Building a Development Community In Your Workplace

So for DevSpace in October, I was happy to present my first soft skills talk: Building a Development Community in your Workplace.

I got a lot of good feedback on it, and some people were asking for some more background information on it.  It’s tough to condense a 1 hour talk into a blog post and not bore the heck out of you, so I’ll make you a deal.  I’ll distill it into my core talking points, and if you’re interested in a specific part of it, let me know and I’ll write a more in-depth blog post.

 

It all started back at PyTennessee 2015.  This was my first conference, and I was floored at what this sort of environment offered.  I got to talk with great people, learn awesome stuff, and just generally have a good time.  But as soon as Monday rolled around the next week, I didn’t feel that great.  I chalked it up to being tired from a conference, and having to go back to work after a great weekend.

A few months later, I had the privilege to go to StrangeLoop in St. Louis.  This was a much bigger affair, and we had talks from senior engineers from Twitter, Microsoft, and Mastercard there.  I loved being there, but another strange thing happened.  Even before the conference ended, I was feeling that same “down” feeling that reminded me of PyTennessee.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was.  It stuck with me longer too.

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Launching Tech Talks in your Workplace

It’s no secret that I’ve really loved conferences as of late.  Ever since I went to PyTennessee in 2015, I’ve really felt a renewed encouragement to further my own knowledge. I read software books for a long time, but was starting to peter out on them because I felt like a lot of what I was reading was broadly applicable, but I needed to take deeper dives on certain topics.

I started reading through HackerNews, and started finding blogs I enjoyed, but it still wasn’t enough.  But once I went to a conference, I realized just how much more I could learn.  I saw great presentations, great content, and got to talk to a lot of smart people.

That all happened in February.  That started getting some gears spinning for me.  I wanted to get the conference mindset at ADTRAN, where I work.  I wanted for us to create a culture where we could share all the great thing we knew.  So by July of that same year, I had created Tech Talks.   Continue reading

The State of C++17

Whelp, I haven’t written in a while (I knew this would happen), but it’s okay.  Nothing like a dev conference to get me writing again.

 

I had been selected for two talks for DevSpace2017, which is going on as I write this.  My two talks are “C++17: Not Your Father’s C++” and “Building a Development Community In Your Workplace”

 

I delivered the C++ talk this morning, and I thought it went quite well.  What I want to address in this blog post is the state of C++, with respects to C++17.  C++11 was a huge impact to the C++ community.  We got Lambda’s, Type Inference, Variadic Templates, Smart Pointers, Type Traits, Constexpr, and a bunch of other game-changers.

 

Around the community, I’ve heard some conversations about if C++17 is a bust.  Is it a joke?  I think the reason for this is that people measure C++17 against C++11.  But this isn’t necessarily correct.  C++11 had 7 or 8 years to get moving and to introduce it’s ideas.  It came all at once, and compilers had to play catch up to deliver all these cool new features.

 

But the C++ committee realized this was subpar.  It was too much all at once.  So now they are doing something a bit different.  Smaller releases, more frequent.  (Of course I like this idea, it’s much closer to a continuous integration mindset – and yes I know that 3 years between releases is not continuous, but for compiler releases, I’ll take it).

 

So instead, I measure C++ 17 against C++14.  C++14 gave me a few things like make_unique and auto parameters in lambdas, but this wasn’t a game changer for me.  They were quality of life improvements.  C++17 on the other hand, has variants (Type-safe unions), optional, parallel algorithms, std::byte, string_view, fold expressions, plus a whole bunch of quality of life improvements.

 

People also complain about features that aren’t in the standard (concepts, ranges, modules, reflection, etc.).  I agree, it stinks that these didn’t make it.  But let’s not judge C++17 by what didn’t make it in, but instead, let’s look at what did.  When I look at it this way, I consider C++17 a great improvement to the language.

The Release of RCFC

I’ve done it!  I’ve released my first PyPI package!  pypi_release

RCFC is a remote control for computers.  The basic idea is that I want to be able to write some Python functions, and then have a UI that can call those functions.  As I change the code, no UI changes required, it’s all generated dynamically.

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Music City Code 2017

I just got back from Music City Code 2017 and it was a blast.  It was my first time going there, and I had no idea to expect.  The talks were much better than I thought they would be, the venue was nice (Vanderbilt has a wonderful campus), and I got to meet some great people.

Let’s break down the days.

 

Day 1

Keynote: Change Your World with this One Simple Trick by Jeremy Clark (@jeremybytes)

This keynote was great.  The slides were all hand drawn, reminiscent of David Neal’s talks.  It was all about how meeting someone new can make you a better developer, and that’s what the conference was all about.

Among some of the good tips:

How to start a conversation

  1. Hi I’m <so and so>?
  2. What do you do?
  3. What technologies do you use?

And he explained how developers love to talk, but hate to start conversations.  You could tell everyone was trying this out throughout the conference, and I got to meet some interesting people.

 

F# Type Providers by Chris Gardner (@freestylecoder)

 

I had met Chris since he does the DevSpace conference here in town, and I was going to this conference to learn some new things, so I thought F# was a decent one to go learn about.  My experience with it was one day during Advent of Code, so I wanted to see some of the cool things that it had to offer.

F# Type providers was a awesome way to check the types of a data source at compile time.  The more errors you can push earlier, the better.  Why wait until runtime, when building the code can tell you if your datasource has missing or wrong types.  I’ll probably never use this, but it’s a cool concept

Data Visualization with NVD3.js and D3.js by Dustin Ewers (@dustinewers)

Dustin was a fun presenter.  He started off with a great example of what makes data visualization (the ability to interact and tell a story).  He had a great sense of humor, and presented in an interesting way.  We didn’t get as deep into D3.js as I wanted (we use it someplace at work, and I’d like to understand how it works under the hood), but he introduced me to nvd3.js to create really quick line graphs.

I was talking to some of the attendees of how to set up a Python webserver to host some of this sort of data.  I told them I’d get them something over lunch.  During lunch, I wrote up a quick script (you can find it here).  It was just using bottle to spin up a webserver and then figuring out how to load that up into a line graph in nvd3.  It was a lot simpler than I expected, and the other guys appreciated it a lot.

Lunchtime Functional Programming Panel

This was just a 4 person panel talking about how to get into functional programming and the benefits of it.  A lot of it was stuff I had already drank the Kool-Aid for, so nothing was too new.

 

A Lap Around Xamarin by Douglas Starnes (@poweredbyaltnet)

I don’t do a lot of .NET or mobile development, and this was probably the wrong talk for me.  I didn’t get a lot out of this talk, since the text was too small for me to read to understand what was going on.  It was alright, and there was nothing against the presenter or material, just ended up not being for me.

 

IoT with the ESP8266 and NodeMCU Firmware by Jason Follas (@jasonfollas)

This was an interesting talk about the options you have when building cheap IoT devices.  My co-works talk about the ESP8266 a lot, and I now know a lot more about it.  Most of this talk was explaining Lua, which I had already known, but seeing the workflow for the ESP8266 was pretty cool.

 

Day 2

ElasticSearch in an Hour by John Berryman @(jnbrymn)

I really liked this talk.  I knew nothing about ElasticSearch even though we use it at work on some other projects.  I thought this was a great introduction into how search engines work and in particular, ElasticSearch.  We talked about tokenization, stemming, relevance and indexing.  There were also some great examples contrasting a relational database and ElasticSearch.

 

Lightning Talks

So they had lightning talks in the same time frame as the other talks.  It’s a shame, because this meant there were 8 other talks going on at the same time.  As a result, only one person had registered to give a lightning talk in the two sessions I went too.  There was only about 12 people in the first one, and 4 in the next one.  So, we just did impromptu lightning talks.  I gave two talks, one recapping what I had done the day before with bottle/NVd3 and another that I gave at ADTRAN about Terrible,Terrible Things you can do in C++.  I got to learn a whole lot of other stuff, such as bayes statistics, F# Type Providers (again), Accessibility, and Interview techniques.

 

Lunchtime Software Quality Panel

It was refreshing to hear people in the industry talk candidly about how they expect people to be writing tests up front, and how to change culture to address software quality.  There was a lot of great discussion, and I agreed with most of it.

 

R: It’s Not Just For Pirates Anymore by Dustin Ewers (@dustinewers)

I liked Dustin’s talk the day before, so I decided to listen some about R.  I don’t have any plans to write any R, but it was good to know what the language was capable of.  It reminded me of Pandas in Python.  Dustin had the same good humor and relevant examples.  It was also cool to see how easy it was to write a clustering algorithm or decision tree.  It seems that machine learning is a first class citizen for this language.

 

Career Growth Questions You’re Afraid To Ask by Cassandra Faris (@cassandra Faris)

I was originally going to go to a JS talk, but I decided to do a soft skills talk instead.  This was an interesting take from a recruiter/HR perspective of how to for a new job.  It was nice to see what they were looking for in candidates, what were red flags, and the advice on how to sell yourself.

 

Wrap-up

I will definitely go back to Music City Code next year, as it was much better than I expected.  Talks were good, food was good, people were friendly, and I couldn’t ask for much more.  Plus it’s an hour and a half away from me, so it makes it much easier to be able to go check it out each year.

The Thing I Hate About Distributed Systems

I’ve always been fascinated with distributed systems.  It’s awesome that although we haven’t seen much in terms of increase of processing power, but instead we are moving to multi-core commodity hardware and scaling horizontally across it.  When I just started professionally programming, distributed systems just meant you had a handful of programs keeping in concert with each other of sockets, each doing different pieces of the solution.   It was a simpler time.

Now, you’re talking about a much more massive scale.  I contribute IoT and cloud services like AWS or GCP with the rise of accessibility for making distributed programs easy.  There’s also a slew of tools that are awesome and specifically designed for managing distributed systems.  Kafka for your messaging, Zookeeper for service management, Spark for Data Science, the list goes on.  Even my favorite language, Elixir, is built with distributed systems in mind.  But there’s a catch

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Alexa-Controlled Remote Part II

So I got my new LEDs in, and lo and behold, it works!

To make sure that they were blinking, I wrote a quick Python script that toggled multiple pins (right now its hardcoded to just 1 pin, but I could have changed variables to toggle others).  This was very nice, as I could have it turn on every 15 seconds or so and watch it on my phone camera.


import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
import time

gpio_start = 18
gpio_end = 19

GPIO.setmode(GPIO.BCM)

for x in range (gpio_start, gpio_end):
   GPIO.setup(x, GPIO.OUT)

while True:
   
   for y in range (gpio_start, gpio_end):
      GPIO.output(y, True)
      print 'on ', y
   time.sleep(15)
   
   for z in range (gpio_start, gpio_end):
      GPIO.output(z, False)
      print 'off ',z
   time.sleep(15)

Toggling pins through Python was nice and easy.

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