I’d always been under the impression that the IT scene in East Anglia was a little quiet, and more so the further you got away from London, but I was quite pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the SyncNorwich group, a bunch of IT enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and coders that meetup and share knowledge, fantastic, I had to go and check that out.
This was the first SyncNorwich event that I’d attended, and the topic for the evening was lightning talks, which are a series of short (around 5 minute) presentations on a given topic, each slide being around 15 seconds long. I’d never seen presentations given in this way, but I think it was very effective since their short and brief, stops the mind from wandering off, and forces the presenter to get right down to the facts straight away.
I enjoyed all of the talks, not all were directly relevant to me, but all very informative, in particular, my favourites were “Learning to hack together MVP’s” by Richard Burton and “Responsive Design” by Brad Koehler.
I was interested in Richards’ talk because a lot of the things he mentioned are very relevant to the work I’ve been doing recently. I’ve been working on various proof-of-concept pieces, and coming from an enterprise Java development background, its very easy to still wear the “enterprise hat” when you’re doing prototype work, by this, you can easily get too worried about things like full unit test coverage, system design, and all sorts of other continuous integration magic, often to the point where you’re more focused on that than producing the prototype itself. The moral of the story that I picked up on, is aim low, do the basics and get the application working, if it has legs and takes off, then consider scaling it up for production, and if it doesn’t work out, nothing is lost and your a bit wiser for the next project.
I was also very interested in Brads’ talk, as I’ve been doing a fair bit of mobile web development recently, and I certainly feel the pain that is involved with creating rich user interfaces that reliably scale well on a variety of mobile and desktop environments.
The mingling part before the talks was also good, I met a web developer who had some intersting things to say, however I must admit that the mingling part was somewhat difficult when it is your first time to an event, as I was under the impression that a lot of people already knew each other, and its quite difficult to break the ice with already established groups.
Some thoughts that I believe would improve the meetups :
- Introductions – with around 70 people, it could be quite a task to introduce everyone, however I feel that a quick 30 second introduction, around the room at the start of the event would be a great help, so people know who might be intersting to catch up with. Perhaps when everyone is seated, a baton is passed around to each person, whereby they give a quick 30 second intro, such as “Hi I’m James Elsey, I’m a Java developer at smart421 and am very interested in mobile development and the technical side of things, please come talk to me about android, iOS, and all things geeky!”
- More techie talks! – The talks were great, however I did feel that the coding / technical side was a little thin. Found a new framework? Got some thoughts on automated testing mobile apps? Thats the kind of thing we could do with.
- Technical workshops / breakout areas – (this may already be planned for future meets) It would be great to have a coding area, where people can show off their latest craftsmanship, or seek technical advice, this would help promote knowledge sharing. This might be a little difficult with the time constraints involved in the meets, but even if it was available for 60 minutes prior to talks, it would be beneficial to a number of start-ups seeking advice.
I’m looking forward to the next session, a talk on Kanban. I don’t know anything about this, but I’m intersted to see, perhaps I’ll meet some more people next time :)