This month's busy Reading Geek Night was supported by the lovely people at the Technology Strategy Board, who provided free beer for all. TSB were advertising for entrants to the Digital Innovation Contest (entries are now closed), more details of which can be found on the #rdggeek site.
Ciaran McHale: From open source software to open source courseware
Ciaran is a software developer, geek and, most importantly for the topic of his talk, a man who both writes and delivers training courses on a wide variety of different topics. He's spent a lot of time over the last few years pondering on why the open-source movement for software has been so successful, yet the model hasn't been followed with the same success in any other industry.
Ciaran's succinct hypothesis came down to one thing: hobbyists. He proposed that the single reason why OSS has taken off so well is due to the large number of people who not only create software for a living, but also create software as a hobby. These hobbyists solve their own problems, create better ways of working, better tools to solve the problems they're encountering, and then move on to the next problem. This cyclical process drives OSS development forward, gathering more hobbyists and followers along the way.
Having explained his theory, Ciaran went on to apply it to an area he's familiar with: courseware creation. A lot of large scale courseware (he gave an example of an Oracle course book) are created an an incredibly laborious way involving Powerpoint, Word and a huge about of manual labour. This process could be improved dramatically, but there aren't enough hobbyists who can solve the problem. In fact, the number of people who could improve the situation is limited to the crossover between those people who are hobbyist developers, and those people who like the documentation process and ould be hobbyist courseware producers.
Ciaran is one of these rare cross-over breeds, and feels he was made great strides towards solving (or at least significantly helping with) the inefficiencies in the courseware creation process. He's putting the finishing touches to his work before releasing the code, and after the interesting take on an open-source ecosystem, it'll be interesting to see what he's come up with.
- Jim Anning giving away copies of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré as part of World Book Night;
- Ant Parker encouraged people to come along to the Berkshire BCS trip to Blechley Park on Sunday 17th April. He also mentioned a BCS talk being hosted at Copa next Tuesday (15th March) at 7pm, and the need for volunteers to help run the Berkshire BCS branch;
- Finally, Elizabeth Schlackman reminded everyone that as well as pancake day, it was actually the 100th International Women's Day, and talked passionately about encouraging people to think about the rights of women across the world.
Chris Tingley: Creating an interactive iPad book
Having talked at #rdggeek before, Chris knew what the crowd liked, and an Apple-based topic rarely misses the spot. Chris talked about a project that he's recently completed: creating a bespoke, interactive book for the iPad. The Lost Journal project dreamt up by Susie Cornfield to support her Chronicles of Dekaydence series of books.
Chris went through the 6-month process of putting together ideas, story-boarding with their illustrator Jamel Akib, having completely bespoke text written (rather than just basing it off an existing story, like most iPad books do), and dealing with three parties (writer, illustrator and developers) who, naturally, all considered their part of the project to be the most important.
Chris handled some fairly tough questions from the audience well, and everyone got the chance to experience the finished product (now available to buy in the iPad app store for £2.99) for themselves. Although understandably short, the interaction within the app really draws you in to the storyline, and the project has been a big success for all involved.
Felicity Ford: 10 things you didn't know about wool
Apparently, Shreddies are not knitted by nanas.
This was #1 in Felicity's eclectic, entertaining and informative list of "10 things you didn't know about wool." She proceeded to indulge in the flaws behind the "knitted by nanas" idea: mainly that Shreddies appear to be woven (individual warp and weft threads) not knitted (one single thread), and that from an economic standpoint, by her calculations, including raw materials and minimum wages, knitting a box of Shreddies would cost somewhere in the region of £1,262.85 (which is slightly above the £1.99 regular price tag.)
The remaining 9 "things" were no less informative, including an introduction to the world's most expensive sheep which was sold for £231,000, and highlighting the prevalence of knitters and knitting resources on the internet, which tied nicely into Ciaran's earlier talk on open-source non-software: knitting has that hobbyist level that could, and in some cases already has, lead to things like patterns being collectively created and curated.
Felicity has put down her own thoughts on her talk plus a link to the slides, so if you're interested in following her woolly words, take a look.