Fairly Positive

Dev8D, 2011

Professional Development

Last week (16-17th February, 2011) I attended the developer conference, Dev8D. This is the third time that the event has happened and the second that I have been able to attend. The focus of the event is to provide cost effective training for developers in Higher Education. The event is free to attend, so Institutions just need to pay for travel and accommodation. Is it worth the investment? Yes!

I’ve been very lucking in my career by having managers and mentors, at both the Universities of Cardiff and Bristol, who saw the importance of training and professional development. The purchase of books and attending training courses have been viewed positively when budgets and time allow. I was disappointed to learn that this is common across the case across the sector.

The event is comprised of tutorials, workshops, lightning talks, panel sessions by experts or ‘gurus’ and challenges. These sessions are predominately delivered by my peers - developers from across the sector. It is humbling to be able to engage with such a talented, clever and friendly bunch. The programme this year was full of exciting stuff, including Arduinos, Mongo DB, Mobile Web, Linked Data, Clojure, Scala, Apache SOLR and much much more.


I gave two lightning talks at the event. The first was on MyMobileBristol, which is a project I am currently working on. The project builds upon the (Java-based) software created in Mobile Campus Assistant and powers m.bristol.ac.uk as a beta service at the University of Bristol.

I also gave an introduction to the Nature Locator project which will support researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Hull with tools for receiving and processing crowd sourced data from members of the public.

I also sat on a ‘guru session’ about the Mobile Web with Tim Fernando and Chris Northwood from Oxford’s Molly team. Molly is an excellent Python/Django based framework for creating information and service portals targeted at mobile devices. Due to a scheduling clash I arrived ten minutes late and the questions and panel discussions had moved from the ‘Mobile Web’ to Python appreciation. I had nothing to add since my current comfort zone is in the verbosity of Java (and Objective-C!). However, the discussion soon moved back to issues such as native applications vs. Mobile Web.

Bragging Rights

This year I entered one of the programming challenges. I created an iPhone application that displays some of the data in JISC’s PIMs API - a database that holds information about JISC-funded projects both past and present. I won! I was a little surprised since the other entries were very good, including Paul Walks HTML 5 application, PocketPIMs.

Here is a screen cast of my application:

I got a certificate and won a £50 Amazon voucher … now spent. :-) My colleague, Damian Steer, also won one of the challenges.