A tale of two commutes

I’ve been commuting into London daily now for a month. Enough time to get a good feel for it. We were in the lucky position of being able to locate ourselves somewhere where the commute is about as good as it can get without being in London itself, so here’s my typical day:

0725 – Leave home and cycle the two miles to St Albans City station

0744 – Get the semi-fast Thameslink train to London Blackfriars. There is a fast train (straight to St. Pancras then onwards) at the same time which is always standing room only. The one I get takes a whole eight minutes longer to get to Blackfriars than the fast one and I get a seat every morning. The only time I didn’t was when the fast one was canceled one morning.

0824 – Arrive at Blackfriars and walk along Queen Victoria Street, over the Millennium Bridge and along Bankside to the FT at One Southwark Bridge

0835 – Arrive at my desk.

1715 – Leave work and walk back to Blackfriars

1736 – Get the fast train back. Always get a seat

1806 – Arrive at St Albans, cycle back home

1815 – Get back home.

This will improve even more in December when the Bankside entrance to Blackfriars opens, which will at least halve the amount of time I walk to/from work.

So far I’ve hardly been affected by delays or cancellations. I have come close though when I narrowly avoided the chaos caused by a power failure at Kentish Town the other week. All in all I’m very happy with how things have gone so far and have no regrets about the commute (or anything else about the job!)

This was driven home today when I went to a one-day event at the Hilton Park Lane. This meant adding an underground journey into the commute. I purposely looked to avoid any tube journeys in my daily commute and today proved why. The trip into town in the morning was fine. I got the same train I’d normally get, got off at St. Pancras and then took the Piccadilly Line to Hyde Park Corner. Coming back however I left at 5, stood on a packed and hot tube for 15 minutes, then boarded the same train I normally get home, but from St. Pancras, not Blackfriars. By St. Pancras however the train is packed and I stood the twenty minutes back to St. Albans. So, the time was about the same, but the hassle increased and comfort decreased.

I’ve probably jinxed it all now.

Week One

I’ve now been in my new job a full week. So far so good. Here’s some rough thoughts:

  • The commute is better than expected. I typically get the 0744 train from St. Albans to Blackfriars and after that it is a 10-15 minute walk. This will get even better in December when the Bankside entrance to Blackfriars opens. Coming home I normally get the 1736 back. The total commute is about an hour each way.
  • I get a seat both ways, every day.
  • The weather has been fantastic making the walk delightful. No rain so far!
  • The new team are great. Nice bunch of people. I’m the second dev on the team, and we had a third join this week.
  • Theres a lot of contractors. Something new to me.
  • I’m working on the project that allows journalists/editors to apply various metadata to articles that then serves many purposes, including what sections of ft.com the article appears in.
  • So far I’ve got my development environment set up, pair programmed my first defect fix, and also delivered my first solo fix and done a bit of code refactoring along the way.
  • There’s some meaty new feature work planned for the next couple of months that should keep us busy.
  • It’s completely and utterly different to the experience of IBM product development teams in many ways, which requires a blog post of it’s own.
  • I’ve not been on a single conference call. Our customers are one floor down (in the newsroom, which I got to visit on the first day)
  • We have a product owner and in general the scrum roles are much more clearly defined than on any project I’ve ever worked on.
  • Have yet to eat lunch in the work canteen. I’ve always gone out for lunch, normally with others. There’s lots of choice around and prices are not as bad as I thought they would be.
  • Free tea/coffee saves me a lot of money anyway.
  • Today I didn’t even bring my laptop home.

Reflections on Lotusphere 2010

(Lotus Knows. Remix, by DJ Steve Porter)

Lotusphere 2010 was my second Lotusphere conference, and the first I’ve spoken at. I previously attended in 2008 as staff. My memories of 2008 revolved around trying to understand the deep connection between the Lotus brand and it’s clients and partners, as well as having the first chance to meet many of the people I’d been working with since joining Lotus in Dublin in June 2007. My time in the Meet The Developers lab that year was mainly spent talking to people who knew little or nothing about social software and Lotus Connections in particular.

The one thing I did take away from 2008 was an understanding of how long and hard the week was. As such I wasn’t too worried about not attending in 2009. This year however my hunger to be involved was well and truly back.

As I’ve previously mentioned, this year I was presenting with Mitch Cohen from Colgate Palmolive. He never misses an opportunity to promote their products 🙂


(via Mitch’s flickr stream)

Our session was a Show ‘n Tell, which basically means we don’t just talk about a subject, but actually do it onstage. Think of a daytime TV cookery show and you get the idea! For those who may not have presented at Lotusphere, presentations have to be finished by mid-December. Given ours needed to be step-by-step slides that people could take away and follow this led to lots and lots of prep-work of both the slide-ware and demo environment. Early January saw us have numerous teleconferences to do run-throughs, but it wasn’t until the first Sunday of the conference that we had the opportunity to go through it in full, in person. Thankfully the timing was spot on, and the live demonstrations solid enough. On the day the session was well attended (I was secretly dreading we would get one man and his dog given we didn’t have the best time slot and that we were up against some other popular and even related sessions.) What’s more our material seemed to go down well and was delivered without hiccup. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that Show ‘n Tell sessions are a huge amount of work to prepare. Much work, but worth it in the end. Many thanks go to Mitch for being a great co-presenter and a pleasure to work with.

Away from the session, most of my time was spent in the Meet The Developers lab on the Lotus Connections stands. I think the one solid thing to say this year is that Connections has firmly established itself in the marketplace and the Lotus portfolio. Nearly every person we spoke to had questions about deployment, adoption or even issues they had. In previous years, both from my own and other’s feedback it has been much more about “what is Connections?” which we had very little of this year. In general the Connections sessions I went to seemed to be very well attended and full of people with hands in the air when the “Have you deployed?” and “Are you in production?” questions were asked by the speakers.

It was also nice to meet in person various clients and business partners I’ve dealt with over the past two years, either for the first time, or to re-aquaint. It was also nice to meet various people I’ve connected with on Twitter, as well as even more of the folks in IBM US who I speak to nearly every day but had never met face to face. Of course, there were also people that were there but whom I never got the opportunity to catch up with, so if you fall into that category then please accept my apologies but you know how it is!

Outside of the actual conference, I found I was a bit more relaxed about things this year, with it not being my first time to either the conference or Orlando. I didn’t feel the need to make the most of every minute and had a few more early nights than previously (ok, early means no earlier than midnight anyway!) Regardless I still found myself absolutely knackered by the Thursday and have spent the majority of the weekend catching up on sleep.

One downside of spending the week at Lotusphere is that, despite best intentions, it always puts me behind in terms of the day job. Not just because of the five days spent in Orlando, but the effort in preparing the session as well. That’s the other thing I’ve been trying to catch up on this weekend, and I suspect I’m in for a few late nights over the next week as well. However, from going with the attitude that I’d be quite happy only attending every other year I am now chomping at the bit to get my place lined up for Lotusphere 2011. Hope to see you there!

Four Peaks Challenge

A group of us from work have signed up a team to take part in the Focus Ireland 2009 Four Peaks challenge.

The challenge involves climbing the highest peaks in the four provinces of Ireland, namely:

The catch? We have to do it in three days, and the total distance to get round to them all involves travelling over 800 miles!

The second challenge for me as the token Englishman in the team is to learn how to pronounce them all 🙂

Whilst I’ve done similarly silly things in the past (a three day, 30 mile trek around the Lake District, including Scafell Pike, Helvellyn and High Street) and a 5 day 100 mile walk from Brighton to Watford (ok, not exactly scaling any mountains on that one!) I’ve not done too much walking over the past five years. Therefore I’m itching for the excuse to get out training in the hills surrounding Dublin, which so been pretty much ignored since we moved over here.

The challenge takes place in June, so there’s plenty of time to get the miles in. There’s also plenty of time to get sponsorship in as well…

We aim to raise €4,500 for Focus Ireland – a charity that aims to help the homeless of Ireland. Needless to say, you can choose to give us a donation online (see how easy we make it) just by visiting here to sponsor our imaginatively titled team: Inspired By Mountains (geddit?)

Innovation that matters

About a year ago, IBM ran an internal competition for employees to produce a short video on the theme of “Innovation that matters”

Over 500 entries were submitted from all corners of the world and were subsequently rated and commented on by fellow employees. The most highly rated made it through to a shortlist from which five winners were selected by a panel of judges.

Myself, Steve Haskey and Brian Hulse from IBM UK based in the Hursley lab put together our effort which from the outset was planned to be a light-hearted comedy sketch with a salient message. Steve and I wrote and acted whilst Brian provided voiceover and musical talent. Steve did the really hard work of filming, directing and editing.

Shot over a six hour period one Saturday morning, Listening is the first step became the highest rated entry and one of the five selected winners. Since then it has been used numerous times both within the company and externally. It’s been shown at divisional kick-off meetings and to customers and has been downloaded internally over 40,000 times. One thing we always wanted to do with it was give it a wider audience, and to that effect we’ve been given permission to put it up on You Tube. So, without further ado, here is our video. Enjoy.

Feed reader viewers may want to skip to the full post to view.

The good news is that the 2008 competition will be announced soon, so you can hopefully expect to see more fun videos in the future. However I doubt you will see one from us. Steve and his wife Wendy-Ann are busy looking after their new born twins, I have moved to Ireland and Brian is probably busy picking up the pieces I left behind in my old job 😉

Lotus Connections team blog

I’ve tended not to use this blog to talk about work much, so I’ll gladly point readers off to a new blog from the Lotus Connections product team: Synch.rono.us

I work with Suzanne, Joe and David on Lotus Connections and they are just the right people to bring you news and insight into where the product is going, and how it may benefit you if you happen to be looking for a social software platform for the enterprise. You never know, I might pop up there now and again with a guest entry!

My new desk

We have just had a big reorganization of the software lab here in Dublin. As a result, my team is co-located in the same area for the first time since I’ve been here (just over five months.) For some they are enjoying the first permanent desk they’ve ever had. For me this is desk number three during my time here. This is it:

My desk

For comparison purposes, here is my old desk in the Hursley lab:

My desk

MashupCamp 5 in Dublin

I and a few of my team have just registered to attend and participate in MashupCamp 5 which is being held at Trinity College Dublin on 12-13th September.

The two days are being run as an open space/unconference with a preceeding Mashup University on the 10-11th. We will be bringing Lotus Connections along to show and play with, with the aim of discovering integration points between social computing within the enterprise and beyond the firewall. There’s already a proposed discussion item about “Mashup Adoption Issues Across the Enterprise” which sounds promising.

So, if you are going be sure to look out for us. I don’t know yet how we will advertise our presence or anything! IBM are a sponsor of the event so maybe we can get some goodies or something. The list of attendees includes Stephen O’ Grady from Redmonk, who I look forward to meeting.

Farewell Hursley

Today is my final day in the WESB development team, my final day in the Hursley lab, and bar a couple of days holiday my final day in IBM UK.

Thing is, I’m too excited about moving to Ireland and starting my new role in Lotus to get too emotional about leaving. When I started here as a grad I shared the common view that I’d stay for a couple of years, get some good training and a good name on my CV then go off to find something new. The thing is that like most of my peers I found that life was too good in IBM and especially in Hursley. Nearly nine years later and I’m finally off. It’s been a great place to work, and a superb bunch of people to work with. However I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a little stale in my current job. I’ve spent all of my time in probably the two most interesting types of job in the lab (product development and lab services) and the time is right to try something new. Yes, I’ll still be in a development role, but a fresh product, fresh organization and fresh surroundings will provide new energy. As I’ve stated before, I’m looking forward to thinking about stuff which appears in a browser to an end user rather than designing and writing middleware. The Lotus Connections calls I’ve been on already have proven that I’m making the right move. There’s going to be some exciting stuff happening in the future of the product.

The next time I write an entry in this blog we will be over in Dublin and I’ll be getting ready to start my new role on Wednesday. Can’t wait!

Explaining my work

I’ve just had a realisation. I’m listening to IBM VP Jeff Schick talk about Lotus Connections in a podcast. He starts off by talking about how Connections as social software for the enterprise is building on what sites like MySpace and Facebook have done for the general web consumer. I think that my new role might be the first I’ve had which I can easily explain to my family without a glazed expression coming across their faces 😉