George V. Reilly

StackOverflow DevDays Seattle 2009

DevDays Boston photos

I spent last Wednesday at Benaroya Hall, attending the Seattle edition of Stack­Over­flow’s traveling DevDays conference. It was well worth $99.

Joel Spolsky, owner of FogCreek Software and co-founder of Stack­Over­flow, opened the conference with a keynote about the dichotomy of power and simplicity. People are happier when not over­whelmed with choices. Many of the choices that software forces users to make are es­sen­tial­ly mean­ing­less to the users. However, even though people want simplicity, they also want features and different people use different features. Powerful software sells more copies.

He argues that developers and designers should put in the extra work to make good choices on behalf of the users: don’t make users feel bad about themselves. Undo is better than a con­fir­ma­tion dialog. You are not in charge of what your users do.

Scott Hanselman spoke about ASP.NET MVC. We’re moving away from ASP.NET to Python, but if we were to use ASP.NET again, MVC would be a compelling feature. His pre­sen­ta­tion was en­ter­tain­ing, if gimmicky.

Rory Blyth introduced iPhone de­vel­op­ment, in a tone of snarky am­biva­lence. He mentioned the Stockholm Syndrome. He stressed that Apple’s Design "Guidelines" are ef­fec­tive­ly laws: violate them and you won’t make it into the App Store. Looks like there’s a lot of tedious messing around to hook things up in Objective-C. At the very end, he briefly demoed MonoTouch, which seemeed a little less tedious.

Cody Lindley introduced jQuery. I’ve done a lot of work with jQuery, but I still learned a few things. He worked through five facets of jQuery: Find something, do something; Create something, do something; Chaining; Implicit iteration; and jQuery parameters. He has an ebook at jqueryen­light­en­, which I just picked up.

Daniel Rocha of Nokia talked about the cross-platform Qt (/cute/) toolkit, which runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. More im­por­tant­ly from Nokia’s point of view, it runs on their smart­phones. Nokia has changed the licensing of Qt—once very expensive for closed-source apps, it’s now free for apps that don’t modify the Qt source. Qt is for C++, but there are bindings for other languages, such as Python.

Joel Spolsky came back and treated us to a half-hour demon­stra­tion of Fogbugz 7, Evidence-Based Scheduling, and Kiln, their new hosted Mercurial repository. Not terribly in­ter­est­ing to me, but the conference was only $99.

Ted Leung gave us a rather dry Hacker’s In­tro­duc­tion to Python from slides rendered unreadable by a poor choice of colors. I’ve done a lot of Python, so I didn’t learn much new. pip is an easy_in­stall re­place­ment that unin­stall­s; zc.buildout assembles apps from multiple parts; bpython is a fancy REPL.

Dan Sanderson talked about Google App Engine and demoed building apps with Java and with Python. Looked pretty cool and straight­for­ward. We probably won’t go that route, since we’re pushing data to Amazon’s S3, so EC2 makes more sense for us.

Finally, Steve Seitz from the University of Washington gave a cool talk on Modeling the World from Internet Photos. Some of this technology ended up in Photosynth. See Building Rome in a Day for some demos.

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