From Bletchley Park to modern computing: the value of Twitter


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Bletchley Park is the historic site of secret British codebreaking activities during World War II and the work carried out there by Alan Turing and others led to the birth of the modern computer. How did we get from Bletchley Park to modern software engineering? Dr Black will discuss how the use of social media can leverage capability in very diverse areas, from campaigning for a historical site to improving the quality of software.

Speaker: Dr Sue Black, Senior Research Associate, UCL Department of Computer Science

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  • I tweeted this earlier today and have interspersed my slides with tweeted responses. Don’t just take my opinion, what does Twitter think is the value/power of Twitter? We got some really good responses  I asked the audience to read the tweets out as we went along to get a bit of audience participation going ;)
  • Key facts about Bletchley Park. What a wonderful place! Do go and visit: and
  • I had this experience with finding the best fish and chips in Brighton, it was wonderful, 8 responses to my tweet in 5 minutes 
  • I set up BCSWomen @bcswomen and as Chair was invited to a meeting at Bletchley Park, my first visit, 2003. I met John Harper who was rebuilding the Bombe machine with his team. He told me that more than half of the people that worked at Bletchley were women and more than 10 000 people worked there. I was astounded and left wanting to raise the profile of women’s contribution.
  • I eventually got funding from BCS and the UKRC for women in SET, for the “ Women of Station X ” project. Video here:
  • This tweet made me laugh. Watching telly together and tweeting can be an amazing experience. Watching the Olympics opening ceremony and connecting with other watching it through Twitter was wonderful. There are also lots of cats.
  • Bletchley Park hut 6 and mansion house. I had an epiphany outside this hut hearing about the importance of the work carried out there and that it shortened the war by 2 years saving potentially 22 million lives!
  • Determined to get publicity for Bletchley I contacted all the journalists that I knew telling them I had a good story. Rory Cellan Jones agreed and interviewed me at Bpark, the interview was on the BBC news, Today program, BBC America and elsewhere I got hundreds of emails of support
  • I set up a blog to help raise awareness and give a focus for the campaign:
  • I realised the potential of Twitter for raising awareness and forming a community around Bletchley Park, In Jan 2009 Sizemore and Jamillah came to a talk that Capt Jerry Roberts was giving at UCL about his time at Bpark. The next day I took social media gurus @Documentally @Sizemore and @Jemimah_Knight up to Bletchley Park to help me persuade them that using social media was a good idea. @documentally set up the @bletchleypark account and advised Bletchley Park on the best way to engage an audience through Twitter.
  • I was always on the lookout for ways to raise the profile of Bletchley Park………one evening Stephen Fry tweeted this pic, I thought…hang on! Stephen Fry must be interested in Bletchley Park…I sent him several direct messages through Twitter and the next morning he tweeted a link to my blog 
  • The next morning he tweeted about my blog and I got 8k hits instead of the usual 50!
  • A few months later Stephen came up to Bletchley Park for the day and has continued to support and promote Bletchley Park 
  • Blog post by Stuart Witts really emphasizes how Bletchley Park used Twitter to great effect. @bletchleypark used humour, responded quickly, were friendly and engaging and got a great result. Stuart became a life long fan of Bpark  read his blogpost here:
  • Love this tweet, very funny 
  • Did some research into software engineering and social media with @joannejacobs Rachel Harrison and Mark Baldwin
  • We wanted to find out how much software engineers were using social media so sent out a questionnaire via twitter, using surveymonkey
  • Respondents were mainly male, 40ish, well educated
  • Mainly in Europe, used between 0 and 7 social media channels! The most popular of which was Twitter, followed by Instant messaging client, Linkedin and Facebook
  • Main things they communicated about using social media were: new ideas, specification and design information
  • When I first read this I thought it said Ni! As in the Knights that say “Ni” from Monty Python ;)
  • They used social media between 0-8 hours per day, 10 didn’ t respond…why? Too embarrassed?
  • Our findings were social media adds: faster, 24/7, global, transparency, flexibility, more feedback, more communication, more information
  • We were very happy to hear that 
  • Ha! Very funny…and true.
  • Tommy Flowers and Bill Tutte, two names you will hopefully hear a lot more about in 2013: +
  • I agree!!!
  • Check out my book “Saving Bletchey Park” the fastest *ever* crowdfunded book … just 5 days to be fully funded, sign up now to receive a special edition copy This talk given at University London as a Lunch Hour Lecture on 8 th January 2013, to an audience of approximately 170 people I made the audience promise to all visit Bletchley Park in 2013 and told them how to get there on public transport. Only 36 minutes on a fast train from Euston and then it ’ s just over the road. There ’ s no excuse ;) +
  • From Bletchley Park to modern computing: the value of Twitter

    1. 1. From Bletchley Park to modern computing: the value of Twitter UCL Lunch Hour Lecture 8th January 2013Dr Sue BlackSenior Research AssociateSoftware Systems EngineeringUniversity College London
    2. 2. #UCLLHL
    3. 3. Bletchley Park• Arguably one of the most important sites of 20th Century• Codebreaking in WW2 made huge impact on outcome of war• Enigma 158,184,000,000,000,000,000:1• First programmable, digital computer Colossus developed to break high grade German code• Story kept secret until 1975• Struggled to survive 1992 - 2010• Now recognised as a site of truly international importance
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    10. 10. Photo by @Jemimah_KnightPhoto by @Documentally
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    12. 12. Photos by @Documentally
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    15. 15. Photos by @Documentally
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    18. 18. The Power of Twitter•Reach people that you couldn’t otherwise reach•Build a community•Build conversations around areas of interest•Gives everyone a voice•Breaks through traditional hierarchies•Adds speed•See what people are saying about your area ofinterest•Keep up to date with areas of interest
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    20. 20. A Survey of Social Using Web 2.0 to Improve Media Use in Software QualitySoftware Systems Development Sue Black and Joanne JacobsSue Black, RachelHarrison and Mark Baldwin Cite as: Black, S. E. and Jacobs, J. Using Web 2.0 to Improve Software Quality, Web2SE Workshop at IEEE International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE), Cape Town, May 4th 2010. Cite as: Black, S. E., Harrison, R. and Baldwin, M., A Survey of Social Media Use in Global Systems Development, Web2SE Workshop at IEEE International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE), Cape Town, May 4th 2010.
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    23. 23. What is your gender? How old are you? 7% 12 10 10 9 25-34 30% Female 8 7 35-44 Male 6 45-54 No response 4 3 55-64 2 1 No response 63% 0 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 No response Comparison of education and gender How long have you worked for your current employer? 10 810 6 Female 8 4 Male 2 6 Total 0 4 2 e s re lor er re rs D Ph eg e th eg e Sc igh ol D ach D ast e O 0 ho H M B <1 year 1-2 years 2-5 years 5-10 years 10 years + No response
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    25. 25. On which physical continent do you Number of Social Media types used work? Number of people 8 725 5 5 6 420 3 3 4 215 1 210 Total 0 5 0 2 4 6 0 Asia Europe No response North America Number of types used Comparison of Social Media types used 15 Twitter 2 Plaxo 11 Linkedin 13 IM client 6 Googlewave 10 Facebook 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
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    27. 27. What information do you communicate using social media? Social information Logistics Marketing data Total yes Operational data Total no Source code and related information Total No responseSystem design information System specification information New ideas 0% 50% 100%
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    29. 29. How many hours per day do you use social media applications to communicate?14 1312 1010 8 6 6 4 2 1 0 0-2 3-5 6-8 No response“I use social media the entire time Im at work - its on constantly and I use it concurrently with other applications. If I was to pull out the time onvarious forms of social media and put them into one block itd be about 30 minutes a day on average, spread over an 8 or 9 hour day.”
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    31. 31. What can your team do now Social media brings manythat they could not do before benefits to the software social media? development process “Communicate out of hours, conveniently and from any • Faster and easier problem suitable device” “Avoid having to turn to email as solving primary communication tool” • More rapid and “Communicate rapidly” comprehensive testing “Work from home to a greater • Ongoing user feedback degree” • Easier to share best “Ask questions without interrupting each other‘s flow; clarify small practice questions quickly; chat • More communication informally while working” between stakeholders “work from different locations” • More information available “access more expertise” “ensure transparency” for decision making “work with open source community”
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    33. 33. 91% of respondents said that using social media at work has improved their working life Many thanks to all of our respondents for their time
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    35. 35. Tommy Bill Tutte FlowersInventor of Colossus: Worked out the logicalthe world’s first structure of the Lorenzprogrammable digital machinecomputer
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    37. 37. Thank you for listening, any questions? Dr Sue Black @Dr_Black saving-bletchley-park #UCLLHL