Community - HELP! Where is the web dev community?!


(Jim Seconde) #1

Hi all, apologies if this turns into a long rambling message but the topic I’m going to write about is starting to worry me.

Firstly, I’m a Symfony/PHP7 developer moving to Birmingham from London.

As an active member of the PHP (and a bit of devops/Python on the side) community, I regularly attend user groups. I go to Docker, PHP, Symfony, BDD/TDD, DevOps and Python. Part of why I love this job are these events, and I got my current job out of networking.

So, moving to the second city - I thought I’d start checking out the scene.

PHPWM said they were restarting at the end of last year, but do not appear to have had any activity apart from retweeting on their twitter profile. PHPWM have not responded to a message asking how the user group is going.

PythonWM is in a business park outside of Solihull, and certainly only accessible by car. But it is active.

In meetup, there are over 60 developers interested in a Birmingham PHP meetup which is not happening (this seems to conflict with the fact that there is a PHPWM user group). The nearest active one is Coventry, who’s organiser is the only person in 2 weeks that has replied to anything.

I have thrown out a twitter net including the Custard Factory and Silicon Canal, but nobody has responded. I’m in the process of emailing Silicon Canal directly and have registered with them, but am concerned that their website and activities are documented little, bar maybe the tech awards last year.

The only activity I can see that is positive is Ruby are organised and meet, as published by meetup and Silicon Canal.

As this is a big move for me, I’m starting to get scared that the web application development scene in Brum is almost non-existent and I’ll be travelling to London far more than I’d like (as I’m trying to escape!).

Is there something, somebody or an initiative that I am missing here?

Thanks in advance for any responses :slight_smile:


(Stuart Langridge) #2

Heya, and welcome to the funhouse :slight_smile:

Take a look at https://calendar.birmingham.io (linked from the top, here) and the Google calendar it displays to see all the stuff that’s going on. You may also like the Silicon Canal barbecue (coming up in a few weeks) which should have a few hundred people at it and may be a good way to meet people (it skews a bit towards business and entrepreneur types rather than actual devs, but that’s not too bad). I don’t know what the deal is with PHPWM (I’m a JS bloke myself: brum.js is next Tuesday), but I know some people were talking about some sort of Laravel meetup, which you may want to get involved with (or do). There is less than London, but there’s less than London of everything except, y’know, niceness, which is why we all live here :wink:

Glad to have you!


(Andy Wootton) #3

Birmingham, and particularly Brummies, “don’t really do” self-promotion so you have to prove you really care about the things they put on before anyone will tell you about them :slight_smile:

The good news is that you can pretty much walk anywhere in the city centre in half an hour and you won’t believe the price of housing and beer; like we don’t when we go to London.


(Jim Seconde) #4

I had prepared for everything less than London - I have been slightly spoiled by the mental economy here. However it has all got very out of hand, and my thinking (apart from wanting to own a property) is that it’s just not worth it anymore.

I should have put a disclaimer at the end of my message to say I am actually “coming home”: I’m an Edgbaston boy, but things have changed in this city considerably in the last 20 years!

I might end up doing something suicidal, like trying to run a Symfony meetup (or at least the mysterious PHP one), but getting people and Inviqa/Sensiolabs on board will probably be a massive challenge.

Is there a concentration of tech startups here, or it is fairly quiet? I am led to believe that the Jewellery Quarter is where these companies / spaces are, which I hope is the case as I can pop into the Lord Clifden which regularly has Bathams.


(Andy Wootton) #5

This MIGHT answer that question https://siliconcanal.co.uk/.
Nothing ever feels ‘concentrated’ to me in Brum, more ‘splattered about’, except possibly Broad Street in the late evening, which concentrates the idiots in one place much better than 20 years ago, except for a few specialists in Digbeth. I haven’t ever worked in Brum but I get the impression that JQ, Digbeth and Aston Science Park are key places. There’s no longer a shortage of good beer.

…and talking of not doing promotion well, that was the point of this waffling nonsense by ME, ME, ME: Midland Information Cluster (mic)


(Stuart Langridge) #6

If you’re looking at startups, they’re all over but a lot of them are on the Science Park in Faraday Wharf. You may find Tech Wednesday a useful meetup to go to (it was yesterday, I’m afraid!), and Silicon Canal certainly leans mostly in that direction. Running a Symfony meetup sounds a good idea; always good to have more meetups. :slight_smile:

Everywhere has good beer. We literally have so many places which do excellent beer that I haven’t even been in all of them, yet, and I consider myself reasonably accomplished at this particular task. There are good pubs in the JQ, as well as about a zillion web agencies…


(Ben Paddock) #7

Hello and welcome Jim! Your introduction was a really interesting perspective on the tech scene in Brum from the outside in, and it pretty much confirms what at least myself and a few others think - That things are a bit disconnected and sporadic. But, there are a load of smart and friendly people, it’s just finding them and the activities I guess, which it sounds like you have a put a lot of effort into!

I would recommend going to the next Hydra Hack, it’s run by the @kathpreston at 383 in the JQ and it’s a pretty good way to find out more about what’s going on locally in tech these days.


(Matt Andrews) #8

Hey Jim. I moved here from London 2 years ago and can see your confusion. My advice would be: if you build it, they will come. The tech scene here can be fragmented but there are plenty of people doing stuff – if you can’t get anything out of existing event organisers, just start your own thing. Happy to go for a pint when you get here and give you an overview of meetup-friendly venues and places to promote things.


(Andy Wootton) #9

Could you write that down too Matt, for inclusion in ‘the mic’? Once something exists, people see what is missing from it.


(Jim Seconde) #10

Thanks for the reply!

This is really useful stuff to know. I’ve just checked out Hydra Hack and it looks great - maybe with less specialist stuff in Brum it’s time to ditch PHP events exclusively and start just turning up to everything!


(Jim Seconde) #11

It would be great to meet some of you when I come down, if anyone fancies it!

I have a personal interest in galvanising Symfony devs together alongside business as I feel there is no reason why Birmingham shouldn’t be the next logical place for devs to go. I come from a ‘why does Manchester get all the stuff’ point of view, where I see absolutely no reason why it should have an advantage. Leeds maybe, but that has a history of web devs alongside the financial sector.

I guess it’ll be a while before I move, but I’ll be trying to keep up to date with as many people as possible in the next few months. I am hopefully keeping my job and working remotely, but I certainly don’t want that to go on very long. Maybe I can convince my company that I can open the Birmingham office…


(Richard Cunningham) #12

My view is that we need monthly evening developer meetup that technology agnostic, but definitely for people that are developers or otherwise technical hands on.

Brum.js is the closest right now, everyone I’ve met there is technical.

For startup meetups, there is the Silicon Canal meetup and Tech Wednesday, which both seem to a mix of startup founders and developers.

Look out for Fusion, a well run event with 100ish people and talks on a variety of talks, which is run about every 3 months.


(Stuart Langridge) #13

Just shout when you’re coming to town and I daresay some sort of welcoming committee can be arranged. :slight_smile:


(Steve Jalim) #14

Just to get it out of my head before life gets in the way again:

Re monthly tech-agnostic web dev meetups: YES - definitely need this in my life, and am happy to help make happen

Re the general discovery problem outside London – am working on a project to help address this. More soon

*Goes back to Sunday chores"


(Richard Cunningham) #15

You can’t expect everything to be on meetup (hence why we have the calendar), Meetup.com charge organisers a monthly fee. You don’t tend to be able to get sponsorship for meetup without talks, so with no revenue organisers don’t want to pay. For the meetup I help run in Leamington Spa, LeamGeeks, we don’t use Meetup.com due to the cost.


(Jim Seconde) #16

Hi Richard,
Good point - I know very little about organising these things. I think a focus for now should be put on trying to get as many devs out from the wild into the agnostic groups, seeming how good they look!


(Andy Wootton) #17

We want as many conversations happening as possible. Face-to-face is not the only way. Some people can’t get to meetups, for a variety of reasons. Conversations are mutable in the minds of those that had them so I break with normal Agile convention here - I think shared artefacts are essential to save and maintain the knowledge of communities. A couple of months ago, I didn’t believe knowledge could be stored but I’ve changed my mind. We can set out our observations of our values and assumptions about how the world works and the models we are currently using to drive the decisions we make about the future. This is most important when we are working to different assumptions.

p.s. Or the same assumptions which someone else knows are wrong. How many of us were thinking individually, in parallel on ‘the recruitment problem’?


(Marc Cooper) #18

@woo, why do you believe you’re breaking with agile convention?


(Andy Wootton) #19

I believe in more documentation than most agilists because I don’t think most implementations capture concepts, requirements or design decisions adequately. Many think you have a conversation and model around a white-board, make decisions then wipe the board. I take a photo before I wipe and dump them in a folder, in date order. It relaxes me. I also build UML models of the problem domain to help me think and support discussions. Devs never seemed to want them because they think they understand but they were useful in discussions, as complexity increased, to explain to stakeholders ‘why things are’ (and sometimes the devs didn’t. I seem to have a good eye for ambiguity and noticing that 2 people who think they agree, actually don’t.) I had a weird role that was a hybrid between a BA and half a Product Owner though.


(Marc Cooper) #20

I’ve never found “agilists” reticent to retain useful work. I’ve encountered lots of tales of such that led to the discovery of folk asking for specific things, and the “agilists” pushing back because of the absence of value of those things.

I have encountered many projects where there is no (easily uncovered) record of design decisions and their context. This is often the most important information for someone joining a project or, indeed, a business. (Personally, for simplicity, I use ADRs, which Nat Pryce has handily produced a tool for which can be included in a project’s repo.)

re whiteboards and photos: my experience has been that someone always takes a photo and shares it. In my case, if I believe the information is sufficiently useful, then I’ll turn it into a mindmap, add context, and circulate. It may also generate cards, which are archived, whether completed or not, and associated ADRs.

I believe we’re agreeing on the need for historical context to be recorded and read. My experience is that this can be done with very little overhead with modern tooling. It does require everyone on a project to understand what is required of them and why, of course.