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

DevDays reviews


19 Answers 19


Dev Days Toronto was excellent value for money and time. I enjoyed listening to people who are funny and don't take themselves so seriously, that they can't make fun of themselves. Thanks Joel, SmartBear, and Codero.

Well Done

  • Free copies of "Best Kept Secrets of Peer Code Review" and "Painless Project Management with FogBugz". These will be read and maybe passed on to others.

  • The countdown timer kept everyone on time and the twitter feed kept them entertained. The stage set-up with screen, two lecterns, front monitor and timer was efficient.

  • The Fog Creek videos were hilarious. I didn't know about the training videos. What a great place to work!

  • Joel's openning keynote was funny and thought-provoking. I promise to ask fewer questions on my forms!

  • The Python talk convinced me that it's worth looking at. (I wish there were more hours in the day.)

  • I'd seen the FogBugz features on-line, but Joel's was much more persuasive. He showed the project from both the developer's and the manager's view.

  • The salads and sandwiches at lunch were delicious. Much better than the morning muffins.

  • JQuery is back on my high priority list as something I have to try. The talk reminded me that I have at least two minor projects where it would be useful.

  • Greg Wilson's talk was excellent. The first thing I did when I got home was to give his contact info to a colleague with a volumous bug problem. I liked Greg's Father's quote: "A week of hard work can sometimes save you an hour of thought".

  • Meta-programming (mis-titled as ruby) was interesting, and raised some good points. The most useful for me was the difference between ugly problems and drunk problems.

  • It was impressive when the different speakers reinforced each other's messages, through the use of shared graphics and common code examples.

Areas for Improvement

  • The muffins were disappointing and it took a long time to enter the theatre. While waiting, it would have been fun to have an activity that would have encouraged meeting other people.

  • I was looking forward to ASP.net MVC. Barry and Joey did a good job, but they weren't as good as the ruby on rails video I had seen previously. I was disappointed when we didn't get to hear the accordian.

  • Considering the number of iphones in the audience, something on mobile development would have been appropriate.


My thoughts:

  • Keynote: good start.

  • ASP.NET MVC: This is supposed to be a conference for programmers who are just interested in all aspects of programming, and the presenter was trying to draw divisional lines between technologies. I don't think that was in the spirit of the conference, and maybe that's why the stuff that was supposed to be funny didn't come across as funny. The technical demo was interesting, and just what I needed as an introduction to it. PeeTimes was funny.

  • Python: Very Good. I can see why the language is getting so much interest. Kind of looks like it has a lot of the power of Perl without looking like line noise on an old modem.

  • FogBugz: Kind of a advertisement I had to pay to see, but at the same time it also sponsored the cost of the event, and the cost was certainly reasonable, so ok. It didn't bore me.

  • jQuery: Very Good. One minor point I would make is that it just needed a very quick intro to the DOM for people who might not be web developers (I know there aren't many left).

  • Greg Wilson: Probably the highlight of the conference. I hope he succeeds in his mission to apply statistical evidence to software development. Again, there was a very diverse audience in terms of technologies at the conference, including Java programmers. Java is highly represented in SO. I'm not sure why he considered it necessary to pick on them, especially when he didn't offer us any evidence to back it up. Maybe that was supposed to be irony.

  • Ruby: Not sure I learned anything about Ruby. I kind of get the idea about changing the computer language to suit your purpose and making it more expressive for what you want to accomplish instead of just shoehorning your application into the available tools. Perhaps if it was advertised as being about "meta linguistic programming" instead of Ruby, then it would have setup our expectations a bit better.

  • 1
    Actually, it was my intent to show the things that ASP.NET MVC had in common with other MVC frameworks, especially with Rails, since I've had some experience with it. I'm glad to hear you liked the idea for the program we put together as the demo. I'm going to have to turn it into a full-blown example app. Commented Oct 24, 2009 at 21:46
  • 1
    If you're going to show what you have in common with other frameworks, maybe you shouldn't have been do disparaging towards them. The constant references to "hippies" was kind of off-putting. Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 19:50
  • 1
    My apologies -- I forget that not everyone's seen me present (I've done 20-odd DemoCamps) and therefore not everyone's familair with my prior eight years in the world of open source. I use the term in jest. Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 21:00

I had great expectations for this day. I didn't attend expecting that I would learn how to program in within a 50 minute presentation. I can do that on my own time from the comfort of my home. I came expecting to be inspired. I wanted to see things that I don't normally see in my day-to-day work. I wanted to leave all fired up and ready to make a difference in the world (ok, at least in MY world :) ). Did it deliver? Kind of.

Joel's keynote hit the mark. It's something that all (most) developers should struggle with. How do we make something so incredibly difficult and complex appear effortless and intuitive? Elegant user interface design is something that is lacking far too many applications.

From there things went downhill. Not that the presentations/presenters were bad or didn't know their stuff. I just wasn't inspired. For example, I felt that the JQuery talk could have demonstrated how jQuery can create the worlds most intuitive UI (as an aside, Joel's demo where he added sub tasks completely via the keyboard should be how every interface works. He mentioned that they tried to make it as simple as using notepad).

Greg Wilson saved the day (slides). His talk has been and will be covered by numerous people so I won't add too much except to say that he opened my eyes, challenged and inspired me. Thank you Greg.

Reg Braithwaite also gave a great talk. I heard grumblings that there was little in the way of ruby. Which (in my opinion) was his point. Who cares about the language? Languages will come and languages will go. As developers we need to learn how to solve problems, programming languages are just a means to achieve that. If all you know how to use is a hammer then every problem will look like a nail. I wish I would have known a bit more about Reg before the talk. I've followed some of his projects (from a distance) in the past without realizing that he was involved. He is brilliant.

In the end it was a great day. I'll be back next year and I'll be bringing the rest of my team with.

  • Thanks to Richard Young I have a recording of Greg Wilson's talk (craigagreen.com/downloads/gregwilson.mp3) and Ralph's jQuery talk (craigagreen.com/downloads/ralphwhitbeck.mp3)
    – cagreen
    Commented Oct 27, 2009 at 17:50

I posted my thoughts about Dev Days Toronto at In Review: Stack Overflow DevDays Toronto; anyone know where we'll find the slides and so forth from the day?


The slides for Revised.revised(Ruby.rewrite(Ruby)): http://www.flickr.com/photos/raganwald/sets/72157622647242360/


I would echo the comments on Geoffrey Wiseman's blog, except for a couple of things.

  1. The ASP.NET MVC talk was incredibly boring. People were pulling out their laptops and smart phones to do other stuff far more in this talk than any of the others. The guy brought out an accordion - I think it would have been more entertaining if he'd played it rather than trying to do a live coding demo.
  2. The Python talk made me want to learn Python.
  3. The FogBugz talk made me want to sign up for a start-up account to try it out just to plan my own personal projects.
  4. The JQuery talk made me think that maybe I shouldn't be afraid of learning Javascript if jQuery can make it into an almost decent language.
  5. Greg Wilson was entertaining and interesting, even if he kept slamming my favourite language (not all Java programmers are doing boring EJB/J2EE stuff, you know).
  6. The only thing the Ruby talk convinced me of is that I don't want to try Ruby.
  7. The WiFi, as predicted, melted down - in the morning it was flakey, in the afternoon it was just gone.

I came all the way from Rochester NY and stayed in a hotel nearby because my father, who lives in Oshawa, sold his house and the closing date was the day before yesterday. Yeah, he didn't consider my conference schedule in his moving plans, dammit. I hope to come back next year, but I'll need to find cheaper accommodation.

In Summary

What it comes down to over-all is that when you've got a bunch of different talks on a bunch of different topics to a diverse crowd, you don't go there expecting to like all of them. This isn't like the $1000 conferences where you pick the subject matter and level from a wide palette of choices - there couldn't be an "ASP.NET MVC for Unix dudes" and a "ASP.NET MVC for expert ASP.NET programmers who haven't gotten around to checking out MVC yet" because there was only one talk going on at once. So the fact that I didn't get much out of a couple of talks was expected by me, and doesn't mean I didn't think it was a fantastic day. And it doesn't mean the presenters failed, they just didn't aim their talk precisely at what I needed.

  • 5
    I sympathize with you about the "Ruby" talk. The talk labels were extremely general, and as it happened I was giving a talk about metaprogramming that used Ruby examples because I work with Ruby. If I had attended my own talk with the expectation of learning something about Ruby, I would have been either confused or disappointed. I hoped to convince people to extend their languages towards their problems instead of extending their problems towards their languages. If that didn't resonate with you, the fault is entirely mine :-)
    – raganwald
    Commented Oct 24, 2009 at 17:31
  • 3
    The idea of metaprogramming as you presented it was interesting, but not something I think I want to try. The reliance on Ruby syntax for your slides was confusing to a non-Ruby programmer such as myself - I found myself trying to puzzle out what the slide meant when I should have been listening to you. Commented Oct 24, 2009 at 20:11
  • Was it the live coding that you didn't like? Commented Oct 24, 2009 at 21:47
  • 1
    I found the coding to be too long. I think that a set of focused examples would have more effective. Commented Oct 24, 2009 at 23:09
  • I definitely sympathize with the issue of the slides being in Ruby format. I was actually asked to take my existing Ruby.rewrite(Ruby) presentation from RubyFringe and modify it for a mixed audience. Perhaps retaining the conceit of having every slide be legal Ruby code was not the best choice. Thanks for the feedback.
    – raganwald
    Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 0:27
  • 1
    @Joey, I've never done any Windows programming of any sort, and trying to follow live coding in a language I don't know in an environment I don't know while you're trying to go fast enough to fit it into the time allowed and not bore the ASP.NET programmers who you're trying to woo over to ASP.NET MVC was just too much. I got lost very quickly and lost interest and became more interested in trying to find wifi. I think I would have preferred an overview of the language and environment features in a more conventional presentation format. Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 2:27
  • 1
    Hey, Paul -- thanks for the feedback. I'm taking it all into account, keeping in mind the Gordon Ramsay maxim of listening and learning more from the criticsm than the praise. Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 2:55
  • 5
    I take responsibility for mislabelling raganwald's speech as "Ruby" -- the logistics of organizing about 60 speakers in 10 cities overwhelmed me and I didn't manage to get the talk titles straight for every speaker. Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 18:06
  • 1
    In my opinion, the conferences should be there to make you think. Reading a book on a programming language can be done anywhere, anytime. And I won't pay 99$ to have a book only for one day :) So I like to learn broader things we never take time to learn on a language you may or you may not know. Even if we would take the time, this kind of knowledge and informations are not available in stores. If you agree on what M. Braithwaite said but are disappointed about the Ruby material, well tell yourself you have learned the whys, the hows are up to you with a good book. Commented Nov 4, 2009 at 20:11

The slides for the ASP.NET MVC presentation are here.


Greg Wilson's slides are available at: http://www.slideshare.net/gvwilson/bits-of-evidence-2338367


DevDays was definitely well worth the time and money I invested in it. Kudos to Joel, Carsonified and everyone involved in the logistics for being able to pull off the conference at such a low price point. I am in the crowd of people who self paid for the ticket (though my employer gave me the day off to attend), so the fact the event was only $99 was a big reason behind me being able to attend.

I appologize in advance if I end up repeating the thoughts of others that posted before me

General Comments:

  • The location was perfect. Being in the centre of Toronto made attending very easy for me - just took the subway
  • Kudos on the food provider you picked - the food was excellent
  • Everyone commented on the wireless, but I just tethered my Macbook to the iPhone - was good enough for me :)
  • I liked the display with the time during breaks plus the ubiquitous Twitter feed
  • I loved the video on "The Office" software dev style that was shown at the beginning - you guys should put the video up somewhere (I need to let some friends who couldn't come see it).
  • I missed out on the Painless Project Management book but managed to get a copy of Smartbear's Peer Code Review book. I'm a big fan of peer review so look forward to reading this
  • Next time please please please pick a venue that I can bring my morning coffee into the event. The staff at the door made me throw out a full cup of coffee I had just bought at Starbucks :(
  • Everyone presenting obviously knew their stuff, and the topics were very enlightening

Joel's Opening Talk


  • The technology was very cool, I could see the passion
  • While it was cool that the platform was easy enough that the app could be built before our eyes, I would say you would be better off having a prebuilt app and just showing us the highlights (perhaps making small additions/modifications)
  • I would have liked to see perhaps two apps that do the same thing, one using ASP.NET and one using MVC and showcasing the differences. "Notice this bit of hairy code? Not necessary look how cool it is now in MVC!!"
  • I wasn't offended by the "Hippie" comments, thought it was all in good fun. Also I'm pretty sure you can't argue that RMS isn't a chatty cathy :)

Python Talk

  • The spell checker was a clever bit of programming :) Python is cool, I like Python


  • I'll admit I have never used FogBugz before, so the demo was very interesting and cool to me. I love the calculated percentile chances of schedules being met. Also nice to be able to see who is delaying the project
  • Kiln seems like a very cool product, but not sure how easy that is going to be to sell hosted services for my company's source code to the upper management. Any plans for allowing companies to host their own Kiln servers? I'd definitely like to try it for my own personal stuff though, especially so I can see how it (and mercurial itself) compares to git


  • This was a very VERY cool talk. I guess I shouldn't be suprised but webdev tools have come a long way (Somehow I've managed to do almost no webdev over the past 6+ years or so)
  • This demo was impressive enough that someone else from my company (who IS involved in our web side of stuff) is going to be looking deeper into jQuery to see if we can use it in our software, so kudos to the presenter!
  • Only minor comment: would have been cool to see more of the UI elements of jQuery, and also a demo to show "hey this also works in the worst browser imaginable, IE6, with the same source!"

Greg Wilson's Talk

  • Was excellent, one of the best of the entire event. It is so true that we need more concrete basis on the "truths" we try to follow in our development methodologies in this industry
  • The slide about women's role in the software industry could be definitely be its own talk, and its obvious that this is something Greg is passionate about - has Greg done a talk about this topic and is it online somewhere?

Meta-Linguistic Programming

  • I find this topic VERY interesting, since coindicentally I started reviewing a preview copy of a book about Domain-Specific-Languages.
  • Reg was a great speaker and obviously knew a lot about the topic
  • Minor critique: it would have been nice if Reg could have shown a couple more examples of cases where he made use of features of the language to work around issues like his .andand technique that made his code more expressive
  • I love "Thinking about Thinking about Programming". That quote is something that stuck in my head even now a couple days after the talk

Looking forward to being able to attend next year! I definitely recommend anyone who didn't go this year to check it out next year.


I'm not a web developer and I came with an open mind regarding ASP.NET MVC, but if you compare Joel's (well-rehearsed, in-a-VM) FogBugzz 7 demo with the ASP demo, what a contrast. Doing live demos can be extremely difficult (I have done so myself) but it dragged on for way too long. Maybe with a simpler project there would have been a better chance of bringing interest.

I appreciate the effort, but between Rails and Django (which have their own issues), what does ASP.NET MVC bring to the table that makes it worth building on a Microsoft stack? That's the question I wanted answered.

  • 4
    In the future, I'm going to rely more on explaining the concepts more and then showing already-written code rather than going with live coding. Commented Oct 24, 2009 at 21:48

The jQuery for Developers slides


Excellent ... can you do these a couple of times a year?

The Greg Wilson presentation was worth the price of the conference. His sexism slam at the beginning sobered the audience and was an eye opener.

The FogBugz ad would have been a bad idea if Joel wasn't a great speaker and/or the application wasn't so deeply important to developers. Not a criticism but you need to be careful that the sponsor presentation slot is only occupied by a good speaker with a product important to developers.

The .Net/MVC talk was irksome. The hippie jokes went flat after the first couple. Too much time was spent on the tutorial, only a couple of the steps should have been done live to show how easy the framework was to use, the rest should have been code samples and higher level discussion. The talk should have been good because the framework was interesting and both Barry and Joey are good speakers. For the record, I like .Net and would have liked to have seen the rest of the slide deck ...

The jQuery presenter was a bit of an awkward speaker but the material was great. Work on those presentation skills Ralph! And don't use red on black as a highlight in future ;-)

I liked the meta programming talk but my lack of ruby experience made some things hard to follow, especially at the end of the day.

I liked the venue but the screen was small if you were in the balcony. This certainly didn't help the MVC presentation ...

  • Thanks for the feedback on my metaprogramming talk. I will definitely think very hard about how to share ideas with non-Ruby developers in the future.
    – raganwald
    Commented Oct 28, 2009 at 13:36

I posted photos from the last few talks on my blog.


Hi, I blogged about it! I loved it and I loved the trip to Toronto (from Montreal). Thanks for the warm welcome.

As I said, I blogged about it and I'm currently writing about the last 2 talks of the conference. The first 5 (incl. opening keynote) are available: http://blog.mikecouturier.com/search/label/devdays

Joel is a genius... A visionary, funny, a people person, a programmer, a communicator and an entrepreneur. Seriously, it's hard to find that many qualities in a single person. A must see in a conference.

For 99$, a steal



Prof. Wilson's talk, The Bits of Evidence, got the most applause from the audience. It was a great idea to allocate one slot to an "academic" speaker so that we all could step back from products, languages, and frameworks and look at the big picture. Greg Wilson showed numerous examples of how the software field is not up to the same standards of scientific proof as evidence-based medicine and how things are changing.

The Python talk (by Jordan Baker) was also very engaging. The speaker could have easily spent one hour going over the syntax of various language statements, but instead, fortunately, he chose one problem that is not trivial, but can be solved effectively using the unique powers of Python. I am referring, of course, to the spelling-correction problem ("did you mean...?") and Norvig's algorithm. The speaker then built the algorithm from ground up, line-by-line. That was a great introduction to Python.

I am sure Reginald Braithwaite's talk on metalinguistic programming got some people in the audience to rethink their thinking about thinking about thinking about programming. The entire presentation was written in Ruby syntax, which was very very cool.

"Frameworks talks" (on ASP.NET MVC and jQuery) were not as exciting, but contained a lot of useful information and the speakers definitely knew their topics.

Joel's keynote was quite entertaining: many examples of how to simplify a software product by removing decisions that annoy users, the acknowledgement that complex, feature-rich products make more money, the dilemma between simplicity and the need to make money, and the attempt to solve it by picking "good" features over "bad" ones.

And finally, Joel also talked about Fog Creek and its products during the conference. To me that sounded more like information (StackOverflow Jobs, FogBugz's code review features, etc. etc.) and less like a sales pitch.


I loved it. Mostly I will echo the sentiments above. I'm one of the "my job didn't pay for this, if it had been more than $99 it might not have worked out thank god for this I never get to go to conferences" types. Seriously, loved it - fantastic job. The venue was perfect (who cares about wifi, I have an iPhone), meals were better than expected and just good enough to come home and say "you know, the food was good!" without being overkill. The content was amazing.

On the ASP.NET MVC "live coding example"...

I'm very sure I'm not cool enough to have done a better job, first of all. This disclaimer aside, it would have been nice if:

  • The screen could have accommodated a full line of code without scrolling; bonus points if it could hold an entire function without scrolling
  • The program had worked
  • I had come away with an actual understanding of how to get started with ASP.NET MVC (it was as if the point was not to educate, but prove the point that we can do a site in an hour.)
  • It had not depended on quite so many MS tricks that not everyone is using (however, as a counter point I came away thinking "wow, I really have to try LINQ".)
  • Less cut and paste had been required

All in all, it might have been the concept that was too ambitious for an audience that varied on a screen that small. The intent, subject and speakers were interesting.

  • We were aiming for that stars, and we'll continue to do so, armed with your feedback, Kyle! As for LINQ, keep watching the "Canadian Developer Connection" (blogs.msdn.com/cdndevs) and "Global Nerdy" (globalnerdy.com) blogs -- I'll be posting some LINQ tutorials soon. Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 2:53
  • Instead of ctrl-c, ctrl-v, it would have been a great place for liberal use of pre-written code snippets. Commented Oct 28, 2009 at 22:23

Greg Wilson's talk was definitely the highlight of the event. I really wish that it was recorded because I'd love to show it to some colleagues. He touched on a lot of the issues we run into in my current working environment (and I'm sure many others' as well). I'm simply not going to do the presentation any justice when I attempt to explain it. It's the only talk that during which I was frantically taking notes. Very natural presenter, well done.

The Python talk was interesting, a lot of information and a very intriguing sample program covered in less than hour.

I, too, came from Rochester, NY and would likely come again next year. Not sure if I would stay at the Rogers Centre/Renaissance Toronto Hotel again, but I am definitely going back to the Mill Street Brewery!

  • Maybe next time we could carpool up with Ralph Whitebeck. Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 15:15
  • 1
    Next time try out the Steam Whistle Brewery as well.
    – Cory Dee
    Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 16:15
  • 2
    I recorded the last 45 minutes of Greg's talk on my iPhone. It's kind of quiet but you can make out what he is saying. Better than nothing I guess. bit.ly/2xX4rG
    – Jeffrey Vanneste
    Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 19:45
  • Thanks, this is much better than nothing, indeed. Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 20:35
  • 4
    Full talk available here: craigagreen.com/downloads/gregwilson.mp3
    – cagreen
    Commented Oct 25, 2009 at 21:12
  • @cagreen, @Jeffrey THANK YOU!
    – BrianH
    Commented Oct 26, 2009 at 13:04
  • If you have sufficient time you should also check out the brewery for Creemore Springs in Creemore, Ontario (about 1hour or so drive from Toronto) Its one of my favorite brewery tours in the area of Toronto Commented Oct 26, 2009 at 21:54

Python talk slides have been posted.


I see all of the slides coming up, and the audio for Greg's talk. It would be great if next year these were all filmed and posted after the fact. I'd love to be able to send the keynote and Greg's talks to a few of my co-workers.

It would also help create buzz for next year's events.

  • You want to send your co-workers videos of a talk that's yet to happen?
    – random
    Commented Oct 26, 2009 at 15:55
  • I think he means he wants to pass around this years talks, in order to get people excited about the quality of next years talk (getting more people to come) Commented Oct 26, 2009 at 15:57
  • But aren't they being posted up now to allow for passing the links on for next year's talks?
    – random
    Commented Oct 26, 2009 at 16:07
  • 1
    The slides are, but I find the meat of the presentation is the speaker, and only one of the talk has the audio uploaded - recorded by someone in the audience. If it was recorded on the sound board the quality would be much nicer. Commented Oct 26, 2009 at 17:14
  • Anyway, don't get me wrong, I don't expect someone to go to the expense to host huge audio files of all the talks (which is why I took lots of notes), but it would be nice :) Commented Oct 26, 2009 at 17:21
  • That's exactly it James. Similar to how you can find most presentations from other events (MS DevDays, Joel's talks at Google, etc).
    – Cory Dee
    Commented Oct 26, 2009 at 18:53

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