StackOverflow #DevDays San Francisco Recap


I didn’t know what to expect from StackOverflow DevDays, and I was pleasantly surprised.

In a nutshell, the presenters showed the basics of several different programming environments, but it was anything other than “Language X 101.”  This was top-gun coders showing the pros and cons of their particular language, taking very sharp questions from very sharp audience members, and being frankly honest about the things you need to know before you start programming with it.

Some of the sessions included:

  • Mark Harrison on Python – showed off a one-page Python spellchecker with “did-you-mean” style autocorrection
  • Rory Blyth on iPhone development – showed the rather intimidating side of the development IDE
  • Scott Hanselman on ASP.NET MVC – showed how Visual Studio 2010 is catching up with other MVC implementations
  • Daniel Rocha on Nokia’s Qt – showed that yes, cross-platform apps are still vying for Miss Congeniality
  • James Yum on Android – showed why building properly threaded applications can still be rocket science

My first reaction was that I’m really glad I’m not a developer anymore.  Database administration seems a lot easier to me than some of this development work.  After building your Android app, for example, you have to test it against all kinds of different screen resolutions, screen densities, portrait vs landscape, etc – oh, and by the way, if you flip between portrait and landscape, Android may just restart your app.  Y’know, to be safe.  Wow.  Suddenly, $.99 for phone apps sounds even cheaper, and I’m even more impressed with apps like Layar.

The presentations are still rapidly evolving based on attendee feedback.  Some of the presenters mentioned that they’d radically revised their presentation level (beginner vs expert) after feedback from earlier #DevDays events, so your mileage may vary.

Microsoft threw in a surprise: they sent someone with boxloads of 2 gig laptop memory chips and a screwdriver kit.  Anybody whose laptop wasn’t already maxed out with memory could swing by Microsoft’s table and get it upgraded – free.  Now that’s my kind of schwag.  (As it happens, mine was already maxed out.)  There were several jabs suggesting they were doing it as a pre-emptive strike because Visual Studio 2010 must be some kind of memory pig, but it was all in good fun.

I’d recommend DevDays to programmers at any level.  If nothing else, you’ll see that the grass isn’t any greener for programmers of other languages.

Best of all, I finally got to meet the StackOverflow crew in person – Jeff Atwood (BlogTwitter), Geoff Dalgas (BlogTwitter), and Jarrod Dixon (Twitter), good guys all.  (I’m just now realizing I didn’t track down Joel, although I did meet Babak.)

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7 Comments. Leave new

  • Aaron Mathison
    October 19, 2009 8:49 pm

    Glad to see another db guy attended dev days. I was @ Boston one, and found it very interesting, even though I prefer db admin over programming and was surrounded by people much smarter than I. iPhone dev and the spell correcting python code were the highlights for me as well as seeing Spolsky present.

    • Yeah, I liked Joel’s presentation, but what I really liked was his FogBugz and Kiln demo. I didn’t realize just how good FogBugz was – I don’t usually have to work with bug tracking software. That one looked really slick.

  • I would love to someday meet Jeff Atwood. I know that sounds sort of pathetic.

    • Doesn’t sound pathetic to me – that was one of the reasons I went to DevDays, hahaha. He’s pretty funny – he was surprisingly relaxed at the podium. I’m guessing the dozens of podcasts he’s done with Joel help his presentation skills too.

  • I was in Austin. I thought the Python talk was cool. The iPhone dev one didn’t look too bad; more a question of digging through documentation and learning the Objective C nuances. We didn’t see Android, which I would have liked, but we did see one from SmartBear on code reviews, and that one was cool.

  • Thanks for the recap, as well as the Twitter updates. I couldn’t make it and was happy (and slightly jealous) you were giving the play by play! 8^D I’m hoping they make a second round of DevDays and do one in Phoenix.

    Say, have you thought about doing a presentation on the DB/SQL aspects of things? I have to dip my hand in many pots at my job, and having a SQL expert would be awesome. Maybe even weigh in on the ongoing debate between AdHoc and SPs inlight of all the new ORMS out there.

    • Sean – you’re welcome! Well, Joel picks the presenters, and he didn’t call me. 😉 But I would totally be honored. The DevDays presenters were rocket scientists, for sure.


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