Looking at the business end of the day first, the events at Thames Valley Park were a bit different than the last time. The team had taken on board feedback from the last session, and also introduced some new ideas. Apparently the event was sold out before even the agenda had been published, and certainly with a dedicated team behind it determined to make it better, I’m sure we’ll see another event soon.
Since there had been comments about the lists of recommended books we had had at the first day, this time we had a Computer Book reseller along. There was also someone showing Windows Mobile devices at a Windows Mobile table, although the other subject area tables didn’t seem to overly work as an idea. One disappointment was the distinct lack of freebies this time out. Whilst I’m not that bothered about getting a Microsoft Bottle Opener, last time we got beta copies of Visual Studio 2005, and certainly with a large group of developers it would seem to be a good opportunity for Microsoft to distribute some more previews of upcoming products.
Having said that, the sessions were all excellent, and a again a real mix of topics and presentation styles.
Perhaps the most frustrating of the sessions, wasn’t to do with the presenter, but more to some of the attendees. It was on the topic of using .Net code in SQL Server 2005, however the session got dragged down into a discussion about pretty detailed stuff about how to install .Net code into SQL Server, largely meaning that we ran out of time. The structure of the day is such that an all the topics the sessions are giving at most a broad overview of a topic, so whilst the time consuming divergance was of use for this group of people who were obviously having difficulty with the topic, for others in the room (one of whom actually shouted out to get on with it after a while) it was decidedly frustrating when they knew there was limited time.
Talking at the Geek Dinner, it seems that one of the sessions I thought was good, really divided opinion, with another person thinking it was one of the worst. Mike Roberts session on .Net Development Trees, had come out of a series of blog postings he had written on the subject. However rather than just bash through a series of slides based on the article, he tried something different, which initially involved us splitting into groups, and the results of the group discussion driving the rest of the session. Of course the key difference between this sesssion and the others is that we ultimately didn’t get a complete overview of the entire subject, however you can get that from the original article, however what you did get was much more of a chance to interact with the other developers, and in some ways realise that whatever companies we actually worked for, in many cases we were getting the same sorts of problems, and hence why a development tree was so important.
After the final session, we finished with a bit of group discussion about what could be done better or differently. One interesting idea was for a sort of bring and share type session, where participants bring their laptops, and would get the latest builds of software to play with. Certainly this seemed like a great idea from my point of view. In our normal working lives, unless it is specifically your job, most people won’t get to play with preview builds. Indeed many will be one or two versions behind the current leading edge. Since for many people I have spoken to, the popular sessions are the previews of new features, this idea seems to move that concept on further, and actually give people a chance to test drive these things. In addition, leading on from the development tree session, I found that much more interesting, in that we made use of the fact that this was a group of developers together in a room, leaving the stuff we could just read off the notes to time we had on our own.
Whilst on the subject of talking to other developers, after the developer day had officially ended, there were drinks at the Revolutions Vodka Bar in Reading, followed by dinner at Zizzi’s.
Dave got his first chance to podcast, thanks to the original podcaster dropping out through illness. Heaven knows how me and Beth will sound on the podcast, although I doubt you’ll be able to hear much of us over the noise. Incidentally, although she didn’t come to the day, Beth came to the dinner. She did seem to enjoy herself, being married to me she can cope with geeky topics, and even found somebody with whom to talk about Shakespeare!
Perhaps the only down point of the dinner was that thanks to people changing around their orders, the food was ultimately very late, with main courses not arriving until 10pm, when many of the people who were relying on trains had to get going. Having said that, everybody seemed to have a good time. I’ve posted my snaps of the evening to onto Flickr, so hopefully there will be a group with other peoples snaps up there soon. Incidentally, if you attended the event, don’t forget to get your feedback in so as to influence DDD3!