A quick review of the first ever DDD East Anglia, a community developer conference held in Cambridge on Saturday 29th June 2013. As well as presenting on Patterns for real-world use of Async in C# 5.0, I was also a happy delegate dropping in on some of the other talks and mingling with fellow developers.
A brief history of DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper! (DDD)
The first ever DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper! conference was held in May 2005. The name originated from the famous chant of Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, which he reprised in this infamous clip on YouTube - Steve Ballmer goes over the top.
Although held at the Microsoft UK HQ in Reading, it was not an official Microsoft event. It was always envisaged as a conference organised by the community, and with no Microsoft speakers, partially to avoid any conflict of interest with being held in Microsoft buildings. You can still read the original blogs from Phil Winstanley, Craig Murphy and Ian Cooper announcing details of first ever DDD.
Unlike the historic blog entries from 2005, the website for DDD conferences, DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper!, was overhauled around four years ago, so only lists events from 2010 onwards. From the first event at Reading, the concept of a DDD one day conference has spread across the UK, into Eire and even exported to Australia, but the principals remain the same;
- one day
- non work day
- organised by the community for the community
- sessions voted in by the community
- … and free
What has DDD meant to me?
I started a blog over at geekswithblogs.net/twickers as a direct result of the very first DDD, and I also started speaking regularly at both conferences and user groups. Combined with being a regular at the London .NET user group, the DDD days provided a fantastic opportunity to obtain an overview of a wide variety of topics in a very short time. As a solo consultant who wasn’t part of a big, or even small team, it also provided a great opportunity to socialise with fellow developers and find out what was getting them excited.
I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to give presentations or lunchtime grok talks at several of the original DDD events in Reading, as well as DDD Scotland, DDD SouthWest, DDD Dublin, DDD North and now DDD East Anglia.
Ultimately it also led to my being awarded a Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP) award, initially for virtualisation, before moving to C#. Without the encouragement of the DDD organisers and the platform to speak to fellow developers I doubt this would have happened.
DDD East Anglia - Cambridge
This one day conference was held on Saturday, 29th June, in The Hauser Forum on the Cambridge Science Park, to the west of the city. It was a fantastic venue, with three seminar rooms, a spacious atrium for enjoying lunch and coffee breaks, and a balcony in the sunshine overlooking some ponds and farmer’s fields.
Cambridge was very easy for me to get to from London, and is a rather attractive city, with the only downside being the clash with graduation weekend which meant the hotel rooms were a little more expensive than normal.
The agenda for the day was spread over three rooms, with five one hour session slots as well as lunchtime grok (lightning) talks. All the sessions were submitted in April, voted for in May in time for speakers to write their sessions for the end of June.
My presentation, and only first because this is in chronological order, was given on real world patterns and practices for using the new async/await features in C# 5.0. With about 15 minutes of slides and 45 minutes of real world coding for handling multiple tasks, it is very much a practical take of the new language features. You can download the presentation from geekswithblogs.net/twickers.
The delegates appeared to enjoy the whistle-stop tour, and during the day several came up to me for a chat about the finer detail. This is the great thing about the one day conference format, with lunch and coffee breaks, and speakers mingling around - you can spot the speakers and organizers as we were all wearing green DDD East Anglia t-shirts.
The second session of the day, I went to see Chris O’Dell give her first DDD presentation, which was an explanation of how 7Digital changed their processes to progress towards Continuous Delivery of their software. A reasonable chunk of the session was devoted to a lively Q&A with the delegates, and a great sharing of experiences.
Just before lunch (always a tough slot) I enjoyed Kevin Boyle talking about developing HTML5 apps for desktop software, which concentrated on the Chrome Embedded Framework, or CEF, which now powers such desktop applications as Spotify and DropBox. Combined with a CEFSharp library it was easy to expose C# objects directly into the HTML page being hosted within the desktop application.
It provided a very good 101 on CEF, and if CEF can provide cross platform support so we can build simple desktop apps across Windows and OS/X with a single UI I’d be very happy indeed.
Lunchtime grok talks
At lunch we had talks from Dave Sussman on IT volunteering in schools, Dan Maharry on writing tech books (or rather why you might not want to), and Richard Dutton on developing software at the Infiniti Red Bull Racing F1 team.
In the afternoon I only made one session, Ben Hall, who talked about his role helping investigate the viability of start ups as part of the team at cornershop.io. His past experience of creating his own start ups also helped focus the discussion on the very real issues of identifying markets, pragmatic development of prototypes and fast failure of projects which aren’t viable.
I enjoy the experience sessions almost more than the technical discussions of framework or new technology as the content tends to be less frequent on blogs and web sites, and much hard to discover.
The other aspect of any DDD conference is the social events that accompany the daytime activities. The evening before found us in the Cambridge Blue pub near the hotel enjoying their real ale and cider festival. The post conference beers were at the Maypole pub, followed by a geek dinner in one of the plushest Pizza Express restaurants I’ve ever visited,
Thanks to the DDD East Anglia team
So many thanks to the whole of the DDD East Anglia team; Phil Pursglove, Adrian Banks, Alastair Smith, Ian Johnson and Simon Stevens who ensured a smooth and slick day while still keeping it an intimate and personal event. It’s how it should be done.
Also thanks to the sponsors of the event as without their support the event couldn’t be held as a free conference.
And finally, thanks to all the delegates who gave up a sunny Saturday to head to Cambridge for the day, and who packed the rooms out every session and kept the speakers on their toes with some great questions.
If you want to see what you missed, there’s a comprehensive photo steam over on the DDD East Anglia Flickr account.
Want to go to a DDD yourself?
DDD North 3 is back in Sunderland on Saturday 12th October, and you can find out more at dddnorth.co.uk.
DunDDD will be back towards the end of 2013, and when the final date is announced you can find out all about it at dundee.dddscotland.co.uk.
DDD11, held in Reading, will be back in 2014, with details being provided on developerdeveloperdeveloper.com.
If you fancy speaking at a DDD, the call for topics opens three months before the event, with submissions closing and voting starting two months before the event. Even for experienced speakers, it is useful to practice any new presentations at a local user group before a DDD to help hone the content. Here’s a brief list of some of the .Net user groups in the UK, some of which are involved in the DDD conferences,
- London .Net User group
- NE Bytes (Newcastle)
- Scottish Developers (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen)
- .Net Developer Network (Bristol)
- NxtGenUG (Hereford, Birmingham, Cambridge, Coventry, Manchester, Oxford)
- GL.net (Cheltenham)
- Shropshire Dev Net (Telford)
- Chester Devs (Chester)
- Canary Wharf Dot Net User Group (London)
- Devs In the ‘ditch (Shoreditch, London)