If you attended DevDays in London, please post your thoughts about it here. Links to blogs etc are also welcome.

DevDays reviews

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you might want to link to the other devdays reviews like he has done. –  toofarsideways Oct 28 '09 at 23:18
    
Yeah I was getting there, but it's late and I'm tired now. Come back in 6-8 weeks. –  bananakata Oct 28 '09 at 23:24
    
Fair enough, I just got home too. Getting down to London and back is tiring. –  toofarsideways Oct 28 '09 at 23:43
    
The amsterdam reviews are (will be) here: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/28160/devdays-review-amsterdam –  Edosoft Nov 2 '09 at 20:29
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27 Answers

Just got back home, so off the top of my head...

The Good

  • Jeff and Joel: Even though I'd caught some of their talks on the podcast on the train in they both came across as the very polished, very natural speakers they both are. Joel always impresses me so the bar was higher but Jeff especially came across as thoughtful and well spoken. Though I cannot believe a man of Jeff's age hasn't been to Europe before. Americans - wtf :)

  • Jon Skeet (Humanity: Epic Fail): damn him, he can even talk the talk in person.

  • Paul Biggar (How not to design a scripting language): The student talk (though calling a PhD candidate a student feels disingenuous). I've never looked into compiler theory in even passing interest and I found this both insightful and intriguing enough for me to want to go find a book on the same in the near future, though apparently not the dragon book. Apparently the answer to the talk isn't just "PHP" as well - who knew?

  • Christian Heilmann (Yahoo! Developer Tools): Really savvy presenter again but frankly the YUI tools I know (and respect) aren't of any real interest to me given jQuery and my own libraries, but when he got to the YQL demo it blew my mind. Searching for all the twitters matching X and translating them to language Y? This stuff looks so powerful.

The Bad

  • The fogbugz presentation: yes it's a very slick product, yes it looks awesome, and if I had any purchasing clout at my company maybe it would be relevant. I resent being compelled to watch a sales pitch to matter how well presented, but not nearly as much as I resent paying for it. I just don't get who the audience was for this.

  • Phil Nash (iPhone): Bad is the wrong word really. Very solid presentation indeed, but what I got from it was concrete evidence that objective-C is completely nuts and to be avoided at all costs. Crossing fingers monotouch is worth getting on board with.

  • Pekka Kosonen (Qt): Same again, really quite entertaining presentation (and refreshingly honest view of Nokia dev support) but I came away from it without really grasping why I should care about Qt.

  • Remy Sharp (jQuery): Probably the best technical demonstration but totally the wrong audience and the wrong level imho. When over half the audience has used jQuery before you're just wasting half the audience's time - it's not like jQuery has esoteric corners to illuminate or anything.

The Ugly

  • Michael Sparks (Python): I don't want to dwell on this too much but, "train wreck". Definitely the low point, no real business presenting and only succeeded in reinforcing the idea that Python really is just the monstrous write-only progeny of Perl. Which is a shame really because I still don't really believe that. Sorry Michael.

  • Reto Meir (Android): Very dry indeed, couldn't help feel that Java looks incredibly crufty and dated and I'm thinking that google made a tactical error by association.

  • Catering: usual for London, i.e. massively overpriced, poor quality, little selection. I understand it ran out as well which beggar's belief. I assume everyone who's ever been to London before just went out to find a pret or a pub or something but the impression made on first-time traveller's must have been awful. Future recommendation: just don't bother.

Overall I probably got my 85 quid out of it (definitely more effective value than FOWA say) but it would take significant change for me to bother again. I don't want to be sold anything by anybody and I do want to learn about new and exciting things coming down the line (the stated goal) but that isn't jquery or python, that's erlang or F# or haskell.

Finally I was disappointed that there was no organised social event around this - SO is a huge community and a lot of us would probably like to put faces to the names etc. Starting with something as simple as putting gravatars on namebadges would have been a good idea, and y'know a scheduled after-session in the bar (wait, there was no bar...). We were never going to organise ourselves, but a little help from the organisers would have been easy enough wouldn't it?


*Addendum: when I got home I found an envelope full of (now redundant) trilogy stickers and a signed thank you note from Jeff for my participation (even though a recalc left me on page 3 these days). I gotta say the human touch there made my day, I'll be keeping that letter I think. This is how you build community.*

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+1 - I generally agree - though disagree strongly with the comment on Michael Sparks, who I actually thought did a really good job. I've done a fair bit of Python though, so maybe I'm biased. –  Dominic Rodger Oct 29 '09 at 9:39
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I agree with much of that, although I thought that Phil's iPhone/objective-C was interesting (and it's convinced me to go back to the books I found impenetrable last year, and try again), and I thought that Mike's python talk was interesting (now I want to see how I might leverage Python from Delphi). I thought it was a really great day but it would have been nice to have at least something geared towards Win32/C#/Delphi or similar - I thought it was a little mobile-device heavy at times. –  robsoft Oct 29 '09 at 10:04
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I mostly agree, except I really enjoyed Phil Nash and the iPhone presentation. The presentation was sharp and the topic was relevant with the popularity of the iPhone. –  g . Oct 29 '09 at 11:42
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I have to say, I thought the Python talk was one of the best. As someone who hasn't touched Python, I was impressed, and fascinated with how simple, yet profound the code is to get the corrections working. –  Dave Arkell Oct 29 '09 at 12:18
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I'm surprised everyone had such different perceptions of the python talk. Where I was in the gallery everyone had gone onto their iphones and lappy's half way through. Just in terms of the presentation technique it was bumbling->incoherent, the audience were shouting out corrections, and the onscreen was cluttered and unclear. He laboured points everyone understood (lambdas? really?) and skimmed over details which aren't so well known (e.g. list comprehensions). Cardinal sin: I was bored. Compared to Paul or Phil's it was weak, compared to Remy's it was a joke. Just my $.02 –  bananakata Oct 29 '09 at 12:58
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Why should Americans travel? We're already here! –  mmyers Oct 29 '09 at 15:14
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Personally, I'd rather you were nicely contained there anyway :) –  bananakata Oct 29 '09 at 15:27
    
there was an attempt to officially link up on site the altnetbeers event that happened afterwards, but that went cold –  Scott Cowan Oct 29 '09 at 18:17
    
I also disagree on the Python talk - yes it wasn't fast paced or in depth but it showed how what could be perceived as a pretty complex subject for low-mid experienced level developers (good spelling correction) is actually achievable quite concisely even using a language other than Python, albeit effectively by brute-force. I was on my Android phone during the iPhone talk not because it was an iPhone talk but because, as you say, Objective-C just looked utterly insane and 13-17 years old. –  Alistair Knock Oct 29 '09 at 23:51
    
I absolutely agree on Objective-C - I ain't never touching that! Again, I enjoyed the Python talk. –  Skilldrick Oct 31 '09 at 21:22
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Annakata: my apologies that you really didn't like the presentation style (I've posted a longer comment about that). Whilst I'm glad that there's a fair number of people who got something out of it, your comments are ones I'll bear in mind for the future - since they're not unique. The problem with a live-coding approach (as requested...) is that it can look unprepared despite everything. In fact I had prepared heavily, including extra material in case I under-ran. If redone I'd pick something of mine rather than someone else's. Decent audio also helps :/ Anyway, sorry & thanks for feedback. –  Michael Sparks Nov 3 '09 at 17:43
    
@Michael - comment tennis! –  bananakata Nov 3 '09 at 19:37
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I don't think it would be useful/fair for me to post thoughts on other speakers, although I will say I particularly enjoyed Paul Biggar's speech on scripting, and I had a generally fabulous time. Thoughts on the general day etc:

  • Meeting Jeff and Joel wasn't as scary as I'd built it up to be in my mind. We enjoyed recording a podcast at Google London, which will hopefully be out soon. That was followed by a very nice meal with the other speakers.
  • Overall I think Carsonified did a fabulous job with the organization.
  • Particular good points organizationally:
    • Choice of venue. Fabulous place. Would like DevDays to be there again next year, unless Joel's dream of the Royal Albert Hall comes to pass :)
    • The seating and voting apps were fun, although they clearly had fewer takers later on in the day. I'm also not sure about Twitter as an API... it means my Twitter stream is even spammier today than normal.
    • Most of the technical stuff went really smoothly, I thought. I didn't need to worry about people not being able to see my slides given the enormity of the screen :)
    • The WiFi worked all day for me - admittedly I had to log in again a few times, but that was no hardship.
  • Niggles or suggestions for improvements:
    • Obviously the drink/snack facilities weren't really up to the demands of 900 people. More something for the Kensington Town Hall to fix than Carsonified, of course.
    • A couple of microphone issues (although compared with preaching in churches, that was nothing!)
    • I suspect that having fewer sessions might have helped. 12 sessions in a day is a heck of a lot to take in.
    • With fewer sessions, longer breaks could have enabled more socialising... maybe with some way of easily finding people you're likely to share interests with. Not sure how it would work.
    • It would have been nice to have proper video being taken of all the presentations with a decent video camera from a good vantage spot, instead of my 95 quid cheapo one which ran out of battery several times :)

I was pleased with how my own talk went, although I could really do with a preview of which slide is coming next. I think I fouled up in at least three places due to that. Tony went down well - thanks to Eric and TheTXI for that suggestion. I still don't understand why subscribing to the time zone news blog got quite as many laughs as it did, but I'll take everything I get. It's good to have the talk on video to work out how to improve. Thanks to everyone who said nice things afterwards.

Suggestion to those who had to lean against walls or sit on the floor: there are often seats on the front row.

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the idea that there is a time zone blog is just hilarious, for some reason. –  Jeff Atwood Oct 29 '09 at 4:46
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There's video? couldn't make it, but that would be worth a watch... –  Marc Gravell Oct 29 '09 at 7:31
    
It's funny for the same reason that reading random samples from Crotchet Week on Have I got News For You is funny - the gently bewildering esotericism (and yet banality) of the world we live in. –  bananakata Oct 29 '09 at 8:50
    
Loved your talk Jon. It was the highlight of the day. Tony outshone you though. –  John Nolan Oct 29 '09 at 9:11
    
Also really enjoyed your talk Jon - thanks! –  Dominic Rodger Oct 29 '09 at 9:40
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Empty seats on the front row? Sounds like church ;) –  Benjol Oct 29 '09 at 9:50
    
You did a GREAT job! It would be great if you could make the video public :) –  cgreeno Oct 29 '09 at 10:27
    
@cgreeno: Yes, yes - it's coming, just be patient :) –  Jon Skeet Oct 29 '09 at 10:28
    
agree with Jeff about why time zone blog went down so well. I also think it's because just about everyone in that room has some ultra niche blog that they have to follow purely in the interests of understanding a problem they are solving for someone else –  geocoin Oct 29 '09 at 12:46
    
Hi Jon, just created my meta account to say I saw you yesterday and your talk was awsome! I really really enjoyed it. You presented some real problems that we work with so much we have stopped seeing. P.S does Tony the one trick Pony have a fan club yet? –  David Waters Oct 29 '09 at 14:35
    
@David: I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Tony doesn't have a fan club yet, but his next appearance will be in the 9th Tilehurst Guides pantomime :) –  Jon Skeet Oct 29 '09 at 15:16
    
Also that if there isn't that ultra-niche blog that some die-hard obsessive is carefully crafting, then your job is made substantially harder. The contributions of the minority tend to provide the rock-solid foundation for the majority. –  Alistair Knock Oct 29 '09 at 23:55
    
I'd just like to add that my favourite slide was the leap second one. Awesome talk! –  Skilldrick Oct 31 '09 at 21:25
    
@Skilldrick: That's very pleasing - I wasn't sure whether to include that one or not, so I'm glad at least one person liked it :) –  Jon Skeet Oct 31 '09 at 22:32
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I'll use a different banding, although it's all by-the-by:

Useful

  • Christian Heilmman (Yahoo! Developer Tools) - just showed some damn cool stuff that nobody has bothered to look at because it's Yahoo! and yet all of Yahoo! has been able to accelerate so quickly (and quietly) because of it. To me it brought home the 20% catching-up time that we all need - don't roll your own GIS analysis tool, use something Yahoo! or Google have developed and don't worry about it because you are /never/ going to even blip onto their bandwidth. This reminded me that much of the big-power on the web is pretty cool and friendly, which is at times an uncomfortable feeling.

  • Paul Biggar (How not to design a scripting language) - right to the bones, what the hell is going on, guaranteed to piss off virtually all PHP developers and c++ developers alike by saying that it basically doesn't make much difference what you use, but if you were aiming for perfection then figure out a convergence...

  • Jon Skeet & Tony the Pony - we all knew what he was saying but it still felt like news, and that's the mark of a great communicator (a trait that was brought up in many talks)

  • Pekka Kosonen (Qt) - I admired Pekka's openness and thought, particularly having seeing the car-crash of Objective-C, that there was something sensible going on in there. I think it's dangerous that everyone is assuming they should develop for iPhone when in fact there's massively more audience (+money) in the big mobile providers.

Less useful

  • Phil Nash (iPhone) - Oh My. Phil's presentation was top-notch but to see Objective-C code in the flesh is like watching the London sewer pipe close up. Please, everyone figure out a bridge very quickly. When so much of current talk in programming is about readability, surely we should stick a knife in.

  • Jeff & Joel - OK, just too satiated with podcasts and blogposts that there wasn't a great deal new there, but still did a fantastic job in organising and envisioning the whole day.

Frustrating

  • catering: frozen sandwiches, bizarre coffee and uncoordinated lengthy queues
  • chairs: OMG. Would rather have brought my own noose.
  • general signposting: maybe I missed something but having the countdown clock inside the auditorium rather than where everyone else was standing was a little misdirected.
  • the Circle line, although I won't blame Joel for this. Yet.

What I would've liked to see:

  • big ass. BigTable, memcached, Hadoop, Map/Reduce, Haystack, perhaps even Haskell, all the mental stuff that people have had to resort to in the past 3 years because everything that was sensibly designed broke.
  • bizarro. Rather than jQuery, which less than half the audience has ever used but still if they ever needed to use it, would be able to do so in their sleep, why not drill into why Erlang is used for certain applications like CouchDB, Facebook Chat or Delicious. Very often it is not about what the tools but why the tools.
  • socialising. No programmer is able to socialise so it would've been good to have some cable ties applied at registration which forcibly linked you to another programmer and encouraged at least some discussion of Microsoft, if not unconditional love.
  • meta. Jeff should clearly have had his own meta-DevDays table which he sat at all day, ignoring the knowledge, enthusing people to have the very conversation we're having now, but with him, directly, and in detail. It would've forked manna.
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+1 I like your banding, wish I'd used that model now –  bananakata Oct 30 '09 at 6:59
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Great post, especially what you would've liked to have seen - I also would love to know the why of those obscure (to me) technologies! –  Jarrod Dixon Oct 30 '09 at 8:17
    
The bizarro point is well made - the why not the how is often a very useful discussion. –  Unsliced Oct 30 '09 at 9:33
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Your comment about socialising is spot on. –  Rod Hyde Oct 30 '09 at 11:35
    
+1 about the chairs. Did they assume that we're all undernourished and would bring our own cushions? –  Chris Oldwood Nov 2 '09 at 9:34
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CouchDB is the most innovative thing I've seen in many years. I'd love devdays to do that next year. –  daf Nov 4 '09 at 13:41
    
Good Lord, the last thing I'd want is to be chained to a random geek all day. I don't imagine he (because, let's face it, odds are it'd be a he) would be exactly keem either... –  Mike Woodhouse Dec 14 '09 at 14:04
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For me, the highlights were the iPhone talk, the JQuery talk, Joel's keynote and Jeff Atwood's StackOverflow talk.

I didn't expect to get much out of the iPhone talk, but I became hooked on the discussion of the syntax of Objective-C. It may not make sense to anyone from a C# / Java / C++ background, and it certainly hasn't made any sense to me before, but the presenter's explanation of its history as a language made all the pieces drop into place.

For me, not having used it, Remy Sharp's jQuery talk was informative. I was surprised by how many people in the audience had used it, but given its power it will definitely be on my shortlist should the need arise.

Joel's keynote was witty and hit the mark. He is an engaging speaker. I felt bad for Michael Sparks who followed him with a talk showcasing Python's expressiveness as Joel was definitely a tough act to follow.

Jeff's comment about starting his blog to be able to talk to other developers struck a chord.

Unfortunately I had to leave early, which meant that I missed Paul Biggar's talk on how not to design a scripting language. Judging by some of the other reviews it looks like I missed a good one.

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fwiw: It's not that the Objective C talk didn't make logical sense, it's that it did but it's apparent that Objective C mitself makes no logical sense. The half-in/half-out policy of memory management, the +/- which is counter to the UML notation I know, the [ or not. It just doesn't look like any thought was applied. Glad Remy's talk worked for someone because the way his evolutionary, crisp, colour coded slides were exactly the right way to to a technical demonstration (as opposed to yellow on green in half a mangled 800x600 text editor) –  bananakata Oct 29 '09 at 9:08
    
You should read the interview with Brad Cox (co-creator of Objective-C) in the book Masterminds of Programming for an equally scathing view on C++ and the languages that followed that. Personally, my laguage history goes something like C,C++,Java,VB,C#,VB.NET but when I started iPhone development, Objective-C made perfect sense to me. And although I miss the comforts of managed code, it certainly a heck of a lot better than C++. –  U62 Oct 30 '09 at 11:28
    
@U62 - sure, the heritage complaints are valid, but intentionally creating what they likely knew (following/because of iPod) was going to be an incredibly successful platform based on something between C++ and Ace Of Base is just irresponsible. –  Alistair Knock Nov 1 '09 at 0:03
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When the DevDays were originally announced I took note of their intention to have presentations that were taster sessions for their subjects. I skipped some of the presentations that I wasn't interested in and had some interesting chats instead. You didn't have to go to all of them.

That's why I find it strange that there are so many disappointed with the level of the talks. I found the jQuery talk good, but above my head in some cases. If you know and use jQuery why did you stay for the talk? If you wanted a more in-depth presentation, there are other conferences for that sort of thing. It would have been strange to have a talk on the esoteric corners of jQuery in amongst presentations on the basics of Python, and Android development.

Objective-C seems to have taken a kicking. @VoteApp didn't accept it as a language.

On to the plus points:

  • The level of the talks was about what I expected.
  • I had some interesting chats with fellow coders.
  • Strong, dependable and fast WiFi.
  • The organisers were monitoring the #devdays twitter channel, I got a couple of direct responses from them.
  • Reasonably priced.

and negatives:

  • The Coffee was truly awful (and I'm not a connoisseur).
  • The chairs were too narrow, hard and close together.
  • Blurry screen in some cases.
  • Farting. Seriously, there were far too many silent smellys being dropped.
  • Sticky nametags didn't get used. Small breaks meant that chances to talk to people were limited.
  • The quality of the talks were variable. Some were very good and engaging, but others were dull.

I'll certainly consider going again.

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+1 for the farting... it was like a gas chamber and i wasn't even contributing! but with that amount of content and few breaks, it was kind of inevitable. –  geocoin Oct 29 '09 at 12:53
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I certainly agree with you about the chairs. After the first session I found it better to stand at the back of the hall as my back was killing me, and the coffee was indeed execrable. –  Rod Hyde Oct 29 '09 at 13:05
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maybe farting and blurry screen were related... hot fumes. –  Petteri Hietavirta Oct 29 '09 at 13:59
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Interesting comments. To those that thought the presentation sucked - my apologies. Contrary to some comments, I did do a lot of prep for that talk, but it's an odd approach, and not one I've taken in the past. Based on reactions, it's not one I'm ever likely to take again.

I've given a bunch of presentations in the past on Kamaelia, concurrency, and also on topics like how to manage creativity in an R&D project, as well as on open source in general, but this was the first time I'd really gone down the route of no slides, which was an explicit request.

Specifically, the brief for the talk was essentially "can you talk about this code example, introducing python as you go, assume you're talking to experience developers, but they may not be familiar with specific aspects of python, and please do it without using any slides". (this is a paraphrase)

So I took that brief and went with it, and having seen a variety of responses varying from "please go away and do not darken my door again", through to "That was fantastic, thank you", I've come to the conclusion that if this talk style was a food that it would marmite.

I think there is a place for that sort of thing, but when you've got 900 people captive in a room, having 400 people upset is not a great thing. Marmite is all well and good, but if there's that many people, aiming for a talk with a similar appeal level as chocolate or coffee is probably a better aim.

I think if I was to redo that talk, I'd probably want to discuss in greater detail picking out something more generally relevant, and representative, even if not "all code, no slides". I'd also aim for a better balance - with more useful slides. (If you look at previous presentations, I tend to think extremely heavily about what I put in them to assist what I'm saying rather replace what I'm saying)

When I gave a tutorial at Europython this year by contrast, I produced slides, but still did much of the tutorial in terms of a walkthrough. In a way, I think the key difference is that having actual slides gives an audience more cues that actually the talk is going somewhere specific.

This is all 20:20 hindsight of course. Before giving the talk I liked the code example, thought it interesting and useful, and a good idea. Even right before the talk, Joel checked with me that I was going to do what I did saying it had been a really popular approach elsewhere.

From a pragmatic perspective, it's worth mentioning that having the audio drop out as it did really doesn't help . I could hear it doing it, and it really throws you as a speaker, and from experience of sitting through talks with bad audio levels, I know it's awful to listen to as well. There wasn't really any excuse for this incidentally. I arrived at the venue shortly after 8 in the morning, when a technical run through was happening. I wasn't mic'd up however until 9:30 - near the end of Joel's talk. That could have been, and should have been sorted before people started coming in IMO.

As they say, you live and learn. If anyone has any specific suggestions for improvement, I'd welcome them either below or via email ( sparks dot m at gmail dot com ).

Incidentally, I only found out about this page by chance. No one seems to have bothered to let the speakers know these links exist.

Mind you, Stack Overflow didn't pay speakers expenses either (and no, neither did my employer), so when I found that many of the other talks were all marketing oriented I came to the conclusion that I'd been used and decided to head home mid-afternoon in order to get home before midnight. (I don't live anywhere near London, and due to timing in the day had to come down the night before)

I'm glad some people got something from the day, and once again, my apologies to those who hated my talk for following the brief I'd been asked to follow (I did after all choose to follow that brief).

Whilst that may come over a little b* * *y, that's not my intent - unless we're honest about where things go wrong things don't improve. As I say above, if anyone has any more feedback, please get in touch. To me it was a fail due to the amount of negative feedback, something I've not had in any previous presentations, so I have something to learn. Please don't assume anyone's told me what you're thinking, since I've seen both extremes - I'd like to know where you perceived things went well and where you think they went badly.

But on the upside, at least some people liked it - I'll try and do better next time. (if there is a next time)

You live and learn I guess.

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Fwiw, I got a lot out of it. I was taking notes as you were walking the code and, as a Python n00b, was struggling to keep up at first. But then I copy/pasted Norvig's source from the web into my document and switched to just annotating that, and things became much easier. So I guess the only thing that would have helped me more would have been a link to Norvig's source at the beginning. –  Phil Booth Nov 3 '09 at 18:21
    
It takes guts to do a talk and it takes more to coolly and evenly respond to criticism. Props for that. Evidently my opinion whilst not unique is also not even close to ubiquitous, so fwiw I would actually disagree with your chocolate hypothesis and stick with the marmite and weather the criticism - better to really excite some than merely entertain all. –  bananakata Nov 3 '09 at 20:02
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Also: I don't think many of us understood/appreciated that speakers weren't given due reimbursement for your efforts (which goes a long way to explaining the marketing skew), so sympathy for that too. I do at least appreciate that you weren't selling me anything. –  bananakata Nov 3 '09 at 20:03
    
Having never used Python, I found it a really effective way to demonstrate how powerful a language it is. As a result, wrote my first Python "hello world" code over the weekend. –  Steve Melnikoff Nov 3 '09 at 20:14
    
Hmm, that sounds rather bad that the travel costs were not covered. All the effort of preparation, paying the costs (hopefully you did not pay the entry fee!), suffering with bad setup and hearing poor reviews would put anyone down. I liked your presentation - at least it was keeping my mind awake compared to some others. –  Petteri Hietavirta Nov 4 '09 at 9:26
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Michael, I found your talk very insightful. It was not entertaining, like some of the others, which is probably at the root of some of the negative comments. But I prefer content over entertainment. As for the expenses - WTF! Joel/Jeff - I don't find that acceptable. It encourages marketing talks over ones done out of passion. –  sohail Nov 4 '09 at 11:29
    
Many thanks for the kind comments. @annakata Many thanks & I'll bear that in mind. I'd rather be closer to belgian chocolate (metaphorically and practically :-) though for that sort of group. –  Michael Sparks Nov 4 '09 at 14:47
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Hi Michael I actually really thought your talk was one of the better ones. I don't understand why other people didn't like it so much. Paul Biggar was my favourite though, sorry ;-) Also, you might be interested to know that your talk also inspired: partario.com/blog/2009/10/a-spelling-corrector-in-haskell.html –  Paul Hollingsworth Nov 4 '09 at 22:12
    
I enjoyed the reminder of the power of Python, which I've rather neglected of late. I have admit to mentally translating into Ruby as the talk went along, but perhaps that added to the fun! The .Netters would probably have been more onside if the demo had used IronPython in Visual Studio, but then again maybe not. You can't please all the people all the time and you'd go mad if you tried. –  Mike Woodhouse Nov 4 '09 at 23:33
    
@Paul - cool - I'll have a read of that, it's interesting to compare approaches. (I did a fair amount of SML in the past, but not a lot of haskell). It's a pity I only found out about this page by accident though. @Petteri don't worry, I didn't pay an attendance fee for london. (Just to cambridge - I found out about speaking @ london later) @Mike your comment has given me the idea that actually having an IRC session open would've been neat - to encourage people to code the equivalent along in their language on etherpads. Would need a longer session though. Perhaps more of a bar camp thing. –  Michael Sparks Nov 5 '09 at 12:35
    
Michael, I really liked your talk. And it seemed that the people sitting near to me where enjoying it as well. Thank you! –  splattne Nov 28 '09 at 9:46
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Personally in order of enjoyment it was Paul Biggar, Joel, Michael Sparks, Jon Skeet and Jeff. I’d admit that Paul Biggar stood out in my mind because what he was talking about is quite relevant to what I’m currently working on, but I thought that he was an interesting speaker who made some good points.

I’m still mentally processing the other talks, so I’ll have to get back on them. Although Remy Sharp’s jQuery, Pekka Kosonen’s Qt talk and Christian Heilmann presentation of the current offerings of yahoo developer tools have made me very much aware I do need to set aside some time in the near future and sit down and look at them a bit more closely.

Overall I was very impressed and willing to come to the next one. The giving away of Painless Project Management with Fogbugz was nice touch and I’ll be having a good flick through that later in the week too. :)

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I missed the free FogBugz book, was that on their stand? –  Matt Warren Oct 29 '09 at 10:11
    
Sorry for the late response, yes their book was available on the stand. Grab a copy if you use it, it was a good read. –  toofarsideways Apr 29 '10 at 14:23
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In no particular order:

  • Most of the presentations hit their marks as taster sessions.
  • Those which were more blatantly sales pitches (<cough>Fog-bugz</cough>) were fine by me - how else are you going to meet the $99 price point?
  • The Qt session was rescued by Pekka's personality, but was the worst of the day for me - it wasn't a pitch, it wasn't much of a demo, it didn't help me work out what Qt is about.
  • I thought that Michael Sparks' Python presentation was the victim of timing and unclear expectation. He lost the crowd quite quickly, who were still buzzing from Joel's uber-enthusiastic Joel-being-Joel, developers-developers-developers, yee-haw keynote.
  • Joel, Jeff and Jon Skeet might have had meta topics, but they were all thought provoking, illuminating and interesting. It wasn't quite a rally, but there's a cult of StackOverflow personality coming through (or was it just those with initial Js?), the biggest applause was clearer for Joel, Jeff and Jon Skeet ...
  • The more accomplished presenters shone too, Remy Sharp was first rate, but the enthusiasm from Reto Meier and Phil Nash for their subjects rescued them.
  • Passionate developers come from having your curiousity tweaked - and all of the presentations managed that with me, to a greater or lesser extent.
  • The WiFi worked, all day.
  • There were plenty of power points.
  • The chairs weren't too uncomfortable, but I stuck to the end of a row ...
  • Food and drink are not why I go to conferences and at least this one was close enough to local shops that it didn't matter.
  • the twitter app idea was good - but it needs to be more iPhone friendly. Did you see how many there were?

But, to summarise:

  • Was it worth a day off? Yes.
  • Would I recommend it to colleagues? Already have.
  • Would I go next year? Yes - even if it was further than a 20 minute tube ride.
  • Did it pique my interest and get me to think about my direction? Yes.

An unequivocal success.

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Agree on the cult of personality, but it's inevitable since the audience was drawn from the SO community, amongst whom the major deities are the three mentioned. That none exhibited feet of clay on this occasion just enhances their auras. ;-) –  Mike Woodhouse Nov 4 '09 at 23:37
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Upon leaving, I was actually a bit disappointed, but perhaps I just had high expectations. I did get a lot out of it and was worth the price.

Highlights

  • Phil Nash (iPhone): Great, well-prepared presentation. This is what Dev Days should be about. Writing iPhone apps is all the rage and I didn't have a clue about it or Objective-C when I walked in. I came away with an understanding of both.

  • Jon Skeet (Humanity: Epic Fail): Probably the most entertaining though not very technical. It was fun to see Jon speak.

  • Christian Heilmann (Yahoo! Developer Tools): An unexpected hit. I wasn't really interested in Yahoo! Developer Tools, but the presentation was well done and the YQL demo was absolutely amazing. I was glad I didn't leave early.

Also good

  • Paul Biggar (How not to design a scripting language): Another pleasant surprise. I am not interested in designing a scripting language, but it was an interesting discussion looking at features of various languages and had general appeal.

  • Jeff and Joel: I wish I hadn't listened to the podcast first, but overall good talks. As usual the points are right on and certainly relevant. I didn't mind the FogBugz presenation -- I've read about it enough on his blog posts, it was actually good to see a demo. After all it's their conference so it is expected to have demos of FugBugz and StackExchange.

  • Remy Sharp (jQuery): Another well done presentation. While many people many know jQuery, it was new to me and certainly one of the stronger presentations.

Room For Improvement

  • Other Presentations: Due to a combination of subject matter, presentation style, or preparation I didn't get a lot out of the remaining presentations. Though I didn't expect all of the topics to be the most relevant, a good, well-prepared presenter would go a long way.

  • Helloapp: Good idea; poor execution. I like the idea of meeting other people with similar interests, but this didn't do it. I don't use twitter, but happen to have an account. It literally took me hours to try and figure out how to get myself on the map because of some twitter settings that aren't visible on the mobile version of their site. It shouldn't be so hard. And it didn't really help me find people because the map was cleared every session and there was no listing outside of that. And the tags on my profile didn't show up in the tag cloud.

  • Venue and Catering: There wasn't enough room for all the people. At the first break it took 5 minutes to get out of the room and at least 10 minutes in the queue for a drink. Similar for lunch, but there was no food left when I got to the front.

  • Screen: It was blurry which made it difficult to read code-heavy presentations. That probably had huge impact on my appreciation of, for example, the Python presentation.

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Like Jon, I'm not in a position to say too much about the other sessions, but overall I thought it was a great day. I certainly agree that the catering could have been better. I didn't sit in any one chair long enough to know how bad they were, but everyone else seemed to be complaining about them. I tend to agree with all the points Jon made, and want to thank Joel, Jeff and Carsonified for putting the conferences on and for all the effort involved.

I met some great people there too, some I knew, some I knew of, and others were new to me. That's a big part of what these conferences are all about.

It seems my own presentation was a little controversial. This is probably not the place for me to go too much into that, but I've just posted to my blog about it, so feel free to drop by there :-)

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really enjoyed your presentation too phil. Obj-C looks horrible though. –  John Nolan Oct 30 '09 at 10:20
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I wouldn't say Objective C looks horrible - just unfamiliar. –  Jon Skeet Oct 30 '09 at 14:55
    
Remember, "if nobody hates you, then you're not very interesting" (quote from @codinghorror from the Cambridge devdays twitter feed) :-) –  Phil Nash Oct 30 '09 at 17:50
    
@Jon Skeet: Though having to go to the start of an expression to chain it (using the [ ] syntax) looks very irritating. –  Paul Biggar Oct 31 '09 at 11:11
    
It was all the talk about manual memory management that really put me off during your ACCU presentation - I'm glad you toned that down this time :-) –  Chris Oldwood Nov 2 '09 at 9:27
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My own thoughts from yesterday's London #devdays event http://www.horsesizepills.com

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Great blog entry - though I remember the tag predictor being for stackoverflow, not fogbugz. –  Dominic Rodger Oct 29 '09 at 10:31
    
Ah, yes you are right. Now updated :) –  user138028 Oct 29 '09 at 10:38
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My £0.02, if you're still interested this far down the list :-)

http://chrisoldwood.blogspot.com/2009/10/stack-overflow-dev-days-london.html

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+1 - great blog! –  b.roth Oct 31 '09 at 14:22
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As a response to a few of the "jQuery - wrong level" type answers - I've used it for a while (although I certainly don't consider myself an expert), and while I know how the selectors and things work, I still managed to pick up a few tips that will fix a couple of issues I've had - things like .live to keep adding events to added elements, and using .getJSON to handle the whole JSON/JSONP and associated issues when calling web services.

Overall, I found the conference to be interesting an useful - there will be highs and lows with everything: take the Andriod presentation - all that time spent on the Maps application - I've done Google Maps on the web, so I know how to create a map, add overlays, etc, yes it's good to know that if I want to build an app the skills are transferable from the web side, but there could have been something different in there (i.e. more stuff with the hardware (tilt, compass, etc)).

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I've just posted my review on my blog.

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I really liked it, especially Jon's talk and the Paul Biggar's "lecture" about scripting languages. I would say the worst part was the Qt bit - it didn't really convince me to develop for Nokia phones. The Python talk didn't really highlight Python's strong points, instead concentrated on concepts that are pretty much present in most modern programming languages.

As a bonus, here's a crappy G1 recording of mine of the first five minutes Jon Skeet's talk. I hope I violate the terms and conditions of the event by publishing it (I don't really care): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQDLtixGHr0 (sorry for the quality, that's all the G1 can do)

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my personal high points were Jeff and Joels talks (Jeff's hit a nerve with me when the inside of the Amiga 1000 case came on screen, since a friend of mine is in the process of butchering a real live A1000 to make a Franken-miga... )

The iPhone segment was a good intro for me as i'm about to take that plunge, and the objective C was causing me a few headaches but makes sense now.

Qt was pretty relevant for me since I already use it at my current place (though phasing it out as it doesn't play too nicely when mixed with MFC) and I love the way Finns speak english. Pekkar gave nice interesting talk, and i may well consider doing some Qt mobile dev in the the future.

Jon was very entertaining and his geek t-shirt was bang on, though for me nothing new except for there being 3 CST time zones (2 in the same country!!)

I've not done any web client side stuff bar some basic html, so Remy was over my head after the first couple of slides...

I avoided the food fail by skipping out to the high street along with probably more than half the audience... (and they still ran out??? who are these catering amateurs) It sounds like McDonalds was an upgrade so I guess I dodged that particular bullet. The polish coke was funny tho.

nice to have a quick play with the nokia n900 that one of my colleagues has been harping on about for the last month and the fogbugz book was just a sweet cherry on top!

Thank you Jeff for sparing as much time as you did to chat, I'd have loved to talk a while longer, but there was a queue forming....

oh and I imagined Joel to be taller and Jeff to be shorter IRL...

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The venue was easy to reach and I did not have problems with chairs. Most of the time I was sitting upstairs so the gas problem wasn't that bad. Lack of space during the breaks was annoying. Catering was a joke as mentioned many times already.

I have to say that most presentations were good or ok but I didn't get the point of the Qt presentation. Definitely did not attract me to start Qt development for Nokia devices.

Android presentation was somewhat interesting because of Java but the zooming around the screen, sound problems and slow pace made it boring.

Despite those rants I found it worth of a travel (from Edinburgh) and I'll try to make it again next time.

Photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pepez/sets/72157622685399650/

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Good photos. That Yotel thing seems cool. –  Jonik Oct 29 '09 at 14:31
    
Thanks! The light at the seminar site was rather dim so getting somewhat decent shots was tricky... –  Petteri Hietavirta Nov 1 '09 at 15:17
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  1. for the deeply technical talks python,iphone,android,qt. It would've helped to just focus on a small demo and breaking that demo apart. I'd much rather see hello world than a week long language course crammed into an hour.
  2. soft topics work very well as it challenges the way you think Jon Skeet, Jeff, Joel.
  3. Great presenters can make anything interesting. Compiler design made me close my laptop and listen.
  4. I would have loved to see a panel discussion, there's so many smart people to hear from.

FYI the topics we coverred at altnetbeers afterwards were

  • if you aren't messaging are you tightly coupled?
  • BDD how do you get started
  • monotouch workshop
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Positives

  • Yahoo talk: amazing stuff Yahoo have on offer.
  • Qt talk: lots of personality and illustration of Qt features I didn't know about.
  • FogBugz: yes, it was a sales pitch, but I liked learning about the time modelling features.

Negatives

  • Python talk: poor. The speaker didn't display any special knowledge, no insight into where the language came from or where it's going, no pros/cons relative to other languages.
  • Twitter interludes: kind of missed the nature of the crowd, I think -- around where I was sitting hardly anyone was twittering, maybe brit developers are just a bit less into it than americans?
  • Catering: One food counter for 900 people? Please just buy vouchers for nearby outlets (there was a Pret and a Marks&Spencers)
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Here's my review: http://phil-booth.blogspot.com/

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Finally able to write mine:

  • Memorable
    • Jeff Atwood’s talk about social skill for developers
    • YQL
    • Scripting Languages
    • Jon Skeet
    • WiFi
  • Neutral
    • jQuery
    • iPhone
    • Nokia Qt
    • KeyNote
    • Venue
  • Bad
    • Android
    • Python
    • Joel’s sales talks
    • Lunch/Catering
    • Audio/Video

I also wrote an extensive review on my blog: http://codeclimber.net.nz/archive/2009/11/01/stackoverflow-devdays-in-london.aspx

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The good stuff:

  • Michael Sparks' Python chat was the most 'consumable' code-based presentations I've been to. It was also educational and I can't want to tinker with Python again. And find a reason to add a spellchecker to my application.

  • The introduction video (staring Jeff, Joel, & random FogBuzz staff) was highly entertaining. Although, I don't think Pope Benedict will like it much. Seriously, funny stuff.

  • Joel Spolsky's "simplicity" key note was great, although he was singing to the choir for some/many of us. It was well thought out and presented. And the UK hat was fantastic.

The bad stuff:

  • The venue was not large enough for that many people. The queues for coffee and food could not be serviced in time. There was realistically only enough time for everyone to exit, smile at each other, and reenter the theater in the allotted break time. Worst part? Rubbing shoulders, literally, with lots of skinny people. We were all sitting in strange postures trying not to tough each other. And the bastard behind me who wore the same pair of pants he wore last night out clubbing in W1? Grrrrr....

  • Reto Meir's Android: The small font problem was rectified by zooming in. And, Reto not having done this zooming before, kept moving the cursor. Even he was dizzy halfway though. I was down right nauseous and spent much of that time staring at the floor breathing sslloowwllyy. Got a headache too, from which I never recovered that day.

I took a couple photos too:

Jeff Atwood at DevDays London Joel Spolsky at DevDays London

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I'm glad you liked the talk. Given hindsight, I'd do things differently given feedback. Whilst you can't please all the people all of the time, it's certainly worth aiming for. –  Michael Sparks Nov 3 '09 at 17:31
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In short: worth the time and money spent (I flew from Italy). I'll probably attend next year's conference.

Good:

  • Joel's keynote and Jeff's talk (as expected)
  • jQuery, iPhone: quite brief but useful
  • Jon Skeet: very, very funny and insightful
  • General atmosphere was nice

Bad:

  • FogBugs: in general, I'd like not to pay for listening to a commercial
  • Python: I couldn't care less about Python (it was so booooooooring), but that's me
  • Android and QT: show me the code!
  • Catering; the coffee was terrible (OK, I'm Italian, so that was expected)
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I generally enjoyed the day, despite having to get up at 5:30 to travel from Cambridge (the Cambridge event having been announced well after I booked).

I will add a comment about the use of twitter. This was fine for those with the right phones and laptops, but left out those of us without. Glancing over the shoulder of the people near me the HelloApp generated map of seats was pretty sparse, which I think was a consequence of this. TBH I don't have an account on twitter, facebook or any other social media; the people I socialise with don't use it so I have no need. I feel what would have worked better was a much lower tech solution such as people writing the technologies they were interested in/working with on their sticky name tags. That way you could easily spot similarly interested individuals. Alternatively if twitter etc. are going to be an integral part of the experience, then this should be made clear before the event so that I can properly prepare.

I am a heavy user of Qt but found the Qt talk a little dissapointing. I felt it amounted to saying nokia development used to be rubbish, but now we have Qt it is great. What it didn't say was much about what Qt is good for, which for me is having the equivalent of the standard Java libraries available for C++, and code that simultaneously works on windows, linux, mac and solaris. Plus it is actually OO and sane to understand, unlike MFC.

Given how many people turned to their laptops when the talks were poor - perhaps an objective measure of a how good a talk is would be the inverse of the volume of wifi traffic.

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I think Tony the Pony has come from Ikea. AU$ 6.99 :D He's a Swedish programmer...

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A Swede paying in Aussie dollars? –  random Nov 28 '09 at 11:17
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One point not covered by the other reviewers: Horrible audio.

I was one of the (probably) very few non native English speakers in the audience. And I must say that I had an unusually hard time understanding the lectures due to the very poor audio quality.

Although I do speak and understand English fluently (as opposed to perfectly), I caught only half of the sentences pronounced by some of the speakers (especially Reto Meier (Android) and Phil Nash (iPhone), to a lesser extend Paul Biggar and Michael Sparks). Half the sentences means way less than half the presentation overall :-(

Some other speakers were way easier to understand (Jon Skeet was the best hands down).

Conclusion

Carsonified, please care more about audio. It's way more important to your international audience than a failed lunch!

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