I’ve now had a couple of weeks to reflect on the busy and interesting JISC developer days event (also known as dev8D) that was held in London on the 24th – 27th of February. The purpose of the event is to get software developers from across higher education and related sectors put them in a room and give them opportunities to network, learn and sink their teeth into challenges posed by new software or datasets. We believe that this approach leads to interesting new ideas and approaches to issues, better trained developers and better connected developers who are more effective because of those connections.
I don’t propose to review the event because you can get an impartial review from some of the many blogs written by people who attended the event. This post is meant to collect the interesting things that were done at and after the event into one place so people can easily find out more about what the event produced.
Despite this not being a review, reviews are an excellent way to get an overall flavour of the event. So here are a few of the thoughtful reviews produced by people who attended dev8D.
As well as these reviews you can also see the feedback that delegates left about the event on the wiki.
One of the benefits of dev8D is the networking. Dave Challis of Southampton has used the twitter accounts of people attending the event to illustrate how people’s networks grew during the event
If you have a hankering then you can access all the dev8D tweets from before during and after the event.
The dev8D blog also talks about networking and why it’s important.
We were lucky at this year’s dev8D to have a really diverse bunch of attendees, here are some examples of the people who attended:
- Katie Pekacar – MLA
- Ian Mulvany – Nature
- Chuck Severance – University of Michigan
- Keiran Marron – Eduserv
- Alex Bilbie – 2nd year undergraduate- University of Lincoln
Adrian Stevenson has also posted some video interviews with some people at dev8D over on the eFragments blog.
The event was jam packed with opportunities to learn. These came in the form of guided sessions to learn new languages, quick 15 minute intros to topics, freeform workshops and ad hoc meetings.
All this learning activity is neatly summed up in Milly Shaw’s post on the dev8D blog. You can also get a flavour of how the delegates felt about the training from the review posts linked above.
What does this kind of event produce? Well, not finished software but demonstrators and new ideas abound. This year at the event a number of organisations offered prizes for developers who came up with an interesting solution to a problem or did something interesting with their technology. There were 9 of these prizes offered by people as diverse as Microsoft Research, MLA, IMS, Edina, Memento and the Internet Archive.
A description of all the entries to these competitions is available on the dev8D blog The prototypes produced for these challenges are often worth much more than the prizes offered. Sam Adams, the developer who won the Memento challenge, is going out to visit the Memento team in the US as a result of his entry and Rob Sanderson who ran the Memento challenge commented to me that Sam’s entry was likely to have a real impact on the work of the Memento team.
In a similar vein, the winner of the Microsoft Research challenge has been asked to do a show and tell on his entry at the Open Repositories conference in Madrid.
The ideas weren’t limited to those entering the competition for prizes. There were fascinating ideas people bought along to the event or worked on while they were there:
- Overview of achievements at dev8D
- Reprap – the astonishing 3D printer
- Ben O’Steen’s experiments with the format of books
- Emma Tonkin and team’s DIY electronic whiteboard
For a complete listing of event outputs see the happy stories page of the dev8D wiki which collects interesting ideas, experiments, thoughts, etc.
In summary, it was an amazing event, so much happened and I missed far more than I managed to see. The enthusiasm and energy that organisers and attendees put into the event was astonishing and I am still digesting a lot of the things I saw and learned. The devCSI project who organised this event as part of their remit to support a community of developers in UK HE did a fantastic job and keep an eye on their blog for more events like this.