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SilverlightDevCamp SF Recap

September 18, 2007

I had a great time this weekend at the SilverlightDevCamp in San Francisco.  I had never before been to a DevCamp, BarCamp or any other type of camp that happens indoors.  The casual yet academic atmosphere was well set and provided for by our hosts Kurt Brockett, Kevin Marshall and Anand Iyer.  Nicely done guys, as well as thanks to the sponsors.

SilverlightDevCamp opening

The camp started Friday night with a greeting, logistics and a bit of beer and pizza.  During the greeting we had come up with a few session ideas and some common questions.  Once I was introduced I took the opportunity to jump into Silverlight and answer a few of the burning questions with easy answers.  What I quickly learned is that I should have polled the crowd about on their knowledge of Silverlight.  I spend most of my days deep in Silverlight and most of the attendees had just started their journey.  In my excitement to share my knowledge, I had jumped to step 200 but should have started from the beginning.  I was able to answer questions for those who could not come on Saturday, so I think that was a plus. Definitely something to remember for future DevCamps.

We continued to plan sessions and happily socialize the night away.

Saturday morning came and the full day of sessions began.  It was interesting to see the session schedule organized and driven by the attendees.  Some held forums to lead a discussion around a topic they themselves wanted to learn more about.  Others had prepared their sessions ahead of time and it showed.

This way to SilverlightDevCamp

I was happy to participate and contribute in almost every session. Silverlight is such a new technology and we’ve launched many products around the technology and WPF, that it is still very fresh.  We have some misinformation out there we need to correct as well as our continued improvement on the ability to explain Silverlight.

I also received some great feedback on how we can improve upon the initial step in learning Silverlight .  Currently I recommend using the Get Started page on Silverlight.net and the QuickStarts, but it sounds like a scenario-based getting started doc would be useful (e.g. if you are an SVG developer…).

Here are my highlights from the sessions I attended (full sessions page):

Silverlight 101
Brian Ellis from Vertigo did a respectable job of starting the day with an introduction to Silverlight.  Not too deep but a good amount to get started with the code and the tools.

Expression Blend 101
Unfortunately Cal Schrotenboer’s talk was cut short by technical difficulties, but I did get the chance to talk with him and learn about the classes he is teaching.  He has a list here, but I don’t believe I’ve seen that many WPF classes at a college before.  I would expect to see a Silverlight class soon.

iPhone and Top Banana
Beau Amber of Metalliq and Top Banana fame, walked us though the iPhone simulation he had created for MIX:UK 07.  He did a great job replicating the iPhone in XAML using Blend as his main tool, actually I think it was the only tool he used.  He also demoed Top Banana and as usual the crowd loved it.  Its such a cool app and hearing the story about how it came together was inspiring.  And good news, the source is almost available, apparently there is just a little more clean-up to do.  I did record the whole session and am working on publishing the video.

Silverlight and Flash (and JavaFX)
After lunch (more pizza) it was finally time for the most anticipated session comparing Silverlight and Flash.  Randy Fong had started gathering questions since the night before and the session had awakened Ryan Stewart and drawn in John Dowdell.  (Ryan had actually attended almost the whole thing and John had asked some good questions during Beau’s talk)

We had an interesting start with Abdel Remani adding JavaFX into the comparison as well.  I say interesting because nobody had mentioned JavaFX before and it didn’t seem as though it was completely comparable in all aspects.  Either way I learned about JavaFX and Flex in this session and Ryan, John and Anand did an admirable job trying to keep the comparison clear and accurate, while not turning it into a grudge match.

Regarding comparing technologies, I found the whole DevCamp very useful in learning more about technologies in the RIA space.  Special thanks to Rob Rusher who spent some time going through Flex with me.

The Moonlight session was interesting because none of us had actually gotten Moonlight to run yet, but we were all interested.  Anand and Tyler Ballance had the most to share and we made a bit of pact to continue to work together to futrther our Moonlight knowledge.  Next step, host a VPC or VMWare with it running.

Extending Silverlight 1.0
Jeff Atwood of Vertigo and Coding Horror walked us through the construction of the Chess Viewer Sample.  This seemed to resonate well with the attendees and acted as real practical application of the code we had been talking about.  Nice job Jeff and thanks for the lesson in chess notation.

Tyler Ballance of Slide.com introduced us to IronPython and all of its Python goodness.  He was actually a contributor to the Mac port so he had a fair bit of experience to draw upon.  The session morphed into a "dynamic languages are fun? check yes or no" session.  Which was fine because looking at Python code it looks fun and carefree.  I should spend some time trying to build with it and see how I feel afterwards.

Media Services
We had a short Media session where we covered codecs and playback but most of the time was covering features we are planning for the future including server-side playlists and DRM.

After the last session, I interviewed Tyler about his DevCamp experience and the sample he had built while there.  I think the video came out pretty well and I should be publishing it shortly.

SilverlightDevCamp shirt

Overall, I thoroug
hly enjoyed the DevCamp and look forward to attending future Camps.  If you take a look at the SilverlightDevCamp page, you’ll see that there are currently two more planned.  One in Washington DC in November and the other at the end of this month in Chicago the weekend before Adobe MAX.

I few last notes: there are more photos available on Flickr, it was very nice to finally meet John Dowdell in person and I was told that my voice sounds like Seth Rogen.

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