Thursday, 29 October 2009

Keeping Track of Developer Events in London

Thanks to the magic of Google and Twitter, you can keep track of LonDev’s community events using whatever reader, calendar or system works for you.

Follow us on Twitter – we aim to tweet each event once when it’s announced, and then once a day or two before as a reminder.

You can view our Google calendar online – but if you’re using Outlook, iCal, an iPhone, or anything else that can subscribe to an ICS calendar feed, then you can subscribe directly to our Google calendar feed.

Subscribing to the Calendar

iCal ICS feRSS feedYou can subscribe directly to our Google calendar as an RSS news feed or as a live calendar feed in ICS format

In Outlook, you’ll need to paste the ICS feed URL into Tools –> Account Settings –> Internet Calendars –> Add…


On your iPhone, you can subscribe to an ICS feed under Settings –>  Mail, Contacts, Calendars –> Add Account… –>

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That’ll give you all the forthcoming developer events alongside your regular calendar appointments.

Friday, 23 October 2009

What's This All About, Then?

In a nutshell, it’s about people getting together to talk about building better software.

image London is a fantastic city for meeting like-minded software professionals. Whatever your particular discipline - .NET or Java, Windows or Linux, Flash or Silverlight, HTML or SQL, XP or Agile or Lean or Kanban – there’s a group of people meeting up in a pub, or an office, or over coffee, to swap stories, share tips and generally work together to improve their skills. Along the way, many of us have picked up new tools and techniques, found new jobs and contracts, met new friends, and found the developer community to be a valuable resource for anyone who really cares about delivering the best software they can.

Earlier this month, a group of London developers – including people behind the Alt.Net UK conference, Open Spaces Coding Days, SkillsMatter, London .NET and Silverlight user groups, and the recently-launched Alternative Network – got together over dinner to discuss one key question:

Why aren’t more people involved in London’s software development community?

Based on our own experiences, discussions with friends and colleagues, and conversations we’ve had at events over the years, we’ve identified a couple of key reasons why people are reluctant to engage with the community:

  1. People don’t know that events are happening
  2. They’re afraid to turn up to an event because they don’t know what to expect
  3. “Fear of looking stupid” - they’re afraid they’ll be the only novice in a room full of experts
  4. They’re too busy and don’t have time.
  5. They don’t care
  6. They think it’s “geeky”

Let’s take those in reverse order.

It’s Geeky

Well, yeah. We spend our spare time talking about work. How geeky is that? On the other hand – many of us make our living doing something we love. Why should that enthusiasm stop at five-thirty? And, like any gathering of like-minded people, half the time you’ll end up talking about football or snowboarding or music anyway.

They Don’t Care.

Why not?  Everyone has been frustrated by unstable software and unusable websites. We’re working together to try and do something about it. If you’ve involved in building software, you can help.

Hate your work? Share stories with people who found ways to stop hating theirs. Love your work? Come along and inspire somebody to take a fresh look at their own. Know it all already? Come and find about the new stuff that’s happening every day that might improve your code, your job and your life.

They’re Too Busy and Don’t Have Time.

Family commitments in the evenings? Come along to a lunchtime book club. Let us know and we’ll see if we can do something over breakfast. Convince your boss to give you time off in lieu (and point out that community events are free, when “proper” software training can cost thousands) – then spend an evening with us and get an afternoon with your kids in exchange.

Working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week? Sounds like you need a break. Come and have a beer. Tell the rest of the team you’re “networking.” You never know – you might learn something that’ll break the deadlock, get your team moving again and give you your life back.

Fear of Looking Stupid

There’s no experts here; there’s just us. Everyone started somewhere, and the best way to learn anything is from somebody who had to learn it themselves. There’s normally one or two people who are there to share, but everyone else is there to learn. Makes sense, really – why would 30-odd people turn up to a talk on something they already know?

Not Knowing What to Expect

We’re going to try and help with that – here’s a couple of things we’re going to try.

  • Providing better information about events – what level they’re at, what sort of people normally show up. Some events are very sociable; some are very technical. Some are quite advanced; some are aimed at complete beginners.
  • Making new guests feel welcome. It’s terrifying walking into a room full of total strangers. We hope it’ll be less scary if you know there’s people around who are looking out for you; who’ll explain what’s happening, make introductions, and generally make sure no-one’s standing in the corner feeling left out.

People Don’t Know What’s Happening.

Yes, this is currently a problem. Within the .NET community alone, there’s about eight different sites that you need to check and follow to work out what’s happening. If we’re going to reach out and engage with the wider developer community, that’s only going to get worse.

That’s where LonDev comes in. It’s a non-affiliated, apolitical site – a blog, a calendar and a Twitter feed – that exists to help people keep track of what’s happening, and what to expect at those events.

We’ll include any event that software developers will attend voluntarily. No corporate conferences or trade shows. No paid training events. We’ll include things like Future of Web Apps and StackOverflow Dev Days – which aren’t free, but tend to attract enthusiasts as well as business types.

Primarily, though, we want to promote free events, organized by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts.

We’ll tweet events when they’re announced, with a follow-up reminder a day or two before they happen. We’ll do our best to make sure everything’s in the calendar, with links to find out more about events that look interesting. And we’ll blog about events we’ve organized or attended, to give you a better idea of who shows up and what they talk about.

So help us out here. Follow @londev on Twitter. View our calendar online – or subscribe to the iCal feed and get event reminders in Outlook or iCal. Let us know what works and what doesn’t – you can reach us via Twitter or on e-mail

And remember, this is an experiment. In keeping with the spirit of “agile”, we want to deliver something valuable and usable, as early and as often as we can, and we need your feedback to make that happen.

Thanks for reading, and I hope we’ll see you at an event soon.