Impressions of DevTeach 2011


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I spent the last week in Montreal, attending (and speaking at) DevTeach 2011.  This was my first time in Montreal (and in Canada in general), and I quite liked the city.  It’s a North American city, to be sure, but does remind me of Europe.  I also got to meet an old friend I haven’t seen for a number of years, so that just added to the fun.

DevTeach was great.  The content was good, and what more I got to meet a bunch of cool and interesting new people.  This is the thing about conferences – what goes on in the hallways is just as engaging as what goes on in the sessions.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank the people who attended my session, on Product Development Using Specifications and BDD – you guys were an excellent audience!  I thoroughly enjoyed giving the talk and hope this will help you in your current and future projects.

Second, I’d like to mention a number of talks that really impressed me.  Jerry Weinberg, in “Secrets of Consulting”, talks about ‘jiggling a system’ to ‘unstick’ it.  While I don’t think I’m ‘stuck’ on anything in particular (well, at least I certainly hope I’m not!), the ‘jiggling’ I received on some topics have really inspired me to dig deeper and explore further.

These talks, in no particular order, are:

  • Michael Stiefel was talking about the role of the architect in the organization.  He eloquently explained why and how an architect’s job is sufficiently different from that of a developer and why a good development group needs both.  His examples centered around different forms of abstractions, and I found the use of paintings and artwork to illustrate these examples to be very well thought-out.
  • William R. Vaughn described the ReportViewer control available with Visual Studio 2010 in quite some detail.  I was aware of this control and had even played with it before, but had no idea of just how powerful it is.  In fact, I never knew that it was capable of rendering reports purely on the client side – this opens up a lot of new possibilities for doing interesting things.  What impressed me the most was his example of an LOB application whose UI was based almost completely on the ReportViewer control.
  • Greg Young talked about Command/Query Responsibility Segregation (CQRS).  I’ve heard/read about CQRS before but never really ‘got it’.  Hearing it from Greg – the guy who actually came up with the term– himself, including the reasoning behind the various concepts, was truly an epiphany and made the pieces fall into place.  I’m definitely looking forward to applying CQRS in a real-life project and seeing how that turns out.  In addition, I got to talk to Greg in person and got a live demonstration of his Mighty Moose testing tool – super cool!  This is definitely one I will be trying out.
  • Edwin Sarmiento talked about Self-Service Analytics with SQL Server 2008 R2.  This talk centered around using PowerPivot with Excel 2010 and just how powerful this tool is (to quote Edwin – “PowerPivot is the Analysis Services engine brought into Excel”).  In addition to his being a great guy (Edwin and I had a long talk after his session), his presentation was entertaining and educating at the same time.  Being an ALM guy and working with TFS 2010 and its data warehouses, I will be applying this new knowledge very soon.
  • I attended two talks by Joel Semeniuk – ‘Dash of Kanban’ and ‘Want Better Estimates?  Stop Estimating!’.  Once more, these talks helped me get a better handle on concepts that I was already familiar with.  In particular, I had never really seen the ‘big picture’ with Kanban before – I believe I have a better grasp of it now.  Joel is a fantastic speaker – he has his audience laughing, participating and asking questions left and right.  His sessions were FUN.  
  • Steve Simon talked about data mining using SQL Server 2008 Analysis Services.  I have an interest in machine learning so I had a vague idea of the capabilities of SQL Server in this area, but had never tried it out.  Steve showed how SSAS data mining can be used in financial applications and did a great job of explaining how it works and how to apply it to other domains.  Here too, I look forward to putting it to use with the TFS 2010 data warehouses.

All in all – a very productive and enlightening week, and well worth the long trip.  Hope to make it back to DevTeach next year!


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