Heydon Pickering – Inclusive Design Patterns

Inclusive Design Patterns

I’ve always found the topic of accessiblity an interesting one, and I this book had so many great ideas that I ended up turning it into the basis of a lightning talk at work.

I really appreciated that each section started off with typical bad practices, then shows you how to change what you’ve done to make it fully inclusive. It also includes the reasons why what you were doing wasn’t the correct way to go about things, and why their suggested way is better.

“The best part is that designing inclusive interfaces, like designing robust data schemas, doesn’t have to be any harder or more complex than making exclusive or otherwise obsolete ones.”

I found the descriptions of inclusive design particulary enlightening. I’d always just assumed that it was for people with sight problems, but being inclusive is about way more than that. Inclusive means including everyone, regardless of ability (physical or mental). But it also means being inclusive of those on slower/more expensive internet connections (as developers we often forget that not everyone is as lucky as we are in terms of access).

“Everybody is a keyboard user when eating with their mouse hand”

I would highly recommend this book to anyone involved in building websites, even if you think you know everything there is to know about inclusive design, I’m sure that this book will still be able to teach you something. And if you’re a complete novice, the HTML examples given throughout are extremely helpful in making you understand what’s going on.

 

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 271
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 5th October 2018 – 14th October 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.3
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Brandon Sanderson – Snapshot

Snapshot

I think at this point, you’re probably fed up of me giving glowing reviews to Brandon Sanderson books, and I’m not sorry to say that this will be another.

Quite a departure from the last Sanderson book I read, this one was only 130 pages long, and far from being a fantasy epic, was a mini sci-fi detective story. It makes me sad that Sanderson can seemingly turn his hand to any genre he likes and write an amazing book, when I don’t have the imagination or skills to write anything.

With it only being such a short book, there’s not much time for back-story or character development, but it’s not many pages before you’re completely aware of the ‘snapshot’ system and invested in Davis and Chaz (a Chas and Dave reference perhaps?)

As you can expect, the drama unfolds pretty quickly and there were some pretty big plot twists at the end. In the prologue, Sanderson explains that he thought they would be obvious to the reader, but I didn’t have a clue, in fact, I had to read the last bits a couple of times to unpick what had happened, but then I could look back and see the clues that had been given.

A world where you can travel into a snapshot of previous events sounds great, when you can go back to the scene of a crime after it happened, you can get further evidence and witnesses that you otherwise might not have found. But as with any time-travel situation, you can also create ‘deviations’ from the true events, and they can be hard to manage. These were central to the story in a big way (no spoilers).

Now that it’s finished, I’m sad that it was such a short book, I’d love to delve into this further and spend more time exploring the technicalites of snapshotting, but I don’t think this will be the case.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 129
Format: Hardback
Date Read: 7th October 2018 – 7th October 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.06
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Arani Sen – Holy Spirit Radicals

Holy Spirit Radicals

I ordered this book after we did a group reading plan of the book of Acts with my Church Life Group over the summer, and this popped up as an advert in my Facebook feed: it seemed like it was placed there for a reason!

Written by the vicar of Christchurch in Armley, it’s a great book filled with insight on the book of Acts and how we can apply it to helping the undervalued and underappreciated in our communities.

“Luke asks the question: how can we claim to be in Christ Jesus united by the Spirit, if some of our members suffer because of poverty, lack of opportunity or don’t have food on their plates? How can we see ourselves as brothers and sisters in Christ if some are homeless, while others have so much? The early church forfeited their own comfort and ownership of property for the common good.”

Each chapter of the book is centered around one chapter of Acts and filled with challenges to our comfortable lives, giving us plenty to think about what our responses should be.

“The challenge is to bring about change creatively, not being afraid of adapting, being wiling to take risks and move forward in the Holy Spirit’s power. Change is not easy to manage, and congregations often do not like change. It takes time to transform the culture of a church: patience will be needed. Having a clear vision, a mission statement and knowing which direction we are going sets us well on the road to recovery.”

A lot of the book seemed to tie in very well with things we’ve been talking and thinking about at my Church recently, in particular how we can be more outward facing to our community and help those who are feeling broken by life.

“In short, God’s church is for all God’s people. It expresses the kingdom values of justice, mercy and acceptance. It should be a reflection of heaven, where God’s rule has finally broken in. It should be a place where there is no more poverty, pain, suffering, inequality, where all races live together in peace, women and men, there are no marginalised people or groups, no hunger, sickness or depression”.

After feeling like I was ‘meant’ to buy the book on seeing the advert, I truly feel like this book came into my life at a great time. So much of what I was reading felt like a direct challenge to myself, and I have so much to think about. I’m very lucky to worship in a more affluent church, but reading so many stories of great things coming from inner city churches was so inspiring.

“Each of us is called to be Jesus’ agent of grace, to be willing to venture towards the people he draws us to, in order to help them find life-transforming love, acceptance and security”.

I will whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, I feel like if more people read this book and felt compelled to take action from it, we could truly transform the society we live in.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2018
Number of Pages: 200
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 29th September 2018 – 7th October 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 5
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Rebekah Crane – The Infinite Pieces of Us

The Infinite Pieces of Us

I consumed this book in one sitting as I found the characters so well described and relatable that I had to know what was going to happen. I actually was on a train that was delayed for over half an hour, but I didn’t mind as I just wanted to finish the book before I had to get off!

The book starts with Esther and her family moving to a place called Truth or Consequences in New Mexico. It’s hinted quite heavily that Esther is the reason they had to move, and I made a guess what I thought the reason would be long before it was actually revealed. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be a plot twist or not, but it didn’t really spoil my enjoyment of the book.

The book revolves around Esther, along with her newfound friends, trying to find her way back to the reason she had to leave. It was actually Esther’s friends who I found to be the most interesting characters, Color, Moss, Jesus and Beth all such different characters and each damaged in their own way, but able to help each other find healing.

A great book, very easy to read and a lovely way to lose myself for a few hours.

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2018
Number of Pages: 237
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 4th October 2018 – 4th October 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.02
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Ashley & Leslie Saunders – The Rule of One

The Rule of One

I thought the premise of this book was so promising. A future America where the world’s resources have been abused to such a point that each family is only allowed one child to try and safeguard the future of the planet (or what’s left of it).

Humankind is everything’s and everyone’s most dangerous predator. Blindly killing its own planet, slowly wounding it over the centuries. Forcing my generation to mop up the blood.

So there lies the problem for Ava and Mira – they’re twins. Their whole lives they’ve spent trying to hide their secret from the Guard, sharing Ava’s official identity and taking it in turns to be the one that leaves the basement and go to school etc.

But when Halton, the Governor’s son, realises that there are two Ava’s and not one, Ava and Mira find themselves on the run while their dad is sent to trial for treason against the government. It seems like their dad may have planned for this moment as he has left them a trail to follow to escape from America and into Canada where they will be safe.

Sounds interesting, right? And mostly it was. But I found myself lacking any kind of connection to the two characters, they seemed flat and emotionless. And because I had no connection to the characters, the excitement and drama was lost for me so I didn’t feel the same sort of peril that they did when they were almost caught again and again.

I would have loved the characters to be a bit deeper. The chapters alternated viewpoints between the two girls, but because they were so flat, I found it hard to figure out which character I was reading and having to jump back to the start of the chapter to read the title and figure it out.

My other problem is that the book just seemed too short so we jumped around quite a lot, I would have liked more descriptions of their travels and the time they spent with other people, but it felt a bit ‘glossed over’. Considering the whole book was about them being ‘on the run’, we didn’t spend much time reading about them actually travelling.

Then we get to the conclusion, and the ‘plot twist’ wasn’t that surprising to me, you could tell through the book that this was setting up to be a series by how slowly it was moving. I think I was about 80% through before the real action began, so the climax of the book felt very rushed and left me feeling disappointed to tell the truth.

My Rating: 3/5
Year Published: 2018
Number of Pages: 258
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 2nd October 2018 – 4th October 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.9
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Sheryl Sandberg – Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead

The subject of women in the workplace is something that has always interested me, especially coming from a career where for the first 8 years I never worked with another female web developer – all my female colleagues were either PAs/account managers or graphic designers. I’m really lucky now working for a team that is almost 50% women (and really awesome women at that).

This book is written by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg and in it she talks about the struggles she’s had as a woman in a high-powered career. The book is chock-full of statistics to back up the claims that she was making, but also balanced with personal anecdotes. I appreciated the statistics and references as I can imagine that some people would think some of the facts were exaggerated (sadly not).

“How can I do better?” “What am I doing that I don’t know?” “What am I not doing that I don’t see?” These questions can lead to so many benefits. And believe me, the truth hurts. Even when I have solicited feedback, any judgement can feel harsh. But the upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance.

As you can imagine, there were many quotes in this book that stood out as things that should be remembered and repeated until we get to a point where women are treated equally and fairly in all areas of work.

Communication works best when we combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding that sweet spot where opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings comes naturally to some and is an acquired skill for others.

One of the things that bothered me slightly about the book was that it was definitely aimed at people in more high-flying careers. Understandable, since that is the life that Sheryl has lived, but some of it did feel a bit alien to me, and a lot of the tips that she gave for dealing with problems would just be unrealistic for most people.

Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.

Only a short book, I’d recommend this to anyone who finds this topic interesting. Written 5 years ago, sadly I don’t think a huge amount has changed, but if we keep talking about it, we’ll get there eventually.

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2013
Number of Pages: 240
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 22nd September 2018 – 29th September 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.95
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Milly Johnson – The Perfectly Imperfect Woman

The Perfectly Imperfect Woman

I will never get tired of reading Milly Johnson’s books. There’s something about them that feels like being wrapped in a warm hug and being surrounded by your best friends. The main characters are always written so beautifully that you feel like you’ve known them forever, and the ‘bad guys’ are always completely relateable to the b*****ds that you’ve known in real life.

I have two favourite things about this book. Firstly, the setting. Wychwell sounded like such a magical place to be, I really wished I could visit. And on a related note, the map of Wychwell included at the end of the book was a lovely touch, it was great to be able to get the village set out in my mind and follow Marnie on her travels around the village.

Secondly, Marnie’s relationships. And I’m not talking about her relationships with cheating dirtbags. Her relationship with the eccentric Lillian was my absolute favourite. And while I appreciated the scandinavian love interest, that relationship felt absolutely secondary compared to Marnie & Lillian. That relationship was so special that it brought me to tears (no spoilers as to why though).

Seeing Marnie gradually grow stronger with the help of other people from the village, and seeing her help mend those characters too made this feel like much more than just a romance, it was a recovery, giving Marnie the family that she never had, but always deserved. And all from a chance meeting on an internet chat room – who’d have thought?!

 

 

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2018
Number of Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 22nd September 2018 – 23rd September 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.4
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Brandon Sanderson – Oathbringer

Oathbringer

I had such mixed feelings on finishing this book and I think I’m still processing, so while this isn’t a normal book review, here’s a brain dump:

  • I’ve been reading for almost a whole month and I’m really glad I’ve finished it.
  • I can’t believe it’s over, I want to keep reading forever.
  • I can’t believe the fourth book isn’t written yet
  • I can’t believe how much action was packed into the last 200 pages.
  • Have I actually been holding my breath for the last 2 hours?
  • How many plot-twists is it possible to fit into the ending of one book?
  • How long will it be until I can get my hands on the next book?
  • I need to know what will happen next.
  • Why, Brandon, why?!
  • Shallan and Adolin <3
  • But Kaladin…
  • JASNAH!!!
  • So many feelings, I just can’t process.
  • Bridge Four forever!
  • Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination

I’m actually still in shock from some of the things that happened at the end of the book, and all joking aside, I’m actually really gutted that I can’t just move onto the next book, having read the last ones back-to-back.

The book does feel like it’s so long it probably could have been split into two parts quite easily, there’s definitely ‘stages’ to the book where you can sense it could have been a good point to break. I mean, look how huge it is (and no, that’s not an espresso mug)!!

Until I can form coherent words and sentences, I’ll leave you with some of my favourite quotes from the book:

“That wasn’t so uncommon a feeling for him. He felt good lots of days. Trouble was, on the bad days, that was hard to remember. At those times, for some reason, he felt like he had always been in darkness, and always would be. Why was it so hard to remember? Did he have to keep slipping back down? Why couldn’t he stay up here in the sunlight, where everyone else lived?”

“Failure is the mark of a life well lived. In turn, the only way to live without failure is to be of no use to anyone.”

“‘The question,’ she replied, ‘is not whether you will love, hurt, dream, and die. It is what you will love, why you will hurt, when you will dream, and how you will die. This is your choice. You cannot pick the destination, only the path.’”

““I will take responsibility for what I have done,” Dalinar whispered. “If I must fall, I will rise each time a better man.””

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 1233
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 27th August 2018 – 22nd September 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.64
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Robert C. Martin – Clean Code

Clean Code

I was lent this book over a year ago by my work, but for one reason or another, I’ve never quite got round to reading it (I blame Brandon Sanderson!). But having now read it, I do wish I’d got around to reading it before.

Read now, the book for me reinforced a lot of the things that I’ve learnt over the last year, as well as introducing a few new ideas, but if I’d read it a year ago I think I would have appreciated the things I was learning a lot more.

The book introduces many ideas for practices that we, as professional developers, should be following to ensure our code remains clean. Just because it works doesn’t mean it’s the best it can be, and in order to maintain the code for future years and future developers, we need to try our best to keep the code clean so that it’s more future-proofed, and also less likely to contain bugs.

Reading through the book brought to mind so much code that I’ve worked on in the past, both worked on by myself and by developers from the past, and made me think of habits that I’m guilty of that I’m going to try my hardest to change.

The only negative for me in this book was that the code examples were written in Java which I’m not familiar with – obviously it’s not too hard to pick up the meaning of the code, but I think I would have been happier with examples written in C# instead – and as I would recommend this book to any new programmer, it could be more off-putting for them. But I’d still recommend it anyway!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 434
Number of Pages: 2008
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 30th November 2017 – 19th September 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.39
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Enid Blyton – The Boy with the Loaves and Fishes

The Boy with the Loaves and Fishes

I picked up this book on a trip to one of my favourite places – Barter Books in Alnwick. If you’ve never been there – go. Seriously, it’s the best book shop. I love it for finding old books like this that you would never find anywhere else – this book only has 1 review on Goodreads and it’s not available at Waterstones or other bookshops.

But it was a delightful little book – a re-telling of the Bible story of the feeding of the five thousand, but from the perspective of the boy who brought the loaves and the fishes that Jesus used.

Told with Enid Blyton’s distinctive style, it was nice to think of this story from the perspective of the people that were there. It’s a story that I’ve heard so many times that I kind of take it for granted now, but the book was lovely and thoughtful.

Originally published in 1955, I can tell that this book was much loved at the time, as the original owner has tried to colour in some of the pictures and left little scribbles in the book.

And speaking of the pictures, the illustrations were great – from the outside the book doesn’t look at all like modern children’s books, but the illustrations make it a lovely experience to read.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 1955
Number of Pages: 64
Format: Hardback
Date Read: 15th September 2018 – 15th September 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.5
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