Sunday, January 21, 2007

Codemash roundup: LINQ is the word.

Well, it's the Sunday after CodeMash, and I've had a chance to collect my thoughts about the event.

In short, it was a terrific event, and I am really looking forward to CodeMash '08. Aside from the technical content (which I'll cover below) it was a great opportunity to meet up with some people I hadn't seen in a long time and catch up, and to meet some new people in the industry. It was interesting to see what not only fellow ".NET-ers" were doing, but to also check out what's going on in the Java and Ruby camps. I even attended a Java session myself! More on that in a bit.

Given that it was the first conference that these guys had done, I thought everything went INCREDIBLY smoothly. I was drafted into working the registration desk for a few hours on Thursday, and the very small number of people asking questions about what was going on was a testament to that.

The facility was nice, although it wasn't hard to see that this was the first "big" event they had hosted. The water park looked fun, but I chose not to indulge for a couple of reasons. It was very nice and convenient to have the lodging and the conference in one facility; no running to catch shuttles, no standing in the rain/snow/heat/whatever and if you didn't want to cart your swag around all day you could just stash it in your room between sessions.

OK, now on to the technical.

As mentioned, I did attend a "Java" talk. Todd Kaufman gave a presentation on Spring. I attended because I know Todd and have seen him present and wanted to throw some support his way. I also know that there is a .NET version that I've heard some interesting things about, so I wanted to check it out. To be honest, some of the Java specific stuff kinda threw me, but I was able to follow along. I'm planning to install Spring and give it a shot.

I also enjoyed Neal Fords keynote on the first morning. It gave me a lot to think about. The fact is, people are already using DSL's and don't even know it. Do you use Service Factory? You are using a DSL.

Some other high points where Kieth Elders Smart Client presentation (I only caught the first half, I understand the second half had mixed reviews) and Drew Robbins presentation on Vista Sidebar Gadgets.

Kieth had some good points about advocating for Smart Client systems and it's something I'm definitely going to offer by way of suggestion to my clients. Some might be open to this. Some, mostly the ones who have drunk the "Web 2.0" Kool-Aid might not, but it never hurts to try. Being and admitted "object-snob" I was a little concerned to see him using datasets. Not because I think he shouldn't have used them in the context that he did, but because I've noticed that a lot of developers want to use them for EVERYTHING. I'm trying to break the cycle of dataset madness, and I was mostly worried that a response to my efforts would be "Well, Kieth Elder uses datasets."

Drew gave a really interesting kind of "see spot run" overview of Vista gadgets. I can see these being particularly useful in an Enterprise environment. The "big thing" now is dashboards and Enterprise Platforms. But, most people don't want to necessarily have their dashboard open all day, especially if it isn't their primary work surface. I see gadgets being useful by allowing a small-footprint, non-intrusive way for people to monitor important information about their organization without impacting how they do their day-to-day work. Right now not enough of my clients are using Vista, but it's definitely something worth keeping in the tool-box for later.

I was planning on attending Josh Holmes presentation on SOA, but he told me that he would be here (in Columbus) next week to present it at the next CNUG users group, so I guess I have to wait a week.

The "big" thing of CodeMash, at least for me and I imagine the rest of the ".NET-ers" was Scott Guthrie speaking, mostly about LINQ.

To be short, I think LINQ is going to be the "next big thing" in the world of .NET. .NET 3.0 (WCF, WF, WPF(/E)) are all great technologies, and represent big leaps in and of themselves. But they don't approach what LINQ is going to do.

I'm not going to go into explaining what LINQ is. If you are reading this and you don't know you either

  • Aren't in technology and don't care

  • You are in technology and don't care enough

What I can tell is you what LINQ is to me. LINQ is the bridge between the idea of data persistence and domain objects. Datasets continue to be used for a lot of database access, and I personally don't like it. Datasets are inefficient. Datasets are heavy. As a developer, I prefer to think in terms of things like customers, accounts, orders, addresses, etc. and not in terms of a field in a representation of a table in a representation of a database. Most importantly, unless you have a bunch of business logic in your database (and why you would put it there is beyond me) datasets don't force you to do any business level validation before saving your data. LINQ is also an easy way for me to find the data I need easily in large collections. LINQ is going to change the way people think about data and data persistence. It's going to be out (officially) later this year and I can't wait!

And finally, the coolest thing about CodeMash was that I was one of several people who were invited to have lunch with Scott Guthrie on Friday. (Thanks Drew!) It was quite an honor, and I think a lot of the .NET people were a little "star-stuck." Alexey definitely had a bit of a "boy-crush" going. But who can blame him. The lunch was great and there was a lot of thought provoking discussion. It was an honor to be invited to attend.

I almost forgot one last thing! A final highlight (or, lowlight depending on your point of view) was the Brian Prince/Josh Holmes head shaving. I guess I should explain for those who missed it; at the end of Neal Ford's keynote on the first day, Josh made a deal that he would shave his head at the closing if there were 500 blog posts about CodeMash. Brian Prince upped the ante by saying he would do it for 600. At the end of the closing, Technorati was fired to up to get a final count and.... Technorati was down. Yeah, kind of anti-climactic. But, Josh made a deal with the crowd that if we all went home and blogged about CodeMash, he would do it. Somehow Brian got roped into this too, and off the hair came. Amazingly, a cursory search of YouTube did not produce a video. Keep checking.

Good luck guys. I hope it grows back. It doesn't alway you know... :)

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