What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 130 Stack Exchange communities.

If you attended DevDays in Washington DC, please post your thoughts and reviews about it here. Links to blogs, photostreams, etc. are welcome.

DevDays reviews

Deliberately not a wiki.

share|improve this question
    
Thanks, random. I was just about to convert the question to this format. You beat me to it. –  Chad Braun-Duin Oct 27 '09 at 0:45
    
@Chad, I think you should add links to the presenter's slides in the QUESTION. I would do it but I'm persona-non-grata on meta. :-( –  Portman Oct 28 '09 at 19:47
    
I would love to link to them. Are they available anywhere? So far I haven't been able to find them. Anyone know? By the way, this blog post (not my blog) is another fairly detailed review. scottlaw.knot.org/blog/?p=465 –  Chad Braun-Duin Oct 29 '09 at 3:54
    
Yes, MVC and jQuery are. odetocode.com/downloads/devdays2.pdf slideshare.net/rdworth/jquery-2366236 –  Portman Oct 29 '09 at 4:51

15 Answers 15

The Venue

DevDays at DC was held in the State Theatre, and it (as a venue) was suited for the information portion of the show, but wasn't well suited for the 'networking' sessions that were held during breaks and during lunch time. The seats were set up in rows and there just wasn't a lot of space for individuals to congregate in numbers greater than 5.

Pre-Conference

The Venue didn't have beverages set up for us pre-show; which was expected due to the tweets the other venues' attendees had made. There was music pre-show, as well a twitter feed with Stack Overflows DevDays countdown. The sound was high quality and the presentation of the venue prior to the keynote was of very high quality (considering).

Joel Spolsky - Opening Keynote

Once the opening video played (which, by the way, was perfectly cued to start with the closing of Drive In, Drive Out by Dave Matthews Band), it was apparent how much quality was put into the production of this show. The Video was high quality (though the part where it paused was a glitch) and the production quality of the video was apparent. They put some serious dough into making this look and sound good.

Once Joel came out he spoke with his usual wit; and it put the conference in the right 'mood'. I won't add too much other than to say that he is well versed in presenting and it was worth the price of admission to hear the subject matter. Other attendees had a problem with him touting FogBugz and having conspicious advertisements, but I don't see a problem with that. If he were advertising for Microsoft, I'd be surprised; but he's advertising for his own company -- That's his Job.

Dan Pilone - iPhone

Production Note: Dan's opening onto the stage was 'rushed', and it took a minute for the mic to catch up with him. I realize it was only a day conference and the price was cheap, but they probably should have worked on the 'handoff' better between speakers. This happened throughout the day, and while it wasn't anything more than a 'glitch', it otherwise marred a perfect production (how it flowed, etc).

Dan's talk on the IPhone hit the the true side of the 'marketing'-speak. To paraphrase him: You'll get rich if you make a great app, or if you're a rapper. I would have liked a more technical presentation; but he didn't have time for that. Given the time he had, he used it well, and it did whet my appetite for more. I may pick up his book on the subject to see what's next.

He skipped the parts on Objective-C (presumably because they would have bored the hell out of half the room); but it would have been interesting to know how it diverges from other C-Based languages (other than the syntax is completely different).

I commend him for his presentation skills; he knew his subject matter and he was skilled enough in his environment to work around any glitches that came up. That's hard to do when there are 200 geeks waiting for your next breath.

K Scott Allen - ASP.NET MVC

Hearing K. Scott Allen speak on ASP.NET MVC was a treat in of itself. He went through little more than the basics, but even for someone who's worked on ASP.NET MVC for multiple projects, I still learned some stuff (notably the T4 Templates, which seek to make the "Magic Strings" strongly typed); and he even threw in some of the goodies from ASP.NET MVC 2 Preview that I hadn't had a chance to play with yet.

Production-wise; it's tough to give a talk without upsetting some geek somewhere. I'm sure there were quite a few Ruby on Rails guys that were just jeering at the ASP.NET MVC talk. That's ok; we jeer at you when you're not looking too (I kid, I kid). He probably couldn't have changed much on it other than to have a fully ready-to-go expansive site that worked out MVCs muscle. I wouldn't expect that for an hour talk, though.

FogBugz

Even if the rest of the show was a veiled advertisement for FogBugz, I still would buy FogBugz for my development team. Just looking at what that software can do is a testament to the developers at Fog Creek Software. I don't care if you're open-source or a Microsoft guy, that software is good. I'm talking yummy.

Lunch - Networking Session

The only 'fail' of the day. Not lunch, but the networking session that accompanied it. The Venue just wasn't set up to house more than 5 people standing around; and the most interesting section (the one I wanted to hang out in - Startups) had 8 developers crammed into the opening for that section; with 15 more trying to hang out around it. It wasn't happening.

Lunch was yummy and precisely what you'd expect for a $99 dollar conference.

Bruce Eckel -- Not On Python

I loved Bruce Eckel's talk. Didn't learn a damn thing about Python (Because he didn't teach anything on Python proper) but I learned the evolution of languages; which is quite important. You have to know why something is the way it is to be any more than a simple user of a tool; and his talk helped reinforce that point. Unfortunately people were offput because he didn't just talk about Python, so there were grumblings from the masses.

He did make one point that I disagree with; and that was the reason Google was going to Python was because of the advantages it holds over Java (he spent a lot of time railing against Java. It's ok, he wrote a book, he can do that); but I wanted to point out that while Google does use Python, they use Java too.

Jonathan Blocksom -- Google App Engine

Informative; but light. He couldn't do the walkthrough of his GAE site for whatever reason. Still enjoyed the talk; but don't know enough about the subject matter to know whether or not it could have been better.

Richard D Worth - JQuery

Some people left during this part of the presentation, for whatever reason. Maybe they thought they knew JQuery, maybe they had to beat traffic (no way, not at 4:40 in the NoVA area); but they missed out on a truly awesome presentation. He introduced and went through JQuery and the various ways to 'correctly' use it, and in the process we got to play with JSBin.com and a site that tests JQuery Selectors. Fricking amazing.

OPOWER - Improving your Agile Process

OPOWER is an up-and-coming tech startup that looks to help spearhead the 'green' revolution by making it easier for companies and families to track their energy usage. They asked to give a presentation at the end of DevDays about improving agile processes. Apparently there was a fair amount of drama involved in that request. I wanted to stay for the presentation, but I had to give my friend a ride so he could leave the area at a reasonable time.

Miscellaneous Stuff

I also blogged about my experience with @amazonevents at DevDays.

Bottom Line

Well worth the price of admission; the topics were interesting. I would pay more if they would host it in a larger venue, or if they'd host it in the same size venue but actually make the area conducive to networking.

share|improve this answer
1  
Excellent review. Bruce's speech felt more focused on C++ and Java rather than his favorite language, Python. He should have showed more examples demonstrating Python's advantages. –  Jeff Bloom Oct 27 '09 at 2:33
1  
+1 Agree 100% with this summary. I especially appreciated that all the presenters were reputable and well versed in their topic. –  spoulson Oct 27 '09 at 14:14
1  
Excellent review. I was really disappointed with Bruce's presentation because I wanted to learn more about python. Like you, I enjoyed the history he provided; but it seemed to me that he was winging it a bit and forgot to actually include anything real on python... –  Michael Haren Oct 28 '09 at 2:37
    
There wasn't THAT much drama; just some crossed wires, really. I had a great time there, and was thankful at least SOME people stuck around for my presentation. –  davetron5000 Oct 28 '09 at 3:53
    
Also, one of the Carsonified people was using a Hackintosh notebook (a Dell!) l33t! –  davetron5000 Oct 28 '09 at 4:05
    
But, but, but Davetron5000: Drama sells. Or in this case, gets upvotes. Or maybe it was 'sex' that did both; I don't know. –  George Stocker Oct 28 '09 at 4:22
    
I posted the slides from my talk slideshare.net/rdworth/jquery-2366236 –  rdworth Oct 28 '09 at 14:35
    
Added that link; thanks! –  George Stocker Oct 28 '09 at 16:06
    
FWIW I was sitting right next to the sound board and the real problem was that one guy was doing both sounds and lights and seemed to put the priority on getting the lights on the speaker rather than sound. This improved as the day went on (play with lights... quickly turn on sound... finish playing with lights). –  Jon Norton Oct 29 '09 at 11:43

I generally enjoyed the conference. In my opinion Eckel's talk was the highlight of the day (subscribed to his blog). Joel's keynote was also pretty good. I also enjoyed the fogbugz demo. While I read Joel's blog, I'd never actually seen the fogcreek software in action. It's pretty impressive, especially with the new 'kiln' integration. There's a couple of these tools now that "do code reviews". I am interested to look into those futher.

I felt a little let down by the more technology-focused pieces of the day, however. I would have wanted either a more in-depth technical presentation with some real guts or a higher level meta-presentation about the concepts behind the technologies. Eckel went the latter route, which I thought worked well. Not to be crude, but I can find hello world tutorials online for free. Granted I have been using MVC and jquery on a project for a couple of months now, but I was expecting / hoping to be able to pull a little more new info from these sessions. Maybe calling these sessions out as 'intro-level' might have set expectations a bit better.

share|improve this answer
    
I agree. I thought Eckel's talk was by far the best. Just learning why Java and the .Net languages still have the "new" operator (I didn't know the history) was great. I didn't realise that it was essentially an artifact of an artifact. Best slide of the day in my opinion. The Kiln integration was also impressive. You can tell a lot of thought was put into designing that software. All in all, it was an awesome day. I will definitely come back next year. –  Chad Braun-Duin Oct 27 '09 at 4:13

Note: Other people have already done an excellent job summarizing the content, so these are just my personal opinions. Take them for what they're worth.

Joel Spolsky - Opening Keynote

Joel's been evolving this talk for at least 18 months (RailsConf '08 and Business of Software '08) and it keeps getting better. One of his more memorable points is that all software is ultimately about gene replication (a more academic way of saying "sex sells") which I know is definitely true in advertising, but it got me thinking about how to apply that to other projects. Basically, the vast majority of the software we create is either directly or indirectly getting in the way of the what the user actually wants to do, which is why software sucks.

Even if I try to remove my fanboy hat, I would still say this was the best presentation of the day.
Grade: A+.

Dan Pilone - iPhone

A great presentation that helped demystify iPhone development for this Windows developer. I've been spoiled by having an iPhone Rock Star on my staff for several years, so I never really looked into iPhone development in any detail. Boy, was that a mistake. Dan made it look downright fun! In particular, objective-c does not look nearly as terrifying as others have made it out to be.
Grade: A

K Scott Allen - ASP.NET MVC

It's difficult to watch someone provide an introduction to a technology that you spend your entire day in, so I must confess that I wasn't 100% engaged in this presentation. I mostly did some work and followed the predictable Microsoft-bashing over on the #devdays hashtag.
Grade: N/A

Joel Spolsky - FogBugz 7 and Kiln

I've been on FogBugz since version 3.0. I patiently sat through the 3 hour "FogBugz World Tour" in Crystal City a couple of years ago. I get it. I use it. I tell everyone to buy it. I've personally bought FogBugz 5 separate times.

I imagine that, given Joel's involvement in StackOverflow, a lot of other people are also FogBugz users. Which is why I think it's totally inappropriate to devote an hour to a FogBugz/Kiln demo. I know that $99 is cheap for a conference, but that does not, in my opinion, grant FogCreek the permission to use it as a marketing venue. Frankly, FogCreek should have paid us for the privilege of a 1 hour captive audience of developers. (Like the way a timeshare company pays you $200 or $300 to take a tour of their facility.) The whole arrangement actually made me like FogBugz less.
Grade: F

Lunch

Uhm, a few of us may or may not have ditched the lunch and hit up Clare & Don's. Yum. Oops: I mean, I can neither confirm nor deny that it was delicious.

Bruce Eckel - Python

I so badly wanted to love this talk. Bruce is like 3-4 orders of magnitude smarter than everyone else in the room and I was really hoping to get re-engaged with Python. (I haven't written any production Python in 4-5 years.)

His inside knowledge about the evolution of C++ was fascinating. His opinions on where Java got wrong were insightful. His predictions on where languages were going seemed plausible.

When he finished talking about all of this, I thought to myself: "Great introduction. I'm siked to see some PYTHON!". But then he was done. Pardon the crass analogy, but it was the language nerd equivalent of blue balls. I wanted Python!
Grade: C

Jonathan Blocksom - Google App Engine

This is exactly what I was hoping DevDays would be: passionate geeks getting way too excited about the technologies they love.

Jonathan does not work for the App Engine team, and his presentation was all the better for it. This is just a guy -- a funny, self-deprecating, modest guy -- who loves the Google App Engine and wanted to share it with his fellow engineers.

He also was honest about GAE's weaknesses: e.g., you can't search the data store (not even for the keyword "irony"); you can't have long-running processes; you CAN have a hybrid with Amazon EC2 (I guarantee you nobody from the GAE team would have put THAT on a slide). Kudos to Jonathan for getting at least one attendee (me) pumped about the Google App Engine.
Grade: A-

Richard D Worth - jQuery

This was a fine presentation, but totally mismatched for the audience. Earlier in the day, Joel asked people what technologies they used, and at least 80% used JavaScript/jQuery. Richard had prepared I very good introduction to jQuery. But nobody wanted an introduction.

I literally did not learn a single thing, and there were several suggestions that were just downright odd, such as using JSBin.com to do testing. (You should use Firebug. Always use Firebug.) Judging from the Twitter traffic, I was not alone. Richard should have called an audible, put away his slides, and just started showing off some jQuery ninja shit. I know he knows it.
Grade: D (Sorry Richard!)

Suggestions for improvement

  • You need to serve coffee in the morning. The poor local Starbucks didn't know what hit them.
  • For the love of God, please put more space between the chairs. That would have been uncomfortable even for a supermodel conference, and your average developer runs a little husky.
  • As discussed, do not promote FogCreek so aggressively, especially not on 4 separate occasions (intro video, FogBugz presentation, Business of Software video, training DVD video).
  • Remind the presenters that they can go deep. This is a self-selected group of enthusiastic software engineers. They want meat, not salad.
  • I was really hoping for an Android talk.
  • Consider having more talks that are shorter. Since it's a single-track conference, odds are good there will be talks that someone is either (a) not interested in, or (b) already an expert in. If that happens for a 30-minute talk, no biggie, but 1 hour is a little long to sit through.
  • Consider having two tracks, for the exact same reason. That way people could pick only the technologies that they are really into.
  • Consider having two styles of presentation, where each talk is either for experts only or for n00bs only. Nobody really knew what the expect. For example, the iPhone talk was perfect for me, but was a complete waste for the woman who just finished her fifth iPhone app. She should at least have had some warning.
  • Provide an official place to go after the event. It doesn't have to be a full-fledged "after party", but there should be a known place where everyone can grab a beer afterwards.
  • Please please talk to Charles Hudson from Serious Business, who managed to put on the $199, one day Social Gaming Summit, that had tables and chairs, super awesome wifi, lots and lots of food, an after-party, celebrity speakers, and yet never once mentioned his company. Seriously, pick his brain, because his conference was twice as expensive but ten times as good.

Things that were awesome

  • Meeting other Stack Overflow users.
  • The mix of topics that were presented.
  • The venue. Sure it had its problems, but at least it wasn't Yet Another Hotel Ballroom.
  • Sign up, registration, website, etc (Carsonified has it down pat)
  • Wifi at this one was great. I had no problems all day, on 3+ devices.
  • No goodie bag. If you wanted schwag, it was there, but for those of us with enough clutter in our lives, it was great to not be force-fed a knapsack of stupid pens and stuff.
  • No handouts. Way to save trees. Nobody reads that stuff anyways.
  • Trying something new. Although there is room for improvement (as always), this was a heck of a good first conference, and refreshingly different from the norm.
share|improve this answer
2  
Good, honest, constructive review. –  Ryan McGeary Oct 27 '09 at 3:52
    
I was still hungry after lunch so I went back and got a second one because there were a bunch of leftover boxes. So it's possible that I ate your lunch. Thanks! –  onedozenbagels Oct 27 '09 at 6:22
    
Lots of excellent, accurate information –  Michael Haren Oct 28 '09 at 3:02
    
"Nobody really knew what to expect" - reminds me of a TechDays session on VS2008: "Ooh, look people, if you press . you get a drop down with lots of options!" –  Benjol Oct 29 '09 at 10:53
    
Glad you enjoyed my talk! Thanks for the warm fuzzies. –  jblocksom Oct 30 '09 at 19:07

My impressions:

All the presentations were good. The only technology that was covered that I knew much about was Python ... and as George said, Bruce didn't really cover that per se. However, I'm not complaining, in fact, I thought the talk on "the archeology of programming languages" and why Bruce (currently) prefers Python to other languages was in many ways the best presentation of the day.

The others, in order:

  • Joel's keynote: Preceded with a humorous video depicting Joel as a tyrannical boss, the talk was very interesting and enlightening. My main take away was that we should work hard to find the right balance between keeping software simple to use by not confusing users with too many options and yet giving them the power to do what they need to do.

  • Dan Pilone on developing iPhone apps: Dan spent some time giving reasons why we want to consider doing this, some time showing how to do a "Hello World" app, and some lessons learned from dealing with the app approval process. I'd not really thought much about mobile development before, but this gave me some reasons to consider it.

  • Scott Allen on ASP.net MVC: I have to admit this wasn't a compelling talk for me, but that's probably because I have no experience with the topic and do not see myself going down that direction in the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, I did think he gave a decent presentation and am sure it was much more interesting for those who are going down that path.

  • Joel's talk on FogBugz: Yes, it was blatant advertising for Joel's company, but we knew that when we got there and could have skipped the talk. It didn't upset me. In fact, it enlightened me quite a bit, as I thought FogBugz was just another bug tracker, and didn't see the point in paying for something that competes with so many free tools. However, I learned that the software helps with a lot more - project planning & management, customer communications, and now (with Kiln - still in beta), source control and code reviews. It's made me consider trying out the free version, although I can't imagine my employer ever paying for it.

  • Jonathan Blocksom on the Google App Engine: It was my impression that Jonathan is still learning this himself, but he still gave a good talk and has me thinking about trying it out.

  • Richard Worth on jQuery: Richard gave a nice overview of using jQuery, along with a demo of developing with it. I'd been thinking about learning it before for the little bit of JavaScript I do, and definitely plan to do so now, as it looks like it will speed things up and make them easier to understand with little penalty.

  • There was supposed to be an unofficial presentation about Agile development after the official conference ended, but I could not stay for that. If anyone can review it, I'd like to know how it went.

Onto the venue: While I fully realize this was done on the cheap to keep our costs down and an ideal venue wasn't possible, I still have to say I found the State Theater to be a mixed bag:

  • Firstly, while Falls Church isn't that far from DC, for many of us in the 'burbs of Maryland, it was quite a haul to get there - over an hour and a half for me by car, subway, and foot, and I live very near the beltway and the subway. I hope that if there's a future SO conference in the area they can find a more central location.

  • The WiFi worked great almost all day! :-) The only time I experienced a drop out was during lunch, when I'm sure it was getting hit really hard. Even then it was brief and I was able to get back on and check email, etc.

  • Another nice point was that there were lots of power strips on the floor for people to power their laptops with.

  • As a vegetarian, I was disappointed that I saw nothing available for my diet at lunch. (Maybe that was not the venue's responsibility, but it seems related.)

  • Comfort was not good, as the (lower level) chairs were less than ideal, and the temperature was too cold downstairs and too hot in the balcony.

  • FWIW, the sound glitches that George mentioned didn't really bug me. It probably wasn't possible, but some low level lighting - just enough to take some notes by (egads, on paper! ;-), would have been nice.

share|improve this answer
2  
They had a small stack of vegetarian meals hiding behind the sandwich boxes. Easy to miss. –  onedozenbagels Oct 27 '09 at 5:47
    
Yeah, the food area needed signage. The chicken caesar wrap was tasty, though. –  spoulson Oct 27 '09 at 14:29

The Venue It was OK. For fostering independent discussions, it wasn't ideal, but Joel did a good job of dividing up the auditorium into discussion groups for the lunch break. Surprisingly, the Wi-Fi worked great, but perhaps even more surprising was that AT&T's 3G was flying, so I didn't even need to connect to the local network. My only gripes about the venue were:

  • Kind of a pain to get to, especially if you were an out-of-towner without a car like me (I came down from NYC). Being in the heart of D.C. would have been more convenient.
  • I've never been to a conference that started at 9AM that didn't have plenty of bagels and fruit salad waiting patiently to be molested with tongs and consumed by geeks. I was surprised that there was no breakfast there. There wasn't a deli or any thing in plan sight of the venue, so I had to wait until the first break to walk 10 minutes over to a Starbucks and get some food. Poor me.
  • The projector was great, especially displaying the back channel discussion on twitter. I think there is some room for debate here on whether or not that could actually be displayed during the talk. It could be a more efficient way to ask questions, but at the same time you don't want to have a guy up there talking while people are expressing their discontent or arguing about it in tweets that are displayed right behind him. Curious what others might think.

As for the talks:

  • Loved Dan Pilone's iPhone and Jonathan Blocksom's App Engine talks. Both came across as passionate and knowledgeable, keeping the discussion at a high level while at the same time respecting the audience when it came to getting technical. A lot of "business of software" stuff in here too. If you were curious about doing iPhone or App Engine development, you probably would be eager to run home and start writing some code after watching either of these two.
  • Bruce Eckel's talk on Python did not deliver at all as advertised, I believe he talked about the language for maybe 30 seconds. So it sucked, right? WRONG. This was the kind of segment that made you feel like your ticket to the conference was money well spent. It's hard to explain, so I'll just recommend that you read his books or try and watch this talk if a video is made available at some point.
  • K Scott Allen's and Richard D Worth's MVC and jQuery talks were not good. As somebody who doesn't know why he would want to use either technology, they didn't do a good job of selling me on anything. In terms of MVC I wouldn't be interested anyway since I don't do Microsoft development, but the only takeaway I picked up was that it's better than something called WebForms because it uses convention over configuration. I suppose I wasn't the target audience for that talk, but still, it was just watching a guy write a lot of code. On the other hand I'm the kind of guy you want to hook with jQuery - I dabbled in AJAX a bit when it started, and I know a lot about HTML and CSS, and Javascript. I haven't really done much in the past few years though - so I have no idea why I would want to use jQuery instead of prototype or the 500 other Javascript frameworks that are out there. And after this talk, I still didn't know why I would want to use it, aside from the fact that it's the most popular. Too much code and showing off stuff that I could probably just read in the documentation. This is in contrast to Dan's talk, where he briefly tried to hold our hands and show us that the big, bad, Objective-C monster isn't so bad after all.
  • Joel's intro movie was hilarious, and is a must-see if it winds up on YouTube. He continued to entertain throughout as the day's host, and his keynote about simplicity is one that I hope everybody was listening to. The FogBugz talk though, was painful. I'd imagine that everybody there already knew who Joel was, and because of that would be well aware of what FogBugz is. And for those that weren't in the know, I'm not sure that a sales pitch for enterprise software really fits in with a $99 conference that doesn't serve bagels. I did think that the free option for FogBugz (for startups) is interesting, but news of that came after the demo, where I had already been zoned out for an hour.

In all, I like the format - take a handful of topics that people would be most interested in (I have seen some people complaining about no Android talk, I'm not sure who they think they are kidding) and let's all learn from each other. Sadly a few didn't deliver on that promise but I'll be going again next year. Just keeping my fingers crossed for one in NY. And bagels.

share|improve this answer
    
I will second the NY area wish. The number of hands that went up when Joel asked "who drove for more than an hour to be here?" were probably mostly people from NY/NJ. The every second year HOPE Hacker conference is a low cost conference that uses the Hotel Penn, and charges less than Dev Days. Is this a possible venue? –  bobmcn Oct 27 '09 at 14:38
    
@bobmcn for what it's worth, a lot of people came in from NC and points 'south' as well. –  George Stocker Oct 27 '09 at 14:41
    
HOPE is full of win. Watching Rambam get cuffed and walked out by the Feds right before he was supposed to give a presentation was a gut-shot straight to my fragile little mind 3 years ago. –  Tom Ritter Oct 27 '09 at 17:10

Portman, I agree with you that it's difficult to match the level of detail to the audience at an event like this. It's the classic Icarus problem: Fly too low and the noobs are lost; Fly too high and the experts are bored. There's probably a middle path somewhere in there but it's very elusive. The two track idea is good but that would require a different sort of space for the event and more speakers. As a jQuery noob, I would rate Richard D. Worth's talk as an A. It was an excellent introduction, and after the keynote, probably my best take away from the conference.

I'm surprised by all of this venom towards Joel's self marketing. He pretty much said in his blog and in his podcast that he would be heavily promoting FogBugz when he announced the conference. Yes, this easily could have been called the "Joel Spolsky Show", but I actually found it entertaining and informative. Maybe it didn't bother me because I was expecting it.

share|improve this answer
    
Actually, I found the two, 20-minute breaktime ads for Business of Software and Training DVDs the worst offenders. That time should have been for meeting fellow StackOverflowers. And those messages could have easily fit into Joel's 1 hour talk. –  Portman Oct 27 '09 at 13:53

During Joel's opening talk, he described a scenario where a CFO wants quickly print a check to keep his secretary quiet before his wife enters the office. But when he starts up whatever application is required to do this, it asks if he wants to install an update now or later. Isn't this the perfect thing for the application to do? If it installed the update without asking, or tried to pick a time when it thought installing the update would be more convenient, the risk of not being able to print the check in time would be higher. I realize that Joel was trying to be witty and funny, rather than seriously criticize the way software works, but I think this was just a bad example.

share|improve this answer
    
It's fine to down vote me if you disagree, but please tell me where I am wrong. I think I understand the point Joel is trying to make, but if faced with the same situation, I think I would do the same thing as the software he is ridiculing. –  bobmcn Oct 27 '09 at 17:56
    
You're being downvoted because it is off-topic, most likely. As for your point, the user doesn't care about what version is installed. That is a nerd consideration. If they really want to update, then allow them to do so via a menu option in the help menu or the like. Barraging them with questions that are unrelated to the task at hand is the wrong way to do this. –  Matt Green Nov 3 '09 at 19:25

I paid $99 and drove 2 hours from Delaware. After the event, I drove home wanting more. Those who shared my impression might want to criticize by explaining they expected more, had higher expectations, or whatever. I think the whole event turned out great for a first run. I know that next year will be better and I'll be there as well.

What I liked most:

  • Joel's keynote and successive presentations really highlighted the challenges faced by users and underscored each speaker's presentation with a special meaning: Use these skills to solve the people problem.
  • Bruce Eckel's talk was less technical than I thought, but I found his insight and anthropology on the subject extremely thought provoking.
  • Bargain. I couldn't have afforded a $1000+ ticket.
  • Lunch and coffee were great.
  • Desire to copy DNA.

Least:

  • Parking was a little confusing. There were no open spaces at the small theater lot. The public spaces next door were useless with a posted 4 hour limit. Fortunately, the hospital didn't mind me taking up their parking garage since there was no proof I wasn't a patient/visitor. Maybe I missed an email or something that directed where I should park, but it wasn't on the ticket and no signage was present at the location.
  • I thought the idea of breaking up into lunch groups by topic was a great idea, but it was a shame the venue didn't support the logistics.
share|improve this answer

Has anybody figured out where to find the slides from DC DevDays?

share|improve this answer

The slides from my presentation are here: http://odetocode.com/downloads/devdays2.pdf

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

share|improve this answer

I volunteered at this event and also got roped into speaking last after everyone had left (my company, OPOWER, decided to get a booth there after I had decided to volunteer). I spent most of the time outside watching the twitter stream.

The Carsonified folks were great to deal with; very organized, very professional. They had their sh*t down.

A few funny bits:

  • Joel introduced himself to me as "The guy running this thing". Like anyone didn't know that already :)
  • One of my co-workers asked Bruce Eckel (who had questioned my company's use of Java) if he "was more of a .Net guy". Ha!
  • I did a double-take when I saw the laptop of one of the Carsonified checkin staff -- it was a Dell running OS X
  • The best schwag of the night, Cordero's multi-tool, suffered from being packaged in a dingy ugly paper box; the pens went much faster (though the buttons seemed least popular of all).
  • I scanned the barcode printed on some of the paper tickets; just some database primary key; nothing geeky :(

As for the talks, I really enjoyed Joel's opening bits that I could catch, and was really glad Bruce Eckel's talk was not a big Python lecture, but instead some deep insight into language design, from a real expert. I was hoping the JQuery talk would be a bit more advanced, but it's hard to know what the audience would be.

I was super nervous going out there for my "after everyone had left" talk. Was glad a few people stuck around; my runthroughs on Sunday were all north of 15 minutes, but I got through the whole thing in 13. Hope I wasn't talking too fast.

share|improve this answer

I'm not sure what I was expecting. I don't go to a lot of conferences these days since I'm not working for companies that pay me to go any more, and even when I did go, I often didn't get much out of the presentations. I suppose it's just not a format that's conducive to my style of learning. I signed up because I could afford it, I like Joel's writing, and I hoped it would be a day of interacting with some smart people and picking up things I might not delve into otherwise.

And in fact, that's pretty much what I got out of it, and it was well worth attending. My reaction to most of the talks was that they taught me enough to know whether the technologies were worth digging into. (They pretty much were in two categories, yes definitely and yes if I have a reason to use it.)

Though the standard length was probably good to cover different audience expectations, for me personally, I think I could have gotten as much out of 15-20 minute presentations for each technology focused on "here's why this is cool and worth learning." Anyone want to organize a conference around that principle? :-)

Bruce Eckel's talk was fantastic, and made me much more interested in learning dynamic languages than if it had actually been an intro or a "technical highlights" presentation on Python. (Perhaps a bit more "truth in labeling" would have avoided the complaints here.) Definitely the highlight of the day.

share|improve this answer

are slides from joel's opening talk avaialble? I wana show it to someone and copy DNA

share|improve this answer

I blogged about the event here:

http://scottlaw.knot.org/blog/?p=465

The post is a bit formal because the initial audience for what I wrote was my managers at work. It doesn't talk about other aspects of the event at all, so I'll do that in my answer.

Parking

The information on the State Theatre website was slightly misleading. I moved my car during lunch as a precaution. Parking on the street turned out to be just fine. If Dev Days picks the same venue again next year, I hope the parking instructions are more specific.

Music

I wasn't expecting music before the conference and during breaks, and the stuff they picked was pretty cool. I'm still trying to get a complete list of what they played because I'd like to own a few of those tracks.

Food

I was pleased with the food. I've had worse at events that cost a lot more than this one.

Networking

This venue wasn't setup so well for that, but I was fortunate enough to run into a guy who's familiar with a open source e-commerce package I'm helping a friend with. Assuming they find a larger venue next year, they'll probably be able to structure the conference to support networking better.

share|improve this answer

Hi, I've posted my App Engine talk slides and write ups to all the questions I received at: http://gae-devdays09.appspot.com/.

Hope it's useful!

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks! I added the link to my review. –  George Stocker Oct 30 '09 at 21:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .