DevDay 2012

On October 5, 2012 I attended the second edition of DevDay, a one-day conference sponsored and organized by ABB in Krakow.

The Awesome

Scott Hanselman was the first speaker, and also one of the main reasons why I went to the conference. Even though I only knew him from This Developer’s Life.

His “Scaling Yourself” talk was probably the best productivity talk I’ve seen so far. Part of it was tricks and techniques I have already known, such as GTD and pomodoro. Apart from that, my notes include:

  • The fewer things you do, the more of each you can do.
  • By doing something you are likely to get more of it. If you’re available on weekends and after hours, you will be expected to do it. If you’re available for calls about work on vacations, you will be called. Even if you do work at that time, set that email to go out at 9 AM next business morning.
  • Avoid “guilt systems” such as long collection of recorded TV shows – or books, or unread articles. Or whatever it is that you collect and want to do, but eventually forms a big pile that you only feel guilty about.
  • Sort your information streams by importance and limit usage. Some obvious ones like do less Twitter or Facebook. Some less obvious ones like basic email filters. Combine that with techniques that help you root out the distractions such as pomodoro or Rescue Time.
  • Use information aggregators: Blogs or sites that repost articles, mashups etc. instead of subscribing to 100 different blogs and news sites.
  • Do not multitask, except for things that go well together. Foe example, exercise while watching TV or listening to podcasts. What’s more: use activities you want to do to motivate things you should do. For instance, watch TV only as long as you keep on moving on the treadmill.
  • Plan your work: Find three things you want to do today, this week and this year, and do them. Helps you set the focus on goals. Hint: Email & twitter probably won’t be on the list.
  • Plan your work: Plan your own work sprints, execute, and finally perform retrospectives. Can be applied to work, but also all kinds of personal activities.
  • Synchronize to paper. Don’t limit your space to one screen when you can print or write/draw it on as many sheets of paper as you want. Also, paper notebooks can be used in different conditions and never run out of battery..

Finally, Scott is a great speaker. Lots and lots of content served in a perfect way, sauced with some pretty good jokes. Delicious.

That’s just a bunch of quick notes. Even if you think you’ve heard enough on the topic of productivity, go watch the presentation on Scott’s site. Now.

The Good

I enjoyed the “Why You Should Talk to Strangers” talk from Martin Mazur. Half of it was about social interactions: “us versus them” divisions, difficulties that one can face when approaching complete strangers in public, and the amount of new things you can learn from them if you break the ice. The rest was really about polyglot programming: learning Eiffel, Haskell or Ruby and applying some concepts and ideas back to C#. Largely an unknown territory, but still the talk resonated really well with me.

Antek Piechnik gave a good talk on continuous delivery at an extreme scale: Where each new team member pushes code to production during the first week, and each commit to master can trigger deployment. I found the ideas on project organization pretty controversial, though: having a totally flat team, large pool of features and everyone working on what they want and how they want. Sounds interesting, but it’s only possible if you have only experienced A++ programmers in team that also have the same vision, agree on tools and techniques, and so on.

Finally, I liked Greg Young’s talk on getting productive in a project in 24 hours. The talk was nothing like the subject, though. Basically an introduction to code analysis: afferent/efferent coupling, test coverage and cyclomatic complexity, as well as data mining VCS. Very clear and down-to-earth, discussing some tools and practical examples for each concept.

I particularly liked the points on code coverage. I knew that method with 20 possible paths can have 100% line coverage from 2 tests, but still be poorly tested. Greg made a good point explaining that method coverage gets worse as the number of methods/collaborators between the test and the method grows, or when the methods between the test and our method have high cyclomatic complexity. In such cases it’s really an accidental coverage that in no way guarantees security.

Greg repeatedly stressed how all these concepts are only tools. They indicate interesting areas that may be trouble spots and may need attention. But one can never say that cyclomatic complexity of X is good code and Y is bad code (and the same is true for all other metrics).

The Rest

Rob Ashton’s talk on JavaScript was alright, but not spectacular. I did not learn much new. I know that the language is here to stay, for better or worse. You can patch some gaps with jslint/jshint and others with CoffeeScript, but for its spread the tooling is really patchy and barely existent.

I skipped Mark Rendle’s talk on Simple.Data/Simple.Web. Not my area.

I really did not like Sebastien Lambla’s talk on HTTP caching. Noise to signal ratio approaching infinity. Filled with poor jokes and irrelevant comments. Little, chaotically and patchily discussed substance.

Wrapping Up

All in all, DevDay was a good conference. Really good selection of speakers on a free conference, with free lunch, coffee and snacks. No recruiters, no stands, just the participants and speakers. I wish it had at least two tracks and more focus. I’m not sure if it’s a generic developer conference or a .net event (went for the former, felt atmosphere of the latter).

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