Ravi Mohan's Blog

Monday, February 11, 2008

DevCamp - A report

I am still "offline" but due to popular demand, here is a very brief report on Devcamp.

Bangalore has long missed a conference for serious developers. In Bangalore you often find methodology based conferences (like the Agile confeences) or various company sponsored conferences which are thinly disguised propaganda pitches (Sun/Oracle/Microsoft Tech days for e.g). There weren't too many conferences where people who code (and like to code) could get together and exchange notes with likeminded souls.

DevCamp plugs that gap very neatly. The organizers had explicitly filtered out the usual "hands on training on blub framework X or Snake Oil Methodology Y" type events which proliferate locally.The blurb for the event read "Please assume a high level of exposure and knowledge on the part of your audience and tailor your sessions to suit. Avoid 'Hello World' and how-to sessions which can be trivially found on the net. First hand war stories, in-depth analysis of topics and hands on demos are best". Consequently, most sessions were very compelling, with people demoing their pet code bases and showing off cool hacks. People projecting code (vs slides) and actually coding on stage, made this event a refreshing break from the usual slideware based mumbo jumbo. The unconference format was a particularly good fit, because you didn't have to distort your session to fit some arbitrary conceptual boundary.

I couldn't attend as many sessions as I wanted. But I did catch Bejoy's's LinQ presentation (decent, though a bit shallow), Karthik's Erlang Testing tool (when this is finished it will bury JMeter) and Vivek Singh's session on White (brilliant, brilliant work!). The sessions I would have liked to attend but missed out on were the one on MOOSE and Siddharth's presentation on running linux on a Nintendo DS.

Thoughtworks organized the conference with clockwork precision and everything flowed smoothly. It was great to be back at TW and meet my ex colleagues - which brought home to me (again) how much I miss working with bright opinionated people- aargh I have to fix this. . I am (very) glad I don't write enterprise software any more, particularly the outsourced variety, but I do miss working with bright people.

So what could be improved? Not much really. One of the projectors didn't work with Ubuntu so I had to switch to Windows (bleh) for my presentation. My talk on monads seemed to go down well. Explaining esoterica like monads in a 30 minute session was an interesting challenge in communication, but it turned out ok. I had requests for a repeat session but I was too exhausted. - Some other day. The AC and the network conked out occasionally but these were very minor issues. There were a few too many (imo) "passive" attendees who wanted to listen more than speak, which is against the Xcamp ethos but I am hopeful that will change. Another thing future organizers need to watch out for is disguised product/recruitment pitches. There were at least one "you can code against our APIs and help us make more money" talk with zero technical content. Again not an issue for this conference , but something to watch out for in the future. All in all, a very refreshing change form the usual frivolous frothiness of the BarCamps. Not a single "blogger" or "seo marketing person" or "movie club member" in sight. Just developers and code. Bliss!

Devcamp is something that Bangalore really needs. I look forward to the next one.

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