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

DevDays reviews

  • 5
    In keeping with the other DevDays reviews, it would be better to put your review in an answer.
    – mmyers
    Commented Nov 2, 2009 at 17:13

18 Answers 18


Copy-paste from my blog:

1) 9:00 - 9:50 Joel Spolsky - Opening Keynote

This was a great talk about simplicity in software. I heard a lot of things I'd already read in 'The Design of Everyday Things' ,'Why Software Sucks' and Joel’s own blog, but it was entertaining nevertheless (I swear I heard the 'dog in a towel' gag before...). Spolsky is an engaging speaker and with his track record I'd listen to him even if he wasn't!

2) 9:50 - 10:50 Jörn Zaefferer - jQuery

Although I was looking forward to this the talk itself was quite a disappointment. The sound was pretty bad and Jörn accent didn't help in that regard. After a promising intro, we got a detailed overview of each and every API in jQuery - not very interesting.

3) 11:10 - 12:10 Eero Bragge - Qt

Again a speaker with a rather thick accent, but the talk was much more entertaining; Qt is really an exiting platform and I might even give it a try someday. At least I installed the Qt Designer on my laptop. What Qt has working for it, is platform independency. The Mono team still refuses to implement WPF, so if you want to be able to deploy on Linux and Mac, Qt really seems a nice alternative, even though it means programming in unmanaged C++.

4) 12:10 - 12:40 Joel Spolsky - Fogbugz

Next came Joel again, with a promo for Fogbugz. Since I don't own a software shop I wasn't really interested, so I used this time (and the excellent Wi-Fi) to download the Qt stuff :P FogBugz still looks nice as far as these things go...

5) 12:40 - 13:30 Lunch

Lunch was okay. I was lucky to grad a sandwich before the line formed, but when I wanted to get another one (after the line had dissolved) all that remained were 'pains au chocolat' and bananas. Ah well...

6) 13:30 - 14:30 Simon Willison - Python

After seeing this guy hack his way at the iPython console I really was inspired to pick up this nice dynamic language. So, in the coming weeks, I'll be looking at IronPython again - or maybe Python together with PyQt... who knows ;)

7) 14:30 - 15:30 Nick Johnson - Google App Engine

This talk was okay. The topic was interesting enough -and the word 'cloud' was never uttered during the presentation- but somehow it didn't manage to persuade me. There was some marketing BS, but mostly it gave an adequate overview of the App Engine.

8) 15:50 - 16:50 Christian Heilmann - Yahoo! Developer Tools

YQL and the Yahoo! devtools are surely worth checking out. Heilmann really did an excellent job, especially if you take into consideration he as recovering from a bad case of the flu. The guy is funny and knows his stuff. If you want to make a mashup you might want to check out if there's a YQL endpoint available!

9) 16:50 - 17:50 Alex Thissen - ASP.NET-MVC

Since I'm quite taken by the APS.NET MVC framework I was curious to see what Alex would be talking about. He gave a broad (and therefore shallow) overview of the framework. This was certainly not the best talk of the day, and I don't think he managed to convince the MS-skeptic crowd that MVC was worth their time, even though his demo was pretty good.

All in all, the DevDays were certainly worth the 80+ euros I paid for it; the venue was nice, although a rather chilly :-) See you next year SO DevDays!


First thoughts.

The good:

  • Joel's opening.
  • The Wi-Fi is working
  • The Python talk was energitic and interesting, even if I never have used it
  • The Yahoo Developer framework talk was top-notch. Got some interesting idea's
  • Afternoon bites were great, lunch not bad

The less good

  • The jQuery talk was interesting because jQuery is interesting, but the presenter was a typical developer, not a typical presenter
  • I zoned out during the Google App engine talk, the talk could use a bit more spice I guess
  • The last talk about ASP.NET MVC is also interesting but kinda slow. Nice to see Visual Studio 2010 in action

I'll start with what I thought was less:

  • The screen was very hard to read. This was a big problem for the Qt, Nokia, Google App Engine, and ASP.NET MVC guys. Their presentations lost a lot of appeal because I couldn't follow what they were doing on the screen.
  • The Google app engine talk was lost on me. I still have no clue about appengine. If you can host the world's 1000th most popular site on 2 servers, what do normal people need appengine for?
  • Getting up at 5:30 am

The good parts:

  • The event started on time
  • Really liked the wallclock
  • The Python and jQuery talks were best imho
  • Got a good idea of what jQuery, Qt, ASP.NET MVC, and YQL are about
  • The Python and jQuery guys had large code samples that you could actually read
  • The Python guy had an amazing demo where he highlighted an SVG map of the world by number of extinct species
  • The ASP.NET guy had an off-day I guess (or maybe he's less engaged after joining an insurance company) but still very good
  • A lot of like-minded people!



The good

  • Enjoyed the Python, Google App Engine and Yahoo! Developer Tools talks
  • The food was good (I'm picky, so this is by no means obvious)
  • The Wi-Fi worked without problems
  • Joels opening keynote was well thought out and an interesting argument for powerful simplicity :-)

The bad

  • It was COLD! (and I'm from norway, I'm used to cold weather)
  • The jQuery-talk was ruined by bad sound (atleast for us in the back)
  • The map-location marked on the carsonified website was totally wrong (we walked for 15 minutes in the wrong direction from our hotel before we started asking for directions, had to get a cab to get to the venue in time)
  • Both the ASP.NET-MVC and the Qt talks were too much "I want you to buy into this stuff, so my company makes more money, so I earn more money, so I get laid" ;-)


I think I would come again next year, but it depends a lot on the program/talkers.


The good:

  • Keynote (can you download that movie somewhere?)
  • Yahoo Developer tools, especially YQL. I didn't know it existed, and it looks powerfull. Also, the speaker, Christian Heilmann, was great.
  • Python talk was kinda fun. I liked it.
  • Lunch was kinda good
  • The wallclock was a nice idea

The bad:

  • Commercial Fogbugz talk. While I think Fogbugz is cool (we use it), and Fogbugz 7 is even better, it was a bit too commercial for me, but ok. We might still buy Fogbugz 7, mind you, but the talk could have been left out.
  • ASP.NET MVC talk. I walked out of that one. Partly because I knew almost everything that was being said the first half hour, but partly because the talk was a bit dull and slow. It could have been better.
  • Google App Engine talk. Overall, kinda slow.
  • The bathrooms could have been a bit better...

The ugly:

  • Qt. I know you can't please everyone with certain talks, but I was so not interested in this topic. That, plus tediously trying to drag the components into the right area and resizing them... this could have been a lot better.
  • The jquery talk. Hate to be rude, but it was basically just walking the audience through the complete API. Combine that with a bad presenter (sorry), bad sound, the presenter also usually not rephrasing the questions that were asked (and thus getting completely lost on me) - no sorry, this one was not for me. It could have been cool, since jquery is kinda cool.

Overall: I had a great time, I picked up on some useful stuff, and I'll probably be there next year, if there is one.

  • 1
    I think under the heading "Ugly" that should be s/python/jquery/, no?
    – Stephan202
    Commented Nov 4, 2009 at 9:30
  • you're right, I corrected it. Thanks!
    – Razzie
    Commented Nov 5, 2009 at 6:39
  • Considering Joel talks a lot on the podcast about his company and the low price of the event, I was actually interested in what this product does. Maybe for pure stackoverflow public is a bit more awkward.
    – Roalt
    Commented Nov 6, 2009 at 22:12

I have posted a review/summary of the Amsterdam conference on my website


Allot is already mentions, but here are my 2 cents.

the good: - Opening talk + movie - YQL - jquery learnt allot, but the speaker was a bit nervous - the food - Phyton talk

The can be better - Location was to small for the amount of people, queue's for food - The twitter feed was not readable during a presentation - the toilets - Drinks at the end (beer!) would have been nice :)

the bad - The Nokia talk, the speaker was a bit boring and QT was boring, i know how to click a application together - MVC, could have gone a bit deeper - Google, he lost me really quick

  • 3
    Yes, toilets where pretty horrible. The flooded urinour comes in mind. 3 inches of...well you get the point
    – WardB
    Commented Nov 5, 2009 at 15:47
  • 1
    Added value of developer conferences, no dirty looks when you go into the ladies restroom if you are really in dire 'NEED' of a clean toilet. Commented Nov 6, 2009 at 14:21

So far other answers seem to reasonably cover which talks were good and which weren't. Some additional comments:

  • Cross-domain stuff makes it easier to justify the expense of the day to a business: the keynote was excellent in this respect. Specific technologies are more likely to be dismissed as irrelevant within a specific business setting. (The "right" tool for the job is often biased overwhelmingly in favour of what people already know.)
  • I personally thought there was a huge quality difference between those who I surmise were invited to give a talk, versus those handed a slot in exchange for sponsorship. I basically didn't think that the Qt and ASP.NET talks were anywhere near as good as the rest. (Maybe it's a sense of privilege versus entitlement at work here. Or maybe specific speakers being invited versus the company being asked to send someone along. Or maybe neither.)
  • The no-PowerPoint idea was excellent, even if one presenter missed the point of it.
  • The most common basic mistake presenters made was not repeating the question during Q&A.

Mixed bag... One point i like to make is that it is clearly pretty hard to make a perfect content-full and entertaining presentation if your not speaking your native language.

The good parts: the low cost, excellent time management, a VERY good keynote by Joel Spolsky, two really good presentations (Yahoo & Python) The bad parts: Joel's other talks who here merely commercials, the QT, the ASP.NET talk. The maybe OK parts: the Jquery and the Google talk

The no powerpoint model was working for some, although i had the feeling that the ASP.NET guy was not used to give a preso like this. Also its not for the faint of heart to try to do live coding while being entertaining... Maybe next time one or two more 'Joel like' preso's to spice things up..?

Wrapping up: I liked it, had a good time and got really good value for money.

  • The no-powerpoint actually means like: don't do a bullet-point slide by bullet-point slide presentation. Maybe this was a little misunderstood
    – Roalt
    Commented Nov 6, 2009 at 22:15

Overall I enjoyed the conference. However, it was a bit biased towards web developers. Four of the six talks (not including Joel's) were about web development exclusively. There was little for those interested in desktop applications and mobile programming.


My feedback on the event in Amsterdam:

1) 9:00 - 9:50 Joel Spolsky - Opening Keynote

Great talk on "choice" and "simplicity". (Can we get the slides?)

2) 9:50 - 10:50 Jörn Zaefferer - jQuery

I didn't like being talked through the man pages. Really boring.

3) 11:10 - 12:10 Eero Bragge - Qt

I was totally not impressed with Qt. It seemed like a lot of code to hook only a few things together and that code hooked together like 'spagetti'.

4) 12:10 - 12:40 Joel Spolsky - Fogbugz

Commercial talk/demo on one of the tools Joel sells. Cool tool though.

5) 12:40 - 13:30 Lunch

Lunch had a scalability issue. There was one table with food and a few people walking around with trays of sandwiches ... who had an empty tray with in 5 meters of their starting point. I would recommend that the people who handled the food had read some books on scaling before actually trying this out.

6) 13:30 - 14:30 Simon Willison - Python

GREAT talk. This guy really 'danced' with python. Gotta try this for myself (and probably trip over my own feet).

7) 14:30 - 15:30 Nick Johnson - Google App Engine

This talk was okay. Got a good enough demo on the ease of using this platform.

8) 15:50 - 16:50 Christian Heilmann - Yahoo! Developer Tools

Great talk. YQL is om my todo list.

9) 16:50 - 17:50 Alex Thissen - ASP.NET-MVC

He gave a good demo of where Microsoft is right now. As far as I can tell they are at the level of Java was in 1999.

Environmental issues

1) The parking for the day was € 30 (no kidding)

2) The music was too loud. I was sitting in the hall during the lunch and could barely talk to the person next to me.

3) The catering was organised in such a way that it did not scale for the number of people present (simple reorganisation would have worked).

4) The catering did the dishes in the same room as the talks. So during the talks directly after a break you could clearly hear people puttint glases in a dishwasher.

Overall I would come again. Just get a different location.


The Good

  • Opening Talk - Joel is a good speaker
  • jQuery - Good topic, interesting stuff.
  • Python - Excellent and very interesting presentation, really showed the strength of the language! Really good speaker, fun to listen too!
  • YUI - Really good presentation, good speaker. Gave good insight of potentially complex problems
  • Lunch - Good sandwiches, croissants and drinks!
  • Stuff to take home - Bags, badges, stickers, books, magazines!

The Less Good

  • Google AppEngine - Seemed to be intermixed trying to tell the complexities of cloud computing and a web-interface with database. It was a bit dry, though parts were interesting.
  • FogBugz - Interesting to see the product and the integration between all the systems. Though I still failed to see why I should switch over to FogBugz.
  • Temperature - the doors were open to the outside, which made it very cold when you were in the back rows.

Better continue coding

  • QT - This was the first example I did with QT, all these smart guys in the room. I would have expected something more deep and interesting. All the fiddling with the layout did not benefit either.
  • ASP/MVC - Though the speaker was enthusiastic, the topic was a bit uninteresting. MVC is nothing new - this does not seem a selling feature of ASP. I still don't know why I should use ASP.


  • Joel's presentations ... even if I don't agree with something he said, it was a pleasure to hear out his point of view. I am ready to forgive a sales pitch, I sort of expected it. Still, FogBugz is great tool so why not promote it.
  • Brilliant Python and Yahoo! presentation.
  • Liked Qt presentation. Although it wasn't perfect fit for the crowd, still it was interesting quick and dirty tutorial.


  • Some presenters, whose native language is not English simply couldn't sell themselves (and subject of their presentation); it's a pity since jQuery could be presented better.
  • A little too much of Microsoft bashing as for my taste. This kind of attitude does not fit professional crowd.
  • Too short :D
  • Slightly more spacious location next time please!

One thing I noticed was that all the hands-on first application demos failed miserably (except for the App Engine talk).

QT and ASP.NET MVC are too broadly spread technologies to try and do a hands-on application demo in an hour. I guess that's why both struggled. Side note: Eero Bragge took 15+ minutes to design a form in a WYSIWIG editor which is kind of insulting the intellect of all the developers in the audience.

Similarly the jQuery talk had quite the extensive run-down of the API which was not at all informative as it's meaningless to both folks who have and haven't used jQuery before: either they don't care (just yet) or are already familiar with the API. A talk on jQuery in the real world solving real problems would have won more hearts.

Simon Willison's (Python) & Christian Heilmann's (YUI) approach of:

"Here's the cool stuff I can do with <X> on a daily basis because I am an <X> ninja"

worked because it had no intention of being a newbie tutorial on <X>. This way everyone can take away something from the presentation wheter you're already knowledgeable on the subject or not:

  • Newbies can decide if being an <X> ninja will benefit them enough to warrant years of study.
  • Novices/Knowledgeable users are bound to pick up something new.
  • If you were already an <X> ninja your probably never cared for the presentation anyway.

Judging the tweets and this thread most people seem to concur the Python and YUI talks were the best.

As for the event organisation itself it was all good except

  • The chairs were not very comfortable but perhaps a developer's rear is spoiled by padded office chairs.
  • Food was great, being able to get to the food was troublesome.
  • Sound, especially in between talks, was way too loud.

I quite enjoyed the event and would definitely visit next year as well. On top of that I love the stackoverflow.com stickers I was able to grab in abundance!


I was quite disappointed by the 'conference'.

I was expecting a tech day similar in depth and breadth to the stackoverflow podcasts I use to listen to. Besides I expected time and room to talk to other developers. What I got instead was:

  • Commercial talks about products (we already use Fogbugz quite heavily, thank you)
  • Beginner talks (we've been using Python and Google AppEngine for quite a while now, thank you)
  • No 'open spaces'-like conference rooms (I've been to college years ago, thank you)
  • No bread, they ran out before we could get any (I like food, thank you)

The website should have been clearer about what visitors could expect. Sorry to say, but I got the feeling I was wasting my time.


I really enjoyed the presentations.

Here is a small review I wrote for colleagues.



+2 for THE sheets from Joels presentation. They are all I can show my girlfriend and kids to tell what I did on Monday.


Most people said enough in this post about the presentations.

What I really liked was the interaction with other developers: I met some guys from Germany (who were horribly late because they didn't know about the famous Dutch traffic jams) who were surprised that milk was served during Lunch.

I also met other people who developed iphone applications and they talked about how their work is different from mine.

That open atmosphere is something that I really appreciated and was something that was also the intention of the DevDays. That and getting those trilogy stickers...

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