Van + stars

My 7 aims for 2016.

Last year was tough.

It was so tough, that I didn’t write any resolutions or plans, because I couldn’t divert any outward energy to them, and didn’t feel I was able to write candidly without self-censoring. So I wrote no plans.

This year I’m going to try to be more transparent – my current aims for this year are something like:

  • Find someone who’ll love and support me, and let me love and support them.
    • So we can explore our journeys together.
  • Ingest as much information and knowledge about relationships in whatever forms I can: books, talks, audiobooks etc.
    • So I understand more, and at least know where to look if I need to quickly develop skills I don’t have, which help me be a better partner.
  • Improve and polish the van to make it more desirable to live in
    • So that it’s more polished, more comfortable and could grace the pages of insufferable lifestyle magazines.
  • Get fitter by doing more hiking & climbing
    • So I feel physically & technically fit enough to consider more outdoor challenges.
  • Travel, explore and see the country (and others).
    • To see the world from different perspectives
  • Learn Javascript programming and AngularJS so I can build simple web apps.
    • So I can play around with building ideas that might make other people happy
  • Figure everything else out.
    • So there are answers to the unanswered questions in my life.

This is a snapshot (accurate only on the day it was posted) of constantly evolving plans. If I decide that one of those isn’t so important, it may be removed, changed etc – and that’s ok.

So here’s one last thought, if you’re able to help me take any small footsteps towards getting closer to any of those goals: recommending, suggesting, encouraging, supporting etc. then you’ll be helping me with exactly what I want to be – and I’ll be incredibly grateful.

If that’s anything I can do to support you then I’d love to know, to see what I can do – I appreciate you taking the time to read this. :)

Engineering Culture at Autotrader

We’ve just come away from the AutoTrader “Science Fair” and we’re full of thoughts, ideas and reflections and wanted to get them down somewhere.

We heard about the event at Barcamp Manchester last weekend, and decided to go along to get a better understanding of how AutoTrader works. I know AutoTrader as a customer – we bought the van off it – so it was interesting to understand how things work behind the scenes.

An open evening! Whoever thought of this mag-fucking-nificient idea should be knighted. What a great way to help people find out more about you in a low pressure, chilled way (with free drinks!).

It reminded us of school open evenings (in a good way) – lots of people, hands-on-activities and posters. It felt a bit cramped in places – there were some areas where we thought pushing the desks against the walls might have been a better use of space.

Clara is a developer, so whilst I would have found it fascinating to talk to their editorial team and learn more about their inbound marketing efforts, talking about technology is common ground to us both. So as we only had 45 minutes to spare, we decided to immerse ourselves in their ‘technical’ room.

AutoTrader organises its teams in ‘Squads’ – autonomous, cross functional product teams who take complete responsibility for an area of their business, which meant that when we asked one of their devops people who would be the best person to talk to about Front End, there wasn’t a clear functional stand. Each AutoTrader squad has design, product, marketing, development all together – creating user stories, picking them off one by one, and working through them. One of the things we found surprising about all this was that they don’t tend to have a purely front end function in their squads – it tends to be something that their Java developers have or develop on the job.

We had a great chat with Jan and Gareth in the Dealer Portal Squad, who were super helpful in filling us in on how the system works, and how their system’s AngularJS app works (with Flux, doing some cool sounding event based things!). We found it interesting how none of the squads we spoke to really seemed able to talk about how they handle their CSS – even “Do you use a CSS pre-processor?”. It’d be really interesting to understand more about Autotrader’s approach to the front end – especially since they seem to work in a cross functional way.

One of the recruitment tools we admire the most is two videos that Spotify’s engineering team put on YouTube. These two videos outline Spotify’s engineering approach, company structure, and explain how things get made and product gets shipped. All explained concisely & knowledgeably and beautifully illustrated. To an outsider, it’s dizzying to be introduced to AutoTrader’s two dozen or so squads on the floor of their office, without a clear understanding of how the company works, and how their development processes work within it. Before we saw the Spotify engineering videos, we didn’t have any feeling about Spotify’s tech team. Now we feel they have a great (yet modest) engineering culture that we’d try to be part of if the opportunity arose. Perhaps there’s something for AutoTrader to learn there.

To be honest, we’re inspired. Perhaps not to work at AutoTrader (sorry!), though we now know the company a lot better (yay!). We’re inspired to take this open evening approach and suggest it to the companies we work for, and the ones we know across Manchester. This seems like such a great way of getting people to understand what you do, that we wish they happened more frequently, in more companies.

Thanks for having us AutoTrader!

-@tdobson
-@czmj2

My first Javascript program

Embarrassingly for a techie, my coding skills are somewhat lacking – despite various dabblings, my focus largely having been system administration without a firm basis in basic programming logic. :(

Clearly, if this is something I’m wanting taught in schools, I should make an effort to learn and understand about it myself however there are plenty of bits of code that I aspire to make small modifications to, yet lack the knowledge to do so.

Codecademy‘s high profile launch of CodeYear, provided the perfect, gentle opportunity, to quickly get to grips with some really basic concepts without feeling patronised or rushed or guilty of wasting someone’s time.

I’ve just completed the Codecademy week 1 courses, and my biggest success so far is putting together this simple Javascript FizzBuzz game program. Not a ground breaking achievement, but considering this is (apparently) a frequently used interview task, it certainly feels like something has been accomplished!

Onwards!

Javascript (execute in Firebug debugger)

// What number shall we play up to?
var number = 100

// for the numbers 1 through 20,
for (i=1; i<=number; i++) {

// if the number is divisble by 3 and 5, write "FizzBuzz"
if ( i % 3 === 0 && i % 5 === 0 ) {
console.log("FizzBuzz");
}

// if the number is divisible by 3, write "Fizz"
else if ( i % 3 === 0 ) {
console.log("Fizz");
}

// if the number is divisible by 5, write "Buzz"
else if ( i % 5 === 0 ) {
console.log("Buzz");
}

// otherwise, write just the number
else {
console.log(i);
}
}