August 10, 2010
Software Craftsmanship 2010 Is FullWell, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Barely 3 weeks after we opened registration and SC2010 is now full to bursting.
Big thanks to everyone who registered. You've done a great service to craftsmanship and Bletchley Park.
And commiserations to anyone who didn't manage to get a place. But please don't be downhearted. If you follow the SC2010 submissions blog, you'll get to see screencasts of the practical elements planned for every session (including any sessions that don't make it), which is almost as good as being there. Well, maybe not. But it's a start.
July 9, 2010
This Week I Have Been Mostly Saving Bletchley ParkWell, what a week it's been.
The weekend had me running a Test-driven Development master class, which seems to have been a success. Many of those who attended are now booked on future courses, so I guess that's the best measure of customer satisfaction I can get.
(Don't forget, there's another TDD master class on July 17-18, with a couple of places still available, and a refactoring master class the following week.)
Then on Tuesday I was at Bletchley Park with the legendary Johnny Ball (a very nice man and a force of nature) to launch the Boffoonery digital download, which I've been busy promoting on Twitter, Facebook and around and about the countryside ever since. It's currently #5 in the iTunes comedy albums chart, which is fantastic. But with such a great line-up, and produced and directed by such talented people (not including myself), maybe I shouldn't be so surprised. A tweet from Stephen Fry helped put a good wind behind our sails on Tuesday, but hundreds more of you have been very supportive with your tweets
At £8 for 63 minutes of comedy gold, it's a bargain in of itself. And for every download, Bletchley Park gets 5 quid, and potentially another 20 quid of lottery funding. So every download makes a difference.
All in all, a very tiring, but equally satisfying, week.
July 7, 2010
Boffoonery! Out Now on Amazon and iTunesIf you didn't make it to Boffoonery! last year, or maybe you did and would like to relive the evening, then you'll be pleased to hear that it's available to download in glorious broadcast-quality stereophonic sound from Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby.com.
The download is 63 minutes of truly top buffoonery for boffins from the cream of British comedy, including Stephen Fry, Richard Herring, Robin Ince, Robert Llewellyn, Punt & Dennis and many more familiar faces and voices from TV and radio. A highlight for me was the quiz, featuring star turns from TV science legends Johnny Ball and Maggie Philbin.
Two giants of mathematics meet at last at Bletchley Park - Turing vs. Ball
It costs under a tenner (6.99 GBP from Amazon UK), and all profits go directly to Bletchley Park. So here's your chance to have a good laugh and help preserve a very important computing heritage site (maybe the most important) for future generations of computing enthusiasts and history buffs. And every download potentially unlocks 20 quid more in lottery funding. Bonus!
PS. If you're a blogger, tweeter, Facebooker or similar, please consider helping to spread the word. Bletchley Park needs your help.
May 1, 2010
Boffoonery! Audio UpdateJust a quick update on the Boffoonery audio download. Well, it's probably about time.
A CD cover, yesterday
After a few false starts and blind alleys (when did distributing digital audio get soooo complicated?!), we're now in the process of submitting a 63-minute cherry-picking of the best original bits of the show to iTunes and Amazon MP3. If all goes well, it should be available to download in July for about $10.
If you didn't make it to the show, we managed to get an amazing line-up of some of the best of British comedy, as well as some big names from the world of science and technology, and the audience reaction to the sell-out show was extremely positive. It was a great night of comedy, and a great night for Bletchley Park.
The recording includes original sketches created especially for us by the writer of cult BBC Radio 4 sitcom "Hut 33", James Cary, as well as an extra-special Bletchley Park-themed quiz called "Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party", chaired by Red Dwarf's very own Robert Llewellyn and featuring the brilliant Robin Ince and Richard Herring, as well as science TV legends Maggie Philbin and Johnny Ball.
There's an exclusive code-breaking sketch written and performed by those veterans of TV and radio satire, Steve Punt & Hugh Dennis, as well as cerebral comedy from John Finnemore (Radio 4's "Cabin Pressure") and the wonderful Laurence & Gus.
Add to that mix a sterling turn as our MC by the amazing James Bachman and faultless support performances by the beautiful Margaret Cabourn-Smith, not to mention a surprise contribution from a rather well-known Twitter user and fan of Apple products, and you've got a packed 63 minutes of top comedy that just whizzes by.
Keep your eyes peeled for a release date, and in the meantime, here's a copy of the programme from the Nov 3rd show to wet your appetites.
March 25, 2010
Would You Give Up One Day's Pay To Help Bletchley Park?UPDATE: The brilliant and very probably gorgeous Nigel Metheringham has started a pledge on Pledge Bank, which I have signed, and I urge all friends of Bletchley Park to sign, too. I can't promise anything, but I will try my darned upmost to swing a special honour/treat for the first 20 who pledge.
Today saw a big announcement from those lovely but horrifically overworked folk at the Bletchley Park Trust. It's all very hush-hush until they hold the press conference, of course. Watch this space. Actually, watch that space.
On the subject of Bletchley Park (so glad you brought it up), while good news comes in now and then, they still have a steep road to climb. The National Lottery people, in their infinite wisdom, have offered another £4.1 million in badly-needed funding. But only if the Bletchley Park Trust raise £1.5 million under their own steam. They still have about £1 million of that to raise in the next year and a bit.
This money will ensure that not only will much-needed repairs get done in time to stop irreversible damage to some of the most important historical sites in the history of computing, but they will be able to begin putting into action their plans to transform the park into the world-leading attraction it deserves to be.
I don't know about you, but I haven't done at all badly out of the whole "computing" thing, and I know I owe a great debt to the likes of Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers, and the thousands of others who went above and beyond the call of duty at Bletchley Park.
It saddens me no end to see such wonderful people doing such important work - both then and now with the tireless work of the Bletchley Park Trust - but not getting the A++, 5-star, kick-ass heritage site they really deserve.
So, one day later this year, I'm going to donate my coaching or training fee for that day to the Bletchley Park Trust. That's about 0.03% of the money I've earned doing a job that I love, and for which I am eternally grateful. Hopefully some of my friends will join me on this special Working For Bletchley day and we might raise a few thousand pounds.
If you love working in computing, feel you haven't done too badly out of it, and, like me, feel you owe a small debt to the men and women of Bletchley Park, perhaps you'd like to join us.
Literally all it involves is donating your earnings for one day - Thursday September 16th - directly to the Bletchley Park Trust. Simple as that.
To make it a bit more fun than just handing over your credit card details, we could, y'know, make a day of it. Organise drinks, dinners, fun stuff involving booze. That sort of thing. And maybe we'll get some t-shirts, badges and hats printed. That way, Bletchley Park will know who their friends are in a crowd.
Of course, there might be a tad more to it than that (if folk want it to be tax-deductible, etc). And I'd like to capture pledges (in such a way that we don't find out how much you earn, of course!) So I'll be setting up a web site with info, FAQs, regular updates and very probably some kind of social networking element for the hipsters among us.
In the meantime, you can Tweet your intention to participate by using the hashtag #work4bletchley
Fingers crossed, it won't just be me on the day!
November 10, 2009
Boffoonery On BBC Radio 5 LiveThose of you who can access the BBC iPlayer for radio (is that UK only, I don't know) might be interested in a piece buried in the late night schedules of Radio 5 Live about Boffoonery and Bletchley Park, recorded at the theatre with interviews from myself, Sue Black and the BBC's own Bill Thompson.
It starts at about 2:13:39.
November 6, 2009
The Big Post-Show Boffoonery Blog PostWhile I recover from Boffoonery! on Tuesday night, I thought I'd settle down with a nice cup of hot cocoa and write The Big Post-Show Boffoonery Blog Post.
First thing's first: how did it go?
Well, judging by the audience reactions I could hear over the tannoy backstage, and by the stream of Twitter updates that started almost as soon as the curtain went up at 7.30pm, it went down really rather well. Better than we expected. Better than we could have hoped, actually.
There were plenty of big laughs, rapturous applause and a fair amount of enthusiastic cheering. This wasn't nervous laughter or polite applause. People seemed to find it genuinely very funny. And consistently funny throughout a packed and fast-paced two hours.
These are just a few choice quotes from people's Twitter streams afterwards:
"An unexpected appearance from @DaveGorman made last night at #Boffoonery unbelievably amazing! A great show!"
"Absolutely top evening at #boffoonery last night. Was in the second row. If there's another one I'll be there. Thanks 4 laughs."
"Absolutely loved #Boffoonery last night... Many thanks to @bobbyllew @robinince @herring1967 @DaveGorman for the laughs!"
"had a fantastic time last night! Will be blogging about it later on @ITPRO"
"Huzzah! to all involved with @boffoonery (and/or #boffoonery ), brilliant evening and sounds most successful for #bpark"
"Boffoonery -excellent last night ! All good comedy but star for me was Robin Ince -had me in tears in good way :)"
"Simon Singh & Johnny Ball and I saw them (and lots of others) live last night at #Boffoonery (which was a great show)"
"Very much enjoyed @robinince and company at Boffoonery last night. Congrats to all who put it on #boffoonery"
"Had such fun at #boffoonery last night for #bpark. Johnny Ball, what a legend. @stephenfry back in the closet ;-) Well done to all"
"@boffoonery Was such a good night. Good laugh & I will def be looking to visit #bpark in the near future"
...and so on.
It wasn't just the audience who appeared to be having a good time, though. The performers who so generously gave their time to help Bletchley Park seemed to get a kick out of it, too. This is partly because the show - in terms of the scripts, the direction, the stage production, sound, sets, costumes etc - was of a much higher quality than charity gigs tend to be. And great performers enjoy doing good work just as much as great programmers enjoy working on great software.
But it was also because the audience was very smart. Richard Herring, who many believe is one of the best comedians working in Britain at the moment, said on his blog that it was one of the smartest audiences he'd ever played to.
And with people like Dr Sue Black, Ivan Moore, Mike Hill, Peter Camfield, Alan Cameron Wills, Antony Marcano, Kerry Jones and the BBC's Bill Thompson (I love his blog, and he's a thoroughly nice chap, as it turns out) among the throng that's not surprising. This was a VERY smart audience for a comedy gig. We might even have set some kind of record for the highest average IQ of a West End theatre audience ever. Next year we'll get MENSA in to poll everyone as they collect their tickets :-)
So what was the final reckoning? Well, there's still a lot of bean-counting to be done so it may be a few weeks before we know exactly what the profit is. But, if we stayed on budget, and there are good indications that we managed to do that, then it could be in the region of £7-8,000. Which is a profit of about 40% - unheard of for a show like this, I'm reliably informed. It won't change their world overnight, but I know the Bletchley Park Trust will be able to put that money to very good use.
On top of that, the raffle (first prize was a ZX Spectrum signed by Sir Clive Sinclair himself - listen to Sir Clive discussing it on Audio.boo) raised another £1,140.
The show was recorded by a very professional sound engineer and his team, and if all goes to plan, you'll be able to download highlights from iTunes or buy it on CD from the Bletchley Park Trust for about a fiver before the year's out. We hope it will raise a few thousand pounds extra, and it will also let all of you who couldn't get to London or who couldn't get tickets to share in the fun and help BP into the bargain.
So who were our "boffoons"?
Photography by Clive Flint, except Stephen Fry by Johnny Boylan
We were so very lucky to get such an impressive line-up. Pretty much everyone we asked said "yes" and was so generous with their time.
The talent on display behind the scenes was equally impressive.
Comedy writer James Cary had the original idea to do a comedy show to help Bletchley Park and has been actively steering the production since we first met in a coffee shop way back in March. James pulled out all the stops to deliver scripts that were of a quality above and beyond the call of duty. He's a very busy man writing and script-editing for TV and radio, and it's fantastically nice of him to literally give away top material like this.
The show was brilliantly directed by veteran comedy producer David Tyler of Pozzitive Television, who is also a very nice man and probably has a million other things to do at the moment, so we're so very grateful that he put his heart and soul into delivering a tight, fast-paced and very funny show. Several of our boffoons remarked on how impressed they were with his direction, and they should know!
The whole thing was expertly held together by our stage producer, Bethan Richards, also from Pozzitive. I was mightily impressed. I think we all were. Beth played the pivotal role in creating a high-class show under enormously tight budget and time constraints. If she had been one of the Wachowski brothers, The Matrix Revolutions would have cost under $100 and looked twice as good, I'm sure. Someone should put her in charge of Connecting For Health.
Stage Manager Helen Morant did a truly fantastic job making sure everybody and everything was exactly where they/it needed to be. The show pretty much went without a hitch, and with very limited rehearsal time.
We were ably supported by experienced theatre professional Hugh de la Bedoyere as our general manager, who provided desperately needed advice and due diligence to compensate for my frightening lack of experience in producing a stage show. We could have walked into some real gotchas without Hugh's input.
Authentic period costumes were very generously loaned to us by Allied Assortments, who a few of you may have seen putting on a 1940's fashion show at Bletchley Park in September. Being able to dress our performers in period garb really added to the atmosphere, and made for some great photo opprtunities, too. We simply could not have afforded to make or hire costumes that would look that good, so we're deeply grateful.
A big thank you, too, to photographer Clive Flint, who stepped in at very short notice and did such a marvellous job of capturing the event.
We're massively grateful to Simon Baker and Gus Power from commutineer.com, without whose generous sponsorship we might even have made a loss. They're two really nice guys, and damn fine software developers, and I was so pleased to have such cool backers for the show.
So what next?
Well, keep an eye out for news about the audio download here, on www.boffoonery.com and on Twitter (@boffoonery), as well as potential updates on a possible "Boffoonery 2.0".
September 21, 2009
Be First To Hear When Boffoonery! Audio Download Is AvailableFor those of you who can't make it to The Bloomsbury Theatre on Nov 3rd for Boffoonery!, as well as those of you who would like a momento of the evening, plans are afoot to record highlights of the show in glorious digital stereo.
The audio recording of Boffoonery! would be available for download from sites like iTunes in exchange for a small donation to Bletchley Park of five english pounds.
We're not exactly sure when the recording would be ready for downloading, but folk have already been asking. If you'd like us to drop you a line when the download's available, send us your email address using the form below (which we will protect with our very lives in true Bletchley Park style, I assure you!)
September 11, 2009
Standing Room At Boffoonery!We have standing room for another 15 people at Boffoonery! on Nov 3rd. Call 0207 388 8822 to book.
September 8, 2009
Looks Like Boffoonery! Has Sold OutI'm awaiting the official nod from The Bloomsbury Theatre, but - at the risk of counting my chickens before they've sold out - it looks like Boffoonery has, well, sold out.
We may be able to squeeze in a further 35 people standing up for a reduced ticket price. I'll discuss it with my compadres and get back to you on that tomorrow.
If my calculations are correct, we've raised over £12,000 for Bletchley Park. And selling out now is especially fitting, just after their 70th anniversary celebrations finished yesterday. It proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that there's strong public support for Bletchley Park.
I'm deeply grateful to everyone who bought tickets. Every penny of your ticket price will be donated to the Bletchley Park trust, even if this means we have to put the show together on a budget of sixpence and a couple of elastic bands. Luckily, thanks to our generous sponsors at commutineer.com, it won't come to that. And we will double - no quadruple - our efforts to make sure we put on a show that's worthy of the generosity you've shown.
And I'm especially grateful to everyone who helped spread the word: to all of you who tweeted and retweeted details about the show on Twitter. To everybody who printed posters and stuck them up on noticeboards. To everyone who emailed their friends and blogged and did all manner of Interweb loveliness to get the word out.
Big thanks is also due to our mighty celebrity tweeters, including Robert Llewellyn, Robin Ince, Richard Herring and the Twitterfiluting behemoth that is Mr Stephen Fry. With their help, and yours, we made quite a splash and the end results are positively astonishing.
On Nov 3rd, we'll roll out some comedy stars for you. But right now, as far as I'm concerned, you are the real stars.