So, this weeknote is a bit late as this is the second attempt at writing it as for some reason the first attempt was lost halfway through :(
It's been a weird week again, with Covid-19. Whilst I'm used to working from home and working remotely, this does feel a bit strange. The UK went on lockdown last night and so now we are only allowed out for exercise once a day, and out to go for essential shopping. Most of the shops, besides food shops have closed. I've been in isolation for the past two weeks, so not much has really changed for me, but still feels a bit stranger now.
This is still a work in progress, I've managed to get spare bedroom upstairs cleared (since one of the kids moved out) and going to convert that to an office. Have had to dismantle the bed there, to move it out the way, so as to fit in the sofa bed that is in another room, that needs to be moved out, to be replaced with a single bed for another kid. Feels like one of those sliding tile puzzles... know the ones I mean? Once I've got that sorted out I think will be easier to concentrate on work.
We've also been having a number of 'social hour' type hangouts online with colleauges. This again, does feel strange as we spend so much time communicating online anyway in my line of work, it sometimes seems unnecessary. But it does seem to be helpful to chat, even if about other random things. Some colleagues have produced videos on ranges of their hobbies, such as bee keeping and coffee making. One colleague created a virtual 'bar'. It was nothing more than a video-based group chat, but the surround of the screen was themed like a bar. He talked about doing various ones, Tiki bar, Irish pub, gay bar, etc. Whilst a subtle change, he did say it seemed to have quite a big psychological effect on his friends when they were chatting as didn't seem as formal or sterile as your average Zoom or Webex call.
Well most meetups have been moving online now. We have been having quite a discussion in out team how this affects things. The main role of our team is to do in-person meetups and workshops for developers. Hard to do when all under quarantine! So it has been a case of trying to work out which of the gazillion video conferencing solutions will work best for us. As I said, one of the areas we add value is that we are there to help people out as they work through the workshops. Trying to replicate that online is a challenge.
But here is the head of our team, Mo, talking about what we are going to be up to in the near future:
Interestingly, had a bit of a throwback this week. I used to be heavily involved in an Open Source Content Management System called Plone for many years. I even organised the annual Plone Conference for a couple of years with 300 people from 30+ countries all coming to Bristol. The conference moved around to a different city each year. In 2006 it was held in Seattle, Washington. But also simultaneously... in Second Life:
This was put together by a group of people led by Christian Scholz. And was clearly waaaaaay ahead of it's time, as this week a colleague has suggested Second Life as an idea for our virtual meetups. If not Second Life, but maybe something similar?
If there is one silver lining that may come out of this whole mess is that maybe we will start to work more remotely where possible, and reduce our impact on the world. In fact, I've seen some disabled people say “Hey, welcome to my world!” now. Suddenly everything has had to be made more accessible. And some disabled people are actually feeling less left out (besides the obvious fear of Corona Virus) and that there are more things accessible to them. I've seen online workout shows, online churches, online cookery sessions, online poetry readings, online musicians gigs. Many universities and educational institutions are putting things online. In the UK the schools are now all closed, so we are all now homeschool teachers and distance learners.
Did you know that IBM Developer had a Twitch channel? I'm going to hopefully be streaming some sessions from it in the near future. I'm thinking about some more stuff about getting more people started with AI and machine learning. So some live coding sessions around the “Intro to AI/ML” talk I've been giving recently.
The great thing with Twitch, is it will be a “warts and all” session. It will be live, generally unscripted, development. So you get to see how everything is done and see everything without the gloss.
I've had a chat with the technology focal for blockchain in the IBM Developer Advocacy group to find out more about blockchain in IBM. So far my exposure to blockchain has been on public permissionless blockchains (mainly the XRP Ledger). But there is (counter intuitively) a real use-case for permissioned blockchains in organisations. So this is something I'm looking to explore more. IBM mainly uses Hyperledger, which is Java based. My Java is pretty rusty, but I'm hoping to dust it off a bit, or try and see how I can interact with it in Python.
One of IBM's most known Blockchain projects is the IBM Food Trust, which is a system for tracing the origin and handling of food throughout the supply chain.
Call for Code – IBM has launched the 2020 edition of Call for Code. This is an annual competition open to everyone to develop solutions and projects around climate change. There are cash prizes for the best projects and a chance to get further funding and support in developing projects. There is also this year a Covid-19 track as well, for people who have ideas for projects related to helping tackle the pandemic.
Girls Who Code – Code at Home. This is a fantastic resource of projects and free computer science educational resources aimed at getting kids (of any gender!) interested in computing and occupied during this time of homeschooling. I'm looking to start doing some of them with my daughter. There are new projects released weekly.
I've started to get back into podcasts. It seems like this medium is having a big resurgence recently. I've also found now working from home, that sticking on my noise cancelling headphones, and putting on a podcast whilst doing the vacuuming or dishes is a great way of making mundane tasks more pleasant.
Command Line Heroes is a podcast produced by Saron Yitbarek and tells the epic true tales of how developers, programmers, hackers, geeks, and open source rebels are revolutionizing the technology landscape. She has a great storytelling voice and the production value is excellent on it. All leading to quite a spellbinding podcast, that I've found myself really drawn into.