Star vs RT – two features, at least three uses and a much needed enhancement

I have a semi automated Twitter stream these days. A queue of 4 items per day (Monday – Friday) are automatically posted by the excellent Buffer platform and for the most part this system works brilliantly. It means I can focus on sourcing and curating useful and hopefully interesting content to share with my followers without needing to worry about flooding their time lines.

It’s not perfect. I frequently get replies to tweets that have been in the pipeline for over a week since I read the original post and decided to add it which leads to a certain measure of re-reading to remember what the heck a given item was actually about. But this is a pretty rare occurrence nowadays since I make sure I carefully read all content before scheduling and try not to let my Buffer get more than a week ahead.

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Open Jersey – Challenges and Solutions for Open Data in our Island Community

The Island of Jersey is now 24 months into its journey towards becoming a world recognised, centre of digital excellence. Some of the local programmes are starting to take shape with Digital Jersey opening their co-working space in a week and with local groups rallying around the residual energy from the (un)conference that took place earlier in April.

That said, there is one area where Jersey is lagging behind most jurisdictions – open access to data. And comments made across a range of recent events & meet-ups have made it clear that access to this vast pool of resources is very much in demand from the community and would act as a catalyst for the advancement of local technical solutions when positioned alongside other initiatives such as eGovernment and the soon to be “live” Freedom of Information law.

What Kind of Data?

Publicly held information on:

  • Transportation both on land and at sea
  • Weather & meteorological data
  • Population & demographics
  • Public finances
  • Timetables & availability for local social resources
  • Educational Resources
  • Careers information

and

Private information such as:

  • Individual’s tax & social security data
  • Health and medical records

And much more besides

In this series of posts, I’m taking a look at some of the challenges, both technical and soft, that face Jersey’s local government and other agencies as we push towards more open data in the Island.

What kind of challenges?

  • How do we structure data for public access?
  • How can we abstract or combine existing silos of data?
  • How do we secure / audit this access?
  • How can we solve the issue of data quality & consistency?
  • How does it scale?
  • How do we pay for it?

I’ll be starting with structures that could be applied (and may indeed be required) in the next post.

I don’t claim to be an expert and should state that none of the ideas I’ll be exploring in this series are endorsed by or related to actual work in this area locally. Rather consider it a thought exercise focussed on a very real and looming problem. In the mean time, if you have any thoughts on the above please leave a comment or drop me an email.

Can we please STOP telling people coding is easy!

There’s a growing trend as governments and well-meaning organisations clue in to the massive skills gap that has been allowed to grow in IT education across the UK and around the world. The trend is the proposition that learning to code is “simple” and “easy”. In some instances this fashion has led to extremes with some providers offering you the opportunity to “learn to code in a day” or a week, month or year.

I’ll be frank, this is starting to piss me off.

Not because learning to code isn’t simple, it absolutely is in the initial stages. Not because you can’t get a good foundation in the very basics in a day or a week. No my objection to this trend is one of devaluation.

I, and many like me, have spent years, whole careers even, working on and honing our skills across a range of IT disciplines to achieve a professionally acceptable level of  competence and for a government or company to stand up and state that what has taken me nigh on my entire adult life to achieve can be managed by anyone with a week to spare? That bugs the hell out of me.

It’s not like this is being declared for any other subject. No one is proposing you can learn higher mathematics in a day, or offering you a week-long course that will result in student speaking fluent Spanish. And a lot of these subjects are considerably more static in terms of content than the world of computing. Heck, I’ve learned and relearned an entire syllabus of content time and time over as new technologies have been introduced and older methods have fallen by the wayside.

I think its time for a little honesty. Yes anyone can learn to code. Yes it’s an important skill to have and yes we should be encouraging as many people to develop this skill as possible but can we please stop telling people it’s easy, because we’re doing a disservice to both those who are starting on the journey and those who are already a long way down an infinitely long road.

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* btw Coding and Code is used in this post for convenience. I agree with Clive Beal that the word has been appropriated by the media and politico and will do my best to find a suitable alternative in the future.

Look out Edinburgh… I’m coming back for more!

After my international speaking debut at SOTR last year I figured I could definitely get used to the whole “Conference Speaker Rock Star” treatment* and submitted a couple of possible sessions for this year’s conference.

Competition was stiff – 166 talks were submitted for a total of 24 slots, all voted for by the community (with a guiding hand from the organisers).

I am therefore understandably psyched to announce that I will be presenting at this year’s Scotch on the Rocks:

Rocket Powered Ramp Up with Bower, Grunt and Yeoman

Whether you’re an agency dev who starts a new project every week or are focused on long term web project support you can benefit from the next generation of front end work-flow tools for web developers.

This whistle stop tour starts with Bower – the front end package manager – then heading via Grunt for some super work-flow, testing & packaging automation before arriving at Yeoman to tie the two together with a lovely bow leaving you happier, more productive and (possibly) better off. And if time allows, there will also be a few tips from the front lines on porting legacy projects over to make use these tools.

ColdFusion, Rails, Python, PHP or pure frontend, if you’ve using Sass, Less, jQuery or pretty much any modern web library, there’s something here for you!

SOTR 2014 runs June 5th & 6th in Edinburgh and there are still tickets available at the fantastic price of £155 (excl. VAT).

If you’ve not attended Scotch before then all I can say is this: it’s the best, 2 day web development conference in the UK (and possibly Europe) at the moment.

If you work on the web you will learn something from attending, and at that kind of price it’s something of a no brainer.

* Seriously I got given Irn Bru and everything!

Kicking off 2014 – a resolution or two…

Is it just me or did 2013 just flash by? It doesn’t seem like a 5 minutes since I was shaking off the fug of Christmas and New Years 2012!

The last 12 months have been pretty awesome for me. I’ve continued to work in an industry I simply love, met some very cool new people, strengthened ties and developed relationships with existing friends and peers and generally got my moneys worth out of the year. And while it’s been a good span over all there are always areas that are open for improvement. So here are my personal & professional resolutions for 2014 (in no particular order):

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