This past weekend I spoke at two events in Milwaukee, WI.
On Saturday morning I spoke at Deeper in .NET, a local event organized by the Wisconsin .NET user group. They lined up sponsors, got a venue and had around 400 people show up for the free all-day event. The speaker line-up was pretty compelling, including Scott Guthrie and Rob Howard. I was impressed by the organization of the event and I think it was a great day!
In particular I’m very happy to see events like this and the Heartland Developers Conference (in Iowa) be so successful. Typically the big Microsoft conferences are on the coasts – San Francisco, Orlando and so forth. While those are nice destinations, the fact is that we here in the middle of the country want the same content, the same speakers. Events like this one on Saturday bring the speakers and content to the audience, and that is an awesome thing!
Personally though, I think those of us in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota should organize the events in May, June or September. Organizing these events when the weather is cold just reinforces people’s misguided perception about this part of the US. During the months of May, June and September the weather (at least in Minnesota) is as nice as you’ll find anywhere. Probably nicer. And Minnesota is beautiful in those months, all green trees and blue water.
On Friday and Sunday I spoke at the No Fluff, Just Stuff Software Symposium (NFJS). This conference is different from any other I’ve done, and I think is somewhat unique in general.
What makes NFJS unique in general is that they cap attendance at 200 people, they do many shows around the country (so one is probably near you) and they do the shows over a weekend. Basically they are trying to keep it small, intimate and affordable. People must like it, since most shows apparently sell out. Basically they are doing (on a commercial level) what Deeper in .NET and Heartland Developers Conference have been doing via user groups.
NFJS has historically been a Java show, but they recognize that most organizations today use a mix of Java and .NET. They also recognize that the two platforms are more similar than they are different. Because of this, the NFJS organizers are building a .NET component to the conference.
I must say I went with some trepidation, since not all Java people are tolerant toward anything Microsoft (I’m being polite here). But I had a blast. Sure there were a couple misguided sneers here and there, but by and large the people attending the show are serious technologists who want to do the best job they can with the best knowledge and tools they can find. And that kind of person is really fun to talk with irregardless of their preferred development platform!
What I found most interesting about the NFJS attendees is their focus. In a Microsoft conference the focus is all on Microsoft. What is Microsoft going to do, what are they doing and why’d they do what they did? The NFJS show isn’t vendor-focused though, so the attendees were more interested in industry trends rather than vendor actions. People wanted to know where the industry would be in five years, what is going to replace Java now that it is old and boring (Ruby and Groovy seem like popular options), what is the real story about integration between BEA, IBM and yes, even .NET.
There were discussions about whether software development is art or engineering or both (thanks to a keynote by Dave Thomas). But I can’t remember a conference where there was serious debate about whether software is trying to model the real world or is a mathematical proof of a process. The geek-o-meter at this show is very high! :)
I’m doing at least a couple more NFJS shows in Boston and Minneapolis (here’s my speaking schedule), and I’m really looking forward to them!
For user groups interested in organizing day-long events like Deeper in .NET, I strongly recommend it. You can work with your local Microsoft DE, and local consulting and technology companies to get sponsors to cover the cost. Get involved with INETA, as they can help you get speakers (they covered the cost of getting me to Milwaukee for instance). Make it happen – these events are great!!