Softwire Blog


Speed Coding 2016 – Q1 Solution


13 July 2016, by

This post explains the solutions to Question 1 of our speed coding 2016 competition. If you haven’t yet read the question, head back and have a go now.

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Speed Coding 2016 – Q4


6 July 2016, by

Here’s the 4th and final question from our last speed coding competition. This is a long and tricky one, so make sure you’ve put some time aside if you’re planning to try and solve it.

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Tips for remote working on the other side of the world.


4 July 2016, by

Like lots of people I’ve always liked the idea of remote working in exotic locations, but I recently had the opportunity to give it a go. I travelled halfway around the world and continued working for Softwire from New Zealand.

I enjoyed the experience, especially the 100% flexibility of knowing my team were all in bed: as long as I’d done a day’s work by the time they woke up, I could drop what I was doing and hit the beach or go for a long bike ride whenever the whim took me. On the downside there was almost complete isolation, access to the rest of the team was very limited and the brief period of overlap when I could actually talk to people became very valuable, even though it was at highly inconvenient times of day.

If you’re interested in more detailed advice about working remotely as a developer, see my original post on my personal blog: http://swilson.co.uk/blog/2014/09/11/working-remotely-in-a-dev-team/

Softwire does Swing Dance


6 June 2016, by

At Softwire the staff are introduced to a lot of interesting new activities, and Thursday 14th April was no exception as Softwire London’s Chillout was transformed into a swinging dance floor from the 1920’s!

Staff donned their glad rags, rock-stepped and shuffled to their first swing dance lesson, provided by the Mudflappers’ teacher Olly. The class was aimed at complete beginners and the hope was to provide people enough simple moves they can string together to make a number to any swing song. Some of the class were lucky enough to have done a fair amount of partner dancing before; like Suzanne who does West Coast Swing every week, and Dom who has been to the Bristol swing dance festival a couple of times!

After a funky warm up which had everyone groove stepping around the room and waggling their hands over their heads, the group partnered up and learnt about 6 and 8 beat steps. Swing, and in this case ‘lindy-hop’, is in 32 beat phrases; this means you need to select the right number of 6 and 8 beat moves to finish with the end of a phrase. Olly armed everyone with a 6 beat basic (twice), a tuck turn, a bring back and then a fancy finish called ‘Johnny’s Drop’ to which the group responded with great enthusiasm and abandon.

Swing dancing, like salsa and tango, is a ‘led dance’ which means the class split into leads and follows. Traditionally this is split along gender lines, in true Softwire fashion everyone got a go at both roles. This created the occasional interesting pairings like Dom 5’5” leading Alex 6’7” in some pretty spectacular twirls!

Everyone involved had a great time and have decided to head along to Olly’s normal lesson, in Dalston, in the coming weeks.

IMG_1878 (002)swing

Speed Coding 2016 – Q3


20 April 2016, by

Here’s the third of our speed coding questions.

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Speed Coding 2016 – Q2


13 April 2016, by

Here’s question 2 from our recent speed coding competition. See how quickly you can solve it.

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Speed Coding 2016 – Q1


6 April 2016, by

Here’s the first question from our speed coding competition 2016. We’ve already held the event, so there are no prizes, but if you want to play along at home, see how quickly you can solve the challenge.

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Speed Coding 2016 Intro


30 March 2016, by

In case you didn’t hear through our twitter or facebook accounts, we recently held our 2016 speed coding competition. Questions were devised by the last competition’s runner-up Rupert Wood, with help from John Ginger.

The format of the evening was:

Question 1 – 20 minutes

Question 2 – 30 minutes

Question 3 – 40 minutes

Pizza – 30 minutes

Question 4 – 1 hour

In the upcoming series of posts, we’ll be releasing the questions, quickest answers as well as some hints and tips on interesting techniques that people took in their solutions.

Code Club at Tufnell Park Primary School


25 November 2015, by

image2At Softwire, we’re firm believers in the benefits of using our technical expertise to make a positive impact on society. As part of that effort, we run a weekly after-school coding club at nearby Tufnell Park Primary School, teaching children aged 9-11 the basic concepts of programming (and having lots of fun along the way!). The prospect of starting up a club was a bit daunting at first, but luckily the whole process is made much easier thanks to Code Club, a nationwide organisation that aims to facilitate the process by putting volunteers in contact with local schools and providing a wealth of teaching materials. Sharing the task of organising and running the club between four of us has also made the time commitment much easier to manage and we’ve found the whole experience to be really rewarding.

Code Club have some excellent resources available, including step-by-step worksheets for projects that suit a wide range of experience levels. For children joining the club for the first time, Scratch has proved to be an excellent tool for teaching basic programming concepts, it conveys these concepts in a fun and visually appealing way. Keeping the children engaged in what they’re doing is crucial, so projects that focus on creating games and animations have generally proven to be the biggest hits.

For those children that outgrew what Scratch has to offer, last year we began teaching HTML and CSS,  but this year we’re planning to introduce the more advanced groups to JavaScript instead. This feels like a more natural progression from the visual programming concepts used by Scratch, and should offer the prospect of creating richer and more interactive web pages. While Code Club doesn’t currently provide projects for JavaScript, we’re planning to try out Trinket – an online HTML and JavaScript editor that provides simple code-completion and syntax highlighting – instead, and we’re hoping this will make the transition into text-based coding a much more positive experience.

image3I’m always amazed by how quickly the children grasp the basic concepts (what is an if statement, a for-loop, etc.) so we also aim to encourage the collaborative and problem-solving aspects of programming, skills that we value highly at Softwire, as well. We’ve found that an excellent way to reinforce those concepts is to go beyond the original scope of the project and ask the children to invent extra features they’d like to add to their game. We then chat with them about what code they might need to add to make it work, then let them explore the ideas themselves. This really helps to fire their imagination and they definitely take more personal pride in the result. We’re also fortunate that Tufnell Park school has a blog page where we’ve been able to highlight some of the great projects that the children have created, and this public recognition really helps to encourage them and reward their hard work.

Overall, we’ve really enjoyed the Code Club experience. We’re constantly struck by how enthusiastic the children are about coding and how eager they are to explore new ideas, once they realise that coding isn’t some mysterious and difficult art form, but really a form of puzzle-solving. It’s especially great to see them take the skills they’ve learnt and use them to create their own games, since programming is as much a creative endeavour as it is a technical one.

We have lots of ideas for new projects to explore this year, and with the success of last year’s effort, we now have enough new volunteers within Softwire that we’re planning to expand, with the hope of starting a new club in another nearby school after Christmas! We hope to give another update on our progress then.

Design & Deliver – Our Most Recent Event


20 November 2015, by

Event1 (2)Last week we held our third tech workshop of the year at Shoreditch House. Our most recent area of exploration was the concept of design as part of the software delivery process. During the afternoon event our speakers and guests delved into what it means to design great software and looked at the risks of not designing software properly.

It was our busiest event yet and all of our speakers were well received. We were joined – as is now tradition- by the wonderful Bill Thompson as well as George and Liam from Maido and Jim and Luke from Sketch, both very talented design agencies. Sketch offered the audience a lot of practical design advice whilst Maido spoke about what makes a design good. Tim, Head of Design and UX at Softwire spoke about the cost of bad design and why it’s so important to get user experience just right from the start of every project.

We followed our talks with an open and engaging panel discussion, in which the audience were able to share their views and ask questions. In true Softwire style we welcomed our guests to join us for a drink and more conversation on the topic once the panel discussion was over. The room was a buzz with ideas about design and how we can improve software processes. We’re now looking forward to our next event in March 2016.