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Developer core competencies – what should universities cover in Computer Science courses?

October 11, 2012

This tweet from @stuherbert got me thinking:

Despite the massive shortage of programmers to fill vacancies, UK comp sci grads are the most unemployed 6 months after graduating #ouch
There’s been much talk about teaching grass-roots ‘coding’, even at Primary School level. But it’s clear to many that our university courses are woefully inadequate, out of date, and little use to employers generally. Usually a CS grad is useless until they’ve got at least a year’s experience under their belt. Actually, they can be worse than useless – some poor bugger has to live with their code.
I thought I’d note down as many general ‘computer science’-like core competencies that I think modern businesses should look for as a grounding for any developer, regardless of whether they’re doing web, mobile or software development in a start-up, an enterprise or a bank.  I’d love to make this more comprehensive, so please comment below and I’ll incorporate your ideas too.
  • Version control, inc svn, git, hg, perforce – including branching and merging
  • Key algorithms eg binary search, bubble and quick sort, lexical analysis, etc
  • Game & animation physics (elasticity, acceleration, gravity, trajectories, etc)
  • Maths – percentages, number systems, logic (and/or/xor), bitwise operations, randomness, etc
  • Business analysis, requirements, UCD, user stories, MoSCoW
  • Project Management inc Agile, Kanban
  • HCI & UI design
  • HTML & CSS
  • Basic C++
  • ‘Scripting’ with bash, ruby, python
  • Code deployment and Continous Integration
  • How search engines work
  • Finding solutions to problems (googling, GitHub, stack exchange)
  • Evaluation of code for bad smells & code review
  • Teamwork & collaboration
  • Security – network, xss, buffer overflows, encryption, etc
  • Intros to: java, objective C, PHP, Ruby, Python
  • Frameworks & MVC for the above inc separation of logic & display
  • Building reusable code (note: inc OOP, but wider than that)
  • Technical Debt, YAGNI, premature optimisation, over and under engineering, refactoring, KISS, DRY, not-invented-here-syndrome
  • How open source works; contributing to open source.
  • Operating systems – installing, using, maintaining: windows, Linux (centos+Debian?), Mac
  • Filesystems – from coding to block device
  • Threading (on OS and also stateless http), race conditions, stampedes etc
  • Debugging & optimising inc memory leaks, stack traces etc
  • BDD & TDD, automated testing, unit testing etc
  • Prototyping
  • Content Management Systems (inc WordPress & Drupal)
  • Realtime
  • Caching
  • RDS and noSQL
  • Storage types – strings, floats, etc, their problems
  • A bit of history won’t hurt…
  • Hardware? Or is that electronic engineering now…?
  • Regular Expression (thanks @mrpmeth)
  • API design, usage, good and bad (thanks @fooishbar)
  • Design Patterns (eg Dependency Injection)
  • Overview of software dev philosophies eg OOP, Aspect-OP, Event-OP, Extreme, etc.

What’s interesting is that so many of the competencies above either didn’t exist 10 years ago, or have only become mainstream as being more than just ‘best practice’  in the last 3-5 years. That’s a big challenge for education, which just can’t move quickly enough. There must a better way of keeping it relevant?

10 tips for product management success

February 9, 2011

The Association of Online Publishing have kindly summarised my thoughts on product management into a 12 point list of tips, following  my talk at their forum on product development called ‘The Secrets of Product Success’.  Some of it is just advanced common sense, but it’s based on my experience launching digital products over the last 12 years or so within media organisations such as IPC, GMG and Dennis – most recently from introducing user-centered design on our recent launch,


Dennis Publishing launches new car reviews website

November 1, 2010

Dennis Publishing, publisher of Auto Express, Evo, The Week and Expert Reviews, can today announce the launch of new car review website CARBUYER.CO.UK.

Designed to help users decide which new car to buy, wherever they are in the buying process, CARBUYER.CO.UK is the first motoring website to combine expert reviews, aggregated content and exclusive video road tests with a powerful search engine. The site features reviews of every new car on sale in the UK and provides a comprehensive and reliable rating system for each new model. Reviews offer simple star ratings and detailed analysis of key characteristics, including on-the-road performance, comfort, reliability, practicality, value for money and running costs.

Pete Wootton, MD of Dennis Interactive said: “CARBUYER’S user-centric design has been developed with the input of over 6,000 new car buyers. In addition to our extensive user testing programme, we engaged key motoring manufacturers and the agencies that represent them to help shape our new product. This innovative approach has ensured we will deliver a product that offers rich commercial opportunities in a quality branding environment.”

CARBUYER.CO.UK uses information backed up by the latest facts and figures from JATO – the data provider to the motoring industry, allowing visitors to the site to access complete specifications for every new model variant.

Dennis Publishing has invested heavily in video content for CARBUYER.CO.UK, allowing users to watch the cars being test-driven by the site’s presenter, Mat Watson. The CARBUYER YouTube channel, launched in August this year as a taster to the new website, has already received more than 150,000 views and provided essential feedback from consumers ahead of the launch of

To mark its launch, CARBUYER.CO.UK has joined together with Mindshare to broker a launch campaign for their motoring clients – Ford, Mazda, Land Rover, Jaguar and Volvo.

Victoria Woodall, Business Director at Mindshare, said: “Mindshare are very excited to be the launch partner with CARBUYER along with our portfolio of car manufacturers, especially since the opportunities with in-market car sites have remained relatively unchanged for some time now. We see this as an opportunity to find out first hand how this new approach to navigation works for the ‘great undecided’ audience and to validate the role such a site plays amongst the other well established sites in the motoring sector.”

The site, which launches on Monday 1st November, also includes an easy-to-use car finder tool, plus the latest market news and independent buying guides.

Dennis Publishing launches new website Expert Reviews

February 10, 2010

Dennis Publishing has today launched a consumer technology site to capitalise on the ever increasing number of buyers of technology who research, spec, compare and buy products online. The launch is supported by Toshiba, which is using the site to market its latest laptop – the five-star-rated Satellite T130.

Online retail spend is increasing year on year, according to a new report by online payment service PayPal (conducted by Experian). In the 18 months up to the end of 2010 online shopping is the only area of retail likely to record sales growth, helping to rescue the UK’s retail sector from recession. The survey estimates over £4.5bn will be spent on electronic products in 2010 and this will rise in 2011.

As a response to this increasing spend and the increasing demand for objective and honest buying advice across a vast range of technology products,Dennis Publishing have launched Expert Reviews. This new site, designed and developed by the in-house team is the result of Dennis’ expertise and experience of publishing in this highly competitive sector.

The aim of the site is simple – make it easier for users to find the products that match their needs, compare them with other products, take advice from our large team of in-house experts, read aggregated reviews from previous buyers of the product (using buyer reviews provided by Reevoo) and find the best price.

Expert Reviews’ new comparison engine enables users to compare multiple reviews and confidently make a buying decision. The innovative filtering engine enables users to select exactly what they are looking for and compare products to create their own buying shortlist, making it easy for users to find the products they’re looking for at the right price.

The impressive volume of product reviews housed on Expert Reviews means that from day one of launch we are the definitive technology buying guide. The reviews will be added to on a daily basis – the depth and breadth of our product coverage ensuring that consumers who are eager to get their hands on the latest technology and gadgets will visit the site regularly. Products reviewed include laptopsTVsdigital camerasgadgets and other consumer electronics, with many categories containing hundreds of products.

David Ludlow, Expert Reviews Group Editor said, “Finding the right product at the right price can be incredibly difficult, but our filtering engine and huge database of in-depth reviews makes it easy.”

Expert Reviews will offer advertisers new and exciting ways to reach their customers. We will be developing integrated advertising solutions for clients – innovative bespoke advertising solutions covering everything from standard creatives through to partner focus microsites, webcasts and digital magazines. Rupert Standley, Marcoms and PR Manager from Toshiba says “Toshiba are delighted to partner with the launch of Expert Reviews and believe the site really compliments the launch of our new Satellite T130 laptop.”

Expert Reviews will build on traffic already established from our leading Dennis technology brands including Computer ShopperMacUser, Computer Buyer and also the digital magazine, iGizmo. The site will also draw from Dennis Technology portfolio’s four million unique users a month.

An online video guide showcasing some of the core new features of the site can be found at:

Digital Media round-up, w/c 1st December

December 1, 2008

A weekly round-up of digital and regional media news, comment and analysis from the blogosphere, with a few interesting links and technology thrown in.

Only 9% of viewers find overlay video ads intrusive, finds ITV

Only 9% of people find overlay video ads to be intrusive and detract from their overall viewing experience, according to a report by ITV. (via on 1st Dec 2008)

‘We are punk to their stadium rock’: the independent news sites challenging regional papers

Michael Casey, former regional newspaper journalist and creator of video news site says “There must be an alternative way to express the news and in 2008 for the news to be able to express itself”. While he acknowledges the staff shortages and budget pressures in local media that have resulted in many journalists being more office-bound, Casey has rejected his desk and is currently converting a van into a branded mobile journalism and video editing suite. (via on 1st Dec 2008)

Press Gazette’s guide to content management systems

Business publisher Centaur has just spent £1m on its new CMS provided by Abacus E-Media, Trinity Mirror has just spent £7.5m on its Midlands newsroom complete with new CMS technology (albeit with the associated cut of 65 jobs). This technology is seen as so important that some news organisations claim it means journalists can be done away with. (via on 1st Dec 2008)

Just f**king Do It (An ABC of’s R2 project)

JFDI… which stands for “just f**kling do it”,was the unofficial name of one of the development teams which sat alongside the R2 [new Guardian CMS project] teams. The JFDI team handled very short turnaround work. Mostly this consisted of bugfixes, but it also included minor enhancements. It worked in a traditional Agile manner, but due to the size of the individual tasks work was reprioritised every day rather than every fortnight. (via Inside blog by Nik Silver on 1st Dec 2008)

Trinity Mirror to cut 78 jobs in north-west restructure

Trinity Mirror has announced a restructuring of its titles in the north-west of England and north Wales, including the merger of the Liverpool Echo and Daily Post newsrooms, which will lead to the loss of 78 jobs. The proposals, outlined to staff today, will be introduced before the end of March next year, and will see journalists across the division grouped into four centralised multimedia “hubs”. (via on 1st Dec 2008)

Iliffe buys East Midlands free papers from Trinity

Independent regional publisher Iliffe News and Media has bought the Herald and Post series of free weekly newspapers from Trinity Mirror. The titles, which have a combined distribution of 113,000, are the Northampton Herald & Post, the East Northants Herald & Post Series, the Brackley & Towcester Herald & Post and the Market Harborough Herald & Post. (via on 1st Dec 2008)

Message for Obama – the best pictures?

The inspiring (and often hilarious) Message for Obama Flickr group, lovingly turrned into a book by The Guardian’s Head of Communities, Meg Pickard. Meanwhile, the Guardian picture desk have made a gallery of their favourites.  (via Inside blog by Sean Clarke on 28th Nov 2008)

Regionals fear £15m planning application ad revenue loss

The Newspaper Society is seeking an urgent meeting with the Government, arguing that new plans on planning applications could result in newspapers losing £15m a year in ad revenue. (via on 28th Nov 2008)

BBC claims local video strategy was misinterpreted

The BBC Trust’s rejection of the BBC’s local video strategy last week has led to the plans being misinterpreted, according to Pete Clifton, head of editorial development and multimedia journalism at the BBC.  (via on 28th Nov 2008) adds more local content while BBC plans set back

Yell is rolling out a series of ultra-local sub-sites featuring town and city information as part of a move to ramp up content across its website. (via on 28th Nov 2008)

How to Grow Your Twitter Followers to Over 10,000 in a Week

It’s never too late to build a large, loyal Twitter following-if you think outside the box. In this guest post, Matthew Magain from SitePoint shares some tips on how you can grow your Twitter following to more than 10,000 in less than a week. (via on 27th Nov 2008)

Newsquest axes editors and publishers at northern titles

Newsquest has parted company with the editors, publishers and managing directors of several newspapers in the north of England as part of a management restructure. (via Press Gazette: Regional Newspapers on 27th Nov 2008)

Home page (An ABC of’s R2 project)

There are two major aspects to the home page’s flexibility. As part of the R2 [new CMS] project they created a variety of templates which could be switched in largely at will. Also, any one template has internal logic which changes the layout subtly according to where a production staffer marks a break or places an image or video. (via Inside blog by Nik Silver on 27th Nov 2008)

MEN Media appoints Revenue Science

MEN Media, publishers of The Manchester Evening News and part of the Guardian Media Group, has appointed behavioural targeting specialist Revenue Science to provide targeting opportunities across its sites. (via on 27th Nov 2008)

Build Your Own Slideshow with s3Slider jQuery Plugin

The s3Slider jQuery plugin is made by example of JonDesign’s smooth slideshow script. The author needed something like that for jQuery. Since he didnt find it after a small research, he decided to build it by himself. This script is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5. So you can use it in all you projects even commercial ones. This plugin has been tested and is known to work in Firefox, Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome. (via WebAppers by Ray Cheung on 26th Nov 2008)

Flexible advertising (an ABC of’s R2 project)

All pages have been designed to display ads of various sizes, and reshape themselves accordingly. This is most obvious on some of the right hand ad slots — sometimes you’ll find them displaying an ad that’s a squareish rectangle, sometimes you’ll return to the same page and find another that’s markedly taller. Also, the home page sometimes has ads on it, and sometimes doesn’t. The ad sales team decided not to fill certain ad slots just because they could, thus ensuring there were periods when the home page was ad-free. Apart from any other advantages this means that when ads do appear they have more impact, and of course it increases the value of advertising on the home page. (via Inside blog by Nik Silver on 25th Nov 2008)

Leading regional publisher M.E.N. Media Takes Digital Ad Sales In House

Leading Regional Media Company M.E.N. Media, publisher of the Manchester Evening News, has announced that it is to bring its digital sales in-house.  The move will allow agencies to deal directly with the Company when developing online campaigns for its clients. (via on 25th Nov 2008)

Reuters creates role of comment editor

New agency Reuters has beefed up its comment team by appointing founder deputy editor of Breaking Views Jonathan Ford to the new job of commentary editor. It is the latest move in the London-based agency’s recent policy of broadening out its service to be about more than just breaking news. (via on 25th Nov 2008)

Twitter rejects $500m Facebook offerc

Talks have broken down in Facebook’s bid to acquire Twitter in exchange for $500m (£330m) worth of stock after the two companies failed to agree on the stock’s value. (via on 25th Nov 2008)

An unformed theory: newspaper business models

There’s a lot of talk about new business models, about the market not caring if we make money, about there being no right to a job in a newsroom. There’s a lot of talk about regional newspapers having less than five years. (via Subbed Out? by Sam Shepherd on 12th Nov 2008)

How many 25-year-olds you know buy a newspaper?

“I hate to admit it, but newspapers as they exist today have probably had their chips. Maybe not tomorrow, or next month, or even next year – but it’s coming”.  Why? Well as Ryan Sholin demonstrates, the newspaper buyers of the future don’t buy them. A weekly publication, maybe. A daily newspaper, when they can get the news that’s relevant to them online? Nope. (via Subbed Out? by Sam Shepherd on 3rd Nov 2008)

Regionals must abandon ‘one size fits all’ attitude to online

“Frustrating, aren’t they? Regional news websites, I mean. They all look the same. ThisisLincolnshireThisisGloucestershire. ThisisBORING. What’s wrong with Absolutely nothing, that’s what. By giving seperate name and feel, you’re distancing it from the print product.” (via on 24th Nov 2008)

Local online news video – where do we go from here?

With the announcement of the BBC Trust decision not to allow the BBC to go into English ultra-local news journalism, a huge amount of attention has fallen on the existing regional press. Martin has picked a selection of 20 titles with websites – the twenty titles that had the highest circulation according to these August 2008 figures. This includes papers that were not just in English areas that would have been affected by the BBC’s plans, but also titles from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. (via currybetdotnet by on 23rd Nov 2008)

jQuery.popeye – An Inline Lightbox Alternative

There are a ton of Lightbox scripts used on an ever-increasing number of websites. However, Lightboxes are usually not consistent with the look & feel of the rest of the website, and they still feel like a kind of pop-up, since the image leaves the layer of the web page and opens up a new layer. The author of jQuery.popeye wanted something more integrated in the flow of the web page – a box with a small preview image with caption, the possibility to flip through an array of more thumbnails and, of course, to show an enlarged version, all in one place. Lightbox offers that. Moreover, he wanted the box to stay anchored to the page layout and not hovering above it disconnectedly. The way to achieve this was writing a script which would fix one corner of the enlarged image to the exact spot where the thumbnail had been. (via WebAppers by Ray Cheung on 23rd Nov 2008)

Reevoo’s iphone app comes into its own in the Crunch

With over 20,000 reviews on under the company’s belt, Reevoo is a service that may be influencing what you buy, and what you don’t buy. Founded in 2005 (previous coverage here) the British based startup recently released an iPhone web app. A native application is yet to shows its face, so we’ll be taking a look at the iPhone web-app. Search for a product you may be interested in and you’re given a list of related products. You’re given a clearly displayed rating on every listed item. It’s convenient and saves time. If you’d like to go deeper when researching, or if you wish read those staple reviews the company is built upon. You simply select a result and you’re presented with a clear list of reviews, a guide price and a product image. The format is clean and the information is plentiful. (via TechCrunch UK by Guest Author on 24th Nov 2008)

SearchWiki: make search your own

SearchWiki is a way for you to customize search by re-ranking, deleting, adding, and commenting on search results. With just a single click you can move the results you like to the top or add a new site. You can also write notes attached to a particular site and remove results that you don’t feel belong. These modifications will be shown to you every time you do the same search in the future.  The changes you make only affect your own searches. But SearchWiki also is a great way to share your insights with other searchers. You can see how the community has collectively edited the search results by clicking on the “See all notes for this SearchWiki” link. (via The Official Google Blog by A Googler on 20th Nov 2008)

Archant and Telegraph in geotagged search launches

Archant’s EDP24 site has released a new local business directory complete with search results plotted on a Google map, which can be refined by distance . (via on 24th Nov 2008)

BBC’s local web video plans derailed by Trust, North West faces ‘repercussions’

The BBC’s controversial plans to launch a £68m web-based local video service hit the buffers on Friday, as the corporation’s governing body, the BBC Trust, rejected the proposals.  (via How-Do on 23rd Nov 2008)

TwoPointOh – now on Tumblr!

November 15, 2007

To quote Theophrastus, “time is the most valuable thing a man can spend” – and I don’t have a lot to spare on blogging. I like to carefully consider and edit my blog posts, backing everything up with research and links. It’s very time consuming.

I had supplemented the blog feed with the ma.gnolia daily summaries of my bookmarks, which some may have found useful, but frankly they look a bit crap – so that’s gone now.

But now Tumblr 3.0 is out, and it suits my needs perfectly – you’ll find my Tumblr blog at For those who aren’t familiar with Tumblr, it lets you post a whole range of media to a mini-blog (photos, quotes, links, comments, audio, video etc) – but the real killer bit is that you can import content from other feeds such as flickr, wordpress, twitter, etc – anything with RSS.

So please subscribe to if you’d like to keep up with the following:

A Web 2.0 Strategy Slideshow

August 21, 2007

My ten guiding principals for a Web 2.0 strategy are now available as a slideshow!

These tactics for success will help ensure your site grows its audience and revenue and maximising profitability by harnessing the power of the Web 2.0 state-of-mind.