Sunday, 30 January 2011

What's A DDD9?

Some of my (non-geek) colleagues who follow me on Twitter have asked me recently: what's a DDD9? The answer: for the UK .net community, it's the major event of the year. Held annually at Microsoft's offices in Reading, it is a free one-day conference run totally by the community. The DDD stands for Developer Developer Developer, from Steve Ballmer's chant of several years ago ( *. Microsoft employees are welcome to attend, but they aren't allowed to speak. It is only advertised through word-of-mouth and Twitter: this year it sold out 350 spaces in 12 minutes, the waiting list for spaces was full after another 30 minutes. You may find this slightly more notable as DDD is held on a Saturday, which ensures that the people who are there are the kind of passionate people who are prepared to give up a large part (or in many cases the entirety) of their weekend to attend. The programme is completely voted for by the attendees, this year there was again a great mix of technical and technique sessions. The sessions I saw this year were:

.net Collections Deep Dive - Gary Short
Actually I wanted to see all four talks in the first session, but I picked Gary's as I don't think I've ever seen him talk before. This was a session going through many of the Collection classes available in .net, how they work internally and in what circumstances each one offers better performance. It included such gems as the fact that in the multithreaded collections if you call the Count property it is not guaranteed to be accurate unless you can be sure all threads have exited. In which case it wouldn't be, y'know, multithreaded. The top tip I took away was that if you know how many elements you are going to put in a collection, to set the Capacity in the initialiser:
List myListOfTenElements = new List(10);

CQRS, Fad or Future - Ian Cooper
OK, so I, um, didn't actually see this session, I got chattinjg to people in the speakers lounge. The presence of chocolate and raspberry cheesecake brownies (made by me) was a total coincidence. This was still quite useful as I was able to talk to Dave Sussman about a CSS issue I'd been having and get some advice. However I look forward to seeing Ian's slides and maybe catching this talk at a user group sometime.

A Primer on RavenDB - Rob Ashton
One of the sessions I really wanted to see as I'm interested in playing with RavenDB and I can see cases in WSP where it could be a very good technical fit. Rob is quite opinionated, especially on how MongoDB and RavenDB differ. Rob recommends getting the unstable version of RavenDB to play with so you can see the features, although I think at least initially I'll be using the stable build until I've found my feet with it. One of the things I'm most impressed with is the fact that for unit testing purposes, you can run RavenDB completely in memory with no impact to disk.

Is Your Code SOLID - Nathan Gloyn
This talk walked through the SOLID principles of software engineering.Nathan began with a pretty ropey bit of code, and then talked through each principle before demonstrating how the code changed after the application of the principle. A really interesting session for me, SOLID is something I need to think about more as I write software.

CSS Is Code - Helen Emerson
Helen's theme was that CSS code is as important as application source code, but that the rules and principles we apply to source code aren't often applied to CSS. Probably not the right session for me given that I'm a total numpty where CSS is concerned, although it was useful to see that in Helen's demos there were things that chimed with some of the CSS we used on the Intranet last year.

A Beginner's Guide to Continuous Integration - Paul Stack
A great session to round off the day from Paul Stack, talking about how to use CI to reduce the time it takes to release your software. Like RavenDB, CI is something I definitely want to look into, in fact in that respect it was a shame it was a Saturday as I was fired up enough that I wanted to go straight into the office and set up a CI server. The only real negative in this session for me was that there was little discussion of how to set up CI with TFS, although Paul tells me this is straightforward.

The Social Network
There's much more to DDD than just a technical conference - for many if not all of the delegates it is as much a social event as a learning opportunity. It's a chance to catch up with old friends, make new ones, or just an opportunity to put faces to Twitter handles - I've been chatting with Nathan and Paul on Twitter for months but Saturday was the first time I'd met them. And the socialising continues into the evening - there is a Geek Dinner after the conference, at which 40 of us take over most of Pizza Express to eat, drink and chat.
We had an interesting conversation at our end of the table about the nature of developers and DDD and why it seems to work for us but no-one else. There simply doesn't seem to be any other profession that does events like this - even inside IT, there's no equivalent event for IT Pros.

* I did discover through the power of Google an alternative DDD9 conference - Death, Dying and Disposal. Which doesn't sound anything like as much fun.