StackOverflow DevDays: Boston — In ReviewOctober 8th, 2009 at 11:00
StackOverflow DevDays day in Boston was very fun, well planned, and well executed, with a nice array of speakers from across a wide swath of the development world.
The day started off with a keynote speech by Joel Spolsky. His talk was very amusing, and included a theory that all work boils down to a use case wherein the goal is to get the end-user laid, or is in furtherance of that end goal. He further went on to discuss the two objectives of simplicity and power, and that whereas they may seem diametrically opposed, there is money to be made in reconciling simplicity (Don’t make me decide on things I don’t care about) and power (I want to be able to do this and that and some from column C).
From there, the main scheduled presenters took over. Ned Batchelder1 gave a good presentation on the Python programming language. Although I have been used to programming in Python for quite some time, I very much enjoyed the talk which used a Python spell checker as a demonstration of the features of the language. The talk moved at a good pace that was still interesting to me as someone who already knew the material, but also didn’t seem to leave anybody out in the code.
After Ned was Dan Pilone2. Dan’s presentation focused on the iPhone development experience, and moved methodically through the most pertinent points, from XCode to Instruments and the Interface Builder, to the application submission process (denoted by slide showing a despairing man in a desert crying out as sand slips from his grasp), to the sales and marketing mentality necessary in Apple’s App Store. Humor tossed in at a few key places made this an enjoyable and solid overview, which is what it was. If you were looking for an in-depth look, then the one-hour format would leave you disappointed, but from outside iPhone development looking in, the presentation fit the time and audience well.
Just before lunch, Joel Spolsky3 retook the stage using 30 minutes to demo the latest version of FogBugz, FogBugz 7, the flagship product of his company, FogCreek. FogBugz includes a new feature in this version, which I’ll briefly mention called Kiln. Kiln is a new integrated and hosted source control4 and code review management service going into beta as of the announcement. If it piques your interest, you can check it out on FogCreek’s website.
After a lunch5 Patrick Hynds and Chris Bowen6 presented on ASP.NET MVC. Their talk was good, though there were points where it sounded like cheerleading rather than a technical talk. To be fair, Chris Bowen is a developer evangelist for Microsoft, so it’s not unexpected, and it could have just been the “view from my seat”. The subject matter was good; I walked away convinced that Microsoft had done quite well with their MVC implementation.
The last presenter of the day was Miguel de Icaza8 presented on Mono. I spoke with him briefly at lunch, and even then, he was still vacillating as to the subject matter for his talk. The actual talk was mildly haphazard as a result, but the flow worked well with Miguel’s free personality. He took the audience through Mono Tools for Visual Studio, showing remote debugging from a Windows VS session to a program running on a remote SUSE Linux VM. From there, he went a step further, building an RPM of the ASP.NET MVC sample blog engine. Next, he uploaded that RPM to SUSE Studio and generated a VMWare image in ~10 minutes, fully configured, and was running the blog engine in Mono’s ASP.NET MVC.
Miguel also showcased MonoTouch, building a simple program in MonoDevelop on Mac OSX, and demonstrating it in the iPhone simulator. Including lots of pro-Linux banter and some pokes at Richard Stallman, Miguel kept the audience interested and amused, which is exactly what the last presentation in an 8-hour day needs.
On the whole, the StackOverflow DevDays conference was well done. I enjoyed myself even in those areas outside my expertise, and came away having learned something. Be prepared for a few advertisements for FogCreek during the breaks (well put together and enjoyable, but advertisements no less), but as the co-founder of StackOverflow is also a founder of FogCreek, it’s not un-expected. Was it worth my $99? I believe so. Do I recommend you go? If you have the time, and there’s a location near you, then yes; check out the list of scheduled speakers for your event and see if there are any you’d be interested in.
As I mentioned in my preview, I took many pictures of the event, but have not had a chance to process them yet. I hope to do so tonight and have something to post by this evening.
- Ned’s DevDays blog post, including slides. On Twitter: @NedBat [↩]
- On twitter: @danpilone [↩]
- On Twitter: @Spolsky [↩]
- The only hosted source control option is Mercurial; I didn’t get a chance to ask Joel why only Mercurial, though he assured us there were several reasons. [↩]
- Provided lunches included turkey or beef sandwiches or a veggie wrap along with a half-ounce bag of chips, apple, and cookie [↩]
- On Twitter: @ChrisBowen [↩]
- On Twitter: @jresig [↩]
- On Twitter: @migueldeicaza [↩]