the local file system using Node.js. This struck me a little odd as the only thing I tend to use the local file system for is reading configuration files. If I need to write a file I tend to put it in Amazon S3. However, this is genius and looking at how to manipulate the filesystem gives some useful insights into Node.js programming.

The book then goes on to look at networking with sockets, something which is often neglected in a world where we expect everything to be RESTful. There’s then a tour through scalable messaging, including clustering, how to access databases and how to write web services, including JavaScript promises and generators!

The final chapter covers writing a web application with a single page front end and authentication. This is the only place the book falls down. Too much is covered in two short a chapter. It’s still quite useful though.

This is not a book for a novice JavaScript or even a novice Node.js developer, but for once a little knowledge is not a dangerous thing and Node.js the Right Way will help increase that knowledge. It even led me to believe JavaScript might actually be the future.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Know your hammer from your screwdriver: The right tool for the job

As software developers, we at Naked Element, are skilled and experienced in a number of different programming languages and aware of many, many more. Choosing the right programming language for a piece of software is as important as choosing a hammer to knock in a nail, a flat headed screw driver for a flat headed screw and a cross headed screwdriver for cross headed screw. However with software it’s far more complicated as there isn’t always just one tool for the job.

It’s also important to consider the skills you have at hand. For example, you wouldn’t usually ask a plumber to fix your electrics or an electrician to fix your plumbing. However, given enough time most plumbers could learn to do electrics and vice versa. Generally people with a talent for practical things can easily pick up other practical skills. It’s the same with software developers, but you have to consider whether the investment in new skills will return sufficient results in an acceptable time frame, or whether to risk compromising your margins by bringing in already experienced outside help. It’s not an easy decision!

Software developers (the good ones at least) love learning new things - programming languages in particular - but there are divisions of course. Some software developers are only interested in writing software for Microsoft Windows, for example, or for Open Source platforms such as Linux and the tools they use are quite different. It’s even more pronounced with Android developers and iPhone developers! You don’t often get developers who like a bit of everything, but it does happen, and those are the sorts of developers we have at Naked Element.

It’s true that we’d happily write Java (a general purpose programming language aimed at open source software development) all day long, but that wouldn’t allow us to develop complete pieces of software. We regularly use various combinations of Java, Ruby on Rails and JavaScript in order to get the best result. We’ve turned our hand to Python and, more recently, Microsoft core languages such as C# and VB.net too. It depends what our clients need and our assessment of the right tool for the job. Sometimes it’s not even about choosing a programming language. Sometimes it’s about choosing pre-built software, such as Wordpress, and customising it to our client’s needs. We wouldn’t use Wordpress for anything more complicated than a simple e-commerce system, but for websites, including ours, it’s the right tool for the job.

So when you’re choosing your software development partner, consider whether they’re using the right tools for your project or whether they’re just using the hammer they’re familiar with to knock in your screw.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Sign on the Dotted Line – Why Contracts are Important

Contracts might seem like something only big business needs, and many small companies work without them, but if your work is important to you, it is vital to have a contract in place. A well put together contract can make a business relationship stronger and more successful, so it is worth investing some time and effort in getting a contract just right.

When people think of contracts, they often seem daunting, filled with complicated language only solicitors understand, fine print made to confuse the signatory and seemingly endless clauses that only apply in the most unique of circumstances. Documents like this are off putting, and occasionally detrimental to the business process, especially at the beginning of a new working relationship. Contracts don’t need to be pages and pages long, or contain lots of legal jargon or penalties, the most important thing is that all parties understand the content of the contract and all are in agreement as to their own responsibilities. It is very important to make clear what is expected of each party and what will happen if either side fails to keep up their end of the agreement. Being clear on cost is essential too - what is included in the charge and, very importantly, what is not included. A good contract should only contain information relevant to that particular piece of work and should be written in simple, understandable language where possible. Having someone sign something they don’t understand is not a good way to begin!

For general terms of business, applicable to every piece of work, a Master Service Agreement can prove useful to accompany each specific work contract and Naked Element agrees and signs an MSA with every client. This MSA does not oblige either party to work with each other, it merely details the quality of the service or product, each party’s availability throughout the business relationship and the responsibilities they have to each other. Only once a schedule is signed, does it become a binding contract. The MSA defines the confidentiality clauses, copyright details, intellectual property rights, payment terms and the scope of charges as well as liability from each party. These key details are indispensable for any business, whether the project is worth £500 or £5,000,000 as they are crucial if something were to go wrong.

Contracts also shouldn’t be designed to catch someone out, or tie them down unnecessarily, they should be an agreement, put together for the benefit of all parties. Where possible, a clever business person should be open to discussing and amending a proposed contract before it is signed if the other party wishes to make changes. It is also often beneficial to include a clause allowing either party to revisit a contract for adjustment after a set period of time. Being flexible and open to future issues in this way increases trust between parties, making a successful business relationship more likely.

A good contract should -

  • Only include relevant information
  • Use simple language
  • Outline benefits of the contract to both parties
  • Be negotiable
  • Be adjustable where appropriate

With a proper contract the client will feel they can depend on the product or service they are paying for and can rely on the contract to ensure they will not be out of pocket if something goes awry. By the same token, the service provider is protected by the contract if a client should renege on something that was previously mutually agreed upon. A good contract, that has everyone's  interests covered equally, makes a business seem more trustworthy, as well as more professional, and if everything goes well, more likely to do business again.

Words by Lauren.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The Kings of Leon

Sheffield is in the North and things, well people, are very different in the North. They’re friendlier than other places. They apologise in a friendly way when they knock into you and several people run after your ticket when it blows away in the wind after you’ve been through security.

Given the recent events in Manchester security was tight at Sheffield Arena. There were plenty of police, some of them visibly armed. You weren’t allowed to take in a bag any bigger than A4 and everyone was searched before they could enter the arena foyer. Having said that, we had no problems parking (getting out of the car park was a different matter) and were through the security check in no time. Everyone there, including the security, was friendly! Even the armed police were posing for selfies and chatting at the end of the night.

I’m not a fan of the Kings of Leon. They’ve got a few good songs, I mean who doesn’t like having their sex on fire? I find them bland, monotonous and a bit boring. Live it’s a different story. They’ve still only got one sound, but it’s much more palatable and they’re very good at it. The lead guitarist can play, but is nothing special, the bass player looks like Billy Idol on a good day and the drummer spent most of the show chewing gum and blowing bubbles, but the singer, his range and the effortless delivery were incredible. He just needs to work on his interaction and eye contact with the crowd.


What was also quite cool was, about halfway through, a complete stage rearrange, the moving of the drum riser and the introduction of a third guitarist and a keyboard player all performed behind a curtain with sometimes just the front man and sometimes all of the main band playing out the front. It was fun, exciting and interesting to see.

They played most of the hits, as far as I could tell and didn’t do an encore, which always makes things easier and means you get more music and less messing around.



Monday, 5 June 2017

NorDevMag: Call for submissions

After receiving such a positive response to the nor(DEV):con magazines at each conference, we’ve decided to release a magazine outside of the conference too!

Each issue will contain tech articles, local features, news and interviews as well as tech events in Norfolk and further afield, but most importantly it will be free to download! But we need your help to make this a success.

We’re asking for your suggestions and contributions for our first issue due for release in September. This first issue will be focused around different aspects of A.I.

Contributions

We need

  • News – are you beginning or completing a project? Expanding into a new area? Taking on new staff/premises/tech? Have you won an award or achieved something noteworthy you want to tell people about?
  • Events – are you planning or hosting an event between September 2017 and the end of January 2018? Are you attending an event over the summer you think we should review or take photos at?
  • Articles – do you have something tech related you would like to talk about or share with the community? Can you write an engaging and interesting piece for our pages?
  • Columns – do you have something to say others would like to hear? An experience or opinion about something in the tech community or industry that others would enjoy reading?
Suggestions and comments for other articles or features are also welcome! What do you like about the past conference magazines? What don’t you like? What would you like to see more of? Less of?

Advertisers

  • Would you like to reach the tech community?
  • Do you have a service or product you think we should know about?
  • Are you holding an event that would benefit from being in front of the tech people of Norfolk
We want to hear from YOU! This is a magazine for Norfolk’s tech community, so please help us to make it what you want it be.

Contact us at: mag@norfolkdevelopers.com

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Coffee in the Mine: In Java I wish I could... part 1

I started programming in BBC Basic on an Acorn Electron in 1985. I then went on to learn and use commercially C, C++ (there's no such language as C/C++), C# and Java. When I was a C++ programmer I looked down on Java with it's virtual machine, just in time compiling and garbage collector. When I became a Java programmer I completely fell in love with it and it's tool chain. Not so with Ruby, especially its tool chain, a lack of a static type system and lack of interfaces.

However, there are some fantastic features in the language and a few of them I wish I could use in Java. For example, in Ruby, you can put conditional statements after expressions, for example:

return '1' if a == 1
return '2' if a == 2

Whereas in Java you'd have to write:

if (a == 1)
  return "1";

if (a == 2)
  return "2";

which is more verbose and less expressive. Ruby also has the unless keyword, which Java lacks, so in Ruby you can do this:

return @colour unless @colour.nil?

The example shows off another feature in Ruby. To test for nil in Ruby you can call .nil? on any object, whereas the equivalent null check in Java is more verbose:

if (colour != null)
  return colour;

I could go on, but I'll leave that for a later piece in the series.  These features of Ruby may only be, in the main, syntactic sugar, but they are the ones I miss most when I'm developing in Java.

Next time we'll look at what Rails taught me about Spring MVC projects.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

You Can't Do That

by Emma Roache
ISBN-13: 978-1523989560

I sat next to Emma (complete with orange jumper) at a Norfolk Chamber breakfast in Great Yarmouth. We had the best table for the event and the conversation ranged from Trivium (modern Thrash Metal band) to the Kings of Leon. It’s incredible how, when you get away from business, the conversation flows. Of course everyone talked about what they did and I was delighted to hear that Emma was a coach and that she had a book!

‘You Can’t Do That’ is like nothing else I’ve read. It’s not science fiction or fantasy and it has absolutely nothing to do with software development or management. The style was easy and simple and very readable. This isn’t a self help book, it’s a travel diary. In most cases you have to read between the lines to see the personal issues which Emma is overcoming, they are in no way exaggerated or over played. Although I’m in no two minds about her dislike of spiders!

Something came across loud and clear. Emma loves people. I found this inspiring. Despite working to break the classic software development mould I still struggle with ‘small talk’ with people I don’t know (unless of course we’re talking Rock & Metal).

This book won’t take you long to read and is well worth it! Could only be improved by being available for the Kindle.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Paul's Guide to Jazz

Hopefully you've read my guide to Death Metal. Death metal isn't the only type of music I listen too. In fact I don't only like rock based music, I like some other stuff too.

Wikipedia describes Jazz as “...a music genre that originated amongst African Americans in New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in Blues and Ragtime. Since the 1920s jazz age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African American and European American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation.”

As with my Death Metal guide, I'm going to run through the Jazz bands I feel are worth listening to, I have enjoyed and have made a difference to me.

Monday, 1 May 2017

You can go your own way - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

There aren’t many sequels as good or better than the original (obvious examples are Aliens, The Empire Strikes Back, Lethal Weapon 2, etc), but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is! It’s a totally different type of story, more in the classic sci-fi vein. Stories where you don’t have to start by building all of the main characters are often easier to get straight into.

I had one, for me, huge issue with the film. They used Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” in the most brilliant way for one of the action sequences, from almost the beginning right up to just before the bass lead section the BBC and Channel 4 use for the Formula 1 theme. Then the song stopped. Later on in the film they used it again and I thought “Great, we’ll get it all this time!”, but no, it finished too early again. Maybe this was a deliberate tease for the Fleetwood Mac fans and I’ve just fallen for it 100%.

As well as all of the main characters, Kurt Russell was excellent. My other slight issue with the film was that there wasn’t enough of Sylvester Stallone. I think they could have made much more of his character, but I suspect he’s being lined up for the next film. It was great to see a brief part for Ben Browder from Farscape too. He’ll always be John Crichton to me.

When a film as good and off the wall as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 is released and such a hit, there’s an automatic apprehension about a sequel. You shouldn’t be apprehensive about this sequel. Go see it!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Happy 5th birthday to us!


5 years ago today, on the 26th April 2012 Naked Element was incorporated by Matthew Wells, Chris Wright and our CEO Paul Grenyer.

Over the 5 years Naked Element has successfully developed software for a wide variety of clients, helping them to improve their business processes and to increase their efficiency, saving them both time and money.

A couple of most recent projects that we’re proud of:

Fountain Partnership - An online marketing agency. “Naked Element’s software for Fountain reduces processing time by 95%.” Naked Element were chosen to build a script which would allow Fountain to manage one of their largest clients in Google AdWords. 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.

IDSystems - Suppliers and installers of doors and windows. Naked Element developed a bespoke web application for IDSystems. The new application is designed to aid their trade partners through the complex choices and range of options available to IDSystems customers. Because of the complex nature of the product and service that this Norfolk company offer, the software used to handle their sales and quotes, both internally and when with a potential customer, has to be truly unique.

Over time we’ve evolved to not only offer software development, but also the design and build of responsive websites and consultancy services to improve development processes.

In the beginning, neither Paul or Matthew claimed to be professors on the business side of things and only really wanted to write software! In order to grow, the guys worked with a handful of consultants to keep them on the right track. Emma Gooderham, who is now our Commercial Director helped back in 2015 for a few weeks to market Naked Element. We have also worked with James Allison from WLP who took on the role of our growth accelerator coach from April 2016-2017, and we continue to undergo sales training with Ermine Amies of Sandler.

Along with other networking events, Naked Element have been members of the Norfolk Chamber for a little over 3 years, and we continue to use the events as a way to build up our network and bring in business.

Over the years we’ve built up expertise in iOS Development, Front and Back end, .Net development and cross platform mobile apps using Xamarin with our trusted team of developers.

What was a team of 3 full time employees, is now an expanding team consisting of:

Paul Grenyer, CEO
Charlotte Grenyer, Sales Co-ordinator
Emma Gooderham, Commercial Director
Rain Crowson, Administrator Apprentice & PA
Chris “Frankie” Salt, Software Developer
Jack Rogers, Software Apprentice
Emily Vinsen, Junior Software Developer
Shelley Burrows, Web Developer
Kieran Johnson, Software Developer
Adrian Pickering, Software Developer
Luke Rogers, Software Developer

Lewis Leeds also played a big part of Naked Element and was with us throughout his apprenticeship and beyond. He recently moved on to pursue his interests in Project Management and wish him well in the future.

Naked Element are very keen to help bring young developers into the industry. We offer work experience to students throughout their courses and A-levels. A couple of A-Level students, Tom Alabaster and Chelsea Crawford were especially brilliant have returned to Naked Element  to work during school holidays.

So here’s to another 5 great years of expanding our team, our clients and our network. We thank everyone who has helped us to grow along the way, and we look forward to driving our successes even more over the next 5.

Click here to read on our blog.

Monday, 24 April 2017

A hand up, not a hand out

Cities, by their very nature, aren't small (unless of course you're a pretend city like Ely). According to Wikipedia there are over 141,000 people in Norwich and over 370,000 people in the ‘travel to work’ area. I've got a lot of contacts on LinkedIn, but these numbers of people are large by anyones’s standards!

Since I came back to work in Norwich for the third time in 2011, I've been expanding my professional network at an exponential rate. From time to time, and more frequently as time goes on, I encounter people I was at school with and Rebecca White was one of those people (although she was a year or two above me at Notre Dame High School).

Rebecca is a social entrepreneur and CEO of the social enterprise Your Own Place.  Your Own Place equips young people with the skills, confidence and knowledge to live safely and securely. They achieve this by continually developing innovative and entrepreneurial solutions as well as collaborating for the benefit of  young people. By working restoratively and delivering high quality interventions they create a culture of empowered and independent young people.

After a number of exchanges on linkedin, twitter and email with Rebecca, I was invited along to hear Baron John Bird, founder of the Big Issue, speak at the St. Giles House Hotel in Norwich. This was an unusual event for me to be invited to, as there was no tech or business angle, but we’re all familiar with the Big Issue and I was already  impressed with what Rebecca was achieving, so I was intrigued. On our way to the event my wife and I encountered the Big Issue seller who is often at the top of Lower Goat Lane near the Guildhall, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he knew John Bird was only meters away.

I was completely unprepared in almost every way for John Bird. We sat at the back, the only place there were two chairs left together, around one of a handful of tables shoehorned into the packed room on the first floor of the hotel. A couple of the usual suspects  such as Sarah Daniels from the Redcat Partnership and Lucy Marks of the Norfolk Network also wandered in. My first surprise was to discover that Sarah, who I know well, was chairing. I knew from that point on that with the self proclaimed, “loudest voice in room”, we were in for a fun couple of hours.

Baron Bird of Notting Hill was astounding.  A huge personality and presence in the room. He took us through the highs and lows of his life from his upbringing in Notting Hill by Irish, Catholic, racist parents to living on the streets of Edinburgh at 21, meeting one of the founders of the Body Shop, Gordon Roddick, his rehabilitation in prison where one of the “screws” taught him to read, his three wives, money, the Big Issue and admission into the House of Lords. John Bird was funny, entertaining, loud, inspiring and great entertainment. I’ve never seen someone move so much in such a small space, often with both arms in the air, a loud passionate voice and little respect for political correctness. It was refreshing.

26 years ago there were more than 500 homeless charities in London (there are now around 2000). All of them lacked something. None of those charities were helping the homeless to stop being homeless. John Bird had a vision, inspired by Street News in the USA and spawned from a case study funded by the Body Shop, the Big Issue was born. A way of helping homeless people make money to stop them being homeless. John Bird believes in a hand up, not a hand out and is working hard to prevent the next generation of Big Issue sellers.

I could have listened to him all evening. He finished by explaining some of the social ideas he’s pursuing, such as creating a Kitemark called the Social Echo to award to businesses who act on their social conscience.

One such social enterprise is Your Own Place. Following an introduction by Sarah, Rebecca White showed us a recent video which explains the work they do:


Your Own Place are looking for employer sponsored Volunteer Tenancy Mentors. The training costs the employers just £300 per person for two days. Your Own Place work with businesses to provide their staff with a unique training and development opportunity as Volunteer Tenancy Mentors and to prevent youth homelessness at the same time. Their Volunteer Tenancy Mentoring training packages include high quality volunteer training, comprehensive policies, training packs, vetting and ongoing support for the mentors.

The event was over all too soon, but as well as finding out more about what someone I was at school with was up to, seeing some regular faces and making a new contact at Leathes Prior, I was inspired to contribute and am looking forward to Rebecca coming to speak to the Naked Element team at Whitespace.