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DDD East Midlands - October 2023

Anybody who knows me or has read my blog previously knows that I love the DDD conferences. The latest one was this weekend. It's a totally free conference, has great speakers, great food and you get to hang out with like-minded tech people.

So, what is the DDD conference? DDD stands for "Developer! Developer! Developer" and is a throwback to the old developer conferences that Microsoft used to host with Steve Ballmer, who would run around the stage chanting the word "Developer" over and over again. Much to the amusement of the crowd and media. So to answer the question, the DDD conference is a day out for techies and software developers where they can learn new things by attending a series of talks, as well as an opportunity to get together with like-minded people!

This year, the East Midlands DDD conference was hosted in Nottingham. As I live and work in York, it's just an hour and a half down the road. It's an early start though, because registration is from 8:30 am I had to set off from home at 6:30 am just to be sure to get there in time. 

This is the second time I have attended the conference in Nottingham so I knew what to expect. It takes place slap bang in the middle of the city in the university conference centre, with each talk in an actual lecture theatre. This means that the screens, sound, and facilities are perfect and you can easily see everything comfortably no matter where you sit. 

I got there in plenty of time for a nice relaxed registration, the last time I was here I had to complete a COVID test before they would let me in, but this has been fully relaxed now of course and while some people chose to wear a mask, it was a personal choice only. 

One nice touch is that at registration you got to choose between a green and a red lanyard. Choosing red meant that you didn't want your photograph taken, and you didn't really want to interact with anybody if possible. Green gave the go-ahead for people to talk to you, I opted for green and in fact, I didn't really see anybody who opted for the red one, but it was a nice touch, just in case you were feeling anxious about being around so many other people. 

After registration, we entered the conference space full of tables and chairs and had the option of tea. coffees, fruit drinks, fruit and biscuits... As I said, I got there with plenty of time to spare so grabbed refreshments while waiting for the first session. 

Introduction Session

First, was an introduction to the conference where you got to learn about the upcoming schedule, where the fire exits were, watch videos from the sponsors and more importantly, what time lunch was and the Wi-Fi password 😀

Session 1 - Dungeons, Dragons and Developers

Session 1 of the conference, with the logo on the screen saying Dungeons, Dragons & Developers

Normally you can choose between three sessions, but this one was the only one in this slot, so everybody attended it. The idea of the talk was to understand how teams can make better software but was told in a storytelling way by referencing the Dungeons and Dragons universe. The speaker Matt Brunty was passionate about the subject (Both D&D and software development) and it was a very lively and at times, funny talk.

While the Dungeons and Dragons theme wasn't really for me, I found it a great start to the day 🧙

Session 2 - Evergreen Skills for Software Developers

I grabbed some refreshments and made my way to my second session. This was a talk about the skills that every software developer needs to thrive in their career. The speaker was Soumaya Erradi

a coffee cup and a cookie in front of a projector screen showing the session title

This was a great talk, the focus was on a number of skills that each developer should have which were presented as Problem Solving, Testing, Debugging, Software Versioning, Refactoring and writing Clean Code. 

Soumaya was a great speaker and showed examples of code to explain how each skill should be understood.

Session 3 - Lightning Talks 

The third session was something new for the conferences that I have been to. it was broken down into three different lightning talks. 


three images showing screens from three different lightning talks

  1. The first was "The Are of the Bad Code Review" by Martyn Kilbryde, which was talk spawned from his own frustrations with code reviews in his working life. Here we gave examples of different responses to various code reviews and how they could be done better. I do hope I am better at commenting on code reviews than some of the examples he gave. And I will certainly think about it more in the future 😀

  2. The second was "Git Under the Covers" by Dan Clarke. In this talk, Dan tried to delve deep into the working of Git and explain how the Git database really was a load of ID pointers to content which provides the magic of code versioning. It was a really great talk but there really wasn't time to go too in-depth... It's a really interesting subject and it would be very interesting to learn more about what happens under the hood, but whether I would find the time to go research it myself, I am not sure... After all, I have blogs to write!

  3. This comes neatly to the third and last lightning talk of this session, named "This Talk Could Have Been a Blog Post" by Jamie Tanna. I loved this talk. Basically, Jamie had tried to explain that Blogs are having a little bit of a resurgence, thanks to various things going on in the social media space. And that we should all start writing them again, not only for other people to read, but to act as a kind of personal tech diary. If you write down how you solved problems, you know where to go when you have that issue again, as well as help other people who inevitably will have the same issue at some time... It was especially pertinent for me, looking at my blog I haven't updated it for a while as time has gotten in the way, this talk helped me realise that I need to make sure I write blogs and articles regularly, otherwise I am depriving my peers of my amazing insightful thoughts, or something like that 😝

Lunch

Lunch this year was a little different, previous DDDs that I had been to have all been a buffet-style affair, but this year we came out of session 3 into the wonderous smell of hot, cooked food...There were a number of options, slow-cooked Yorkshire pork, Thai Chicken curry as well as some vegetarian options, all including rice or vegetables and lovely fresh salad. Sweet desserts and a fruit salad were provided for afters. Yummy!

A plate filled with thai currey and riceI love sitting down for lunch at these conferences, I was at a table with 5 other people and we discussed the benefits of a 4-day working week on the team and the company (two of the people around the table practised a 4-day working week which is where the conversation arose from) as well as the effects of Chat GPT on education and which was the best country to work from if you could choose anywhere remotely, solely based on how many Bank Holidays that country had (apparently Portugal is bad... Although I haven't checked to find out if this is true or not?!?)

Alas, lunch was over and we stumbled like overfed zombies to the respective lecture theatre for our chosen next session. 

Session 4 - The Power of Practice

The 4th session was a talk on creating and cultivating the conditions that enable our teams to do the best work. By Paul Bailey

Lecture theatre with man standing in front a project screen

Paul is the Head of Design at SPARCK and his talk centred around the "Community of Practice" which is a method for bringing the team together to get the most out of them. He talked about creating a number of informal and formal events to promote collaboration, support, creativity and good practices. 

Session 5 - Accessibility: Building and Deploying Accessible Sites

Anybody who has read my blog knows that the Umbraco CMS and Website Accessibility are both passions of mine. The fifth session was about both these things and was presented by Rachel Breeze who is a speaker I have seen previously and someone I interact with on Social Media as her interests align perfectly with mine.

Rachel Breeze standing in front of a projector screen

Rachel gave a fantastic presentation, starting with future changes to accessibility regulations, not just for public and government sites, but for major companies selling products and services, and then looking at new tools and simple mistakes that websites make that can be overcome with some simple coding. 

The talk continued with a walkthrough of the Umbraco Content Management System and the modules that can be used to make sites built within it more accessible and ended with examples of how to deploy your website. 

As always, Rachel's talk was packed with information and presented really well 😀

Session 6 - Building Robots for Complete Beginners

I chose a more lighthearted subject for the final session. This was a talk on how to create robots by Mark Goodwin

Mark Goodwin stood in front of a project screen talking

Mark was so fun and knowledgeable in this talk. He described the first robot he ever built, as well as how he created automated "robots" to look after and feed his chickens. 

We were walked through the creation of a simple control system using the Raspberry Pi Pico which started with flashing lights and ended with motors and Lego moving robot, controlled by Bluetooth with his mobile phone "one he had built earlier". 

The premise is that it's actually cheap easy to get started with building things that control motors and sensors and that the options are limitless, only restricted by your imagination. Some of the things that Mark showed were very cool and really did make me want to have a tinker. I have all the stuff, so what's stopping me... If I do, I'll be sure to Blog about it, watch this space! 😀

Hometime

So this was the final session which was sad, but it was getting late in the day, and we'd all overeaten and overfed our brains too... I really enjoyed the day and just want to say a big thank you to the team who made it all possible. Not just a fantastic, informative day... But a FREE, fantastic and informative day! You deserve high praise!

 

If you find this article interesting, could you please do me a favour by sharing it or commenting below, I would love to hear your and other peoples' thoughts on this subject. Thank you

Date: 09 Oct 2023
Author: Craig Pickles (YorkshireTechy)