A review of #DDDSW by a #DDDSW Virgin

Following on from the very good DDD Scotland, this past weekend, I attended the 3rd DDD South West.  This event was organised by @GuySmithFerrier, @RossDScott, Martyn Fewtrell, Jose Simas and Chris Myhill, and a lot of credit has to be given to all of them for the amazing work that they did!

I debated for a long time as to whether I was actually going to attend this event, but in the end, I am very much glad that I did!

After seeing a Tweet from Guy asking for volunteers to help, I decided that I was going to offer my services.  As a result, I ended up being a room monitor for the day.  This involved ensuring that the speaker had everything that was required, as well as giving out and collecting the speaker feedback forms.  I “think” this went ok, as I didn’t hear any complaints.  I quite enjoyed doing this, and I will be volunteering my services going forward, especially if they continue to offer up the same free t-shirts Smile

Getting there…

As explained in my previous blog post I ended up getting a lift to Bristol from @CAMURPHY who was also giving a lift to @chriscanal (getting picked up in Edinburgh), @colinmackay (getting picked up in Glasgow) and @apwestgarth (getting picked up in Carlisle).  This meant getting up at 0420 in order to be at the pick up point for 0800.  All in all, it was a long day of driving (still not quite sure how Craig was able to do this, I know I couldn’t) to get there, but there was plenty of “geek” chat in the car to make it pass relatively quickly.

Session 1 – Kanban? what is it and how can it help?

Presenter – Nathan Gloyn (@NathanGloyn)

My first session as a room monitor, woot!

I was particularly looking forward to this talk, as I really do believe that Kanban is a useful approach, and I am certainly going to be using it in my next “pet” project, whenever I get the time to get started.  Having attended Chris McDermott “Introduction to Kanban” at DDD Scotland, I was familiar with the basics of Kanban, but I was interested to hear Nathan’s take on it.

I very much enjoyed this session, especially the use of the animated slides which showed how Kanban cards moved across the Board.  This really helped to drive home the approach, and how (based on your needs) the Kanban board can be altered to include different columns and buffers, which can help increase the “flow” across the board.  Would highly recommend this talk to anyone interested in getting started with Kanban.

Session 2 – Computer, earl grey tea, hot

Presenter – John Price (@johnnyjp)

Wow!

John Price has a very unique presentation style, that has to be seen to believed.  I won’t spoil it in case people haven’t seen it, but let’s just say that the introduction included the opening credits to “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and a special visit from Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

This talk was based around the use of Home Automation technologies such as X10, and how these devices can be interacted with using software, including to my surprise, Windows Media Player.  A very interesting example that was provided was the ability to dim the lights in a house when a video being watched through Windows Media Player was started, and brought back to full brightness when paused/stopped.

The only slight criticism of the talk would have to be that, initially, the demonstrations of the hardware involved didn’t work.  Towards the end of the talk, John was able to reboot his machine and show each example working.

Session 3 – Getting Started With ASP.NET MVC

Presenter – Steve Sanderson (@stevensanderson)

I have really only “toyed” with MVC, you can see the fruits of my labour here.  Pretty isn’t it?  The eagled-eyed amongst you will recognise it as the out-of-the-box MVC 3 application that ships with Visual Studio 2010 deployed to my web server Smile.  As a result, I was very much looking forward to seeing how MVC could be used properly, from the person who quite literally wrote the book on MVC (with the new release available here).

The talk started off slowly, and quickly moved onto using the new MVC Scaffolding capabilities of Visual Studio.  Of special interest was the separate installation of an additional scaffolding project (via nuget) which allowed the creation of a repository pattern for data access.  This is definitely going on the list of things to check out.

Overall, a very good talk!

Micro Presentations

At lunch time there were a set of Micro Presentations.  The format of which was 20 slides, each one lasting 20 seconds.  To ensure that this was adhered to, each slide automatically transitioned to the next after 20 seconds!  This made for some very interesting presentations, as each presenter tried to cram as much information as possible into 6 minutes and 40 seconds!

The presenters were @benjaminarroyo (an introduction to NCrunch), @Costall (a talk on Silverlight functionality), @FatherFil (Continuous Integration Build Monitors), @garyshort (Asymptotics and Algorithms), @markrendle (what you as a developer should be doing, i.e. reading books, blogs etc), and @RossDScott (the making of the PocketDDD.com web site). 

What was great about the Micro Presentations was the variety in which they were delivered.  Everyone had a different take on how to best use the 20 seconds for each slide. 

I particularly liked the idea of the “20 Sliders in 20 seconds” by @Costall, a very unique way to showcase the different capabilities of Silverlight, as well as the making of the PocketDDD.com using jQuery Mobile Framework and HTML 5.  I am definitely going to be taking at look at NCrunch having seen it in action, and I am waiting on a copy of Mark’s slides to see what books and blogs were recommended reading as I didn’t have time to write them all down. 

And special note has to go to Gary’s presentation.  Having only had 45 minutes to prepare (he was travelling from NDC to DDDSW) his presentation went off very well, and gave lots of food for thought!

Session 4 – Minimalist Software Development

Presenter – Mark Rendle (@markrendle)

I was particularly intrigued by this talk.  At work, we don’t often have the option to switch frameworks, and pretty much stick with what comes from the core Microsoft Stack.  To see WebMatrix and NancyFX being used in action to create the same fully functioning site was very interesting. 

In addition, to see Simple.Data in action was very useful.  I have heard @stack72 say a lot of good things about it, but I had never seen it used before.  It is definitely going on the list of things that I have to check out. 

Also, harking back to Mark’s earlier Micro Presentation with regard to good developers learning other languages and frameworks, the point was very much driven home in this presentation.

Session 5 – Steps to reduce the friction in ASP.NET MVC

Presenter – Rob Ashton (@RobAshton)

Unfortunately, for reasons that are best left to be discussed elsewhere, this session was cancelled.  Which is a great shame as I was really looking forward to this talk having seen Steve Sanderson’s earlier talk on getting started with ASP.Net MVC.

Instead, I went down to the Sponsors room and had a very interesting chat with @stack72, @chriscanal and @richardadalton

Geek Dinner – Water Sky (Chinese restaurant)

After a quick stop at the hotel to drop off bags and get changed, it was onto the Geek Dinner.  Thanks to @welshboy2008 for the lift to the restaurant, even though we did at one point end up going the wrong way round a roundabout Smile.

The food at the Geek Dinner was really good.  There was a strange request from the staff that drinks were ordered/paid for separately, which caused an initial bit of confusion, but after the first couple of rounds, I don’t think anyone cared.  After the food and drink it was back to the hotel for a quick drink and some more banter, and then an early night ready for the long trip back to Scotland.

Overall thoughts of DDD South West

Simply put, it was very good, and I would recommend anyone to attend it next year.  Guy and his team did an amazing job putting it altogether, congratulations!

Looking ahead…

It was announced during the opening session of DDD South West that there is a brand new DDD event happening on the 8th October, in Sunderland.  For more information on this event make sure that you follow @DDDNorth on Twitter.

  • FRJ

    OK Gary, please can I commission a home automation project and I will pay 5 t-shirts!

  • http://www.gep13.co.uk gep13

    @FRJ

    Ha ha, I would love to :)

    Are you ever going to make it back into the office? We should sit down and have a chat about what you can do. There are some really clever things out there, and what I discovered from the talk, it isn’t as expensive as I thought it would be.

  • http://www.rodi.nu Rodi

    “Although, he has pointed me at another couple books which I think I have to add to my growing collection, I have no idea when I am going to get round to reading them all”

    I am so with you on this one. When is this list going to end?? And when am I able to start on it… :)

  • http://www.gep13.co.uk gep13

    @Rodi

    I actually just bought another couple books this week! Damn Manning Books and their “Deal for Today” :)

    I think I need to take a holiday and just read some books for a while! I just picked up this: http://gep13.me/lma1FX and looks like it is going to be a cracking read!

    Gary

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