Softwire Blog

Walking desks: the new standing desks?

28 October 2015, by

WalkingDeskThere have been a lot of stories about how there are many benefits to standing all day rather than sitting in an office. But how about a walking desk?

We’ve offered employees the opportunity to use standing desks for a while now, which we provide using some carefully selected IKEA parts (a coffee table and a shelf) and with a small amount of effort result in a great desk for this purpose.

However, recently we decided to take this a step further and set up a walking desk. There are lots of commercial options out there, but as they are quite expensive, we decided it would suit our needs better to build our own. Fortunately we have a very good handyman who helps out with minor tasks around the office, and so we tasked him with building us a desk that:

  • Fit over the existing treadmill in our gym
  • Had a large work area
  • Was adjustable, so that it would be practical for people of all heights

We’ve been using this desk for a while now, and personally, I find it great for maintaining focus, and particularly useful for finally getting round to that task you haven’t been looking forward to all week.

Walking and working helps brings clarity to my thoughts and although it makes my handwriting near illegible, my typing is barely affected. The walking quickly feels natural and it’s perfectly easy to do an hour or so walking along at a slow pace.

The disadvantage of the walking desk is that it can be quite noisy. We got around this by installing it in our gym to begin with and we’ve now moved it to a more permanent home in one of our meeting rooms.

Overall, we think that walking desks are a great idea, and although no employees have planned to switch to one on a permanent basis, it works very well as a hot desk. So if you have the time and skill (or money) to try one out. I’d definitely recommend it!

Softwire in 2015

20 July 2015, by

If you are interested in how we run as a company, you should watch the following video.

The best way to manage your task list

23 March 2015, by

Check ListI’m not about to give you the perfect task list. If I could, I would, but different people have different requirements for how their task list works, where it is, and how it reminds them of upcoming actions/events. At Softwire each employee chooses how to manage the tasks they need to do. In this blog post, we take a look at 6 different options that are used within our company. It’s up to you to decide if they’re the right option for you or not!


David Simons on “When it’s right to be wrong”

24 February 2015, by

At a recent SoftCon talk, David Simons explains how there’s a trade off between speed and accuracy in algorithms, and what this means from a computing perspective.

See his talk here:

Softwire West goes up in the world!

16 September 2014, by

On June 25th we celebrated the two-year anniversary of our Bristol office, by moving from the 4th floor of Colston Tower up to the 13th floor. Ric Hill, General Manager for Softwire West, opened the office in 2012 with 5 Softwire employees. By the beginning of 2014 however, it was clear that we were about to outgrow the half-a-floor we occupied in Colston Tower.

After visiting a number of options with our newly appointed Office Manager, Antonia Reynolds, Ric finally settled on the 13th floor of Colston Tower. We then set to work remodelling the space to reflect both the professional and playful sides of the Softwire West team.

A number of companies were invited to visit the new office space and to submit quotes for fitting out the 4,200 sq. ft. space. Following a considerable amount of deliberation however, we selected OEG Interiors, a local Bristol-based company. Their enthusiasm and vision was obvious from the start, and the resulting light, spacious, yet functional office with its relaxing chill-out area, is everything we had hoped it would be.

We’re already growing into our new office. From the 5 people we started with in 2012, we’ve quickly grown to over 20 and have several more signed up to join us this year! This growth was initially made possible by continuing to help out on projects run from the London office. Latterly however, Softwire West has become largely self-sustaining by taking on local projects for companies based in the South West and Wales.

We’re not just about business though. We’re also finding ways of giving back to the local community through our involvement in a number of local initiatives such as Home Start, Sefton Park Primary School’s Code Club, and Youth Moves. Aside from devoting our time to these causes this year, we also donated much of the furniture from our old office on the 4th floor. The call went out to charities across Bristol, and we had 4-5 different charities coming to get our stuff, including Youth Moves, before the remainder was taken by the Sofa Project.

We’re always on the lookout for how we can add value to the community, from providing top quality Developers to companies in the private and not-for-profit sectors, getting involved with local charities and sponsoring or speaking at local events such as Bristech. If you haven’t met us yet, we’re always happy to give people a guided tour of our new surroundings! For a taster of what our new abode looks like, here are a few photos to whet your palette!


Softwire’s Key Responsibilities, #3 – Be fully responsible for all your tasks and actions

30 April 2014, by

This is the third in a series looking in depth at the five “Key Responsibilities” that Softwire asks of its employees, as outlined in this post.

Who is responsible for the successful delivery of a project? In Softwire, the answer is quite illuminating.

Each project is assigned a Project Manager (PM), who is the most obviously responsible for its successful delivery (incorporating commercial success and customer satisfaction).

The PM’s manager is called the “Super Project Manager” (SPM). In Softwire we currently have 4 SPMs, each of whom manages a number of PMs. Here’s what our internal literature says about the SPM’s duties:

The SPM is fully responsible for ensuring that the PM delivers the project successfully by providing oversight and advice as required…

Note that the involvement of the SPM does not in any way diminish the PM’s responsibility to deliver the project successfully. The PM remains fully responsible for successful delivery. The SPM is also fully responsible for ensuring the PM succeeds. I.e. both roles are fully responsible!

A similar principle applies to the portion of a project assigned to each developer. So The developer is fully responsible for both the quality and timeliness of their delivery, but so is the PM and the SPM. And the QA is just as responsible for the quality of the output as the PM or the SPM. You may consider this to be logically inconsistent garbage – or worse, some kind of Orwellian brainwash along the lines of “War is Peace”. The flippant response is “You can never have too much responsibility!” However we need to prove that this overlapping responsibility is meaningful in practice.

The Journey Pattern

25 March 2014, by

The need for DRY code is a well established idea, which is well explained by Uncle Bob. The Page Object Pattern is the basic application of this principle to web tests. However, it is an idea that does not solve all our problems.

Although it goes some of the way to improving the readbility and extensability of web tests, it still has its issues. For example, people often find that when they start modifying their code, large numbers of their web tests can break, as they are brittle. Locating the source of the problem is also tricky, despite the implementation of the Page Object Pattern.

So are there any better ways to structure web tests that get around this problem?

Softwire MD on the Businesswoman of the Future shortlist

24 September 2013, by

Our MD Zoe Cunningham has been shortlisted for the “Businesswoman of the Future” category in the Women of the Future awards. These awards are a platform for successful young women in Britain today – you can read more here.

The awards will then take place on the 13th of November. Good luck Zoe – We’ve got our fingers crossed!

Bristol Narrowboating

13 September 2013, by

To celebrate the August heatwave us Bristolians took to the canal last week and spent a relaxing morale afternoon narrowboating.  We picked up a hire boat in Bath at lunchtime and pottered up the Kennet & Avon canal Eastwards.  Pimms and cider were drunk, the sun shone (mostly), we ate ice cream, we didn’t go very far, and we didn’t crash (too badly).  Nice.

Here are some pictures showing how pleasant it is in the South West…

Bristol boating


Bristol boating

How to have fun for under £5

3 September 2013, by

We’ve posted a few times on this blog on the topic of how seriously we take morale. One of the ways that we do this is to give a budget to the fun police, who are always looking for cost effective ways to make us happier.

Our latest, and silliest, initiative is to allow anyone in the company to request a silly hat that costs under £5. These are then put into the silly hat box, and can be deployed as needed!

Here is a selection of our favourite headgear.