StackOverflow DevDays, Seattle

logoWhile following Ralph Whitbeck on Twitter, I learned of a StackOverflow-sponsored dev conference series. Ralph was scheduled to present the jQuery talk at the Toronto DevDay, but by the time I learned of it, tickets were sold out. Using some of my connections, I was able to fly out to Seattle for their DevDay on October 21, 2009 at the Benaroya Hall.

A mere $99 got me a full day of information on / introduction to a few of the exciting new and upcoming technologies, a free lunch, and some StackOverflow swag. The conference was opened by an entertaining video leading to the introduction of the first speaker, Joel Spolsky, CEO of Fog Creek Software and co-founder of StackOverflow. After a general welcome speech, the conference began with a talk from Scott Hanselman on ASP.NET MVC. Althought Scott was enjoyable to listen to, I didn’t feel like I got enough information about .NET MVC, which may have been his way of making us buy his book on the same topic. Regardless, .NET MVC sounds like a technology I’d love to learn.

After a quick break, Rory Blyth talked about his experience with iPhone development and some new tips and tricks for those wanting to start programming, such as a development tool that allows for C#-based iPhone app construction. Being in the land of Microsoft, this awed many attendees. Joel spoke again after Rory, pitching his companies latest products, including FogBugz, Kiln, and StackOverflow, and introduced their newest project, StackExchange. Since the conference, I have created my own StackExchange, Seasoned Medic, which has yet to take off, but the knowledge exchange idea is still fairly useful in theory.

Cody Lindley gave a talk on the status of jQuery with a few examples. This is another technology that has been gaining incredible popularity in the dev community in the last few years. With my previous co-workers having such close connections with the jQuery team, I feel like I’m doing myself an injustice by not jumping on board sooner. I hope to find a project to explore this technology with soon. This talk was followed by a speech on Nokia’s recently acquired Qt software platform, which is intended to provide developers with a platform to code for multiple other platforms. For example, programming in Qt means you can produce the same product usable in .NET, Symbian platforms, etc. They hope to have Objective C support soon. Trying to code for 8 difference phone operating systems takes a ton of work to make one product look and feel the same for multiple platforms.I see a lot of potential for that, as developers will try to program for the broadest range possible.

During lunch, one of the conference’s sponsor, Microsoft, upgraded every attendee’s laptop memory to it’s maximum for free. Unfortunately, my Macbook is already maxed out, but I thought that the gesture was amazing on MS’s part.

Python was the next talk, which was fairly interesting. I have little experience with server-side scripting other than PHP and I would love to learn more. Dan Sanderson followed up with a review of changes with Google’s App Engine. Steve Seitz, a professor at the University of Washington, closed the DevDay with a few demonstrations of the work his classes had been doing with photography and information processing. Basically, his work revolves around the mapping and creation of algorithms pertaining to certain places. Using amateur photos taken from Flickr, he was able to give an almost 3-D rendering of the Vatican, Venice, and other popular traveling destinations.

Overall, the experience was fantastic. I learned so much about several hot topics and I can appreciate the introduction to some newer, lesser-known technologies that may be influencing the field in the coming months or years. The conference reminded me that there was so much more to learn and that I needed to find more time to play with code.

Sidebar: the iPhone application, OneBusAway, was incredibly helpful in navigating Seattle via the bus. I highly recommend it, though it’s too bad it really only works for Seattle.