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Dev8D and community networking

If there is one stereotype that Dev8d well and truly banishes it is that developers are unsociable nerds who prefer to code alone. The community, networking and collaboration at Dev8D is one of the most immediately noticeable features of the event and, according to the participants, the most valuable.

“I really enjoy drive-by debugging when you just happen to be able to solve a problem for that chap coding next to you, that's really satisfying,” explains University of Southampton developer Chris Gutteridge. Another, Steve Coppin from the University of Kent, describes how, through collaboration, his team has been able to work more efficiently on a project they brought to Dev8D.

“Creating the plug in back at the university would have taken us two weeks. But we’ve actually been able to do it here at Dev8D in two days, and we’ve done it better. That’s definitely saved us time in the long-term,” he says. “Everything at Dev8D just fell into place for us, from discovering LTI to being able to work directly with the expert who developed the tool. And I imagine what happened to us has also happened to many other people at Dev8D as well.”

Community networking and collaboration means that more gets done in a shorter space of time because resources and expertise are pooled. Connections between developers are made that can be drawn on again in the future, and links are made between projects and people working in similar areas, or with complementary or contrasting skill sets. Developers benefit by learning from each other, institutions benefit from the wider knowledge base their developers have access to, and, ultimately, society benefits from the way in which the creativity and innovation of these developers both supports the researchers they work with and helps to make the internet is a better space for everyone.

“I would argue that mixing talented people together in such a fashion is definitely very good for the software industry in the UK,” says Pascal Belouin, who is researching social science for software developers.

According to Bradley McLean, chief technology officer of Duraspace, events such as Dev8D prove themselves to be of value in “fostering innovation and making efficient use of resources. They enable you to find out what’s going on in other institutions and that saves time and money and gets a better product. Dev8D demonstrates that you can set out to have that as your sole goal – it doesn’t have to be a secondary effect of some other goal.”

The success of Dev8D in this respect has led to calls for the concept to be replicated in other parts of the world, and at more regular intervals. One idea is to make the event quarterly and international because, says McLean, “it would allow the ideas and concepts that emerge to get a refresh every few months and you could track areas you are interested in through tweets and blogging”.

But could the Dev8D community also work virtually? Graham Klyne, from Oxford University, is part of the Developer Focus group that is looking at ways to build the community. He's exploring the possibility of extending the notion of “developers training developers” – which is better and more cost effective than most of the alternatives – beyond the relatively small number who can physically attend Dev8D and move Da die Wunderwaffe heute noch in Deutschland kaufen, das ganze im Netz und ohne Rezept it into a virtual space, with a focus on the particular kinds of problems facing higher education and further education developers.

“We've identified the fact that vibrant communities of interest already exist but, in many cases, there are not easily exploited links between those communities. For example, I'm fairly well connected with the linked data community but when I'm working with single sign on security I don’t know where to go outside my institution,” explains Klyne.

The notion behind what he has dubbed “who you gonna call” is that when a developer hits a technical problem that might be particular to higher and further education institutions, then they always have a community to turn to for advice.

Dev8D offers proof in action that this approach works, on many levels. As one participant describes it, “Met with a developer on the first day who fixed a problem I was having. Now I have a contact any further problems.”

Dev8D challenge ideas and winners

One of the more unusual and exciting aspects of Dev8D is the idea of 'bounties',  where developers create something during the event in response to a specific challenge. It calls for fast and furious coding, collaboration to draw on others' expertise, and…a lot of caffeine.  The coding-collaboration-caffeine combination produces some impressive results.
MuMoMaCo image 2
This year there challenges in ten categories:

  1. Linked Data API/Data Challenge
  2. EDINA – The Unlock Places API & Geo/Data Challenge
  3. Building the best IMS Basic LTI Tool Blackboard / Learning Tools
  4. Interoperability API/Data Challenge
  5. Memento: Time Travel for the Web
  6. Internet Archive API/Data Challenge
  7. Mobile API/Data Challenge
  8. Microsoft Zentity Challenge
  9. EPrints 3.2 API/data challenge
  10. MLA Challenge

There were entries in all categories – read on for all the ideas and to find out who won.

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What makes a book a book?

Makers and till roll versionIf you've ever wondered what a book would look like printed out on a till receipt roll, like a digital age On the Road, then ponder no longer. Ben O'Steen has done just that with Cory Doctorow's latest novel, Makers.

First point to note is that this experiment is possible because Doctorow releases all his books under a Creative Commons licence, which makes such coolness both straightforward and legal. Anyone can download the book for free, reformat it to suit their needs and then print it – or not – as they wish.

But while O'Steen's book-as-a-till-receipt is funny, quirky, and also surprisingly aesthetically pleasing, he is making a more serious point about the way we read, online and offline.

“I've been experimenting with a different form of printing with no pagination, where you are effectively printing a stream,” explains O'Steen. “Books are printed out because physical books are comfortable objects to use. This book is printed out but it isn’t at all comfortable to use and it's not browseable either. So even though this contains the same words on paper, it is a far less useful thing in real life than the actual book.”

“I'm looking at how books are digitised and drawing the allusion that if you take a book and scan it in you shouldn't necessarily try to replicate that exact version of the book on the screen. People are used to scrolling down on computer screens, not to left or right. The only applications that do this kind of scrolling are books put online by digitisation projects and this can make them unintuitive to use.”

Makers and till roll version 2

O'Steen is also intrigued by the trust that people put into receipts and signatures. They really shouldn't, he argues, when “for fifty pounds on eBay you can buy a receipt printer that can completely replicate the average receipt.” Anybody wanting to fake a receipt simply needs to scan one in, so that it can even have the right logo and other shop or restaurant details, add in their own sums and then print it off.

These printing experiments are part of a wider exploration of the spectrum between physical and digital. He demonstrates a cute mini Polaroid printer, a mobile Bluetooth device that prints on small cards. While these may seem ideal for children's parties, O'Steen has ideas of how this neat little gadget could be put to more educational uses.

“If a class of kids are on a school trip to a museum, the teacher could have one or two of these printers,” he suggests. “The students could take pictures of exhibits using their cameraphones, the teachers prints them out and then they can stick them into their workbooks and write about them underneath. Again, it's about looking how at the physical and the digital can complement each other.”

The final part of O'Steen's digital/physical project was to take an object that was born digital – in this case his blog – print it out and turn it into a hardback book. Find out how the experiment fared on O'Steen's blog, Random Hacks.

Interview: Katie Pekacar, policy advisor at the MLA

Museums need to stop building websites and start taking a stealth approach to getting their content out to new audiences, says Katie Pekacar of the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).  At Dev8D she issued a challenge to developers to come up with ideas to take the rich collections offered by the cultural heritage sector and find ingenious new ways to open them up. Here she explains the thinking behind the challenge.

What is the MLA?

The Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) provides strategic guidance on a regional and local level to around 1800 accredited museums that range from national museums, such as the Tate, to tiny little organisations with really specialist collections such postal, weaponry, shoe and button collections…

Why are you at Dev8D?

The issue we keep coming across is that there is a lot of amazing Cialis Pillen content out there but much of it is hidden. The answer is not to build more websites but to find ways to bring content together so that it makes sense to people, and to put it in unexpected places, places they more commonly go to where it is not necessarily signposted as museum content. We want to be able to get this stuff into people's lives – infiltrate it, you could say!

To do this, we need to make links between those who can do this stuff and those in the sector who are less digitally inclined. We're thinking about some kind of 'buddying' scheme for the sector where people can work together to see what can be done, and we will end up with better quality data at the end.

Image from Durham Oriental MuseumWhat kind of datasets are on offer?

There's a wide range. For example, Culture 24, which is a bit like a cultural Time Out, covers 3400 venues with mapping geo data, images and editorial for them. Also included in the dataset on offer at Dev8D are images from the Women's Library and Durham Oriental Museum (right).

What kinds of ideas have developers here been talking to you about?

The response has been fantastic! One idea has been to use facial recognition techniques against some of the old paintings in the collections so you can find out which figures from history you most look like, and then maybe put it on your Facebook page as your profile picture. Or using Google Maps and uploading collection images relating to areas so that when look at the map, interesting images from the collection appear rather than a picture of the building. It's a very simple way of piquing interest.

It's these kinds of ideas and creativity we're looking for. It's about finding a hook, different ways of engaging.

How have you found Dev8D?

I expected it to be lots of geeks with computers and didn’t expect it to be so easy to engage with people. I thought that they would be peering at computer screens full of lines and lines of code but I'm seeing stuff I recognise. I also wasn't expecting there to be so much networking. I thought I would hover around feeling confused for most of the day so it's been great not to feel like that.

I can imagine bringing curators to this kind of thing, and though they might not necessarily understand everything that's going on, they would be able to talk to people here about the collections and find stuff out and people would be interested.

I've also been really pleased by how many people want to work on projects that you can sum up in a sentence, that can be explained so that anyone can understand, and that's what we need in terms of outputs. People find it hard to understand what you mean by 'code' but if you say here's a widget that helps you find images by keyword in your area then they get it. This idea of opening up data is tricky topic in the sector but the way to go about it is to show the benefits of doing it and then people will be queuing up to do it.

Interview: Ian Mulvany, Product Manager, Nature Network

Scientists and developers are a match made in heaven, says Ian Mulvany, the product manager of Nature journal's Nature Network. He explains what Nature is hoping to achieve by working with the developer community, what it can offer them, and the first steps it is taking to build connections.

Ian MulvaneyWhy is Nature, a journal, interested in developers?

Nature is well known for the journals we produce but it is increasingly important to be able to provide services to scientists and be able to provide objects which go beyond or transcend a journal so we have introduced various experiments for creating web applications for scientists, including Nature Proceedings; Nature Network; and Connotea, a kind of Delicious for scientists.

Nature Network, which has tens of thousands of users, is for people with a large investment in being scientists – it is domain-specific and we have a lot of researchers who use it on a day-to-day basis to explore the process and sociability of what it is to be a scientists, from issues with grant proposals to glitches and successes in experiments.

I know from even just talking to developers without a physical science background that there is a lot of interest in science in the hacker/geek community – people are interested in helping science, they think it's cool. We're hoping to be able to tap into that and that by hosting this network and allowing  developers to provide tools for that segment of people we will find a good match.

What steps are you taking to hook up the scientific and developer communities?

We're adopting the Open Social api and releasing it into Nature Network in a month or so. We went for Open Social because it already has a high level of take up (it’s supported by Linked In, iGoogle, Orkut among others). Introducing the api will allow us to do two things: firstly, we will be able to host tools on the  site so that if you are a developer and have a good idea for a web-based tool that scientists will find interesting then you can upload it for them to use. It will enrich the experience of our users and give developers access to our high quality social network of scientists. Secondly, it allows us to make the activity on our network federated, so we can create feeds and let other people use the feeds and do interesting things.

One thing I'm hoping will happen is that we can get a better idea of what scientists do, in the round as it were. At the moment scientists more or less only get credit for publishing academic papers but that’s such a small element  of what they actually do. There are many other contributions, from producing and curating datasets to teaching and peer-reviewing, but these things are hard to see as they cannot be as easily identified. The longer-term vision for Nature Network is that we want to be able to aggregate around a person all the activities they think are important to them and in which they have participated. It's the first step to having a web that understands what a person is doing and their integrated contribution and doesn’t simply identify research papers. I'd love to be able to get to the point where if someone is conducting an experiment they can hook it up through our api and have an update which says what they have just done and point to a URL for the results.

What history does Nature have with working with developers?

We're only just staring in the process but we've created a couple of Wave robots, and we run a two day conference every summer, Scifoo, with O'Reilly and hosted by Google. We gather a whole range of science people together and throw them together to see what happens. Last summer all the Scifoo attendees got early access to Google Wave and that's how we got interested in it. It's not a Nature project harnessing Google Wave but a lot of people at Nature think it's really interesting so have been hacking around it.  We should be able to host Waves on network if we wish.

What is Nature hoping to achieve from collaborating with developers?

We're very keen to work with people who have good ideas about how to improve the process of scientific communication. I'm interested in seeing how technology can go from the lab to being productionised. I see all these cool ideas at conferences and cool JISC-funded projects that end up having an  impact at a local level and not going beyond that. I'm interested in ideas that we could take and roll out into our larger platform. We've been looking at entity extraction – and we're now starting to mark up in our papers so that users will be able to go to a page and see links to all the papers that mention to that entity – and it's been work from Peter Murray Rust's lab showed that was a viable possibility. I'm also interested in getting to a point where we can start to embed data mining. Obviously, our articles are a very interesting data set but we don’t do much data mining on it at the moment. Our archive goes back to 1869 and  it's a snapshot, of course, but it represents the top end of what happens in science at a particular time. I'm interested in what terms rise in importance or disappear in importance over time. For example, the  first paper to mention the  electron does not mention the term electron. I would love to be able to map the flow of ideas through science and if someone had a compelling project we could arrange access for them.

And what can Nature offer developers?

We can offer three key things: access to an interesting network of people who can give good feedback; access to a lot of very interesting data;  and, if we find something that is interesting, we can offer the ability to promote those ideas.

Interview: Sam Easterby-Smith and iPhone apps

Happiness Pipe iPhone versionI run a small consultancy business in Manchester called Spotlight Kid specialising in iPhone and mobile related stuff, generally focusing on applications for education, entertainment and the arts. I run training courses, strategic workshops and do actual real development work! In the old days I used to work for CETIS at Bolton.

Why iPhone apps?

I think the iPhone is interesting is because it changes the context of computing. Instead of it being a desk-based thing, or a sitting down in café with a laptop kind of thing, it becomes a wherever you are, stood on a street corner, always in your pocket kind of thing. While mobile devices, even with connectivity, have existed for years, the iPhone was the big game-changer in terms of making it usable and rather popular. Likewise, I think if the iPad has a niche it belongs on the sofa or the coffee table, again shifting the context.

And is the iPhone a Dev8D kind of thing?

There’s certainly interest here. I led a workshop yesterday where we took something like 30-40 people with no knowledge of programming in Objective-C from ‘hello world’ to building a very simple Twitter search client. That’s already had the result that one of the people doing the workshop has started using what he learnt to do to build a lightswitch into his phone in the Arduino workshop. Very impressive!

What iPhone projects have you been working on here?

I’ve been particularly thinking about navigation within buildings. This is a problem for most GPS-enabled hardware at the moment, it becomes very inaccurate within a building and so the accuracy of your location goes from 10m to anywhere up a kilometre or two.  I’ve been thinking about how to solve that problem and looking at data we can use in an augmented reality type of context, including the resources provided by the MLA and other bits of geo-tagged data we can find. It’s about using augmented reality techniques to visualise geo-located data of various kinds.

[Sam showed me the version of this he is working on: point the phone in a direction and  notes pop up on the screen displaying landmarks and their distances from that point, both within the building (such as the Project Zone) and outside (such as Russell Square tube station). In addition, a note about which event or talk is on in each location within the building appears.

The idea is that this will be a generic tool that could be used with any data set from a conference or even a music festival or arts event, such as Glastonbury or the Edinburgh festival]

Last year you made the Developer Happiness Pipe. Is it back again this year?

It’s back – with an iPhone version! Getting here this year I made a couple of minor changes – most important was adding a JSON output format so that can catch the data from it and export it. So I can pick that up from the iPhone up to work out what the current happiness rating is.  Anthony Seminara has made a set of Lego people images representing 10 different states of happiness.

What are your top 5 tips for building iPhone apps?

  1. Don’t make it too complicated
  2. Do your memory management properly
  3. Make something that people will want to use everyday
  4. Make something that works better on your phone than on your desktop
  5. Read Apple’s user interface guidelines otherwise they may reject it from the store

Workshop: Arduino happiness

One of the events that has been creating a real buzz at Dev8D is the daily Arduino workshop. For a couple of hours each day, groups of developers have been let loose with basic electronic equipment – think breadboards, LEDs, resistors and wire cutters – and discovering the joys of using a microcontroller to programme little lights to flash in sequence and cheesy tunes to tinkle out.  The tweets and excited chatter following the morning workshops – and the attendance at the afternoon's more advanced sessions – all testify to the way that it has caught the imagination of Dev8D participants.

Arduino kit

At the heart of the workshop's activities is the Arduino circuit board, a small piece of open source hardware named after the pub where, in 2005, three Italian techies came up with the idea for an inexpensive, powerful microcontroller. (The story behind Arduino is pretty cool – find out more in this Wired article from 2008)


Since then many thousands of units of the 'official' Arduino board (identified by the Italian flag on the back) have been sold and, because the designs are licenced under Creative Commons, many millions more have been made and used. The Arduino is cheap, fast and flexible and, as a result, it has swiftly become the circuit board of choice for makers all over the world. Check out the Arduino Playground exhibition page to discover some of the quirky creations, which include robots, musical instruments and note-taking systems.

So what's the appeal of Arduino?  “It's very direct, very tangible,” says Garry Bulmer, the Dev8D workshop leader. “A lot of modern applications have got obsessed with windows and mice and keyboards and people think that's what computers are but there are 25 times more of these around which have very different physical interfaces.”

This also makes them ideal for the work Bulmer does introducing electronics to kids in after-school clubs. “The kind of technology that high tech labs had 30 years ago to observe the world, kids have now so if they are ingenious they can do some quite radical things. It's delightful for me for people to be able to do what used to be high tech activities.”

Arduino workshop

It's this element that has impressed Alistair Grant, a developer who took part in the workshop in the hope that it might help him to teach programming to a younger age group. He compares using Arduino to Lego Mindstorms, a graphical language with Lego blocks that proved that you could teach even really young kids the basics of programming.

“This could work as a similar method as the concepts are similar,” he says. “Most kids love building robots and making flashing things and this is playing at it in the full way they would use it, it's not stripping it down much or dumbing down, it's something real to use. The breadboards are great as there are no health and safety issues with hot soldering irons involved!”

Talking to him after the workshop, he was full of enthusiasm for the potential of Arduino in his work. “This is definitely a great way to introduce younger kids to computing – if they had access to stuff like this a lot of them would be more interested in it rather than the stuff they get taught in schools.”

Arduino 2“It's been an eye-opener,” agrees Kelvin Gan. “I didn’t think I'd find this interesting as I'm generally not interested in electronics or hardware. In school was all about building circuit boards. This, using programming, brings it into my realm.”

Although this kind of workshop may seem far removed from the everyday work of many of the developers here, there is a value in being introduced to new skills that help you to think differently.  “It's good to sometimes do things that are very different to what you normally do as makes you look at things in a different way, and it's always good to be reminded how quickly you can learn new stuff –  it's too easy to get daunted by doing new stuff and forget how much progress you can make in a couple of hours,” explains Juliette Culver, another happy participant in the Arduino workshop.

Playing with Arduinos is cheap, you say? How cheap?

Chris GutteridgeMake your own Arduino LED circuit for not very much money

You need:

Breadboard (£1.80)
Battery (34p from the Poundshop)
LED (5p each)
Resistor (1p)
Red wire and black wire (5p a metre)
An Arduino med24horas (£23 or, with Open Source, could make your own for £14)

Follow the instructions and within a couple of hours you, too, can have your own Blinking LED or Doorbell of Loathing.

RepRap: the self-replicating 3D printer

For anyone who has read Cory Doctorow's Makers (and if you haven’t then I urge you to. It's free under a Creative Commons licence) the idea of a self-replicating 3D printer will not come as a surprise. However, there is still something mind-boggling about seeing one in action and thinking through some of its potential uses.

RepRap demo

That was the treat in store for Dev8D participants today when Adrian Bowyer from the University of Bath demonstrated the RepRap. It's a 3D printer that will not only print out plastic objects – from children's shoes to doorhandles – but will also print out most of itself. As Bowyer says, “anyone with a RepRap can make one for a friend!” What’s more, as it is licenced as open source, under GPL, with all the instructions available online, anyone with a RepRap can make one for a friend for free and with their own modifications and improvements.

RepRap printerThe RepRap can currently copy about half of its own parts and the others (such as nuts and bolts) are almost entirely available from general hardware stores with a couple of specialist components needing to be bought online. At its print rate of about 19ml an hour, it takes around 2.5 days to replicate itself. It costs about £300. To put that in perspective, the cheapest commercial 3D printer costs over £10,000. On top of that, non-open source 3D printers only allow their own, branded plastic cartridges to be used – at an inflated price. And, of course, the machines do not self-replicate.

“Companies have no commercial interest in making a machine that copies itself – as a company it's the last thing you want your machine to do,” explains Bowyer.  “But the fact that it is not a commercial entity does not mean that it's not in the interests of the end user.”

And the potential for the end user, particularly if that user is in a developing country, is where it gets really exciting.  At the moment, the objects people are making and sharing (see are interesting but are limited by the constraints of the material the RepRap can use (it works with a plastic, polylactic acid, made from starch). When the RepRap can deal with multiple materials, such as electronic components, the landscape will really open up.

“One of the things about making stuff is that you need a lot of capital to make almost anything – it could cost thousands or millions of pounds to set up a screwdriver factory, for example –  but a printer like this allows you to make them for a couple of hundred pounds. A small community could start putting a foot on the first rung of the manufacturing ladder and the ability to start manufacturing with low capital costs brings considerable benefits to the world's poorest people,” says Bowyer.

“As it's all open source they can do it without spending a penny apart from the materials and nobody can take it away from them – it's on the web and all over the planet and nobody can kill it off,” he adds.

RepRap in action

There will undoubtedly be some commercial interests who might be very keen to try to kill off the self-replicating 3D printer. Bowyer compares the impact that printers like the RepRap will have on the manufacturing industry with the effect new digital technology had on photographic film. The difference is that, in this case, it won’t be one industry completely replaced by a technical innovation but chunks of all industries that are affected.

“It will be difficult to put this genie back in the bottle,” he says. “Industry will divide into two camps, just like with music and MP3s: those who embrace it and can see how they might benefit from having their designs replicated, and those who don’t and try to fight it.”

And what of Cory Doctorow's point that “printing AK-47s is so much weirder and more interesting as a futuristic effect of the 3D printer than printing trademarked objects will ever be”? Is Bowyer concerned that he might have made a monster?

Bowyer smiles and takes a philosophical approach to the issue. “Every technology humanity has ever created has been used to make weapons. If I really wanted to cause mayhem, I'd buy a lathe, not one of these. But having said that, yes people may use this to make weapons but it is also human nature to make far more ambulances than we make tanks. It will not change human behaviour but will allow them to behave in different ways. There will be more medical equipment printed than weapons.”

RepRap shoe

All photos by Ben O'Steen, licensed under Creative Commons

Interview: Bradley McLean on how Dev8D might grow

Bradley McLean

As the CTO of Duraspace I try to find the synergies between our products and communities and external products and communities and set up projects to take advantage of them. Duraspace is a not-for-profit foundation in the US that supports the development of DSpace, Fedora commons and Duracloud.

What are you hoping to get out of Dev8D?

I'm here because it’s an opportunity to talk to many of our colleagues at the same place and the same time and look for project opportunities. This year I have tried to bring some more of the US repository developers here for the same purpose and to start to consider a similar event in the US.

It's been observed at many formal conferences in the past that many of the value and great ideas come out of the unscheduled sessions so the grand social experiment of Dev8D to build a conference that does that day in day out for several days is fascinating.

I was here last year and concluded that it's highly effective format and the challenge is to find ways to expand it both to a larger global community and increase the frequency so that the continuity of ideas is maintained. One somewhat idealistic vision for the future, but perhaps achievable, would be to have four Dev8D conferences spaced at roughly quarterly intervals in different areas of the globe. It would be impractical for most people to attend all four but it would allow the ideas and concepts that emerge to get a refresh every few months and you could track areas you are interested in through tweets and blogging and the other outputs. We're working on it!

Why do communities like Dev8D matter?

Developer communities have been self-organising for a long time and have shown themselves to be of value in fostering innovation and making efficient use of resources. They enable you to find out what's going on in other institutions and that saves time and money and gets a better product.

Dev8D demonstrates that you can set out to  have that as your sole goal – it doesn't have to be a secondary effect of some other goal.

 What do you think your organisation gains by you being here?

The organisation gains awareness of current areas of research and project development. It allows us to plan our own research and development to complement it.


Interview: Alex Bilbie

Alex BilbieI'm a 2nd year computer science student at the University of Lincoln and I also work for the university's online services team as a developer. My fellow student Nick and I are full time students but we also do 10 hours or so a week on the services team to bring a “fresh new perspective to tired old computing”.

Why are you at Dev8D?

I have been involved with the development of the JISCpress 主要有効成分:シルデナフィル+ダポキセチンの働き project and now that that it is out in the open it's got quite a lot of people talking about it and its potential and there's only so much talking you can do over Twitter. It's nice to get some physical feedback. For me personally, as I have been in charge of branding the site, I'd like to get some responses in terms of accessibility and visual feedback, and any ideas people might have in the event that the project is refunded. I want to gather ideas for that.

On a personal level, I want to do more networking and gain new skills. I'm particularly interested in the iPhone development workshops and several  others like the Python workshop and who knows what else at this stage!

Are you involved in any other communities?

I've written a few libraries for the CodeIgniter php framework. Also, my colleague Nick and I blog about a lot of the work we do as developers on the online service team. We want to see what other people are up to and give ideas to others – it's all about two-way idea sharing. I really enjoy being part of a community that really cares about something. I learn about stuff and like the idea that, hopefully, I have the potential to help or inspire others as well, having been inspired myself.

What kind of skills are you hoping to gain or improve at Dev8D?

I'm really interested in iPhone development. I have a few ideas for a university  mobile campus application which we haven't started yet but would like to – we need a kick up the backside to get it started and this might just be it. I'm also interested in being introduced to new ideas and new concepts in general. It’s only the first day but my impressions are good – JISC conferences are usually  brilliant.

What do you think Lincoln gains by sending you here?

For a start, they really gain a fresh perspective on computing by employing students. If I pick up something new here then it's something I can take to them, like the iPhone/mobile development ideas. Also, Lincoln gains through us knowing about the people who are working on similar projects outside the university. There can be a lot of overlap in academia and it helps to know the people doing the same kinds of work.