Developer Conferences

If you’re anything like me then you will love a good developer conference! The opportunity to share and collaborate with like minded people is sometimes just what the doctor ordered to help make sure those creative juices are flowing.

Unfortunately, in the UK we seem to have a lack of events; especially outside of London. There are a couple of independent events like iOSDEVUK and a few others organised by the tech giants such as Microsoft and Google. The issue is that the vast majority of events tend to happen in the south, in and around London and often us up here in the North feel a bit left out.

I’ve recently been chatting about this phenomena to some of my developer friends and colleagues; and the conclusion we have come to is that if there are no conferences happening locally to help promote knowledge share and collaboration between developers, then the only solution is to set one up ourselves!

We got chatting with some friends; those friends made some introductions and the result is CodeMobile – a conference specifically created for Mobile Developers. The event will take place just after easter next year (18th, 19th and 20th April), is a 3 night residential and has 2 tracks, one for Android Developers and another for iOS Developers.

In creating the conference we’ve deliberately tried to make it as accessible as possible for developers from all backgrounds. The ticket price is as cheap as it possibly can be (Super Early Bird, £275 & £350 Full Price) which will hopefully allow Indie Developers who are not backed by big corporations to come along; and we’ve been fortunate enough to attract a plethora of speakers from both the UK and internationally.

Putting the conference together over the past few weeks has been an absolute whirlwind of an experience and I’m delighted we’ve had so much support and encouragement from within the developer community. We are now in the process of finalising the speakers list (there are still some great speakers to add to the list) and also confirm details before tickets go on sale on 1st September 2016.

As this is a new conference any help and support you can give will be very much appreciated. In particular we need help reaching out to developer networks and communities to make sure everyone is aware of the event. If you’re involved in a local meet-up or know any developers who might be interested a tweet mentioning the conference website or that tags those who might be interested would be hugely appreciated.

We’ve also opened up the possibility of winning some free conference tickets! If you want to be in with a chance then you just need to get your tweet on on follow the instructions on the Free Tickets page of the conference website.

I would love to hear any feedback about the event that you might have! Also if you have any speakers you would like to see at the event please drop me a line – I can’t promise but we will certainly reach out to those speakers and see if its possible to get them to attend.

My dream for this conference is that the developer community take ownership of it and that it becomes a true community event; to that end if you have any ideas or suggestions please drop me a tweet.

Once tickets go on sale please show your support by signing up to attend if you’re interested and able. It would be brilliant to see you at the event! You can also follow @codemobileuk on twitter, and find all related information on the conference website www.codemobile.co.uk

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A Social Review of 2015

So in a follow up to my social review of 2014 I thought it worthwhile to continue to trend and take a look back at 2015 and highlight what has been making the news particularly in the world of Apple. There have been some big technological changes and advancements in 2015 but I think the big thing that is holding us back is mass adoption.

1. Apple Watch Arrived

It seems like a long time ago now but the Apple Watch was finally released to the public. The watch had been rumoured as far back as 2011; and when it was announced in September 2014 it lived up to the hype but we still couldn’t get our hands on it! It wasn’t until April 2015 that I finally got my hands on one but many had to wait several months while Apple processed the back orders.

It still hasn’t changed the world though – it is now the best selling smart watch on the market but it hasn’t received mass adoption. I am still one of only 5 people that I know who has one which even in terms of my friendship circle is a very small percentage. 

The watch is brilliant though; it’s the first smart watch that I have religiously worn on a daily basis. That said I’m probably not alone in that I use a very small fraction of the features. I love that Micky Mouse tells me the time, and it’s very useful to see when my next meeting is. The Taptic feedback on google maps has come in handy on a couple of occasions and the ability to read text messages without getting my phone out of my pocket is helpful. Sending my heartbeat to the other 4 people that I know with a watch was fun for 5 minutes, and the ability to send drawings amused me for a few hours but in reality these gimmicks while good for show stopping media launches have little value to the long term use of the product.

The big question is whether it’s prohibitive price tag will ever allow it to become mass market? I hope that it does but I fear if there isn’t a drastic increase in adoption during 2016 it may simply become an apple fringe product at best.

2. New Apple TV

Again this was very overdue, rumoured and promised for years but finally this year we got our hands on the new Apple TV. Apple very kindly gave Apple Developers a new box for free and it hasn’t disappointed. It seems the uptake is healthy and the feedback seems generally positive. The TVOS App Store still has a very small number of apps but I guess this is to be expected. 2016 will see an explosion of apps and I’m optimistic that the future of Apple TV will see it challenge the games console market.

3. IPad Pro

Sticking with the Apple Trend Apple launched the iPad Pro. To say I’m septical about the need for a bigger iPad would be a huge understatement; that said I’m writing this article on one and it has to be said I find it much more comfortable to use that either the iPad Air or the iPad Mini. My issue with it is that it is largely a laptop replacement and that’s how I’m using it! It feels to me like it needs to have a greater range of software abilities and iOS is a little limiting on the device. That said I don’t subscribe to the need to have a full version of OSX on the device and I’m not sure that would work well. Maybe iOS needs to morph into iOSPro or similar? And it’s definitely time that Apple dealt with the issue of file management within their flagship mobile operating system.

There have been other steps forward, Apple Music launched with great hype; as expected we got a new iPhone (6s and 6s Plus) the next generation of OSX also has some nice enhancements. I still have the feeling that Apple are riding the crest of a wave though – they are still the most profitable company in the world but somehow in the mix of all of these new products I still continue to want more from them. I don’t know what I want but whatever it is I feel it needs to do what iPhone did back in 2007 and change the world!

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HTML Elements

It seems to me that everyone can build a website! Some people build websites better than others; many use outdated technologies or haven’t stayed up to speed with web standards and the latest developments within HTML5 jQuery and the like – but none the less building websites and adding content to the web is easier than ever.

I recently came across this periodic table of valid HTML elements. So if you’re building websites; aren’t sure if the tag you are using is allowed; or just want to explore your knowledge of HTML markup take a look! You never know you might just find a tag that you didn’t know existed and it might solve a problem that has been bugging you for months. Enjoy!
  
If you want more information on any of the elements check out W3C.

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iOSDEVUK – My Favourite Bits!

So last week was the fifth @iOSDEVUK and what a brilliant week it was. Its always good to meet up with everyone in Aberystwyth and to share ideas and experience so that as a developer community we can learn to build better apps that surprise and delight our users.

I thought I would do a brief roundup of my highlights of the week and share one or two things that I learnt along the way.

Creating Usable Apps – Maxim Cramer (@mennenia)

This was by far one of my favourite sessions. Maxim looked at how developers should engage users in the development process and how that feedback can be used to improve apps. The session was very hands on and it was great opportunity for us to get some feedback on the new @chestersu app that we’re building and also to input and provide feedback on the Capital One iOS app. Great learning and incredibly useful.

#TopTip, get a user to test your app today – go up to someone in a coffee shop and ask them to do something on your app and watch what they do! Remember to tell the user that we are testing the product though; and not them!

iOS top trick – Chris Ross (@darkrock)

This just goes to show that you can always learn something new about the platform you use everyday. I can’t believe I didn’t know this before Chris featured it in his lightning talk – if use the panorama feature on your iphone you’re used to taking panoramas left to right. Did you know you can take a panorama right to left just by tapping the arrow to change direction?

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Doing Mobile at facebook – Simon Whitaker (@s1mn)

I’ve seen Simon talk a number of times and he never fails to disappoint. His talk on facebook explored a whole myriad of things from development practices, how Facebook handles scale and the problems associated with this and not forgetting the fact that the facebook mobile app is over 100Mb because it contains 18000 classes. Brilliant value and great talk!

Selfie Ideas – Chris Wilson (@abitofcode)

Who knew that if you take a selfie through a loo role you would look like the moon! #toptrick and great lesson! #tryit

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Magic Transitions – Shawn Welch (@shawnwelch)

This really is useful; the library developed by square allows users to create magic transitions similar to keynote. Once this is open sourced I think we’ll start to see some really cool transition effects coming to iOS apps #cantwait.

Core Data Multithreading – Marcus Zarra (@mzarra)

Marcus is always fantastic value; I’ve seen him talk about core data 3 or 4 times and I always come away having learnt something new. This year the talk was all about multithreading and how it is now possible to create multiple Persistent Store Co-Ordinators across multiple threads. If you need to know more about Core Data read his books! #Brilliant

So that was my favourite moments from @iOSDEVUK – as always I could have written about so much more; from the new friends made at the conference dinner to the annual Rummers reunion that must surely be about to enter mythical legend.

Huge big up to everyone involved with organising the event; can’t wait for next year!

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A perplexing keynote

So Apple held there September Event on Wednesday and I’ve got to be honest; I’m a little perplexed. If you haven’t seen the keynote you can watch it here 

The rumours by en large proved true; the new Apple TV complete with SDK is definitely a welcome addition to the line up; and the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6SPlus isn’t exactly a revelation. I laughed when Tim played the iPhone video as I genuinely believe they could have used the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in place of the new devices on screen and no-one would have noticed.

There were 2 things in the keynote though that left me wondering why.

First off; MICROSOFT! What were they doing? I had visions of the Steve Balmer Developers, Developers, Developers moment being repeated – surely Microsoft don’t believe that if Mohammad won’t go to the Mountain then Microsoft must go to the developers?

Its more than that though – I can accept the argument of the two companies “burying the hatchet, and Microsoft not feeling the need to compete; but in allowing Microsoft to present Office on the iPad Apple in my eyes have effectively acknowledged that the Office suite is a superior product to iWork and in some ways have abandoned Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

The second why moment in my view relates to the new Apple Surface …. sorry iPad Pro. That thing is huge and well expensive! I may well come to eat my words, but why would you want to have a tablet that size? For me I’d have preferred them to keep the existing overall size of iPad but introduce a thinner bezel to maximise screen real estate.

Then, there is the Apple Pencil – need I say more than to quote Steve Jobs “If you see a stylus, they have got it wrong” – #notconvinced; that said I’m sure some artists and graphic designers may find it useful, I just don’t believe its right for the mass market.

So there you have it; Apple have gone mad – well maybe not mad, but it strikes me that they are once again struggling to innovate.

I believe they don’t really know what to do next with iPad and are floundering for its next big success. For me they just need to slow down a little; there isn’t a need to have a brand new iPhone every year, and certainly not a brand new iPad – I’m not saying never refresh the product again; just take some time out and then introduce something new and innovative to the market.

Its time for them to take a risk and I fear if they don’t perhaps we are going to see that they have already ridden the crest of the wave and are about to watch the wave break over cupertino and the apple campus.

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Social Media: Does it complement or detract from life?

Social media is key part of all of our lives and everyday it seems that something happens to reinforce its impact on our lives. It is estimated that the average person in america spends upwards on 37 minutes per day social networking and that 46% of web users are influenced by social media when making a purchase (https://www.marketingtechblog.com/2014-statistics-trends-businesses-social-media/).

During the social media boom around 2006 the younger generation (18-30) were by far the quickest to adopt the technology; but recently the largest growth has been seen amongst 45-50 year olds. I think its impressive how older generations are adopting the technology and making use of it in ways that I wouldn’t have even imagined.

Personally, what I find most interesting is that as older generations come on board it seems that the technology is being used more as an extension of social activity that is already taking place offline. One of the most vibrant Facebook groups that I am a member of is the `Consett and District Heritage Initiative. Consett has always had a large number of individuals interested in local history and groups such as this are extending activities that already take place offline to allow a greater number of people to get involved with the conversations and really bring history to life.

With social media being used in this way I wonder if critics ever had anything to be worried about when arguing that online social interaction was going to have a negative impact on real life social interaction. I find that my online life compliments and enhances my actual life and far from becoming more of a recluse it actually causes me to interact with a much greater range of people some of whom I would otherwise not have the opportunity to interact with.

Whats your experience of social media? Does it enhance or detract from your “real life”?

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QR Codes

At Footsqueek we have recently been doing a lot of work with QR Codes. We are using them as an educational tool to allow schools to make wall displays much more interactive.

A couple of years ago QR codes seems to be everywhere, on every high street, on business cards, in shop windows, and on membership cards to name but a few. Recently they seem to have been less prevalent and i’m wondering why that is – has the technology been and gone so quickly?

Perhaps people are looking for technologies to make their lives easier – having to reach into your pocket to get your phone to scan something seems easy enough but maybe its viewed as to much effort or to consuming to really make life easier. After all do we really need to see the content that is linked to from the QR code.

I still speak to countless individuals who have no idea what a QR code is or how to use one – on that basis maybe the technology piqued before its time.

That said we still find it useful in an educational context so maybe there are some specific markets – are you using QR codes? How do you use them?

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Artificial Intelligence – Can a Robot Ever Be Intelligent?

I was recently reminded of of a Robot developed by Sony a few years ago called QRIO (Quest for Curiosity). The device had some awesome unique features like the ability to recognise people’s faces and the ability to deal with emotional responses such as anger  or annoyance. One of the most amazing things about the machine is that it has the ability learn.

It occurs to me though that as intelligent as QRIO may seem, and despite the fact that it can copy and remember behaviour the robot is not truly intelligent because it doesn’t have the ability to make independent decisions – it simply does what it is programmed to do. We must therefore consider what we really mean when referring to an intelligent technology and question if technology can ever be truly intelligent.

Aristotle said:

There is only one condition in which we can imagine managers not needing subordinates, and masters not needing slaves. This would be if every machine could work by itself, at the word of command or by intelligent anticipation.

It is possible for programmes to be written that can emulate intelligent anticipation. An example would be a Central Heating system that can be programmed to maintain a certain temperature within a set environment. The system anticipates when the consumer is likely to want to turn the heating on, responds to the environmental change and performs the task.

This is not, however, true intelligent anticipation because the system only reacts when a set of pre-programmed conditions are evaluated as true. To be intelligent the system would have to decide what the required temperature was without any human intervention.

It occurs to me that even if such a system were technically possible consumers would react negatively as the concept comes close to the Big Brother totalitarian state described by Orwell in his Novel Nineteen Eighty Four.

Darwin’s theory of Evolution demonstrates that the human race has evolved into an intelligent species, embracing inteligence to survive; it could be argued that truly inteligent systems are the next stage of human evolution and could be used as a self protection mechanism to assist our survival.

Until technology enables this evolutionary shift we much resign ourselves to devising methods of control for automated systems that make working with technology more convenient for the consumer, while recognising that sometimes a task does not require automation because the consumer is content with the current solution, or because society is not yet ready to embrace the long term possibilities or consequences.

If you want to find out more about QRIO check out these links:

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