Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sushi, code, and craft

On the recommendation of my friend and colleague Alexis Richardson, last night I went along to the ICA in London to watch a documentary. Not at all my usual fare of sci-fi, action or comedy, but Alexis convinced me over lunch last week that Jiro Dreams of Sushi would be worthy of my time and interest.

Evidently the UK is substantially behind the rest of the world in getting this documentary on release – it’s apparently available to stream on Netflix in the US already, but only arrived in the cinemas here a fortnight ago. Ho-hum.

So, in a nutshell, it’s a film about an 85-year-old man who has been making sushi for a living for 70 years, and works with his eldest son in a 10-seat restaurant in an Tokyo subway station. So far, so quirky.

A few things elevate this documentary to a far more worthy status, though. The cinematography was thoughtful and beautiful; it was nicely paced; I learned a lot about the thinking of the individuals featured. I also came to realise how what I know as sushi, simply is not what Jiro serves to his patrons. What we consume from supermarkets, chains with conveyor belts, even the “good” individual sushi restaurants I’ve visited in London, is more mass market, mass produced popular style raw fish dishes.

Jiro is a craftsman – so are his sons and other apprentices. He’s obsessive, and he aspires to be better every day.

That’s interesting, because tomorrow is the Monkigras – Redmonk’s “craft beer-and-developer craft” event – and the theme this time is Scaling Craft. Over the past few weeks I’ve been back and forth with my very good friend James Governor about the topic of craft, and how it applies in software and technology. I think, after watching Jiro, I have a far better understanding than in the past. Interestingly, afterwards I had a discussion about professionalism, chartering / accreditation, the bcs, and whether or not professions exist to act as a barrier to entry or as an encouragement towards craftsmanship, too. I wonder how those themes will be reflected throughout Monkigras this year.

For what it’s worth, I had proposed a Monkigras talk taking the concept of glass and the craft of glassmaking and applying some technology themes, but unfortunately I’ve not been able to pull it together in time this time around. I’m looking forward to learning and soaking up the atmosphere (and seeing good friends from across the community) again, instead!

Oh, and if fish and subtitles are not your taste, I’d still encourage giving Jiro Dreams of Sushi a try – if not, on a technology topic instead, you really should watch Indie Game The Movie, the best documentary I watched last year and a fascinating insight into programming, obsession, and the gaming industry.

Different Spokes

When Jeff Douglas from CloudSpokes contacted me last week to ask if I would be interested in being a guest on their Different Spokes show to talk about Cloud Foundry, help to review a book on node.js, and generally talk tech, I was delighted to be able to say “yes!”. I met Jeff back at Monktoberfest in October and I love the stuff the CloudSpokes team are doing around application challenges to build skills in different areas.

It turns out that these guys are spending a lot of time with Javascript lately and the brief was to review The Node Beginner Book. We did talk about it for a bit, but I probably talked too much earlier in the show because I was getting excited about all the cool stuff happening around Cloud Foundry lately 🙂

This was my first use of the Google+ Hangouts On Air feature, which allows content producers to publically stream the group chat to a YouTube account. I have to say that I was extremely impressed. We used the lower thirds feature from the Hangouts Toolbox plugin to do titles, and I’m sure there were a bunch of other handy add-on features we could have used to enhance the experience too.

It was great to be able to respond to viewer questions coming in via Twitter, and I’d like to thank my colleague Raja for his cool node app examples (don’t forget to check out nodelogger which uses the Cloud Foundry authentication features too). A shout-out to Brian McClain for bailing me out when I forgot the features of my own product, too…!

All-in-all, a really enjoyable discussion, and I’d love to take part in that show again sometime – smart guys! They’ve posted a nice recap post if you’d like to check them out.

Looking back, looking forward

As I close in on my first year anniversary joining the Cloud Foundry team, we’ve passed the New Year marker and some things are in the process of changing, so I thought it was high time for a blog post – now there’s a thing!

Last year was one full of changes for me, not all of which are things I’ve posted about online – those who know me well know that I had an “interesting” year! Like many folks, I’ve just gone through the corporate annual review cycle, and that was a good chance to think over what I got up to in 2012.

Looking back

I’m not going to quote word for word from what I submitted in my review, but pick out some of my personal highlights:

  • I’ve had a blast in the Cloud Foundry team, and particularly feel at home with my Developer Advocate colleagues. I was able to co-present sessions with Monica at MongoDB UK (she’s now moved on to more awesomeness), and Raja at our Cloud Foundry Open Tour event in London… I co-wrote a Cloud Foundry and Spring article for JAX with the legendary Josh… and in the past few weeks I’ve been working more with Raja and others on some new content that is coming soon. Teamwork and collaboration FTW 🙂
  • I built a few simple samples for Cloud Foundry – not quite the uber-app that I had planned, that’s still in my head – and learned a bunch of new (to me) languages and technologies in a short period of time.
  • I’m very pleased with my “reach” in terms of audiences, talks, and the numbers of people referring to videos, screencasts and slidecasts I built in the past 12 months. Always room to improve!
  • I had an excellent time working with our Cloud Foundry ecosystem partners and friends in 2012, getting to know Diane, Adron, the Uhuru team, AppFog, etc. For me, the partners and community around Cloud Foundry are what make my role a real pleasure.

Beyond the day job, I did a bunch of other things last year, too:

  • Visited San Francisco for the first time… which sounds weird given my IT background and the tech concentration there. I love that city! Next time I might actually get to do the tourist thing, but I really enjoyed being over there with my colleagues.
  • Saw IBM’s MQTT code move into the Eclipse Paho project, where I became a Committer. I was able to represent the project at EclipseCon in the US and in Europe and at the Eclipse Day in Toulouse organised by my good friend Benjamin. There was some big growth in the MQTT community last year – lots of new software implementations, another significant use of the protocol in Facebook’s updated mobile apps, and increasing numbers of folks discovering the protocol.
  • Attended both of the Redmonk Brew events – the Monkigras and the Monktoberfest. Hands-down the best technology events that I’ve been too. Can’t wait for the Monkigras 2013 next week. Sell your own arm to buy a ticket. A leg too, if necessary.
  • Took part in the London Green Hackathon, the Field Studies Council Hackday, the IDEO Make-a-thon (gutted that I cannot go to the event this year), spoke at Digital Bristol, attended Horizons and the Raspberry Jam in London…
  • Was on the crew at OggCamp, Hack to the Future, the Brighton Mini Maker Faire…
  • Rediscovered my love of LEGO.

Looking forward

So that was last year, and it’s late January already – way past time to think about how 2013 will shape up. Despite my good buddy James Governor not doing New Year’s Resolutions, I made myself a short list of things I want to focus on this year – and ignoring some of what he says, I am actually going to try to follow through…

  • Be as awesome as possible in my role on the Cloud Foundry team. I work with great people and they deserve the best I can offer. Looking forward to seeing where the Pivotal Initiative takes us, and there are some great things happening!
  • Attend fewer events in one week / month. A couple of times last year, I definitely pushed myself too hard. In the London tech scene you can pretty much choose from 2 or 3 good developer meetups on any evening of the week, and I over-committed on several occasions. I’m also going to be more picky about exactly how I get involved in them… I loved all of the events I crewed for last year, but I scheduled things poorly and need to cut back.
  • Blog more frequently. Yes, this is the obvious one… but I really do want to, and have intended to for a long time. I have moments where I compose whole blog entries in my head while I sit on the train, and I wish they could just be transcribed in the moment. I do regret having let other social sites take over my online presence, particularly when it comes to the end of a year with the chance to look back. I should have been able to link every “big event” in the lists above, back to a blog post about what happened. So, I’m committing myself to writing more again this year.
  • Improve my Ruby and Javascript skills. I’ve started out well on this with a couple of projects I’ve been tinkering with lately.
  • Make cool things. LEGO things. Raspberry Pi things. Arduino things. I want to learn, hack, and make more. I talk about Maker culture, and I want to remind myself that I’m part of it.
  • Focus on improving my public speaking habits. I know I sometimes talk too quickly, get sidetracked, etc… every time I listen back or watch a talk I gave, I spot another thing I want to adjust. I think this is one of those lifetime improvement resolutions more than it is something I can “fix” in a 12 month period, but it’s certainly an area I want to look at.
  • Take. Proper. Holidays. I nearly managed to entirely detach from Twitter over the Christmas period, and definitely didn’t keep checking my work email, for the first time in many years. It felt good. I want to do that more often from now on.

Seven simple (?!) thoughts. I guess the only one that will easily be measurable by watching my blog will be the one about writing more, and this is my start on that one!

Happy 2013, friends – hope to see you soon!