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