On Saturday October 13th I attended the Developer Developer Developer North conference in Bradford. Developer Developer Developer (DDD) is a chain of conferences that are held in Reading, Bristol, Dundee, Northern England and even as far afield as Melbourne. DDD is a Microsoft-focused software development conference, so mostly covers technologies of interest to a .NET developer. This was the second DDD North conference, where the previous one in October 2011 was held in Sunderland.
This time around, the DDD North conference was held at the University of Bradford School of Management. It was a good choice for a conference venue, with lots of space and plenty of speaker rooms available. The conference had 5 parallel tracks, with each talk session one hour in duration and five talk sessions over the course of the day. The two largest rooms were lecture theatres able to hold over 100 people each and even the smaller rooms comfortably held at least 50 people each. DDD is a free-to-attend conference, where the conference is funded from numerous software sponsors such as JetBrains, RedGate and Gibraltar.
My first talk of the day was “What is Spatial Data?” by @shawty_ds. He has recently written a free book “GIS Succinctly” that will soon be available from SyncFusion. @shawty_ds covered the differences between Spatial SQL and normal SQL, explaining that the location-based services available on modern mobile devices mean that spatial data is increasingly important, and that applications can easily generate spatial data of several terabytes that must be processed efficiently. He went on to introduce the OGC database standard for spatial data, then demonstrated why SQL Server is a poor implementation of the OGC standard. @shawty_ds explained the platforms and tools available for spatial data, before recommending the use of PostgreSQL and PostGIS.
My second talk was then “Riting Roslyn Refactorings” by @GuySmithFerrier. Roslyn is a new C# compiler that is written in C#, not C++ like the original compiler available. The strength of Roslyn is that it is open-source, well documented and entirely configurable by the end user. Roslyn can be used on Visual Studio 2010 or Visual Studio 2012, providing a Roslyn Syntax Visualiser that allows a developer to view the entire syntax tree of a C# code file. @GuySmithFerrier showed how FxCop style rules could be incorporated into the compilation process with Roslyn, such as automatically removing any trailing whitespace in C# code files. To show the configurability of Roslyn, @GuySmithFerrier then gave examples of failing the compilation process for any source file containing the letter “a”, or automatically replacing any letter “a” in a source file with a letter “z” prior to compilation.
My third talk of the day was then “Look ma! No frameworks!” by @ruby_gem. This was a talk on the core principles of Behaviour-Driven Development (BDD), but without the initial use of frameworks. @ruby_gem explained how BDD frameworks such as SpecFlow can lead the developer to focus too much on the operation of the framework itself, rather than the reasons for BDD. She opined that Gherkin’s Given-When-Then syntax may not always be the best choice for requirements gathering, but is a good starting point. She then described how requirements gathering should be a detailed conversation between a software organization and its customers, where more time should be spent discussing BDD tests with the customer than in writing those tests. @ruby_gem then led the audience through the Checkout Kata in C#, encouraging the use of descriptive method names for the scenarios being implemented, but without the use of any BDD framework.
Lunch was then provided for all conference attendees as a sandwich, crisps, chocolate, fruit and juice. The lunch period lasted for 90 minutes, but this included a session of grok (lightning) talks of 10 minutes each. The first grok talk was on Windows 8 and Windows Phone development, with a guide to the licence prices and development languages available. The second grok talk was then @CaptainShmaser on his experiences of competing in the Imagine Cup 2013. He explained how his team used the idea of a smart phone camera to detect eye diseases in developing countries, with the team being mentored by @BlackMarble. Next came grok talks from RedGate on the Glimpse tool for server performance monitoring and from Andrew Burgess on the OutSystems Agile platform.
My final talk of the day was then “Event-driven architecture” by @ICooper. He began by describing the principles of Service Oriented Architectures, presenting several clear diagrams. He then explained the difference between a service consumer having to poll a service for completion status and the service consumer being notified by an event when the service had completed. After this he explained with more clear diagrams how an event-based architecture could be implemented in an application. @ICooper fielded many varied audience questions that he was able to answer clearly.
Following completion of the talks, a prize draw was then given in the atrium with many prizes donated by the sponsors. The top prize was an Asus laptop, although also on offer were free JetBrains and RedGate product licences, a Raspberry Pi starter kit, a free annual subscription to PluralSight courses and many software textbooks. A Geek Dinner had been organized for the evening at an Indian restaurant in nearby Shipley for a fee of £15 per person. This was attended by 50 people and was a great chance to meet new people with good food provided.
This conference was attended by around 300 people and had good content throughout, with many knowledgeable speakers and friendly attendees. I had a good day and learned many new things, particularly from the Roslyn talk, which was my favourite session of the day. There were many talks in other sessions that I would have liked to see, such was the quality of the content provided. I was most impressed by the fact that this conference was free to attend. I have attended many other conferences with the same high standard of content, but which were paid conferences. The DDD organisers deserve a lot of credit for organizing a high-quality software conference like this and keeping it free to attend. My only criticism of the conference is that coffee wasn’t available often enough during the day, but only within some break times. DDD North will return in October 2013 in the North East of England and I’ll certainly be attending this along with other DDD conferences in 2013.