Last week I stumbled over yet another buzz term in digital. Big Data. For sometime I’ve known that lovely people are working very hard on Hadoop projects, secretly in glamorous places. Telling me snippets of exciting news. I really didn’t get the link till I went to see my brilliant friend Hilary on a panel with Hadoop founder Doug Cutting at London Big Data.
Working with the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) it seemed important to ensure that as much road and travel changes due to staging the biggest sporting event in the word made it into the public domain.
For spectators this means a dedicated website with travel information organised by the rail operators a year in advance on the web and mobile.
Road data has been released under an open data structure as part of an agreement that has seen the ODA’s Travel Demand Managment team working closely with Transport for London. Wired Magazine explains more.
The lovely Dr Sue Black has created a little facebook poll asking us about our first programming language. Mine was Basic. I must have been 12. My family were on the usual Saturday drudge around central Milton Keynes shopping centre. Instead of spending it in the library we wandered into a store selling computers and walkman‘s. My dad walked up to a computer and showed me how to program the following ;
10 Print "Hello World";
20 Goto 10;
Within a week I was locking up school computers with naughty hacks of the above. Within a year I was buying computer magazines and copying out assembler code on my Acorn Electron.
It wasn’t my first machine. That was a games console called Soundic. I was 4. Continue reading
For the longest time I have wanted a Calendar that works as well as an IMAP e-mail account. Every time I change my phone or computer I spend ages getting set up. A remote access Calendar will save me oodles of time.
After the death of my iPhone, my requirement for a remote hosted calendar become urgent. The obvious choice is Google. Frankly it creeps me out Google will happily trawl your content in the hopes of better advertising. I know it’s not a sentient application but I wouldn’t let anyone read my diary or correspondence, so by extension, potentially bug ridden programs are objectionable.
I can’t possibly comment on the current controversy surrounding News International. For the 6 months I architected the 2010 elections version of MySun and delivered The Times and Sunday Times Paywall. I was so busy I barely noticed the news desks of News of the World let alone their working morals. What I did notice was the working practices of News International and more specifically how it impacted my technology projects.
It is often the case, in any technology projects that your manager or customer asks you to do something that you feel will jeopardise your project. A good employee without causing embarrassment or resentment explains how the request will impact the timeline, budget or quality. Successful technology people are ones the business people sound out before making their request.
In News International I found that when you pushed back it felt like the message was getting through. However all too often the requester found someone else to carry out the ridiculous idea. When the the ridiculous idea went wrong the person who carried out the idea took the wrap not the manager.
One of oddest conversation I had, was being told that I had to amend a piece of HTML and me explaining I didn’t have to do anything. It took some effort for the project manager in question to understand that we had the option of not working at News International and therefore not carrying out ridiculous requests. It took me a lot longer to understand that there is string of people willing to execute the ridiculous ideas.
Dan Arnold talks about a culture of suspicion and paranoia’ in his BBC article. Actually I think we in technology were too busy to be paranoid. I suspect the journalist who rolled into work later and worked through the night had more thinking time.
Arnold also talked about News International being a bubble. I would concur. Physically you are miles away from anything on the outside world. It took 15 minutes to walk to the gate and then there was a trek to the nearest tube. Each paper or major department had their own office or in some cases, their own building. The regime was so intense that no one could have meetings across departments to collaborate.
There is back biting in every organisation and internal gossip played a great part of the culture. The UK media is so tiny that grudges and complaints can go way back. One senior News International employe I worked with had a grudge against Rebecca Brooks that went back to when she started as a secretary at News International.
The thing that really made News International impossible was the constant pressure. As a news organisation the pressure to publish the paper every evening was intense. This was felt in the technology team. It seemed to me that News International had moved to an Agile process so they could use the short sprint cycle to maintain the pressure.
The key in such a dysfunctional organisation is to stay focused. Set your goals and ignore anything that isn’t related. One of those goals should be your exit strategy.
It is time I become acquainted with the Ruby programming language. It served me well on a recent project and my friends at Indaba Music love it.
Installation on a Mac
I did try the following, but I think actually you can go straight to the tutorial and follow the steps there.
- Download the latest zip file
- Unpack into a directory and move into your directory
- Open a Terminal
- cd from your home directory into the new directory (cd rubygems-1.3.X/)
- run: sudo ruby setup.rb
It appears that Ruby on Rails has changed a lot between versions. So starting the server was harder than the Internet said it would be (as script/server approach has become defunct). So I spent some time getting confused by online tutorials, such as Apple. Installing XCode from the Apple Developer Center however was useful.
I have found much more joy by following the tutorial at http://guides.rubyonrails.org/getting_started.html and a basics tutorial. Oh and my good friend jcn helped explain some stuff too.
Creating a Basic Form
Next I wanted to create a basic HTML Form where the Controller catches and processes the results. I got most of what I needed from an online answer. However I needed to know that creating the controller is done at command line using
rails generate controller Searches
and then place in the following code.
ss SearchesController < ActionController::Base
lookup = params[:lookup]
@models = Model.find_by_lookup(lookup)
And place in the following code for the view.
<% form_tag searches_path do %>
<%= text_field_tag :lookup %>
<%= submit_tag "Submit" %>
<% end %>
But the stumbling block for me was linking the View to Controller by placing the following in the config/routes.rb file