DevConnections and Patterns & Practices: A tale of two conferences

Last week I embarked on what I described to anyone who would listen as the Pacific Time Zone Sojourn -- two days at DevConnections in Las Vegas and three days at the Patterns & Practices Summit on the Microsoft campus.

Had I, like Calvin (he who conversed with the stuffed tiger, not he who preached predestination), mastered the art of cardboard-box-enabled self-duplication, Brian #1 would have spend the week at DevConnections, Brian #2 at the P&P Summit, Brian #3 at the office and Brian #4 at home cleaning my -- oh yeah, our -- apartment.

Alas, I am but one man, so I had to divide my time. In the long run, I'm glad I did, as the two shows went in two very different directions.

DevConnections attracted more than 5,000 attendees, focused on tools for Web and client developers, architects, and email and database administrators; it also offered a nice array of blinking trinkets and witty T-shirts. Patterns & Practices, meanwhile, was more or less a cozy conversation among 250 fleece-clad architects on the best ways to build software.

In Las Vegas, I squeezed in breakout sessions about Rosario (the version of Team System that will follow VS 2008), Visual Studio Tools for Office, and what's new in mobile application development. (Microsoft also announced that VS 2008 and .NET 3.5 will be ready by the end of November, so I patted myself on the back on the timing of our Visual Studio 2008 Learning Guide.)

In Redmond, meanwhile, I sat in talks focused on best patterns and practices for development, software factories and applications. One highlight was a debate on whether those patterns should be baked directly into development tools or should instead be articulated on community sites, in books, and in documentation. Another was a demonstration of LOLCODE in the Dynamic Language Runtime. (Don't ask. Just check it out here and here.)

While both conferences catered to vastly different audiences, both were of value.

DevConnections demonstrated that the .NET crowd wants to start learning about Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.x. The sessions I attended, or at the very least peeked in on as I wandered the halls, were quite crowded. Scott Guthrie is going to draw a crowd, to be sure, but so did topics like "SOA with WCF" and "Unit testing in VS 2008." When folks are attending those sessions and not hitting the slot machines, it's a safe bet that interest is high.

The Patterns & Practices Summit, meanwhile, showed me what matters to experienced architects -- notably, figuring out how to manage the process of application development so that the complicated parts need only be done once and, for that matter, done in such a way that the effort can be easily duplicated, thanks to software factories, modeling and, for some folks at least, test-driven development. Given the complexity of such processes, attendees expressed appreciation for the output of the Patterns & Practices group and offered some constructive feedback.

As you may imagine, I learned quite a bit last week. Given my travel schedule -- roughly 14 hours on an airplane, plus eight hours or so sitting in airports -- I hope you can forgive me for having not written about everything. Over the next couple weeks, all that content will emerge.

In the meantime, check out the pages for DevConnections and the Patterns & Practices Summit and see if they might be worth attending in 2008. As the conferences do not occur simultaneously next spring, you can rest assured that my personal duplication plans have hereby been put on hold.

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