Looking back at my review of DevDay 2013 it was no suprise that I was very interested in attending DevDay 2014 as well. Getting the conference ticket (they were free, but their number was limited) is a separate story itself, but let me skip that for the sake of conciseness. In the end, at 8:45am on 26th of September I was on the doorstep of DevDay 2014 and here's my story...

The venue

DevDay happened in the very same place it did last year and it was an excellent choice - pretty much the very center of my beloved Cracow, barefoot walk distance from Main Railway St., everything you could need at the conf venue or just few steps away. One could complain about the amount of space in the corridors outside of session rooms - sometimes it was a bit tight, but it still met my standards, so no complaints from me.

Sadly, this year DevDay's date collided with one of two biggest Java conferences in Poland - WarsJava - it didn't affect the attendance (DevDay is still aimed mainly for .NET developers I think), because there were far too many interested that slots available (~300 AFAIR), but I know some people who'd preferrably attend both (including myself): but well, shit happens, there will always be a clash with something.

Org-wise ...

... DevDay has used exactly the same formula (well, except the additional day of workshop but I didn't attend it, so I won't write about that) it did last year (well, because it worked flawlessly? :D) & it was fine:

  • smooth registration
  • clear directions & markings
  • simple session rating system
  • visible org (ekhm, ... "debugging") team

What would one wish more for? I don't know much about lunch queues this year, because I was among the ones in the front of the queue, but I didn't hear anyone bitching on that, so I assume that wait times were acceptable.

SWAG you got in your conf goodies bag was very limited, but it wouldn't be far to expect much keeping in mind that tickets were free. Sadly no tee this year, but there was a buff to compensate.

Pretty much everything was on time, no delays, hardware failures or anything like that. Just the catering guys making some noise in the backstage sometimes, but that wasn't anything you couldn't live with.

Sessions

Timetable was exactly like the one year before - one day, two parallel session streams in the same time, except for the keynote & the final session which were joint-rooms. It worked well again - just enough choice to make sure you can take your preferences into account without getting lost in the breadth. Speaker names looked good as well: Dan North, Simon Brown, Rob Ashton, Paul Stack, etc. - these guys tend to prove that they have always something interesting to tell.

But ...

... these were actually the sessions that have disappointed me this year. Maybe it was just a bad luck, maybe I had my expectations set too high or maybe I've fallen too deep with my extreme nerdissmo (like watching every recorded session from every conference that I can find on the web ;P). Ok, to the point:

Dan North "Jackstones: The Journey to Mastery"

Honestly, I haven't read the agenda before the conference ("Surprise me, yeah, surprise me!1!!") - so I've found out that the keynote is exactly the same session Dan had on CraftConf. Obviously, it's normal -> speakers re-use their sessions frequently for the obvious reasons and there's nothing reprehensible about that (I am 99% sure that the best sessions in past DevDays I liked so much were recycled as well), but hearing the same thing again is not that much fun. Unlucky me.

Enrico Campidoglio "Why No Code Reviews?"

I came there to hear some stuff about code reviews in distributed environment, mainly because I'm interested in the tricks companies / communities use to make sure that pre-commit code reviews don't kill their development agility. Enrico didn't go for many details & he didn't disclose many kitchen secrets of Tretton37, but session was quite ok - mainly because the entertainment factor & demo of Upsource (I've somehow skipped the fact that JetBrains has released a new product dedicated for CRs).

Seb Rose "So Long, and Thanks for All the Tests"

Nope, nothing, null. I've completely failed to identify author's point here. And he has failed in making the presentation interesting in any way. No entertainment, no controversy, no bold statements, ... just a gap in the timetable, sorry.

Rob Ashton "React + NPM for Great Good"

Well, a "typical Ashton session" ;P Nice tempo, a lot of humour, bitching, opinionated statements, ponies - but I believe that people know what's in Rob's deck, so everyone was warned beforehand :P I may disagree with some of his statements (well, like 75% of them? ;>), but it's still fun to attend his sessions. His session wasn't that good as the closing one year before & he didn't show anything really fancy about neither React (damn, I really wanted to hear something more about Flux) nor NPM, but nevertheless it was one of the best sessions this day.

Karl-Henrik Nillson "Hacking Your Doorbell"

Nice topic, nice idea for sessions, but ... not delivered. I believe that the author should re-think the formula of demo: yes, he showed us the annoying ringing bell, but it seems that he has actually skipped the most interesting part ... the ekhm everything that's between the Web API & the actual loudspeaker. The entertainment factor was not bad, but it felt a bit un-natural (planned up-front, not spontaneous).

Peter Smith "It Doesn't Work That Way in Enterprise"

This session was mainly about some ridiculous (it was life that made them ridiculous, not the speaker ;P) war stories taken straight from wicked world of enterprise madness. Shaped to make people shake their heads in disbelief, have some laughter & share (afterwards) their own pains. No outcomes (well, except "Fight the system!", given in a slightly lighter words ;>), no conclusions - an average session, nice to listen to, but I won't remember it in few days.

Simon Brown "Software Architecture vs Code"

Honestly, I like hearing to Simon. Not just because he's a smart guy, but he's a natural speaker & he's good in attracting audience attention. Sadly (for me) it was another recycled session - it still felt better than the keynote, because I have a feeling Simon regularly re-develops his sessions, so they are a bit different each time, but it doesn't change the fact that I was listening to the same stuff again.

Concluding

Conferences are NOT just about the sessions, really. The social aspect is damn important & I was very glad to meet so many familiar faces (some I had enough time to speak to, but in some cases I've just managed to say hello), but for me the sessions are still the main reason of attending. Don't get me wrong - I don't expect sessions to always make me learn something completely new or entertain me in a way I never had before. But I expect sessions to be some kind of boosters: envigorate / re-charge / spur me for forthcoming weeks. Either because of:

  • presenting new tech I haven't seen before (or I've seen it very briefly)
  • revealing some meaty internals that are special in any way
  • pure entertainment (some speakers just have it ...)
  • or just provoking me to think a bit about something I didn't bother with before

Sadly, this year DevDay sessions didn't do that for me. Does it mean it was a bad conf? I don't think so - it doesn't say much about conf in general, it's more about the individual perception: I am 100% convinced that there were many people who haven't heard North, Ashton, Stack, Hall or Brown before & now they're buzzing with the new ideas & energy to execute them. I keep fingers crossed for them :)

Anyway, thanks for having me, DevDay. I hope we meet next year as well, because I'm already building up my expectations for DevDay 2015 ;D