On Monday I attended Stack Overflow DevDays in San Francisco. Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood are hosting this series of one-day conferences as a way to get alpha-geeks out of the office to hear experts talk about new technologies ranging from Python to ASP.NET MVC. It was the best $99 (including lunch and coffee) I’ve spent in quite some time.
The highlight of the day was that I finally had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror and Stack Overflow. We’ve emailed several times over the years but never had the chance to meet face to face. And yes, he’s as smart as he sounds on his blog and podcast. And a super nice guy to boot.
Given Joel’s recent rant about trouble with wireless internet at conferences, I thought it comical that there was no wi-fi available for conference participants (and no way to get a hard-wired connection). AT&T must have seen a spike in usage in that are of S.F. as everyone pulled out their iPhones to check email and Twitter.
Let me start by saying that Joel Spolsky is an outlier. Like him or not, the guy is a genius. He knows how to capture peoples’ attention in both his writing and his presentations.
The conference opened with a keynote from Joel on power vs. simplicity. It was an examination of UI complexity and a more thorough treatment than a post I wrote on the subject a few years back. And of course Joel’s presentation included his typical humor, twists and entertainment value. Joel is all about entertainment, which makes you want to pay attention to everything he says. So much that it was a tough transition when Joel left the stage to make way for the next speaker.
After the keynote we heard talks on Python, iPhone development, FogBugz (Joel again, though this time in his less entertaining “demo mode”), ASP.NET MVC (from Scott Hanselman who also knows how to work a crowd), Stack Overflow (Jeff Atwood), Qt (a language that runs on Nokia phones), Android and jQuery.
I work from home and since I live in Fresno I don’t get out much. The 7 hours of driving (round-trip) was tough to justify simply for tech content, but the bonus of the day was connecting with several developers including a guy I worked with in 2001, a developer of a former client, someone I had never met, and of course, Mr. Atwood.
It’s easy to forget the impact of face-to-face contact. I sit in front of my laptop for days, nay weeks on end and never see another person who is remotely interested in technology. The conference was a well-needed reminder that there are other alpha-geeks in the world, and that being around one another generates excitement and energy that is impossible to duplicate in any other forum.
The conference was also a wake up call that I need to get out from behind my desk and make these face-to-face connections more often. So I’m in the process of booking speaking engagements over the next several months on how developers can launch and market their first product.
If you’re affiliated with a group in California who might be interested in a free speaker, please drop me a line.