Plip's Weblog

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

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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nick_uk said:

Sounds like a great event. Where can I register to be notified of future events?

Compliments on your report, too. Your perceived passion and humour made that an enjoyable read, mr plip.

# October 11, 2010 4:14 AM

Mike Ormond said:

Hi Phil. We actually had more like 11 or 12 apps to deploy to devices in the xapathon although we did have one "failure". Sadly we couldn't debug it as the developer didn't have all the components with him. I had a great day - thanks to you, the APPA Mundi guys and NxtGenUG for making it happen. Mike

# October 11, 2010 4:22 AM

zune phone owner said:

events such as these are what will make the difference with windows 7 phones. I am so hopeful to see more developers embrace the windows and zune interface with better apps for owners such as myself.

# November 9, 2010 10:06 AM