DevDays Conference De-Briefing

I attended the DevDays conference in Toronto on October 23. I’m only writing about it now. I know.

I drove down with two others Ottawa CocoaHeads and we stayed at the passable Downtowner Hostel, in the gay district. The night we got there, we decided not to stop in for a drink at the bar called Zippers. When we got back, there was a cockroach on Phil’s backpack. But it was cheap!

The Conference

This was a low-cost one-day affair with a list of speakers covering a wide array of technologies. Unfortunately for me, a lot of it was web-focused: Python, ASP.NET MVC, Ruby, jQuery for example. Most of it was interesting though, and did encourage me to finally pick up that Python book, and throw some jQuery around the next time I need to build a cool web site – which will be as soon as I’m done writing my first software project.

A highlight of the day was the one and only Joel Spolsky. He was a great presenter with an important message about software developers thrusting too many decisions on end users and then patting themselves on the back for giving their users so many options. He backed it up with some interesting anecdotes and facts. He also came back and talked a bit about FogBugz, his company’s solid project management software. I last used FogBugz in 2006 when I think it was still mostly about bug tracking.

The other highlight for me Greg Wilson, a prof from the U of  T. He preached that developers need to use evidence based practices in their work. So, that means, not doing something because that’s how it’s always been done. Do it because you can point to scientific evidence (yes, studies) that prove it is the best way to do something. I can’t do him justice, so here’s the link to his slides: http://www.slideshare.net/gvwilson/bits-of-evidence-2338367 Like Spolsky, Wilson had a great presence on stage and his talk was engaging.

Conclusion

I wasn’t really excited about what I got out of the conference. It’s hard to know what you’ve learned when it’s not technical, and much of the talks weren’t very technical, and those that were, were mostly over my head. But it’s interesting that what I did enjoy most were the least technical talks. Those are what I walked away from feeling like I’d learned something. I know this all sounds contradictory. Such is life.

Will I go back next year? I think so. I’ll have been doing this for a year (hopefully) and should be in a very different place technically – and hopefully financially? And I may get more out of it with a different perspective. I have signed up for FogBugz on Demand, and I’m looking forward to getting started with that soon.