Learning by Teaching (a crash course in Backbone.js)

rick hurst southville js backbone talk

On Wednesday, the day after my lightning talk at the Django meetup, I gave a talk “An introduction to Backbone.js“, at a newly formed javascript meetup, loosely based around the locality of southville in Bristol. This was an interesting experience as other than using Backbone.js on one project (largely written by other people, so I only really dipped into it to add stuff), when I was volunteered to do the talk by Andy Mcgregor, I didn’t actually know a great deal about Backbone!

When it came to the crunch, i.e. pretty much the day before the talk, I started searching for online tutorials that might demonstrate what I wanted to cover in the talk, and the first one that I found was Hello Backbone.js by Artur Adib, which provides a fantastic step through with a set of examples building up on the previous example. I created a little “To Do” list app based roughly on these examples.

I then found an excellent set of video tutorials called Introduction to Backbone.js, by Joe Zim, which run through some interactive examples for Models, Views, Collections, Routers and Ajax within backbone, which really helped the penny drop for me, and gave me a basis for my own live-coding examples. The audience (of about 20 people – not bad for a highly localised, highly niche meetup!), were a mixture of people who already know backbone and people who have never used it, but hopefully there was something useful there for everyone. On a personal level, being put under pressure to be able to demonstrate something, accelerated my backbone knowledge very quickly, to the point that I would confidently start my next project using backbone.

The moral of the story is – if you want to learn a new skill quickly, you don’t need to pay to go to a workshop – volunteer to do a talk instead! Even if you don’t want to do a talk, find your friendly local user groups (or friendly online user groups, if there’s none local to you), and get involved. I’m not knocking paid workshops – there’s a place for those and i’m sure some of them are good value for money, but i’ve always loved the way that the web community are happy to share their knowledge for free, and you really can find the knowledge out there without spending your hard earned cash! Being part of the web community provides valuable support too when you get stuck, something that doesn’t happen in the world of “traditional” paid training.

The next southville js talk is “An introduction to CoffeeScript” by Tom Holder on wednesday 12th July, kindly hosted again by SimpleWeb. Also keep an eye on the Bristol Web Folk calendar for upcoming web related events in Bristol – there’s loads!

Photo above nabbed from an instagram pic by Chris Mytton

DBBUG lightning talks June 2012

Rick Hurst giving a talk on django snippets

On tuesday Potato Bristol hosted the Django Bristol and Bath User Group (DBBUG) lightning talks. It went really well and it was nice to have some technical content as well as the usual beer and chat. The turnout was great and so were the talks.

First up was Chris Hall – “Django from the outside in (and back again)” talking about his experience as a PHP/Drupal developer using Django on a project for the first time.

Second up was me, talking about my simple Django content management tool “Snippets” (shortly to be renamed as soon as I can think of something suitable, as googling around there are too many other similar projects under the same name). I was pleased by the response and interest in Snippets considering it is such a simple tool – mainly the result of an evenings experimentation. This gives me an incentive to develop it further, as it shows there is a demand for simple tools like these, especially if you just want to add a small amount of editable copy into a web app, but don’t want the overhead of a full CMS.

Ed Crewe then talked about “using eggs for managed release and deployment“.

Jamil Appa fron ZenoTech talked about “Using Django to front an application that makes
use of GPUs in the Cloud”.

Lastly Russ Ferriday from SponsorCraft, talked about the spray project.

Ed has kindly created a lanyrd page for the event.

Web Developers Conference 2008

UWE Web Development Conference

Yesterday was the second Web Developers Conference at the Watershed, Bristol. The attendees are 50% UWE students and 50% industry professionals – some local and some from further afield. The idea is that the students – many of whom are looking for placements, or jobs to start when their couses finish – get some exposure to the industry. There were several excellent talks during the day and two panels – the second of which I was lucky enough to be participate in. A good day – all the speakers and panelists I spoke to enjoyed it, and hopefully the students got something out of it too – roll on next year!

Update: I mistakenly implied that this was a UWE event. In fact although the UWE help with this event it was thought of and run by organiser Alex Older – many thanks for all your hard work Alex!

Back from BathCamp 08

I attended BathCamp at the weekend and it was great fun. I met some lovely people, talked geek and gave a short talk on (“the gurgitator”) a python script I have been writing, which I use to generate boiler plate code for web projects in different technologies (i’ll write about this when it is further down the line). I haven’t got time to do a full write-up, but wanted to thank the people who made it happen. Check out the photos on flickr: mine all

Plone Skinning SkillSwap was a success!

Plone skinning Workshop by Rick Hurst at the Watershed in Bristol

I am really pleased to say that the Plone Skinning presentation last night was a success! About 30 local web designers/developers and people interested in using Plone turned up – a much higher attendance than my previous “Plone Demo” talk. I used the Plone S5 product to create a simple set of slides with a few bullet points to keep me from jumping around too much, but it was mostly a hands on presentation demonstrating a bit of basic customisation via the ZMI, then the process for creating a filesystem based skin.

I ran plone locally and used dreamweaver (in code view with large fonts) to do ZPT editing to keep things familiar for those designers who may be scared by the idea of terminals and Emacs!

I also tried to dispell the “all plone sites look the same” myth by taking a random design I had knocked up as a static html page and inserting the minimum possible ZPT markup to make it function as a front end plone main template rendering the body content and portlets (with none of the plone CSS).

The Q&A was really good – it ranged from basic questions about templating to “can plone do….?” type questions. I think I managed to field them all fairly well – i’ll have to wait to see the video (coming soon) to listen back for any clangers I may have made. I was disappointed however that all the free beer had gone by the end of the Q&A – a conspiracy maybe? “psstt… keep Rick talking while we drink all the beer – ask him if there is a cow-milking module available…”.

The event was sponsored by Knowledge West (room/projector hire/buffet) and beer kindly provided by Team Rubber.

archived comments

Any chance you could make the hacked main_template.pt available to look at?

Shane Graber 2007-01-17 13:35:33

Congratulations for this successfull event. Is there any Screencast available for the Plone comunity ?

Norbert M Haigermoser 2007-01-17 12:01:07

Yes the presentation was videoed and will be put online in the near future – I will post a link on my blog when it is ready.

Rick 2007-01-17 12:06:58

sure – http://www.rickhurst.co.uk/code/minimal_main_template.pt.txt

in fact the doctype slot and top slot aren’t strictly necessary here, but this shows the basics of rendering the body content and portlets (just cut and pasted from plone default main_template.

word of warning though, as this doesn’t render any links to places like the prefs_portalskin_form or the ZMI, inexperienced users may lock themselves out if not careful! Having a minimal template like this is only intended for where you use a seperate skin (i.e. usually Plone Default) for editing.

Rick 2007-01-17 14:48:17

Looking forward to seeing the screencast of this event when its ready, especially after recently watching the video on the first Plone event which was great – any idea when this might be up? 🙂

David 2007-02-25 11:03:02

I’ve been nagging the guy who is sorting the video – he is trying to get it sorted but has a genuine lack of editing time available at the moment i’m afraid 🙁

Rick 2007-02-25 19:54:59

It’s look something interesting. May I know where i should get the detail of Plone Skinning Information

Ritz 2007-12-27 02:24:30

Netsight Plone demo as first Bristol Skillswap

Rick Hurst Plone demo bristol

many moons ago, back in february myself and Matt Hamilton of Netsight did a plone demo at the watershed media centre in Bristol. This was the first in a series of “SkillSwaps” as part of the Bristol branch of SkillSwap based in Brighton. I’ve only just got round to blogging about it now due to my blogging hiatus!

The video feed is online here (note that this link skips forward a few chapters to where I actually start talking – before that is several minutes of people arriving and introductions etc).