Sunday, September 14, 2008

ALT.NET UK (un)conference

I had a lot of fun yesterday at the ALT.NET UK (un)conference. Ian, Alan and Ben do a great job organizing it and they managed to raise a lot more sponsorship money this time which meant that they could hire a larger venue, Conway Hall.

Friday night was spent suggesting sessions. There was some kind of dance thing going on in the main hall and it was difficult to hear what was going on at times but there was still a huge range of ideas put forward. Later we retired to the pub where I had some great conversations. I especially enjoyed hearing Sebastien Lambla talking about his open rasta RESTfull web development framework. I've heard him presenting about it before, but maybe it needed a couple of pints of Czech larger for it to make sense. I'm awaiting its release with some anticipation now.

Saturday morning kicked off with a 'park bench'. I'm not sure what the subject was since I spent a little too long enjoying the hotel breakfast and complementary FT. BTW good choice of hotel Ben! I think it was something like 'what does ALT.NET mean?' There was a suggestion that we needed a list of principles somewhat like the Agile movement, but I have to agree with Alan here; I think it would be a bad idea. I didn't get to the bench, but to me ALT.NET is really simple, it means building a community around .NET development that is not controlled by Microsoft. You don't need ALT.Java because that market is diverse and competitive enough that no single vendor is perceived as the single source of tools and guidance. But that is exactly the case with .NET development. The majority of .NET shops simply look to Microsoft for both. ALT.NET provides a convenient label for the .NET community to coalesce ideas around. This is good for .NET development in general, but also good for Microsoft itself.

The first session I attended in the morning was covering ORM use. We had a great discussion of the pros and cons of NHibernate vs Linq-to-SQL vs EF. I ranted a good deal about how any ORM in the .NET space had to have a LINQ provider. We also had a good discussion around repository patterns, where LINQ fits into the specification pattern and DTOs. We stayed in the same room to talk about Multi-tenanting. There were three or four people present who were actively involved in developing multi-tenanted applications so this was a very useful discussion. It mostly revolved around database sharding vs multiple-database patterns and security concerns.

During lunch we had a very interesting and wide ranging chat about IoC containers that then became a discussion on the horrors of sharepoint development.

Ian Cooper lead a very good session on Domain Driven Development in the afternoon. I've heard Ian talk about DDD several times now, but I always seem to learn something new. I would love to see a project that he'd worked on.

This brings me to a suggestion for future ALT.NET conferences. There are some excellent conversations but I do think that it would help if more people brought laptops and we had some projectors available where we could demonstrate real code. Talking about code is very difficult without having examples in front of you. I don't mean that we should be giving presentations, but that at least we should all come prepared to show off something of what we're doing. Of course this is problematic with the commercial code that most of us work on, but being able to fire up Visual Studio (or notepad Peter :) and show rather than tell would be a huge advantage. So Ian, Alan and Ben, if you want to know what to do with the sponsorship money next time: projectors!


Colin Jack said...

Yeah it was good, not sure on the coming prepared idea. With such a limited timeframe I find I get far more out of the sessions that stay quite high level and just give you enough of a test to pique your interest. Guess it depends on the type of session though...

Anonymous said...

We had projectors. Anyone could have borrowed them had they wanted

Alan Dean said...

Yes, we had projectors but I can't recall if we actually let everyone know they were available.

Mike Hadlow said...

I wasn't aware that the projectors were available, but then I also didn't bring my laptop :P

I'm going to make a point of preparing some code to show, or at least having VS up and running at the next ALT.NET UK. I think we would have got a lot more out of some of the discussions if there had been code in front of us. I'm thinking particularly here of the DDD session and the one on NHibernate/ORM.

Colin Jack said...

I think the discussion on the group is about right, you don't learn DDD by looking at code.

In fact what I like about ALT.NET UK is its a discussion rather than a bunch of people looking at some slides or an IDE, guess different people get different things out of it though.

Mike Hadlow said...

I think there's a middle way. A disussion while looking at some code. I agree that we don't want ALT.NET UK to become a series of presentations, but I do disagree that you don't learn DDD by looking at code. I would have loved to have seen some code from Ian during the DDD talk. I was talking the mechanics of IoC container use inside an application with another group and I'm sure I would have made a lot more sense if I'd been able to break out some code.

Colin Jack said...

Bringing in code might help some people, but in reality if you want code examples of IoC/NHibernate or whatever googling its easy enough. If you haven't done this, and if you don't understand the implementation or the ideas, then the most you can hope for in an hour is that you get excited about something and go do some more work on it (and excitement about things is more than enough).

If we had more time and could do workshops then it would be different, if so by all means...but thats a very different proposition.

On DDD, I'd say you only get the most shallow understanding by looking at code. Same for REST/SOA and many other ideas. The best we can hope from a session is it gets us excited enough to go learn more and I thought that this ALT.NET UK did that superbly.

Tobin Harris said...

Sounds like an awesome gig - wish I could have made it :(

@Mike, though I'd mention that I blogged about your Jobvertizer - cool project!

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed it too, learnt loads met some nice people and found it interesting that others share many of my frustrations.

The ORM discussion regarding linq enabled generic repositories where we discussed the boundary between linq to objects and the ORM linq provider, could perhaps have been a little more beneficiary had we’d been able to see specific code.

Hence your exuberance to write it on the white board I guess Mike.

I guess we’d have needed a projector and laptop, to share code but I’m not sure if a presentation would have been necessary?

Wireless would have been useful in some instances (not all), but I can’t fault the organisers the venue was central and pretty much large enough.