Telephone +44(0)1524 64544

End of Year 2015


Fri Jan 1 23:45:15 2016

Time may change me
But I can't trace time
Mmm, yeah I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
(David Bowie - Changes)


If there was a single thing that would seem to sum up the year for me when I think of Shadowcat Systems it would be the line from the David Bowie song Changes:

Time may change me
But I can't trace time

We have had an interesting year in which a large number of changes have occurred and passed by. Some of these were the inevitable to and fro of Shadowcat life, however some meatspace events such as the General Election, the floods in December, the rise of global concerns about activism, terrorism and cybercrime also gained prominence.[1]

For us it was also a time when many members of staff would change. We have lost several staff from our Lancaster office and yet gained some in other world locations. The global team has always benefited us as it gives us more flexibility for dealing with our geographically and temporally located businesses. Our partners have teams that are often located across multiple time zones so our flexibility of team is a simple advantage.

However one thing doesn’t alter, that much, here is the yearly round up of the interesting and varied year for the Shadowcat Team, some of the events, ideas and things we have been involved with.

Start of the Year and the Dawning of LAMM

As 2014 closed we said goodbye to Kimball Johnson who had been with us for a 9 month contract. Kimball was a great character to work with and a keen member of the FLOSS community that would show a prominence in the Shadowcat Calendar for 2015.

It was also the start of The Lancaster and Morecambe Makers. LAMM is a local Hacker Space, or Hackspace/MakerSpace. Started by four members of Shadowcat (Ian, Claire, Tom and me) with Darren Poulson it is aimed at bringing a local Hardware and creative arts space to lancaster, In fact the Hackspace is called the Lancaster Space.

Lancaster and morecambe makers

Claire at the Opening of Lancaster and Morecambe Makers

Shadowcat are always good community players and like to encourage the ambitions and interests of their staff so they became the first company to sponsor the space, supply a piece of high-end electrical equipment and be a corporate member.

The end of January saw the first foreign jaunt when Ian, Tom, Matt and I all popped over to Brussels for the first visit to FOSDEM. I spent the weekend helping out Wendy with the Perl stall as well as the whole team sitting and listening to Larry discuss a long-awaited Party and a Christmas Announcement.


Wendy on the Perl stall at FOSDEM

Enter FLOSS Fully

Spring came and the flowers threw themselves into bloom despite a sudden cold snap and the customary late winter snows. Tom finally was immortalised as a Shadowcat Caricature drawn by our ‘almost in-house’ artist Jack Knight of Knight Time Creations.

I was Seconded to the FLOSSUK Council to help advise them on using Social Media and updating the look and feel of the organisation in a time of great changes in the open connected world.

The Shadowcat team also attended the annual FLOSSUK DevOps Spring Event, this year held at the Marriott in York. The event saw Tom and Ian give a workshop introduction to CPAN, Matt talk on DevOps Logique and Matt and I give Lightning Talks. Ian and I also represented Shadowcat as members of the FLOSSUK Council.

FLOSSUK Spring 2015

FLOSSUK Spring Conference 2015

Spring was also when Shadowcat had a little celebration. In early April we celebrated our first decade as Shadowcat Systems. The first 10 years have been an astonishing journey and one which we could have never predicted and is difficult to chart. I have written a number of posts about the ten years and a few more of these will appear in 2016 as we end our Tenth Anniversary Year.

Spring was wrapped up when Shadowcat attended the first ever Lancashire Business Expo where we held a stall and spoke about the development of our product [ShadowNMS]. The Expo was one of many events that I personally attended in 2015, I met a lot of different people as I networked[3] at various meetings and events this year and I hope that I can form some longer relationships from them. I always feel they are a mixed blessing, people seem excited but once the event is over it is hard to keep the same level of enthusiasm in the random acquaintance.

Lancs Business Expo

The ShadowNMS Table at the Lancaster Business Expo

Shifting Summer

As summer started to bloom we prepared to say goodbye to another Lancaster Alumni as Errietta was completing her year-long placement with Shadowcat and would be returning to University to complete her degree. Errietta had a big impact on the team during her stay and we were going to miss her.

As always a mixture of conferences also filled our schedules. I was busy organising the Dynamic Languages conference that was held in Manchester in June. During the Summer Matt would talk at both the YAPC::NA in Salt Lake City, Utah and the YAPC::EU in Granada in Spain.

Dynamic Languages

Opening Keynote at the Dynamic Languages Conference

I also attended the YAPC::EU but this year he went merely as an attendee, not representing anyone but himself. He was particularly proud of saying that for the first time in a few years he had not sponsored, spoken at, organised or been otherwise involved with an event he was attending. However he did manage to fit in a lot of community work while in Spain just because of the density-overload of so many other community members with whom he could interact.

Markie at YAPC EU

I was used as a slide in two talks at EU

Along Came an Autumn

In Autumn Ian, Tom and I all travelled to the OpenNMS User Conference Europe (OUCE), in Fulda Germany, where they presented papers about building ShadowNMS and choosing OpenNMS for a platform.

OUCE 2015

Tom presenting at the OpenNMS User Conference

The annual FLOSSUK Board meeting was held in London where Ian Norton rejoined the board, Kimball Johnson was re-elected as Chair and I took an official position. The board discussed the plans for 2016, the conferences and the investment in change for the organisation.

The Heart of Sales, a book on ethical trade by Jane Binnion, was released during early Autumn as a Kindle eBook with a Printed version to follow at Christmas. This is a work that Shadowcat sponsored on Kickstarter and which I helped to edit, set and wrote a Foreword for. Jane is a dear friend to the Shadowcat Team and shares many of the same community values in her own business that Shadowcat hold dear so it was a great honour to be part of the process of bringing the book to life.

The Ending of the Year

The end of the year is always a time of great madness for the Shadowcat Team as we are responsible for the London Perl Workshop. This year was made even more difficult as storm after storm battered the North West bringing flooding and power cuts to the crew at Castle Shadowcat. There was a moment where we thought we would not make the event due to having to batter the elements. However we soldiered on and the event was once again a great success.

flooding images

Flooding, the following day when the waters had receeded a few streets from my house

I have decided that the storms were a message. You cannot predict the events of life, you can only ever plan and prepare for the worst, and best, possible outcomes. With that in mind we have chosen 2016 to be the year when we find a new team to take on the LPW. 2016 will be the last year that Shadowcat wholly manage the event and we will work with the new team to show them how it is done. This will not remove all issues of a change in hands but it should mitigate their impact.

LAMM Snowglobe at LPW

Claire and Tom at LPW - LAMM made a snowglobe

One final change as the year rolls out is the loss of our General Manager, Ian Norton, who has decided to return to his former life of a Systems Administrator. Ian has had an enormous impact on the team at Shadowcat and he also will be missed.

Faces old and Faces new seemed to be the order for the year of 2015.

As we slide into 2016 we welcome some further new, and old, faces to our ranks of developers. We also welcome some new partners and clients who have come to join our growing list at the end of 2015. The New Year looks to be a challenging, and this is exciting, but hopefully built on the understandings of the previous years and a willingness to embrace change, not fear it.[5]

Turn and face the strange
Pretty soon now you're gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can't trace time I said that time may change me
(David Bowie - Changes)

[Don't forget that you can join in this conversation by using the comments form or by tweeting at @shadowcat_mdk]


[1] It was a mixed decision to include this line here, normally I reflect on the events of a year for the business almost isolated from the external environment except where we interface. But 2015 seemed to have such an over-whelming atmosphere related to strong external forces they bled into our work lives and as such seemed to colour the company environment a little.

This was a little more than the usual, or at least it felt as such. There was an attitude, a zeitgeist of interconnectedness. So the worries of the larger world became much more local to our company life. I don’t feel that we were alone in this, as I said it was a mood of the year, it permeated throughout society reflected in business, art and culture.[2]

[2] Alternatively I could have just felt this myself and am imposing my emotive reflection onto others ;)

[3] I know many of the people I call friends, colleagues and my regular readers will likely shudder when I use words like that but be thankful that I didn’t say diarise or synergies.[4]

[4] Sh*t...erm...oops!

[5] This embrace of change is a personal feeling and maybe one that can be strengthened again in 2016 in the company. Shadowcat have thrived on change and adaptation over its first decade and the attempt by the real world to mire us in 2015 to a world of uncertainty where fear of unknowns, the timidity over change was evident. It is time for us to strengthen the strong roots that we have and to open more not less as we face challenges.