Arvind and I met the week before last for a quick chat so I could write this, and it’s taken me this long to have time to write up the conversation. I can only blame the vagaries of Internet Explorer 11 messing with my workflow; it’s so frustrating to have something that looks and works just as it ought to in every browser under the sun, only for our QA to come along and test it in IE11 and notice that it’s borked. It’s a shame that a significant proportion of our customers use it, despite the recent advice from Microsoft to avoid using it as the default browser.

Ah well, back to talking about Arvind. I should approach describing Arvind by giving some context. In the dim and distant past, I moved from a job as a forensic psychiatric nurse to nursing on nights in an acute psychiatric ward in Cambridge.

Not long after starting there the latest change in nurse education occurred and we who worked nights were asked to mentor student nurses for a compulsory set of nights. I only managed to mentor two before trends changed again and they were no longer required to do some nights before qualifying.

One was the daughter of my friend and boss at the time, and we’re still friends though she’s no longer a nurse. I don’t think she nursed for much longer after finishing her training before becoming a teacher. Here I am kicking myself for not remembering if she was a trained teacher before nurse training or if she went for teacher training afterwards – whatever though: we still keep in touch, so I’m guessing it wasn’t working alongside me that put her off nursing.

The other was Sally, Arvind’s wife, and I kept abreast of what she was doing but she worked on a different site, and despite us both living afloat on the Cam for a while, we lost touch. My divorce happened, and it turns out that, like many such things in Cambridge, my next wife knew Sally, so I kept up-to-date by proxy.

Then years and a different career happened before someone clocked my geeky t-shirt at the gym and introduced me to Ely Makers and Arvind got in touch and mentioned that his wife knew me. How cool eh?

Anyway, that’s the context: on to Arvind. He works as developer like me but is far more adept at hardware type things like 3D printing and electronics whereas not even my Mum asks for my help with technology, and my wife has her own, individual, printer.

I was thinking of how best to describe him and while doing so was reading – for the third time – Dan Simmon’s Hyperion (or The Fall of Hyperion) and was struck with something that one of the Pilgrims, Sol Weintraub, said. While describing his daughter, he says something about knowing someone who’s sheer goodness makes one strive to be better themselves (having said that I can’t find the relevant section now so I might be wrong about the character). I know a few of those people, and despite them making me feel distinctly un-good in comparison, I feel privileged to do so – even more so to be married to one (hey, it’s nearly the 14th of February so I can’t help myself).

So we know that Arvind is a developer and that I consider him intrinsically good, but what else is there to say about him? Well, one of the things that shaped my consideration was his emphasis on helping others and collaborating. He took exception (at least as much as he seems able to, anyway) at my hesitation to share too many details of our final entry to PiWars this year, for instance.

I thought I’d better show some interest in the actual final product during our conversation and subsequently learnt about the debate about whether to use tracks or wheels and also about stepper motors (which sound fascinating). The thing that does stand out is that while Arvind isn’t organising our team, he is one of the many pillars of Ely Makers and without his enthusiasm, we’d be all the poorer.

We, of course, discussed our shared profession, especially in the context of the current divide that seems to be occurring with those who sling HTML, CSS and minimal JS becoming an almost different animal from those who dig deep into whatever the favourite JS Framework is at the minute. This dichotomy is something of a new debate and was brought to my attention by the article by Chris Coyier called The Great Divide, give it a read: it’s fun.

Along with the discussion of our jobs we looked at the broader aims of Ely Makers, and there seem to be two principal aims. These seemed to me to be to encourage people to get involved, while also remove the fear which some feel towards technology. I was reminded of the Men’s Shed Movement, though the club aims to embrace all genders and abilities. Arvind want to encourage all, so I guess calling it a Men’s Shed-like thing is wrong, as all are welcome… let’s call it a Shed Movement instead 😉

I guess even calling it a Shed Movement might be incorrect as Arvind is keen to encourage community and collaboration, not only within Ely Makers but amongst other Makers and the wider community. Thinking about it that seems to be the ethos of all involved with loads of us pitching in to put on events, if not as part of Ely Makers then wider afield (two of us a Code Club volunteers). I guess this is echoed right there on the front page of our website:

Ely Makers is a friendly network of people of all ages with an interest in Science, Technology, Computers and Electronics. The group is based in Ely, Cambridgeshire although anyone is welcome to join.

To sum up, as this post is late and I need to do another over the coming weekend, if you have a chance to meet Arvind or Sally, then please do say hello. Should you be knocking around Ely over the weekend when we’re running a session, then please do pop in and check out the stuff we’re doing. It’s worth keeping a weather eye on our Events & Dates page.

Dom’s PiWars contribution – Arvind