Plip's Weblog

Phil Winstanley - British .NET chap based in Lancashire. Enjoys tea and tech. Working for Microsoft.

October 2010 - Posts

DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper Dublin - October 9th 2010

The magic of the Emerald Isle was made a little more magical on Saturday 9th October 2010 with the wonder of a very special event, the third DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper that we've held on the island. Previously they've been held in Galway on the west coast and Belfast in Northern Ireland. This one was a little different in that the whole team at Microsoft in Ireland has changed so we were working with entirely new people, this led to some great new dynamics and different ideas which resulted in a totally unique DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper event.

Getting a venue is always the first task whenever we run an event, this time was no different. Enda Flynn and Craig O'Connor managed to source the slickest venue DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper has been held in, the National Digital Research Centre, this converted warehouse is opposite the Guinness factory slap bang in the National Digital Enterprise Area in Dublin. Brilliant location, amazing building and gorgeous rooms for us to use. I know now why the Irish Economy is up the swanny, they've spent all the money on making this venue fantastic! Irish tax payers, we salute you!    

We opened the site to speaker submissions back in late August and pretty rapidly got a good selection of sessions submitted both from known speakers in the UK (The usual culprits - you know who you are!) through to a really exciting bunch of local speakers many of whom had not spoken at a DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper event before. One of the main goals of DDD is that we encourage new speakers and foster communities wherever they're found and the fact that we had a bunch of new Irish speakers submit sessions really pleased us.

As is the tradition of DDD we opened up the sessions to a community vote to help us determine which sessions the community wanted to see, I'll be the first to admit we had a very low take-up on the opportunity to vote but the trend of sessions that the community wanted to see came out of that voting very clearly and we took the votes and constructed the schedule accordingly. It was great that we were able to give almost all of the Irish speakers that submitted a session the opportunity to speak at the event.

With the venue sorted and the sessions selected, a couple of cups of tea later and we had the schedule drawn up it was time to open the registration. Wow, that was slow, we're used to selling out DDD events in minutes but the Irish seems to be so laid back they're horizontal. Perhaps they were finishing their pints of Guinness, maybe they were just waiting until the last moment to give me a heart attack - either way we eventually got well over a hundred people registered and that staved off our heart stopping moments...

Okay, we have a venue, delegates and sessions, all we needed now was speakers, turns out that hardly any of them were actually in Dublin so thus started the logistical nightmare of getting them all into one place ready for the conference, thankfully Craig Murphy stepped in here and coordinated the flights, hotels and ferry crossings with our wonderful sponsors enabling us to get the speakers there for the event.

There was one last thing to get there. Us. Craig and I decided to take ferries across from our island to the other one, Craig from Scotland into Northern Ireland and myself with Dave Sussman from Wales straight into Dublin. We had a lovely drive down through North Wales on the Friday afternoon to board the ferry, the Welsh cost is very pretty. As we travelled we were treated to a display by Red Arrows jets which was absolutely brilliant, I assume they were out in honour of DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper. That arial display was not the only thing we had though, we were escorted across the Irish Sea by a Royal Air Force Seaking helicopter which shadowed the ferry for a good half hour performing flyby's and rescue manoeuvres with the ferry, again, I can only imagine they were there in respect of DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper.


Eventually we arrived at the hotel after a lovely tour around Dublin's labyrinth of a one way system (cheers Dublin traffic department, I hope you all die a slow painful death), checked in, switched rooms as they'd ballsed up and then met a bunch of the speakers in the bar of the hotel before heading down to get a tour of the venue. I cannot lie, I was absolutely blown away, the venue is stunning. Have a look at some of the photos that have been uploaded: 

So venue toured, speakers accounted for, time for some grub. You're in Dublin, you want to sample the local delicacies, you let Craig Murphy choose where we're eating, you end up in a Moroccan restaurant. Well done there Craig. As it happens the food was stunning and I had a lovely meal with Colin Gemmell, Dave Sussman, Jackie Pollock, Daniel May, Ben Hall, Liam Westley, Colin Mackay, Craig Murphy, Andy Gibson, and Mark Rendle. The wine, oh the wine. I was a happy Phil.

The morning after the night before ... We crawled out of bed and headed down to the breakfast room in the hotel ... The place was pretty much deserted, more importantly my partner in crime (and this fallguy) Craig Murphy was no where to be seen. Just as I was starting to panic my fears were allayed, I've never been so happy to see a bald Scotsman with a clipboard as I was that Saturday morning. Off to the venue!

We rocked up and started to get the swag and other bits and pieces sorted out, we had speakers to brief (basically "do it right or we'll kill you") then we needed to get the Microsoft Student Partners sorted who very graciously helped us with the event by manning the registration desk - massive thanks to those guys - you rock. People started to turn up slowly in drips and drabs but as expected the turn out was much lower than we'd hoped for. At previous events in Ireland we've always faced a much higher drop out than we experience in the UK but this event is probably the worst we've ever had with just under a 50% no show of delegates, as it was, we had enough numbers that the event felt good and had the right atmosphere.  When we hit the start time Craig and I headed to our respective rooms and gave the opening slides before handing over to the first speakers of the day.

I didn't go to any of the sessions and I've not had a chance to read the feedback forms yet, however, from everything I was told on the day the sessions (bar one exception) were all brilliant and spot on the mark. Here's a list of those brilliant sessions and speakers: -

Thanks to some money Microsoft managed to find down the back of an Irish sofa we were able to get the whole event recorded professionally, as soon as these are processed and ready we'll share out the links. Can't wait to see some of the sessions, as is always the case when running these events I miss out on the sessions because I'm busy wheeling boxes of t-shirts sound or helping net a speaker that's managed to get up into the rafters (you have to keep a close eye on them).

Catering is the thing that gives us the most problems at any event we run, all I can say is we had no problems this time, the catering was magnificent, throughout the day tea and coffee was available and the lunch was absolutely brilliant! Soups, fresh sandwiches (proper ones, with actual filling), fruit, cookies, mmmm all we missed was chocolate but hey, I can't have everything.

Note to self: Get everything.

As well as Microsoft sponsoring the venue we also had some brilliant sponsorship in terms of swag from people like Telerik and DevExpress who provided t-shirts, pens, little ninjas, the lot! Thanks so much guys!

After the event it was time to wind down, Burgers & Beers was the order of the day and we all had a cracking meal in GBK in Temple Bar followed by more beer and for me at least clubbing until the wee hours of the morning. I think I stumbled home about 5am. 

The next day (or same day) Dave Sussman and I went in search of breakfast and managed to find a FEAST of a Full Irish Breakfast for only €10 ! I was a happy Phil at this point of the day and with that we headed to the ferry port and onwards to Sunny Wales, where the men are men and the sheep are fearful.

That's not all though, at the event we got chatting and saw significant interest in running an event in Belfast, provisionally penned for March, we'll keep you updated.

Thanks to all those who helped make DDD Dublin happen and a massive thanks to the delegates whom attended.
Windows Phone 7 Day – DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper – Manchester – October 7th 2010

A glorious sunny day in Manchester on the seventh of October 2010 we had eight sessions all to celebrate and help support the developer community all around Windows Phone 7. The event was held in the ODEON cinema in the Printworks in Manchester which is a venue we used for a DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper Guathon back in September 2009.

John Price (of NxtGenUg fame) and I managed the registration in the morning, well, I say registration, it was basically me ticking names off a list, John handing out raffle tickets while the delegates (or attendees if you're American) scribbled their own names onto sticky labels as badges for the conference. We had a really wide ranging audience from hardcore Microsoft fanbois through to Fundamentalist iPhone developers and even members of the press. People had travelled from all over the country to come to the event with developers from far flung cities such as Edinburgh and London.

We only had one small disaster during registration when an attended managed to knock his Starbucks coffee all over the tables we were using, although in his defence he dived for and saved my iPhone before worrying about anything else, so we'll let him off for that. I didn't ask him if he was one of the Microsoft or Apple fanbois :-)

Even though we had a good turnout it was lower that we'd hoped (we had room for 360 but registration only hit around 150), after polling Twitter over the previous weeks there are a few reasons for this:

- Location wise Manchester is a 'long way' for a lot of developers to travel.

- Running the event on a week day meant people had ti take a day off from work.

- The technology isn't proven in the Market yet so for some people the return on the investment of their time was a difficult trade off. 

With an amazing line up of speakers and sessions those that could make it were in for a real treat. Internally we'd agonised over how to pitch the sessions, should they be introductory or deep dive, should they flow from one to the other or could the be islands of specialism, eventually the appamundi guys came up with a brilliant schedule that would take beginners to the platform from knowing nothing to be able to build and create a functioning application whilst still giving those that had dabbled with the system some really useful real world advice from their experience of building applications both for the emulator and devices.

Some of the guys speaking are even training Microsoft staff and their partners on Windows Phone 7 development, we were very lucky that they could take time out of their schedules which are packed at the moment as launch is imminent to come and speak at the event.

First off was Maarten Struys to open the day after a quick introduction from Andy Wigley, Maarten has the most amazing accent which totally captivated me, he looks and sounds just as you'd expect a crazy scientist to. His presentation style is slick and relaxed, making it so easy to listen to him and focus on the content that he's sharing, as he showed off the Visual Studio and Blend features which were a part of his opening session he revealed nuggets of information which even the most seasoned Silverlight developers would have found useful and still managed to show the beginners how to get started with WP7 development.

Then came the turn of the legend that is Andy Wigley. I've been lucky to know Andy for a number of years, to look at he's a throwback from the 60's, some crazy veggie hippy who plays in a death metal band, in reality however he's one of the kindest gentlest guys with an amazing capacity for turning complex technical processes and systems into simple language and conveying it to idiots like me :-)

Andy spoke back to back for three sessions covering in depth Silverlight development for Windows Phone 7, drilling into the device capabilities such as using the camera and GPS (because every application needs photos and geotagging now we're in the Mobile device era) then came Andy's magnificent session on probably one of the most controversial features of Windows Phone 7 which is it's Application lifecycle system, Tombstoning.

Then came the fun stuff, Rob Miles who really is that crazy lecturer I'm sure many of you had at University, 7' something of pure technical passion. Robs height is the only way that all that technical prowess can be contained I'm pretty sure occasionally a bit spills out of his ears, and at the event, it was flowing in drippy streams of technical content from Rob. First he covered XNA development with the Phone to build games and other graphics intense applications and then he drilled into how to sell your applications through the Marketplace that Microsoft are putting together.

Developers aren't known for producing the most beautiful applications so it was a real boost for the event to be able to get Tricky Bassett to come to the event and talk about design for Windows Phone 7 applications as well as showing off a production application his company has been working on. The session added real spice to the event and left everyone thinking of designing a Windows Phone 7 application with a variety of options open to them and the guidance they'll need to pull together their applications.

As with all mobile platforms, Windows Phone 7 has support for running applications offline and  Andrej gave a brilliant rundown of the features available to developers in the initial release of Windows Phone 7.

Throughout the day the speakers gave an objective view of the technology and talked about their personal experiences without prejudice. That's one of the great benefits of DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper events, it's real world advice from people working in the field who want to make sure that those that come after them can benefit from their learning process. A real testament to the dedication and openness of the UK developer community. I personally got very upset with a press review of the event which had a serious undertone of accusing the speakers of working to a Microsoft PR agenda which really couldn't be further from the truth, if anything the only Marketing of the day came from Tricky who cheekily plugged his firms design services, but we'll let him off because he's giving so much back to the community. 

Something that was happening whilst the sessions were running was a Xapathon. This was essentially Mike Ormond of Microsoft who'd travelled up for the day with a bunch of Windows Phone 7 devices to allow developers who has build an application to bring it to the event and try it on a real device. Mike and Pete Vickers managed is process and helped people get their Xaps onto the devices - watching people debug their applications on the devices was really cool - developers getting to play with the devices for the first time as opposed to the emulator and seeing their apps really running was brilliant, their little faces lit up and more importantly every application worked flawlessly - pretty cool that the emulator is so close to the real thing! I think there were about seven applications tested throughout the day.

As we'd done previously we called on the services of Joel Hammond-Turner to video the event and he's done a stifling job, with the presenters and the screens being recorded as well as the audio being recorded in high quality (HD I believe !) we're going to get some cool content to share out to everyone who couldn't make the event. Massive thanks to Joel, who like all the speakers and those involved gave up his time and did this for free. As soon as the video is ready we'll publish it and get the links out to you.

Of corse these events wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the support of sponsors who help us pay for the venues, supply prizes and swag and support promoting the events that we run. So I want to call them out here. Big thanks to Microsoft, appamundi and nxtgenug who all did a brilliant job in getting this event going - without you guys it couldn't have happened, thank you on behalf of the whole community both those who could make the event and the countless thousands that will watch the video content produced at it for the weeks and months to come.

PrizesPrizesPrizes - what would a DDD event be without swag? We were really lucky to be able to award a prize at the event of a brand new shiny Windows Phone 7 device to a chap in the audience who was absolutely over the moon. Load of other people got bits and bobs ranging from t-shirts through to mice.

All in all a brilliant event.

Posted: Oct 10 2010, 10:41 PM by Plip | with 4 comment(s)
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