A review of DDDScot by a DDDScot Virgin

Published on 08 May 2011

Hot of the heels of DDD9 which I attended in January, this weekend was the turn of DDD Scotland.

Again, I had never attended this event before, and having seen what was on offer at DDD9 I was hopeful of more of the same, and I am happy to say that I was not disappointed. The list of sessions was immense and it actually made it quite difficult to choose which session of the five available that I wanted to attend.

On the day, this was made even worse by the additional of an alternative track which added another session to the mix. I decided to stick with my original selections, however some of the feedback from the alternative track sessions made me wish I had attended some of them (especially the “Agile is Dead”, and “How to Manage Your Manager” talks, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Personally, I think the sixth track worked out quite well, and hopefully this is something that the organisers can keep going with.

Speaking of the organisers, I have to congratulate Andy Gibson (@argibson), Craig Murphy (@camurphy), Colin MacKay (@colinmackay) and Barry Carr (@barrycarr) (as well as all their helpers) for all their hard work! It really paid off, it was a great day, keep up the great work (and if you need any help, feel free to ask).

Session 1 – Creating you Own Software Company: A Survival Guide

Presenter – Kendall Miller (@kendallmiller)

Creating my own software company is certainly not something that I am thinking about, but this session was still very interesting. Kendall was very open about his experiences in setting up Gibraltar Software, and it gave some very interesting insights into the the thought processes behind setting up a business. For instance, pricing is not really something you have control over, but rather the price of your product is driven by the target audience. Kendall is a great speaker, and I would encourage anyone to attend his sessions.

Quote of the Session:

“That’s completely bollocks”

Session 2 – Building seriously scalable websites with ASP.NET with and without Windows

Presenter – Chris Hay (@chrishayuk)

By Chris’s own omission, this was the first time that he had given this talk, and given the amount of information that he was trying to condense into a single hour presentation, it was surprising to find that it ended up feeling a little “hectic” and “rushed”. In addition to this, the shell prompt that he was using on his Mac wasn’t really visible on the projector. However, and this is a big however, the session was still very good, and I have to give Chris a lot of credit for this. I learnt a lot from this session, including the use of haproxy to provide load balancing as well as the idea to split the dynamic and static content of your site onto different servers. The latter is something that I am very keen to try out. Chris mentioned that he is currently working on a book for Manning which delves deeper into the topics covered in this session, and I am looking forward to picking that book up when it comes out (although I still haven’t finished reading Azure in Action).

Session 3 – Unit Testing, Test Driven Development and the Walking Skeleton

Presenter – Seb Rose (@sebrose)

I have been hearing a lot about Unit Testing and TDD lately, both from fellow developers as well as online. TDD is not a philosophy that we have adapted at my work, but I was keen to learn more about it, and see how it could be applied. Seb gave a very enlightening talk, which I have to say that I enjoyed very much. (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 especially like the myths that Seb dispelled during his talk, including “Why should I fix it? It’s not my code!”.

Grok Talks

Time was set aside at lunch time for some short Grok talks. However, due to the heat in the main room, I was only able to stay for a couple before heading outside to grab some air.

Session 4 – Real World SLUT (Silverlight Unit Testing)

Presenter – Daniel May (@danielrmay)

I was really looking forward to this talk as it had some direct relevance to the work that I am currently doing. Although I was able to take a few things from it, I sort of felt that the session morphed into a discussion of separation of concerns between your View and ViewModel, rather than on Unit Testing Silverlight applications. Obviously, this topic needs to be touched on in terms of setting up your application to the point that it can be unit tested, but based on the description of the session, I don’t think this was appropriate. In addition, given some extra time at the end of the session, there was an attempt at an impromptu demo to illustrate another concept. Although it was clear where the demo was going, it was clearly unrehearsed, and I don’t think it helped aid the description of the point.

Session 5 – Introduction to Kanban

Presenter – Chris McDermott (@chrisvmcd)

This was a very good session. Given a recent failed attempt at adopting SCRUM within a project, I was interested to see how a Kanban approach (where the philosophy of small incremental changes to a process is adopted) could work in a real life environment. Chris was able to draw on his experiences very well to put his point across. I specifically liked the retrospective that he did in terms of applying the Kanban approach to an old project that hadn’t used Kanban. It was nice to see where if Kanban had been used, the project could have been a lot better.

Quote of the Session:

“Stop starting and start finishing”

Geek Dinner – China Buffet King

After the fiasco of the Chinese meal for the Pre-Conference Dinner at DDD9 I think there was some concern that there might be a repeat here, but thankfully there wasn’t. Both the service and the food were amazing, to the point that no sooner had we finished a beer, another one would appear in front of us, amazing!!

After the meal it was back to the Ramada Jarvis hotel for a couple more drinks, and lots of interesting geek related chat! Following that a few braver soles decided that they would continue into the small hours of the morning, but I decided that enough was enough, and retired to bed. After seeing some of the tweets this morning, I think I made the right decision.

Overall Thoughts of DDD Scotland

Can’t say enough good things about it! I bring that many people into one place, and provide such a wide array of sessions and topics is just phenomenal. I don’t mind making long trips to places like Reading and Bristol for events like this, but given that this event is so close, there really is no excuse not to attend, and I would highly encourage all developers based in Scotland to come along.

Congratulations again to all the organisers, you did a great job, and you should be very proud!!!

The single criticism that I would have (and this is no fault of the organisers) is that the rooms did start to get very warm, uncomfortably so at times.

Remember, if you attended the conference, remember to check out the TypeMock website for your chance to win some goodies!

I am looking forward to attending DDD SW (Bristol) next month, I just need to figure out how I am getting there and where I will be staying.

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