thatConference.com – Day 1

Today was the first day of a new developer conference in the midwest, thatConference.  It is taking place in the Wisconsin Dells @ Kalahari Resort (a very family friendly place).  Clark Sell, and Scott Seely have been the primary driving forces behind the conference, but it certainly has been a collective effort of many people.

The presentations I attended today were:

You, by Leon Gersing

Leon has an extensive background as a ruby developer and is a very enlightened individual.   His keynote speech was about knowing yourself as a developer (or more abstractly, as a person).   An emphasis was placed on establishing healthy boundaries in your life, your work, and your relationships.   He highlighted how it was important to be empathetic, and listen to other people.   He talked about facing our fears and understanding why we make the decisions we do and how to to better ourselves and take steps toward being the developers we want to be.   Every decision we make on a daily basis will bring us closer to, or put us further from our goals in life.

One ASP.net, Scott Hanselman

Scott is championing a new mentality surrounding ASP.net.   His premise, and I admire the approach, is to preach a philosophy of the .NET framework where all components are interchangeable and if you don’t like a particular approach, it doesn’t make it wrong.  Developers are free to choose and use any components they like, wether they are NuGet packages or built-in framework features.

Many new features were highlighted including intellisense improvements for css and javascript, SignalR, NuGet, default browsers, the dynamic data type, and creating a class from a JSON object.   The talk was very entertaining (almost as much as a stand-up comedy show at the Improv) and I commend Scott for doing what he does.   Clearly Microsoft acknowledges Scott’s talent at speaking and he is a great spokesman for the platform.

Knockout.js, Ryan Niemeyer

Ryan gave a great talk on Knockout.js.   His discussion was fast paced and had a deeply technical element to it.  As a non-Knockout developer the talk did move quickly to me, but I was able to keep up by concentrating my focus on everything that Ryan was saying.  He discussed how knockout uses the Model, View, View Model approach and how the objects in Knockout derive from the subscribable classs.

Other important elements in the talk were how to perform bindings (simple and complex), how to make objects observable, and how to use computed properties.   I will likely follow-up this discussion with a Pluralsight video to better understand the framework in detail, but for the hour that I had to commit, it covered a lot of ground.

SignalR, Jeremiah Billman

One of the technologies I had heard of, but never fully understood coming into the conference was SignalR.   After hearing Scott Hanselman discuss it earlier in the day, and then seeing Jeremiah cover it more extensively in this talk, I can say this may be one of the most impressive and most disruptive technologies I learned of.   SignalR allows me to maintain a consistent connection between the client and server.  Data is pushed back and forth between the client and server.  The underlying communications are obfuscated as well depending on the browser capabilities.  The first step SignalR will attempt to use is HTML5 web sockets and it will degrade step-by-step all the way down to long-polling.

Some great uses for this technology are a real-time chat, reporting dashboards that update with real-time data, notification services to your website users or even HTML5 based games.   Jeremiah was a great presenter and gave a very entertaining demo showcasing a HTML5/SignalR ported version of the Rampage arcade game (originally by Midway games).  The characters updated in real time in each of 3 different browsers he had open thanks to SignalR.   Clearly this framework has a huge potential to change the way web development works.

ASP.net and Mobile, Scott Hanselman

In this second talk Scott gave today, he covered the various approaches ASP.net developers who wish to embrace “curly braces and angle brackets” have at their disposal to create mobile enabled websites.  Scott, as always it seems, has a knack to create a fluid, entertaining, and informative talk.  He highlighted ways that both MVC and Webforms users (emphasizing the ONE Asp.net mindset) could take advantage of the new technology.

Several options for mobile enabling design were highlighted.  Blogs and other non-data heavy applications would benefit from response design using some simple CSS3 media queries.  Data heavy, or interface heavy apps, would benefit from using the jQuery mobile framework.   Many smart people are on the jQuery mobile team and Microsoft is taking advantage of this to allow MVC (and Webforms) users to easily create Views which use the same model and present different displays depending on the browser type (mobile or desktop).

Conclusion:

The one prevailing theme I noticed today was how far the dollar stretches with thatConference.   For a $350 ticket, attendees were given a fully catered breakfast, lunch, and cocktail hour dinner.   The presentations are top notch, the resort the conference is hosted at is very family friendly, and things ran smoothly.   Knowing thatConference already has a 2013 date, I will be sure to register in advance next year as soon as it is possible.   I couldn’t be more impressed with everything the guys (and gals) have put together so far.   It’s amazing, inspiring, and an excellent opportunity to network with like-minded individuals.   I’m looking forward to days 2 and 3.

 

Kyle Ballard

Kyle is a software developer with 15+ years of experience and holds Microsoft and Salesforce developer certifications. He is also a spouse, father, aspiring home chef, and technology enthusiast.