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An Inside View from devLink 2013
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An Inside View from devLink 2013

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Published by Joe Mayberry on 10.11.13

Get an inside view of devLink 2013 including thoughts on the sessions, speakers and key takeaways.

During the last week of August, 2013, I was lucky enough to attend the devLink conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This conference is in it’s seventh year, and continues to grow. The reasons for this are pretty obvious, it is a world class conference for a fraction of the price of most other conferences.

Here are some of my thoughts and takeaways.

Technology/Sessions

From the descriptions and information that I was able to dig up about past conferences, I was expecting a broader range of technologies, but devLink really seemed to be much more .Net focused than I was expecting. I actually thought this was a good thing, as Diagram is primarily a .Net shop.

I was pleased to see that there were often multiple sessions on the same, or similar topics, each for a different skill level, from the beginner up to the advanced user. This gave me the opportunity to be introduced to the basics of a new topic, or dive into more advanced topics as appropriate.

The one thing about the sessions that I didn't like was the fact that there were so many sessions going on, up to 13 at a time, that it was hard to choose just one. However, the sheer volume and variety of sessions meant that you could almost always find something that interested you.

The sessions were a mix of vendor presentations, and attendee presenters, talking about their topics of choice. I found the attendee talks to be the most beneficial, since the people presenting are also the ones in the trenches, and willing to share what they learned. However, the vendors presentations tended to show us more of the great things that are on the way.

Speakers

The speakers were a mix. Some good, some really good, and one or two duds. This is about the range I would expect from a conference of this size. All of the speakers were very knowledgable in their topics, even if they were not as comfortable as presenters.

Of the two keynote speakers, the opening act was Nicholas Zakas, an engineer at Box, and the author of several books for O’Reilly and Wrox. Nicholas’s talk was a walk down memory lane, as he showed us how the web has evolved and talked about the foundation upon which it was built.

The second keynote speaker was Scott Hanselman, one of the Principal Program Managers on the Web Tools team for Windows Azure. Scott is one of the most influential voices in the .Net development community.

Scott’s talk was highly entertaining, and very insightful. One of the biggest things that I got out of Scott’s talk was that we really need to look at JavaScript a lot closer. As he pointed out, JavaScript is powerful enough that developers have written entire operating systems running inside of the JS runtime.

Environment

In my mind, the main purpose of a conference is to expose us to new ideas, and give everyone a chance to meet new people and forge new professional relationships. I was excited to find that this is exactly what happened at devLink.

Everyone I met at devLink was friendly, and enthusiastic to be there. It was a better mix of age groups and male/female ratio than I expected. As I mentioned before, the varied topics meant that there was something for almost everyone.

The venue was very nice, but it was a convention center, focused on catering to large groups. The meeting rooms varied in sizes, and the food was adequate, but not outstanding. The one big issue that they had was in the wireless network for the center. It was very unstable, or unavailable for most of the conference. This made it difficult for some of the presentations, but everyone managed.

We can’t really lay the blame for these difficulties on the conference folks, as they were at the mercy of the convention center infrastructure.

Take-Aways

A few things that really stood out to me:

JavaScript

I need to be learning more about JavaScript. It is much more powerful than I had given it credit for. One of the most impressive demos of the conference was one that Scott Hanselman did. He demonstrated a very detailed, 3-D panoramic village, rendered using JavaScript. (Think Google’s street view, but in 3-D. Very impressive.)

MVC

MVC is cool. I can see now why so many people are working with it. Some of the things I saw being demonstrated were extremely impressive, such as manipulating the http headers for a variety of uses during the page load process.

Knockout.js

Knockout.js is a JavaScript library that simplifies the process of creating dynamic, web-based user interfaces (UI's) . It automates data binding by applying the Model-View-View-Model (MVVM) pattern. It can interact with REST web services to provide a very fast, and elegant user interface, with very little back-end code.

See http://knockoutjs.com for more information, and a very nice online tutorial and experimental environment.

Windows Azure

There are several cloud based environments out there, but Windows Azure looks like one of the best. The ability to be able to spin up new servers with a variety of operating systems and databases, as well as add or remove processing power as needed is a very desirable thing.

Overall, I think devLink was a great experience. I met some wonderful people, from a wide range of fields and experiences. The topics were interesting, well presented, and educational. This is a conference that I would go to again.

 

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