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Sharing Knowledge.  That was the theme of the Øredev conference held this past week in Malmö, Sweden.  I was invited this year to participate in this conference in the Scandanavian area to speak on Silverlight technologies.  I am very humbled to have been invited.  This was truly a great conference and let me tell you my impressions.

I’ve attended Microsoft’s PDC, TechEd, VSLive, DevConnections, etc.  I’ve got most of them all under my belt (as an attendee).  They are all good in their own regard.  The ones that are most interesting, however, are those that have an intensity about them and a collaboration among the other attendees who may or may not know each other.  That is what I felt at Øredev this past week.  This was the ultimate “code camp” which brought together a ton of different technology conversations in the setting of a large conference.  There was representation from both technology and practices: .NET, Java, project management, user experience, Agile/Scrum methodologies, mobile development, etc., etc.  You name it, it was there.

Along with Beatriz Stollnitz (Costa), I spoke on Silverlight, specifically accessing data and writing custom controls.  After each session we were invited to dig deeper with any attendees who wanted in a “chalk talk” setting, which I did and was able to get some good feedback to take back to a few teams at Microsoft.  After each time I presented, I was presented with a “thank you” certificate on behalf of the conference, which represented a donation to UNICEF.  The conference decided to ensure that the technical community in that area give back to a cause that needed assistance.  At the end of the conference, representatives of UNICEF were presented with a donation of around 200,000 SEK from the Øredev conference.  Very nice.

At the beginning of the conference, the city hosting us, Malmö, invited the speakers to attend a nice dinner at the city hall with the deputy mayor.  I personally thought it was very cool of the city to be involved and a classy act on their behalf (and the conference organizers).

What made Øredev special to me was the sincerity of learning and diversity in attendees.  Generally, even at the local code camps I’ve attended, there always seems to be this animosity between technology experts.  Not here.  In fact I spent an hour talking with an engineer from the JavaFX team about what they are doing, seeing some of their thoughts and learning about what essentially amounts to a competitive platform for the area I work in.  There was no “ours is better” moments in that conversation.  In fact he also mentioned that he’d not really paid attention to Silverlight until this week and is impressed with some of what he saw.  People from Google were there showing Android and getting people excited about that (and they brought it on a few different devices other than what I think is the ugly G1 form factor).  It was a perfect environment for learning together about different things and having open conversations about the technology, and as well as what we as software engineers can do to help create better software and innovate more in what we are already doing.

One cool logistic thing I liked about the conference was removing the long form evaluation concept for speakers.  Instead of relying on people to go to a web site after the fact and enter in an evaluation (which is very hard to collect and usually yields an incredibly low ratio of those who attend sessions actually filling out feedback), each attendee of every session was asked to “vote” on their way out of the room.  There were 3 stacks of cards: Red, Yellow, Green.  You pick the one that fit your impression of the session and put it in the bucket.  This removes the negative marks from the speaker for things like “couldn’t hear, chairs squeeky (which they were), too cold” and so on.  Those type of feedback are needed and still collected by the various delegates that are mingling with the crowd throughout the week.  I wish every conference I went to simplified down to this!

Of the other cool things, I was able to get a demonstration of Strangeloop Network’s AS1000 appliance for ASP.NET applications.  I spent time talking with Richard Campbell and understanding what it does and then proceeded to actually see the effective results in action.  Holy crap it was cool.  If you want better overall performance of your site to our users, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  I’m trying to convince my manager now that we need one!

It was also very fun to meet Linus, Chris, George, Magnus and Michael who all had a part in organizing the conference either as a speaker, track lead, and Michael as one of the main organizers with Emily.  Magnus had invited some people to his flat at the beginning of the conference, but jetlag was evil on me and I didn’t make it…I heard it was a blast as well.  Having dinner with Ted “The Dude” Neward watching him trying to survive a 600gr steak was also a great night in Sweden.  I was able to stay through the weekend and hang out with Richard and Carl and Glenn Block in Copenhagen touring the city and having some great conversations (or at least I think they were).

Overall, hanging out with smart and fun people and participating in this conference was a really exciting time.  If you are close to the area, it is a not-miss conference in my opinion, so mark your calendars for next year.  I hope that I might be invited back in the future.

So thank you to Linus, Magnus, Emily and Michael for inviting me to participate and making it special.  I think the show was a success and your region should be very proud of this conference!  Great job to all!

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