Daily Archives: January 10, 2008

CodeMash day 1 wrap-up

As i put close to day 1 of CodeMash, I’m certainly glad I made the trip.  I’ve met lots of very smart guys (and girls) and, I may have said this before, but its great to see such a vibrant community of vendor agnostic, language neutral people getting together – ok the ruby guys do seem to somewhat dominate conversations, but everyone here seems to have legitimate, genuine interest in promoting the community, for the sake of technology and beaking down barriers.  It’s now cool again to be a .net developer (not that I ever thought it wasnt) as people from all backgrounds are mixing and “mashing” their favorite flavor, based on their assessment of what the right technology to use is, which to me is huge.  We’ve long known every application/requirement is different, yet many shops (admittingly ours to some degree) default to an existing language, partially due to comfort, partially due to standards, but also partially due to lack of knowledge about alternatives.  This conference aims to change that, atleast the last one.  Here, everyone is treated equally and encouraged to experiment with something new, seek best practices (e.g. AGILE), and get informed!  Its a very non-threatening environment with something for everyone.

In the past, at other conferences, you were an outcast if you were a microsoft (or java) guy trying to talk about edge technologies, or more specifically, dynamic languages.  The open-source advocates on “the coasts” tend to shy away from .net/java, my guess is primarily because the reps attending the conferences (which, respectfully very smart cats) aren’t working on large enterprise class applications, such as financial banking systems, SAP, PeopleSoft or manufactoring supply chain – which are the challenges facing most of us MidWesterners.  That said, the “coasts” also tend to have access to more innovate businesses models, whether its the latestest web 2.0 application featured on TechCrunch, digg or just the latest widget from Google, Yahoo or AOL.  Yet, that doesnt mean there isnt a time and place for .net/java – or more specifically, their respective platforms.

Either way, these “un-conference” style events is clearly gaining momentum. I did find it almost shocking at dinner, where I had the liberty of sitting with several of the conference organizers (Dianne Marsh, Bruce Eckel, Bill Wagner & Dick Wall to name a few) that they were not familiar with some of the other “un-conferences” i have attended the past couple years.  They are nearly identical, however with all due respect to the others, I believe CodeMash does raise the bar, the conference has a very polished feel, yet NOT AT ALL stuffy, dull or unproductive.  It’s very much designed by devs for devs, with minimal if any corporate koolaid.  I would like to see more energy around Open Spaces, while available, i dont know that the midwest is familiar with this format yet, as to-date most conference attendees are used to paying big ticket prices and having formal tracks or session paths – Open Spaces builds on the community appeal, turning the focus to attendess (with content actually provided by attendees).  Am sure it will continue to get more popular as people become familiar with it, and everyone realizes they have the opportunity to customize the event into something that is potentially more meaningful for them.  That said, i personally do enjoy some sense of structure and pre-canned sessions, particularly from the industry vets here. 

Lots of great stuff in day 1, my only regret is that I wasnt able to attend all the sessions i wanted, as some overlap existed and I tend to want to learn more than one should in a given day.  Time to recharge the batteries for day two, physically and mentally.

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IIS 7.0 keynote @ CodeMash

Having minimal exposure to IIS (only thru local development using Vista) I was anxious to dive under the covers.  Scott Hanselman was the presenter, and I must adit, he had me (and most the audience) laughing out loud thru the first 10 minutes of his speech – nothing to do with IIS whatsoever, but a very microsoft-esq, self-serving, comical lead-in.

Once we got into the presentation, interestingly he choose to showcase .php ontop of IIS.  He opened a pre-canned php picture application and continued to tweak application settings thru IIS/.net without having to modify a line of php code!  pretty cool stuff, including forms-based authentication and lots of http modules, which I found very cool.

Scott closed with some technical difficulties in his demo, highlighting somewhat complex caching, but he handled it well.  His intent seemed geared toward non-microsoft folks considering IIS as a legitimate option (at least on par, if not ahead of apache).  The demo and IIS did look impressive.  I’m now compelled to dive deeper with http modules.

Introducing Facebook Applications

At 9:30 I attended Matt Pizzimenti’s session on Facebook.  It was a indroduction, so much of the content I was semi-familiar with from previous discovery, but it was cool to see some new things, specifically implemented in ruby.  Matt started off with the registration process and went on to explain briefly key aspects of the API using REST.  The API then serves up XML (or optionally JSON).  Next up was authentication and more common method calls.  He went on to explain FBML, FBJS (still emerging), FQL, common libraries and “officially supported” languages, php/java (of course, as FB uses this internally), but un-officially ruby & python.  .net was not referenced, nor did i see it referenced much in my previous reviews, however i did find a few libraries (not officially supported by FB) floating around around on the web, one of which I’ve done some experimenting with (yet I can’t recall the name at time of writing) – damn reception cocktails 🙂

Overall I found the session very good, a follow up primer, but I enjoy seeing things presented a few different ways before I begin my own experimenting..hmm, do I smell an experimental project for Billhighway using ruby??  we’ll have to wait and see.

CodeMash 2008 – KeyNote

Neal Ford presented the keynote for CodeMash, called Software “Engineering” & Polyglot Programming.  Interesting title and speech.  Firstly, for the business folks, polyglot is someone who is able to speak, write, or read several languages.  That out of the way, Neal went on to compare the roles of traditional “engineers” with “software engineers” – which on the surface level happens alot.  He outlined some pretty distinct differences, and even joked about how software developers explain their jobs to family members around the holidays (something I have struggled with for years) – commonly referred to as the “computer guy” when rarely does one actually understand (nor typically care) about what a software developers job really consists of.

After a few bridge slides (supporting his engineer comparison/argument) he went on to talk about “platforms” referencing the java platform will outlive the language, and how language complexity actually makes a developers’ job harder.  He argued  many developers are already polyglot (using tSql, html, java/.net, ado, css, etc.) – why not add the latest dynamic language to the stack?  interesting argument.  He advocates picking the most powerful language you can tolerate (and get paid for), or otherwise put, use the most suitable design tool for the requirements – not because its java/.net – but because it can produce results, quickly. 

He wrapped up with a comment to strive for 100% TDD, start with a platform, unit testing/automated builds and bolt on the most appropriate flavor – so long as it can be tested.  overall good talk, and neat pics of bridges 🙂