Lessons Learned from Edmonton Code Camp 2007

Got back from the Edmonton Code Camp last night around midnight, after having dinner with the group. It was funny because we all sat around the table (James, Justice, Donald, Rockarts, et. al.) and realized that the entire group was also going to be at DevTeach. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I'm sure we'll be sharing a few beers over it again in November. Anyway, a full day of fun and discussion with a few surprises. I thought I would wrap everything up into this entry although some of these could almost deserve their own post.

Education Needs to Get Agile

In a fishbowl session something really came out about learning from a gent who recently (April) graduated from the UofA. He stated that these strange new concepts (MVP/MVC, ReSharper, Domain Driven Design, IoC, etc.) were all alien and he had never heard of any of them during his Comp Sci studies. It was events like the Code Camp that brought them out (or blogs or whatever) and it excited him. There was passion there and I could see a budding ALT.NET developer just wanting to burst out all over the room.

It's true that Java, C#, and Ruby are new when it comes to the academic space. I mentioned that the world was running on Internet time and schools seem to be running on Glacial time, just waiting for something to happen and not moving very quickly when it does. This I think is a huge problem. If people are coming fresh out of University with lofty goals of building huge Enterprise applications using what they've learned from school, it's obvious this is going to be an issue. It says to me that we, the forward-thinking and always-moving-in-some-direction have a responsibility to educate the educators. We need to get out there and let people know that alternatives exist and the universe is not made up of DataSets and XML. This might go a long way to helping foster diversity and knowledge in the community at large, and help make the shift from academic to implementation be a little smoother. People should be coming out of education hitting the ground running, and not being stopped dead in their tracks, told to abandon what they learned and go pick up a few good books from the Martin Fowler signature series. There's also a responsibility of the educators to know that we are out here and enterprise development isn't just regurgitating patterns and practices that were abandoned years ago. There are alternatives and better ways of building the mousetraps, you just have to be open to understand, discuss, and validate them for the appropriate solution at hand.


I have my dual-head presentation on XNA programming including some remote debugging into the XBox 360 from my laptop. Unfortunately I was in a rush and forgot that I didn't have audio for the 360, so I bought a pair of speakers that morning from the local Staples (I'll use them at work to peeve off the QA people sitting next to me when I blast some Don Ho out on Monday morning). In my fit of excitement I forgot about getting an adapter to plug the speakers into the 360 so no sound during the demos, except when I ran the Windows versions. My laptop wasn't beefy enough to render the Racing Starter Kit (but the sound was there) so it chugged along at 12 frames per second.

I think there was good interest from the community on XNA programming (although a guy asked me if this session was about "games" and proceeded to walk out when I told him yes) so hopefully we'll see some fun stuff coming out of the Edmonton community. I'm really looking forward to XNA Game Studio 2.0 and the networking support but most of all getting it to run on my regular Visual Studio. You don't know how many times I was hitting Ctrl+F12 and Alt+Insert in Express trying to get ReSharper to work.

Domain Driven Design

I think I had fun with my Domain Driven Design session. I struggled with this topic as I couldn't figure out how to squeeze a fairly large topic like DDD into 50 minutes of discussion. I left the session open to talking about issues with development in general, what pain points people were facing, and how DDD might serve to ease the pain (or not in some cases). I covered the basics of DDD which was really only scratching the surface and we spent a little time looking at a fairly rich domain (Ben Scheirman's NHibernate video store series) and dived into writing a builder object and a test using a fluent language to describe the domain better through code.

For future sessions on DDD I'm probably going to spend more time on building fluent interfaces, maybe a DSL using Ruby or something. Writing academic examples of DDD is a little too brief and doesn't really help grok the principles or values of what DDD personifies. I did talk to a few people after the session and a few lightbulbs turned on as a result of it, so it wasn't a complete loss and people did enjoy the session (based on the feedback forms, although maybe they were being nice because it was so late in the day ;)

Community and Adoption

This was probably the coolest sessions of the day and focused on talking about good software design, the community, and how to get the word out (whatever that word is). It's funny having a session at a code camp when there's no code, but this worked (although it wasn't as filled as James' ALT.NET session). One of the reoccurring themes during the session was how does the community get to know about things like ReSharper, DDD, and patterns (to name a few). And more importantly, how does one adopt that in your own organization or community practice when you're the lone wolf?

This is a challenge. Going back to your office and telling everyone "I just saw this great tool/technique at Code Camp and we should all change to using it" isn't going to fly. My message is clear. Practice, practice, practice. And do. Or do not. There is no try (sorry Yoda). Take what you see and practice it against your work. If there's a pain point in how you build or deploy your application then download NAnt and automate the task. There's no need to ask for permission from upper management. How would that conversation go?

You: I would like to use [insert tool here] as it would reduce our deployment time by half.
Pointy-haired boss: Sorry [insert tool here] isn't on our list of approved tools and your job is to code. Get back to work!

Maybe not the best advice (and some upper-management guys may come back to me on this) but just do it. Do something that works and if it works and is better than what you're doing now, isn't it worth it?

All in all, a great day and one that spurred new ideas and things to try that might make your geek life a little better.


  • Java is commonly used at the U of Calgary.

    Of course a Comp Sci student won't know these concepts. They learn b-trees, stacks, and other base fundamentals of computing (not programming).

  • Since the system administrators at the UofC are probably some of the biggest anti Microsoft people you could ever meet the chances of them teaching Microsoft Patterns and Practices are slim to none.

    Since linux and java are free and do not have any licensing requirements, they tend to stick to those tools, since the costs are a lot lower in the end.

    Also like the posts says you are there to learn the fundamentals of computing not programming. You need to do that on your own time.

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