Mark Simpson & Steven Wang: Bitcoin, Crypto Assets and Blockchain

While I understand the concepts behind Bitcoin and blockchain, I’ve never really understood how they actually worked. So, I was pleased when Mark Simpson and Steven Wang from RBS offered to come do a talk for us on the subject. This was our second industry talk of the 2017/8 academic year, the last one being Katie Fenn: Chrome DevTools, Inside Out.

Slides: PowerPoint file (University logins only)

I first met Mark when I saw him speak at Design It; Build It (read more in DiBi 2017 Reflections). I was very interested to learn about some of the innovative work that his team has been doing at RBS. Since then, we’ve been looking for an opportunity to work together, so I’m glad that it finally worked out!

Continue reading “Mark Simpson & Steven Wang: Bitcoin, Crypto Assets and Blockchain”

Katie Fenn: Chrome DevTools, Inside Out

At the end of November, we were lucky enough to have Katie Fenn (http://www.katiefenn.co.uk/) come to the University of Edinburgh to give a talk on “Chrome DevTools, Inside Out”. This kicked off the community’s industry talks for the 2017/8 academic year. Although this talk was some time ago, I’ve only gotten a chance to write it up now…!

Katie has given this talk numerous times, so I’ve included some links to slides and recordings below:

Continue reading “Katie Fenn: Chrome DevTools, Inside Out”

A View from the Prater – IS at DrupalCon Vienna, Day 3

For the past week a group of us from Information Services have been at DrupalCon 2017 in Vienna. We shared our DrupalCon experience on Day 1 and Day 2 of the conference, giving our thoughts on the sessions we attended, recommended top sessions, and our key takeaways.

Thursday was the last day of conference sessions, although for some of us the Drupal work continued with the community code sprint on Friday!

Continue reading “A View from the Prater – IS at DrupalCon Vienna, Day 3”

A View from the Prater – IS at DrupalCon Vienna, Day 2

Enjoying the famous Sachertorte at the Hotel Sacher in Vienna

This week a group of us from Information Services are attending DrupalCon 2017 in Vienna and we are sharing our thoughts on the sessions we attend, recommending top sessions, and giving our key takeaways from our DrupalCon experience. Yesterday I posted our reactions to the first day of DrupalCon, and today we continue our DrupalCon reportage.

For two of our party, Tim Gray and Bruce Darby, this was a very exciting day as they were presenting a session on how we have used code sprints and collaborative development to build a community of users and developers around EdWeb.  More on our first-time DrupalCon Speakers later!

Continue reading “A View from the Prater – IS at DrupalCon Vienna, Day 2”

A View from the Prater – IS at DrupalCon Vienna, Day 1

View of the Prater park in Vienna

As we embark upon our next big adventure, planning for the migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 of EdWeb, the University’s central CMS, a group of us from Information Services are here in Vienna this week attending DrupalCon 2017.  We are a small but diverse bunch of project managers, developers, sysadmins, and support staff who all play a part in building, running and managing EdWeb.  For the next few days we’ll be sharing our thoughts on the sessions we attend, recommending top sessions, and giving our key takeaways – not the wurst variety – from our DrupalCon experience.

On Tuesday, we started DrupalCon the right way by attending the always entertaining Pre-note, followed by Dries Buytaert’s traditional Driesnote keynote presentation on the state of Drupal.  We then set out on our different tracks, paths crossing at coffee and lunch, for the first intense but interesting day of DrupalCon sessions.

Continue reading “A View from the Prater – IS at DrupalCon Vienna, Day 1”

#GasHack – A worthy cause for a weekend of your time!

My brother is a consultant at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and a colleague is trying to attract interest from industry, computing students or anyone with a bit of computing knowledge in a hack day they are running with the College of Anaesthetists in London (details at: http://gashack.rcoa.it)

The idea is modelled around similar events that have been hosted this year like the NHS Hack day or the MIT hackathon.

Doctors with an idea or project come along and pitch it to the meeting. Developers chose the idea that appeals to them and work on it over the Saturday and Sunday.

On the Sunday afternoon, the teams demo their products in front of the rest of the attendees and a panel of judges.  There are prizes to the teams with the most innovative, exciting or world-changing product.

The event is free and run at the Royal College of Anaesthetists in London; 21st and 22nd of October. It’s a nice venue and they’re buying lunch.

For staff working in IT, it is essentially a charity event.  For students, it’s a nice opportunity to work on real life projects and get something on your CV.

All developer skills are welcome. The theme is around peri-operative care but they will consider any ideas. The clinicians are all intensive care and anaesthetic doctors.

If you would like to help or be involved or just want more information, please get in touch with Michael Leggate (NHS Highland) in the first instance (michaelleggate@nhs.net).  He would be very happy to hear from you.

Thanks.
Bill.

Turing Fest 2017 Reflections

A few members of Information Services (and possibly beyond) attended Turing Fest at the start of August. Turing Fest describes itself as “four conferences in one; covering the product, strategy, engineering and marketing strands of technology. Spread over two days these four tracks shared knowledge and discussed topics at the cutting edge of technology with world-class engineers and technologists from a variety of industries.” It was held at the EICC here in Edinburgh.

Let’s hear how they got on and what thoughts they came away with. Continue reading “Turing Fest 2017 Reflections”

Automation within Information Services Applications Team Delivers Efficiency Gains

Recent work within Information Services Applications has realised benefits by significantly reducing the amount of time required to release APIs (code used by developers to innovate and build further tools).

By utilising tools and technologies which partly automate the work involved in rolling out APIs the Development Services teams have managed to reduce the lead time prior to release from around five days to a matter of minutes.  The tools mean that the release process is significantly more straightforward and requires much less setting up and configuration to the point where releasing an API is almost a case of pushing a button.  The automation also ensures that the process is more reliable and less prone to errors.

Furthermore, multiple APIs can be released in parallel meaning that efficiency gains are further increased as more APIs are developed by the University.

The team demonstrated this new capability in a recent deployment of a microservices tool where several existing APIs were redeployed as part of the release.

Further Information on APIs Programme:

There is a need to transform the online experience of students, applicants, alumni, staff and other members of the University community to provide tailored information via personalised digital services.

To deliver these personalised digital services requires a way to plug into information from central systems and use it in new and innovative ways , like new websites, apps for mobile devices and what’s called ‘portlets’ for MyEd that operate like web pages within web pages.

Plugging into the information can be achieved by using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Here at the University we use open source tools for APIs – the type of code you can get from online communities where developers collaborate to make even better products and software.

While API technology has been around for a long time, its use beyond the integration of large, complex business systems has grown rapidly in recent years and with the proliferation of devices and mobile technology, API use in getting data from one place to another – from connecting business systems, to mobile devices and apps – has expanded exponentially.  That’s because APIs allow data to be accessed securely and consistently across multiple devices, a tremendously valuable resource for the University.

The University’s Enterprise APIs Programme (part of Digital Transformation) has been set up to deliver APIs to support projects like the User Centred Portal Pilot, the Service Excellence Programme and other digitalisation and transformation Programmes across the University.  In addition to enhancing central services such as MyEd, APIs will provide a consistent way for software developers across the University to build flexible systems at a lower cost, securely, and consistently across multiple systems.

Further Links:

Digital Transformation Website

API Technology Roadmap

 

6 months of Front-End Development Community

As we are reaching the end of the University’s financial year, I thought this would be a good time to look back on the first year of the Front-End Development Community. The community began in the fall of 2016, when I was awarded a bit of money for this idea from the Innovation Fund. My idea was to create a community where people interested in front-end development could come together from across the University, to discuss ideas and share best practice.

A few months were spent on the initial brainstorming and organisation, so the community didn’t really get started until February 2017. Over the course of 6 months, we have put on 7 highly successful events:

  • 2 industry talks (from Harry Roberts and Chad Gowler)
  • 3 community lightning talk sessions
  • 2 talks on Designing for IT Accessibility (from Viki Galt)

I’ve been greatly helped by the hard work and dedication of my colleagues, without whom we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this.

Overall, we have had an impressive total of 280 registrations for events, with 188 different attendees. This shows that we have a dedicated core group who are actively engaged in participating in the community.  Continue reading “6 months of Front-End Development Community”

Chad Gowler: Asking About Gender

The University’s Front-End Development Community and Playfair Steps recently hosted Chad Gowler (http://www.kitation.co.uk/) to give a talk on “Asking About Gender”. This thought-provoking talk promotes awareness of some of the challenges faced by non-binary and gender-variant users, and discusses how we can support their needs in web development.

Slides and an alternate recording can be found here (note that this recording is for an older version and doesn’t cover all of the material in the slides):

This is the second time that I have been fortunate enough to see Chad give this talk. One of the things I really enjoy is that it demonstrates how we need to continually ask ourselves why we are asking these types of questions in the first place. This gets straight to the heart of user-centred design.

For our last talk from Harry Roberts, I wrote up some information about who was in the audience, so I thought it would be interesting to do a comparison. Again, the numbers are taken from our Event Booking system, so only shows who signed up for the event. This won’t be exact, as some people may have booked but not attended (or the other way around). Continue reading “Chad Gowler: Asking About Gender”