March C4DI You Really Should Be

 David Gilson and Jon Moss, and a Media Centre

David Gilson and Jon Moss, and a Media Centre

I really like the "Your Really Should Be" events at C4DI. And so do lots of other people it seems. The place was packed.

There were four speakers, starting with David Gilson who took as his stating point "You really should be looking at XBMC" (or Xbox Media Centre) to use its full title. XBMC is a media client that runs on most anything, from Raspberry Pi upwards and lets you spread media around your house. You can even start watching a movie downstairs, move upstairs and continue from exactly where you left off. You can integrate it with other media tools such as BBC iPlayer and replace shelves full of DVDs with a single mass storage server tucked behind the TV.  David took us through configuration and usage scenarios and had even brought along a Ouya video game console which he also uses as a media centre device. 

 Chris Gooding - Telling us all to train our replacements

Chris Gooding - Telling us all to train our replacements

Next up was Chris Gooding.  He is definitely a man after my own heart. I've always thought of programmers as "Creatively Lazy" people. We will work surprisingly hard to find solutions that we convince ourselves will save time and effort in the long run. Chris argued for taking this to the next level. Rather than programming computers to do things for us, why not program people? He reckoned you really should be training your replacement. If you spend your time showing other folks how to do your job they can pitch in and do your work for you. And if your boss does the same thing (and they should) then this will result in expertise trickling down the workforce and making it easier to keep all the skills inside the company. Nice idea.

 Jason Taylor. The text on the screen says "Take Risks, Throw Darts, Make Rubbish, Surprise Yourself". Amen.

Jason Taylor. The text on the screen says "Take Risks, Throw Darts, Make Rubbish, Surprise Yourself". Amen.

Jason Taylor was next. He reckons that we should play more. Jason comes from an arts and product design background and gave a great talk about the benefits of just playing with stuff. I agree. Recently I've had a lot of fun playing with things just to see if I could make them do stuff. Hitting a specification and making the correct deliverable is all very well, but sometimes there is nothing nicer than just fiddling around with bits and bobs. I reckon this is particularly true of game development. Some of my best gameplay ideas have come from just starting with a few things on the screen, getting them moving and seeing what happens next. 

 Mike Clarke on the automation trail.

Mike Clarke on the automation trail.

Finally Mike Clarke gave us another slant on the "creatively lazy" aspect of developers. But he took the perspective that rather than training people we should be making every use of the tools that are available to us.

Rather than perform actions we should create scripts that do them automatically. This has two happy outcomes. One is that you can do the task a second time very easily. The other is that you now have a documentation of that task. If you start out with this approach when you begin to do a job it will really pay off further down the tracks. I heartily agree with this way of working. It is very often the case that you find yourself repeating something that you thought you'd only have to do once. If you've built that into an automated action you can repeat it very easily. 

Then, right at the end of the session we had our first ever C4DI rap. Alan O'Donohoe gave a pitch perfect (if you can do that in rap) rendition of why you should be engaging with technology in general and Rasperry Pi in particular. 

All in all a great evening, and as usual I left with a whole bunch of ideas.