Speaking – on Self Learning Web Development in 2017

In February I spoke at London Web Standards and West London Coders events. I have spoken before (on email development and also on learning new things) many years ago, so it was nice to get back into the swing of speaking at well organised events with an engaged and knowledgable audience.

I wanted to highlight how different the learning experience is for a front end developer today compared to 10 years ago when I started learning development. Using devices, access to the source code and the complex tools we use in modern development as examples of where things have changed, not necessarily for the better when starting to learn.

The video for the talk is online to watch at https://vimeo.com/215200653, as recorded at the London Web Standards event and Tom Morris took detailed notes which you can read at https://tommorris.org/posts/9474.

Both event were well attended and my talk prompted some great discussion and I hope inspired some people to continue to learn web technologies and not get disheartened by stumbling blocks that appear during the learning process.

From the reaction to the talk in person and online, I think that I was not wrong in my assumptions and the experience has changed and is not necessarily going to inspire new developers, especially those who are learning in isolation without support on hand whenever needed.

If you need any help learning web development, you can always let me know on twitter and I’ll help you any way I can.

Code Club’s Desert Race Game – with physical controls

Playing Desert Race with a Makey Makey

IMG_1822_small

Equipment

Tin Foil
Cardboard
A banana
A courgette
Wire (about 4 metres)
Makey Makey
Desert Race game
Tape (gaffer or something quite strong)

Simple Diagram

Simple wiring diagram for Desert Race.
Simple wiring diagram for Desert Race.

Setting up the game

  1. This is a pretty easy conversion – all you need to do is change the keypress on the lion to “when W key pressed” to allow for the limited key inputs on the makey makey:

    What to change the lion script to in scratch.
    The updated script on the lion sprite.
  2. If you have completed the bonus challenge to add boosts to the game, you could extend this and make another input using the makey makey, something else conductive (like more fruit) and a piece of wire!

Setting up the controllers

  1. To make the foot pads, cut some cardboard in tin foil, big enough for 2 little feet to fit on (or big feet if you’re making it for big kids!).
  2. Using some tape, secure a length of wire, stripped of insulation at both ends, to the cardboad, the wire needs to be around 1 metre in length, to allow it to reach the makey makey and the foot pad on the floor.
  3. Cover the cardboard with some glue (I used spray mount) and cover the whole of one side of the cardboard (but not the bare wire) glue. Cover the cardboard with tin foil. Making sure that the wire you secured to the cardboard is touching the tin foil (and not covered in glue!).
  4. Attach the wires from one of the foot pads to the W key on the makey makey (the lion pad) and the other to the A key on the makey makey for the parrot, remember which pad is connnected to which key (I marked my pads with a lion and parrot image to make it easier).
  5. Next take your items of fruit of vegetable (it’s fruit just for novelty value) and insert some wire (again about a metre and stripped at both ends) directly into the flesh of the fruit. Sercure the wire with some tape so it won’t fall out the fruit too easily.
  6. Attach the wires from both pieces of fruit to ground on the makey makey.
  7. Plug in the makey makey to your computer running the scratch game Desert Race (with the updated key press as above).
  8. Now just press start and with shoes and socks off, hold the fruit in your hand and run/jump up and down on the foot pad to make your character go! The faster you run or jump, the faster the character will move!
  9. And finally, don’t forget to explain how the Makey Makey uses electrical current and creating a circuit to make the characters move!

 

 

 

JavaScript Code Club Part II

So after a chat with some of my initial advisory committee (Jack Franklin, Micheil Smith, David Smith, Susanne Feldhusen and Arran Ross Paterson) I have refined what I think I’m looking at/for.

I think the initial requirement is for a kind of drop-in center for people to mingle with JavaScript mentors who can help them with specific problems they are having or help the solve specific problems.

To keep people interested and to make sure there is something to discuss, I would get a few mentors to set up a number of tasks (similar to assignments on www.codecademy.com) that people can set about and request advice or help if they can’t complete any parts of the work.

The ‘syllabus’ as it were would feature real life problems – including completing tasks without jQuery, creating sliders, using animation, building with things like backbone, API use etc  all the time promoting best practice.  By setting a number of tasks that people can choose from, but that mentors would be able to complete in a straightforward manner would hopefully mean that people will have an incentive to regularly attend and consistently improve their JavaScript programming.

So a bimonthly programme, initially running for 3 months, it would give people a good run at meeting mentors, having a specific regular time with mentors and peers and improving their JavaScript – and hopefully inspire them to continue thinking about what the mentors have taught them and look at working on the tasks in their spare time as well as during sessions.

As always, any suggestions or comments gratefully received. Happy coding!

 

Outlook 2010 – still not helping anyone

So here’s the great news that Outlook 2010 is in beta development. Here’s the not so great news. They are still planning on using the Word rendering engine to display HTML emails, just as in Outlook 2007.

Goodbye styles and background images, hello tables (my old friend) and broken emails.

There may be all sorts of reasons behind the move, be it a reaction to Microsoft not being allowed to bundle Internet Explorer with Windows 7 or the official Microsoft view that using Word offers the most powerful email composition tools for Outlook users. This is flawed by tha fact that recipients will require Outlook to view the emails properly, and with only 7% of the market this punishes Outlook users in my opinion. I see no reason why a corporation such as Microsoft can’t allocate the resources to create an email client that provides powerful authoring and rendering of emails, using email standards.

The Email Standards Project, Campaign Monitor (I love you guys!) and Newism have initiated a campaign, http://fixoutlook.org/, to try and highlight the problems to Microsoft, so lets all hope they listen.

Outlook is broken - let's fix it!

Alternatively the sooner I get away from having to worry about building HTML emails, the better.

Addition: the Microsoft response

Microsoft have provided a response to the campaign on their MSDN blog which expands on a number of points I raised. In the comments I pointed out that HTML is not an email standard, and Microsoft correctly state “There is no widely-recognized consensus in the industry about what subset of HTML is appropriate for use in e-mail for interoperability“. This is my view too but of course it doesn’t make my day job any easier.

I agree that many using Word to compose rich emails will find that the easiest and most powerful method – but it still relies on the recipient using a client expecting Word formatted HTML.

Finally, if Microsoft would please prove to me that “Word has always done a great job of displaying the HTML which is commonly found in e-mails around the world” I’d appreciate it, because I think that is absolute bollocks and my professional experience backs that up.

Pyrenees training 2009

The past four days have been awesome, since I have been cycle/triathlon training with Richard from work, Gaunty who we swim with and his mate Nick.

The Pyrenees are beautiful and while we knew we were in for a tough time with a few big hills, no one really expected to be staying at the bottom of a hors catégorie climb in Col du Tourmalet. Round the corner was the Col d’Aspin too which has featuredin Le Tour de France 66 times. So the climbing was awesome, tough, beautiful, painful, challenging, sweaty and required a lot of determination. Continue reading “Pyrenees training 2009”