Be­yon d PIX­ELS

This month … Si­mon Owen ex­plains how a hik­ing group for geeks helps him un­knot his brain

net magazine - - EXCHANGE/Q&AS -

Si­mon Owen sings the praises of DigiHike; a walk­ing group for techy types

Try­ing to learn ev­ery­thing about web de­vel­op­ment is an im­pos­si­ble task, yet peo­ple seem to try any­way. This can lead to burnout and men­tal health is­sues.

I am in­volved with a few web meetup groups, and I’ve found it in­cred­i­ble how many tal­ented de­vel­op­ers are friendly and will­ing to help oth­ers. One of the de­vel­op­ers I’ve had the priv­i­lege of meet­ing is Bobby Bobak (@ bobek_ba­linek). At one meetup, we were discussing ‘un­plug­ging’ to­gether, and de­cided to set up some­thing quick, easy and in­clu­sive in the com­mu­nity.

We came up with digiHike: an or­gan­ised hik­ing group for peo­ple who speak geek. I re­mem­ber hav­ing a really pro­duc­tive evening with Bobby. I was sat in my front room, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Bobby over Slack. Within 30 min­utes, we had a logo, and Twit­ter, MailChimp, Tum­blr, At­tend­ing and Gmail ac­counts all sorted and ready to go.

Our first digiHike was Kinder Scout, one of my favourite walks in the UK. De­spite hav­ing done this walk be­fore I still man­aged to lead us into a field of sheep and across a river. Whoops!

Two things struck me from digiHike. Firstly, lit­tle of the con­ver­sa­tion was tech-re­lated. The con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had on digiHikes have been ex­tremely var­ied – you never know when a talk about some­thing com­pletely ran­dom may in fact help you solve a prob­lem.

Se­condly, al­though the weather was wet and windy, ev­ery­one re­mained in high spir­its. Hik­ing up a moun­tain gen­er­ally means no re­cep­tion, so con­stantly check­ing so­cial me­dia no­ti­fi­ca­tions and email sim­ply isn’t an op­tion.

When I’ve been work­ing for too long and feel un­der pres­sure, my brain feels knot­ted. Get­ting away from a com­puter, into the fresh air, along with great com­pany and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity help my brain be­come un­knot­ted.

Ask your­self, when was the last time you weren’t on a com­puter, or an­other de­vice? Fur­ther­more, when was the last time you did some­thing that wasn’t tech-re­lated? If you can’t re­mem­ber, then maybe it’s time to go and do some­thing else for a while. I’m writ­ing this hav­ing just come back from the top of Mount Toubkal in Morocco, a trip or­gan­ised by An­drew Betts.

If you’re around North West Eng­land and fancy join­ing us, you’re more than wel­come. For those fur­ther afield who are in­ter­ested in set­ting up a digiHike, I’d be more than happy to help you get one up and run­ning (or walk­ing). Si­mon ( is a fron­tend de­vel­oper from Manch­ester, UK. He’s in­volved with UpFron­tConf, McrFRED and digiHike

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