Saturday, 30 April 2011

Dev Days 2011 in Den Haag

OK, those of you not of a geeky disposition look away now - this is going to get a little technical, geeky and very possibly nerdy as well :)  (But with a hint of alcohol, public gender confusion - not from me!, and royal celebration thrown in - but not Will and Kate!)

OK disclaimer aside, here goes!

This year, for the first time, I visited the Microsoft Dev Days conference, it's held once a year and various speakers who work with (but not for!) Microsoft try and impart some knowledge and excitement about the tools that we developers use on a daily basis to make the world a better place.  Or a worse place if you are like my parents and hate using a computer :)

It started with a little gender confusion, which was wonderfully ironic!  We had 6 people that wanted to go this year, three that wanted to go to day one and three to day two.  So we brought three tickets and swapped at the end of day one.  On of the people who went on day one was female colleague - she has an exotic name that only one of the three of us on day two could pull off.  It was not, to western ears, overtly female - but it was also not western at all.  So our Indian colleague took her name badge.  This is so ironic as this is also the same guy who refuses to touch pink balloons in case people think the wrong thing of him.  We didn't continually make references to it all day, honestly :)

Once we were in the first session that we went to was for HTML 5.  The guy doing the presentation was very good.  He knew his stuff, and could bring his enthusiasm over to the audience very well.  He was talking about the simple things (making dynamic pages using HTM files instead of APSX pages - and limiting the amount of data that has to be transferred across the internet to make the users page work.

Then he went onto formatting and mark-up changes - and new features that are available in HTML 5 that will make building a site simpler (web design is still going to be difficult, but at least the building will be easier...) and moving from the desktop to mobile should also be a simpler challenge.

This seminar got me very fired up!  For the first time in a while I was really exited about a new technology - have a list of O'Reilly books to buy and will be spending some time on getting my personal web site HTML 5's over the coming months.  Now I just need to think of something to actually make of it - I find technological exercises don't keep my attention too well, I need a problem to solve...

At the end of the presentation all three of us were thinking of ways that this technology could improve our companies site, both from a business and a developers point of view.  I just hope that we can bring the enthusiasm over in our presentation to the other developers...

Next was  a presentation on ASP.NET MVC.  This is not a technology that we use, we are still using web forms.  It was an interesting presentation, but my base knowledge of the technology was not enough to get a lot of what the presenter was saying.  I see some real advantages for the company site, and may have to use it for the back end of my personal site just for the practice, but for work it would require a ground up rewrite of what we have at present and I just don't see that happening in the next 5 years.

The afternoon was spent in project management type seminars - TFS reporting (and how to get the best from it), and how to manage agile projects using TFS 2010.  As my next 4 weeks at work are going to spent installing our new server it was nice to see some best practice pointers before I started.

Lastly there was a presentation on SMART use cases.  This one I struggled with, the guy was just back from vacation (literally - yesterday morning he was writing it in Lisbon airport) an it showed.  He also rushed his talk - in a language other than advertised.  I was impressed that my Dutch allowed me to follow most of it, but I got completely lost in places.

The afternoon did make me wonder whether our company is on the right path.  The management keep saying 'SCRUM, SCRUM, SCRUM' for project management.  But I really believe that they have no idea what it involves, and how the project structure needs to be set up for it.  I am going to put my concerns down on Monday and try to speak to the relevant people about it.  I think that everyone just wants to take their favourite bits that seem to be really efficient and forget about the bits that mean they have to put some effort into making it efficient.  That also goes for the developers (I have to be fair here, the developers have been screaming about SCRUM for a while, but when you try and get them to make sprint tasks of a realistic size - that is less than 8 hours - they complain like hell about too much administration work and why can't they just work on one 420 hour sprint task).  We'll see how it turns out...

At the end of the day there were drinks.  We had a few drinks, chatted about what we had seen during the day and what we were going to take away from it.  One of my colleagues decided that free wine was too tempting and had a little too much.  Which then lead to some fun conversations whilst walking back to the train station.  He normally comes out with some...  interesting points anyway.  Once you put some alcohol inside him they get even better.  A good end to the day :)

And finally, the royal celebration.  Today is Queens Day in the Netherlands.  The queens official birthday when there is much celebration in the streets and parties in the city centres.  When it happens during a week day we have a bank holiday.  This year it's on a Saturday so we lose it (the day still happens but no holiday...).  The evening before is called Queens Night - and in Den Haag it is a massive party.  This would be good if I had not spent all day in seminars only to leave and find that there were no trams to get back to the central station.  The walk was nice but it made it a very long day - leaving the house at 6:30 in the morning and getting back 14 hours later!  I would say this weekend would be a time to recover, but my sister in law and her family are coming for a BBQ so instead it's going to be cleaning and preparing for that!

Have a good weekend all!

Oh, I did get a great geeky T-Shirt from one of the vendors (Not my T-Shirt, or photo, but close enough!):
Eat. Sleep. Code.


  1. The conference sounds interesting. I used to attend lots of conferences and trade shows, but haven't done so for several years.

  2. The HTML 5 stuff sounds interesting. As for project management, I don't think it matters which one you go for, so long as people read and act on the issues raised! :-D

  3. Angel: Most of the talks very very good, and quite useful. I know that when I went to the reporting seminar my colleagues went to a LINQ one... And fell asleep (as did other members of the audience ;p) I am guessing that was not a good one to go to...

    Lynn: I'm looking forward to the HTML - especially the fact that it makes switching from desktop to mobile so much simpler. I just need to find someone who wants to learn CSS to do the design for me.

    I agree with the PM stuff. Half the time the problem is that there is just not enough insight to see where a project is, and what the issues are...


  4. I too am interested in where HTML5 is going. Not confident enough in browser support yet though to put it on my charges.

    Cool T-shirt!

  5. The support is not there yet, well it is in IE9, FF4, Safari 5 and Chrome - but it'll no doubt take a while before people have upgraded (we still have to support IE6 at work as it's used too much).

    So if you are going to do it you have to make sure that the code is backwards compatible - but there are enough open source jQuery libraries that take care of that for you.


    I'll let you know if that work when I start to test :)


    I love the t-shirt :)