Tony Edwards

2017: A tale of three projects

Coding in the cafe

Exams are done. Assignments are in. Life as a student is drawing to a close. In the coming weeks and months I’ll be putting together the final two projects of my time at Plymouth University. These are the culmination of four years of studying towards a degree in Web Application Development and generally trying things out to see what works. If you saw my talk at the final PlymouthJS of 2016, you’ll be familiar with the back story….. only 1136 hours remaining!

Over the past few years I’ve had a gradual epiphany. I really enjoy the whole event experience. The conversations. The learning. The coffee. Along my journey I’ve had the privilege to attend a dizzying array of conferences, meetups, workshops, un-conferences and business networking events. Indeed, some of the most cherished memories and friendships from the last few years originate from these gatherings. I had so much fun that Kernow DAT was born with the help of some friends.

This final part of the course requires fulfilling two criteria.

  • Create an awe-inspiring web application for a client, submitting it as my final year project.
  • Freelance for a set number of hours and reflect on the process.

Both of my proposed ideas incorporate past experiences with events and revolve around the communities I’m involved in. As such, I’ve decided to openly blog about the development of both projects as they progress. To whet your appetite, allow me to introduce both at a high level.

The app

For the final year project I have to create a sizeable web application. We’ve all been advised to create something based around a source of enjoyment. Think big. Over commit. We’ll have to live, eat and breathe our chosen app for the next few months. It seems natural that I choose something related to the world of events.

One of the things I’ve noticed when searching for events is there’s not just one place to look. There is no single source of truth. Some organisers use Eventbrite, some use Meetup whilst some use Attending. With Plymouth’s very own Orign Tickets rapidly gaining popularity, it wont be long before there’s another place we’ll all have to keep an eye on. The drawback, from an attendee point of view at least, is the hunting around. If only that single source of truth existed…..

I’m setting out to create a MVP for a community events calendar to act as a single source of truth for geeky events. Initially it will be focused on Plymouth and the wider South West. The aim is to support grassroots communities and help them to do their thing. The app will layer on top of existing services, providing this functionality without adding unnecessary overhead for organisers during the event setup process. Being a progressive web app, it will rely heavily on an internal API for data exchange. The plan is for this be open, allowing others to incorporate data into their applications.

The project is supported by MESH who have agreed to back the venture. MESH organise numerous events in the city and can provide quality feedback on the needs of attendees and organisers of community driven events. They also offer a vibrant, enthusiastic community of potential testers. The feedback and usage of early adopters will be used to iterate the app and its features, hopefully at some speed. We aim to test the need for this service from an attendee point of view, before attempting to fund ongoing development.

Work has yet to begin. Currently, it’s a process of curating ideas and feedback from event organisers and attendees. In the coming weeks I will be launching a survey in the hope that the wider South West geeky community will complete it. The responses received will help form the initial sprint of work, and shape the prototype going forward.

The Conference

The work based learning module is a little more flexible. At least 100 hours of work on a freelance project plus writing a report about the experience. My thoughts immediately turned to what work I could complete and, more importantly, what I would enjoy. If only I could do something related to events…..

Following some great conversations last summer, the opportunity to host a conference presented itself. Marina Trethewey and myself are organising a one day event this summer. Computing at School and Plymouth University have kindly providing us the venue and organisational support we need to make a start. Communities from around the South West have agreed to provide help in kind, and we’re working with a amazing group of people to pull it all off. We’ve even found a few sponsors!

Future Sync 2017 is set to be a multi track tech themed conference hosted at Plymouth University on June 9th 2017. We have a day of talks, demonstrations and other interesting things to do. Knowing me there will probably be pasties and cream teas too. Jam first, naturally. Full details will be announced in the coming weeks, but I can say it’s an event I’d get a ticket and travel to.

This really is a humongous opportunity. Arranging a meetup is a completely different task to holding a conference. Achieving the event of the scale we want will require plenty of planning, preparation, marketing and collaboration which we’re both very excited to be doing. Longer term, assuming Future Sync 2017 goes well and the stars align……. who knows what events we will hold. Ultimately, this is a chance to go through the process before leaving the relative safety of the University.

The Veg Garden

With spring and summer shaping up nicely, thoughts turn to the remaining seasons. What does life have in store beyond my studies?

Over the year I’ll be spending increasingly more time in Penzance, residing in a sleepy Cornish cottage after six hectic yet amazing years in Plymouth. I’ll still be around, however I look forward to having a few months of downtime to rejuvenate. Being a student is not as easy as it looks! Chances are I’ll be put to work in the vegetable garden in between trips to the beach and lazy afternoons reading.

Work wise… I have a few things in the pipeline. A few more Kernow DAT evenings will hopefully lead to a larger event at some point. The overdue redevelopment of Purely Penzance. Helping out at some community events. Public Speaking. Networking. University and college workshops. Future Sync 2018. Development of the community event app. Hopefully, somewhere amongst this all I’ll find time to squeeze in some actual work! And watering the veg garden of course.

There is a real buzz building in the tech scene across the South West at the moment. Some amazing people, both independently and collaboratively, are setting up interesting companies, projects and communities across the region. If 2017 and beyond allows me to contribute to this in some way, it will be prove to be an amazing few years full of interesting opportunities.

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Tony Edwards is a pasty powered developer with Plymouth Software, blogger and Web Apps Student at Plymouth University. When not developing, I can usually be found somewhere spectacular along the Cornish Coast. You can catch up with me on Twitter.