June 2003 - Posts
My brain is full and happy. Now to decompress.
I started the day late at the "Patterns in the IT Community Roundtable Discussion." Folks who went expecting something about community were disappointed, this was a good fireside chat about the pros and cons of Design Patterns.
Major points paraphrased:
- Patterns are a good way for groups to communicate. They provide a common language to discuss complicated topics.
- When consulting for shops in disarray, Patterns are useful to tease out and describe the intent of the system, and from there to refactor or re-implement the underlying patterns more explicitly.
- Patterns provide folks from different backgrounds a common language to communicate.
- Microsoft is busy identifying Enterprise patterns and wants their Design Patterns to be general enough for any platform, while their Implementation and Infrastructure Patterns are naturally more MS-centric.
- In agile methodologies, the zen path of learn, internalize, forget, and apply is the best practise. Patterns are worthy goals, but to remain flexible it is best to understand their principles, head in their direction, but not consider them a grail. As needs change, so may the patterns necessary to meet them. Always remain aware of and build for the goal and not the sake of the pattern.
- PetShop 3.0 applies three patterns: DAAB, Factory, and a UI Processing Pattern with some parallels to Java MVC. The dev team made large gains in productivity through their application (4,000 pgs/sec, 8,000 users/sec on 4 CPUs). The DAAB is a set of data access routines used in Pet Shop and the Starter Kits, get'em!
It wouldn't be a blog if I didn't have my own thoughts to add.
Communication drives evolution. Hardware issues evolved from issues of communication among components (IRQ's anyone?), and the issue boundaries pushed out to the LAN, WAN, and the Internet. Just as communication standards are necessary for hardware evolution, so are they needed for communication to improve among IT personnel -- Devs, DBAs, Webmasters, Network Admins, everyone. Patterns provide common ground and common definitions. So far so good.
At the same time, it's a little like the olden days of High German vs. Low German. "Proper English" vs. the vernacular used by common folk. Language as a status symbol. Lawyers base their whole careers on unravelling intricacies of language. Patterns are useful as common ground only when used by common people.
Right now Patterns are still considered unapproachable by many, and this must change. Microsoft's Patterns and Practises site is useful to theorists and those who climb the learning curve, but by imposing their own 4-column graph and process (which I happen to like), they make Patterns seem more complex and imposing, not less.
I have a few lightbulbs on the brain that could help guide folks through the darkness. As James Avery wrote, the Lazy Programmer blogs are but the tip of the iceberg.
That's one of three I hit today. More to follow.
This is a placeholder, I do plan to write a bit about Tuesday and put up a few pictures fromthe conference but at this point I'd rather jump straight to today. To be updated...
Day one was pretty groovy. The best part about a gathering of wired-folk* is putting faces to the names and running into old friends and acquaintances. Marcie and I are staying with at Chateau Swienton this week -- Stephen is a co-lead of the Fort Worth .NET Users Group, on the board of the ASPInsiders, and a terrific developer. We've known him on the lists for a couple years but only met during the ASPAces summit just over a year ago in Redmond. It was good to finally meet his family and giant dog.
There were a few other faces from that trip to Microsoft last year, including (in order of appearance) Stacey Giard, Stephen Walther, and Nikhil Kothari. It was great to meet Ruth Walther, both she and Stephen are relieved now that the new version of the Community Starter Kit is complete and unleashed. It contains many improvements over the beta including improvements to the db which should make extension and modification easier, and it is certainly worth the extra step of manually porting your content to upgrade.
Nikhil had a good laugh about the stir his Sneak Peek Web Matrix blogs created. For all those who want the "tease" to end, he promises the wait will be over soon. His Building Advanced Server Controls (Part Two) is Wednesday, should be great.
Later in laptop lane I met MSDN "Content Strategists" and fellow bloggers Duncan MacKenzie and Kent Sharkey. Great guys, they laughed at my jokes, what more can you say. Duncan wants bloggers and .Netters to get together tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe, see his blog for details.
In the Exhibit Hall I finally met Amy Sorokas and Bill Evjen. I'm looking forward to longer chats later in the week with both. In the evening the Exhibit Hall came alive with people, food, and drinks. Much fun. Now to get back and do it again!
* The correct term for a group of geeks, originally coined by Peter Dowhaniuk and now used by scientists world-wide is a "gaggle of geeks."
Arrived this morning, looks good. Checked out Don Box's "Don of Web Services" first. Good speaker, good talk. Rather than an educational spout ("here's how you do this"), it seemed a demonstration that things finally work the way they should ("it now does this"). That's a bigger turning point than it looks in print.
Knowing that you can generate downloadable Word docs with plain ol' XML works for me. Infopath is the new WordPad, you won't love it but you'll use it for the quick and the dirty. I'll skip the rest, it was terrific and I'm sure you'll be able to read more elsewhere.
Free swag is good. The backpack is the obvious prize, MS always puts a well-designed piece of "furniture" in the mix and this is it. Inside, aside from the usual stack of brochures (some days you long for ignorable brochure-ware), there's some toy cars and a decent stack of demos: BizTalk Server 2004 Beta, Exchange Server 2003, a pile of good ones I already had including the Patterns and Practises CD and some Visual Studio toys.
Notably absent from the free swag bag: A Yukon Beta. Not only a bummer for me but certainly for Microsoft. There are a load of Yukon seminars this week, I'm sure these DBAs are chomping at the bit, without bits to chomp.
Gotta run, Marcie and Julia are on the way!