DSConf in Review
It’s Monday February 14, 3AM and i’m jet-lagged and back home from Las Vegas, where our three-day Developer Solution Conference ended – what seems like a few hours ago – on Thursday.
DSConf Las Vegas was the first conference we have ever organized, and has been the first state-side events of our partners in crime, the Developer Experts.
This being our first event, and having a lot of time, resources and money invested into this over the past three or four months since we started planning, we were of course nervous about how the conference would go. Did we have the right mix of content? would our one-track, half-sessions/half-workshop approach work? would people like the event? heck, would anybody show up?
To say that we’re very happy with how the event turned out would be a tremendous understatement. interest in the conference was great, and with 40 registrations, we certainly reached our goal as far as pure numbers of attendees go. But what’s more important, people really dug the concept of DSConf and our sessions+workshops approach, and again and again attendees approached me (and my fellow staff) telling me that the conference was “exactly what [they] were looking for” or “just perfect”.
DSConf was held at the MGM Grand, where we had access to three rooms, one for the main session and workshop, one for breakfast, lunch, afternoon sneaks and Embarcadero’s sponsor booth, and a third where attendees could break out to, to sit down and code, away from all the action.
Day 1 started (after a brief introduction of all the staff) with an overview of the development tools, with Jim and Olaf first looking at Delphi XE and Delphi Prism XE, and Daniel then giving an introduction into Xcode and Objective-C (with a little bit too much focus on how “weird” Objective-C is, if you ask me [i love it – i don't think it's weird at all ;], but people enjoyed it and learned a lot). After lunch (a great mix of Asian food provided by the awesome MGM Grand catering staff), Daniel Wolf started his session on UX design and paper prototyping, followed by a hands-on workshop on the same topic, which everyone seemed to agree was the highlight of the day:
Photo: Jim McKeeth
We closed with a workshop for the development tools shown earlier in the day, before releasing attendees to dinner and a free Poker Training session put on by MGM staff especially for our attendees. Those not interested in poker joined us back in the conference room for some late-night coding.
Day 2 came bright and early, with the keynote from Embarcadero’s David I – giving an overview of the current Delphi XI and the plans for the future, including a demo of Delphi/x64 and some hints at what’s coming down the road with VCL+. After that, we dove into multi-tier. First Jim gave us some background on why you’d want to bother with multi-tier in the first place, then Olaf and Daniel took the down-and-dirty road of showing attendees how to do data access the old fashioned way – custom REST and JSON parsing, and all those gruesome details.
After lunch (mediterranean food, which i did not get a chance to eat but was told was excellent once again) Holger and Jim dove into Data Abstract, showing how to create clients and servers with either Delphi or Delphi Prism.
Every conference needs it’s hick-up, so the last three hours of the day saw me on stage with Holger and Daniel leading developers thru our workshop and working with Data Abstract for .NET in Delphi Prism. I’m not an on-stage kind of guy, but things went well, and Daniel clearly enjoyed telling me how to use my product on the big screen ;).
If you’ve been to conferences before, you know that usually half the audience is checking their mail or catching up on twitter while talks are going on. But – just as in the workshop the day prior &dasnh; pretty much every attendee was following along with the workshop, as we plugged thru the details of DA/.NET, DA LINQ, RemObjects SDK Roles and creating custom web service methods that performed mathematical operations only Daniel will understand. While we were on stage guiding the workshop, the rest of the team roamed the room to answer questions and assist attendees who ran into problems.
After the dinner break (i went to eat an excellent Teppanyaki with the RemObjects crew and a few friends), attendees met again for an “open bar and networking” evening.
Day 3 was all about mobile development, with three sessions dedicated to iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android and Windows Phone 7, respectively. The iOS session touched briefly on MonoDevelop, but then focused on Xcode (personally my favorite way to develop for that platform); the Android session was given by our guest speaker Brian Long (who’s presentation, if i may say so, was one of the highlights of the conference), providing a great and in-depth introduction to MonoDroid (a topic unknown to myself, as well, up to that point). Last but not least, Jim introduced the attendees to Windows Phone 7 development with Silverlight.
All three sessions consisted of about two-thirds of an in-depth view at the platform and development tools themselves (with Delphi Prism being used for all three .NET based tool chains, although the principles shown would have applied just as well to C#), and one third of a look at how Data Abstract rounds those platforms off with multi-tier client functionality.
Next up came the part i was most excited about: Jim spent half an hour giving a sneak peak at a new top-secret project that has been brewing in our labs for a while now: “Cooper”. DSConf attendees were the first people outside of RemObjects to ever hear about Cooper, but now that the word is out: Cooper is a new compiler that brings the Oxygene language (that you all know an love from Delphi Prism) to the Java and Android platforms. Just like Oxygene, when first releases, aimed at bringing the “full .NET experience”to Pascal developers, Cooper does the same for Java. it links directly against the Java class libraries and generates 100% true Java (or Dalvik, Android’s variation of Java) executables, and is a “true” Next Generation Object Pascal for Java. (We’ll have a video reproducing the DSConf session up on RemObjects TV within the day, and stay tuned for more information, soon!).
“Cooper” was met with a lot of excitement from the attendees, and i believe it will be one of the most interesting products we’ll be shipping this year.
But, time to move on, and day three of DSConf ended with a set of workshops putting the knowledge from the morning to use – with the help from Daniel, Brian and Jim on stage, attendees went on to build mobile clients for the Data Abstract server created the day prior, for iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7.
So people showed up, all the sessions went well, but the greatest part of the conference for me has been talking to all the attendees – many of which long time customers who’s names i’ve seen again again but who i had never met, and just as many who were completely new to our products.
There’s two things attendees said to me that i will never forget. The first was a long-time customer coming up top me, telling me how long he’s been using our stuff and saying “Thanks. You guys have made me a lot of money.” That must be among my favorite customer quotes ever. The second was a guy – new to DA – who looked me up, said he’d loved what he’d seen, and asked what Data Abstract would cost. I told him, and after looking at me – flabbergasted – for several seconds, he said “That’s all? That’s per deployment, right?” Nope, i told him. That’s the flat license, per developer.
Photo: Nate Woolls, TeamRO
So we’re very happy with how DSConf turned out. Tired, yes, but very happy. So happy in fact, that we’re already planning the next event. I cannot go into details yet, but stay tuned to http://dsconf.com for more information soon (and sign up to the DSConf newsletter to stay up to date).