First off, I was pleased to see that attendance was definitely better than last year (where David I’s opening keynote was seen by about 30 people tops), though that might in part have been caused by the unfortunate hotel situation back then. I haven’t heard of any definite numbers yet but my personal estimation would be that there were slightly more than a hundred people this year (which is of course still way below the numbers of a few years back). During the opening’s obligatory hand-raising segment only two or three people indicated they were there for the very first time. A harsh contrast to the results of the Delphi Tage event earlier this year where about a third of the audience outed themselves as first-timers.
A welcome gimmick (for me at least) was an offer for returning attendees of the conference to get a “free” netbook. Though I have to strongly object to the “free” part of the campaign (you had to waive the usual “early bird” rebates when claiming it, so effectively you paid more than you otherwise would have), this worked out really well for me as I did not own such a thing so far and it worked fine right out of the box.
Another small thing that I found very nice compared to previous years was that in all conference rooms you were able to sit at an actual table (well, except for when they underestimated the attendance and had to bring in extra chairs which happened to me two or three times), which is not only more comfortable because of the additional leg space but also makes taking notes so much easier.
As in most years I got to see some exceptional talks. Here are some of the ones that stood out for me:
Hadi on Test Driven Design
This was a real eye-opener on many levels while being at the same time very entertaining and thorough. I especially appreciated how Hadi took the time to present the entire thought process behind the concept but doing so in a very subtle way that made it feel very natural how all the bits fell into place.
Another very memorable bit of this talk was something that Hadi essentially tacked on at the end in response to a question from the audience: It was a one-liner for a .NET mocking framework that essentially returned a dynamically created (mock) object that implemented a given interface… it took a couple of seconds to sink in for me… this is just a little bit mind-bending if you really think about it. I want this in Delphi Win32! Now with the revived RTTI support in Delphi 2010 I think we’re already heading in the right direction that will eventually lead towards such functionality.
Ray‘s keynote on Effective UI Design
I think every developer should go see this talk at least once (I think I’ve seen it three times now in various incarnations and it just keeps getting better). This time Ray also included some (IMHO) very valid concerns about recent changes in the Delphi IDE, especially the Options dialogs. I couldn’t agree more.
Daniel (M) on advanced Debugging techniques
Even though this was already a highly informative and entertaining talk in its own right this would already have been worth it just for showing SafeMM alone! You should check it out, too: It’s a special-purpose memory manager
created by the CodeGear debugger team (thanks Chris for the clarification) to catch improper memory access directly where it happens rather than having to wait for the symptoms of such mistakes. If I understood Daniel correctly it’s a branch of FastMM.
Olaf on the new RTTI system
Can’t wait to get my hands on Delphi 2010 after this talk even though I had seen some of the new stuff at CodeRage already. This is a major milestone!
This is a really new and intriguing concept and a great approach for separating concerns and getting rid of repetitive code without actually hiding it. The whole “Unquote” thing remains a bit of a mystery, though even after having seen both talks. I guess it’ll probably become clearer as you actually write aspects yourself.
Can’t wait to have aspects in Win32 even though I can well imagine that it will be some time before we see this as it will need really deep compiler support and I know what I would like the CodeGear compiler guys to focus on first instead (hint: there will be a 64-bit edition of Office 2010).
Not really a lot of new things if one has been following the blogosphere and played around with Seven oneself already but still very informative and well-presented. I can also now say that I was there as it happened… 😉
A couple of last things I’m afraid I will have to get off my chest:
I was a bit underwhelmed if not even a little disappointed with the presence and (perceived) involvement of Embarcadero Germany as compared to past conferences(!), especially considering that they were again the Gold Sponsor of this conference: Their booth (which was pretty much hidden away behind a pillar) in the expo area was empty whenever I checked. They also didn’t advertise any conference rebates or raffle prizes as was customary in past years (though this post (in German) seems to suggest that a rebate offer might still be forthcoming by email).
Another slightly unnerving thing for me was that the conference IMHO missed a proper sense of closure: The agenda did not contain a closing session to boot. After the last session the conference was simply over. I could do without the endless raffle drawing of past years (even though one is of course always secretly hoping against hope to win something worthwhile) but I would have preferred at least to see the conference end with a speaker panel and a closing statement from representatives of CodeGear and Software&Support like there always was in past years. I might only be projecting my own feelings at others but I was under the impression that I was not the only one who felt a little bit “ordered but uncollected” (as we say in German) while we were standing in the lobby realizing that this was it and we could go home now.
Before anyone mentions it: there actually was a spontaneously(!) held raffle drawing but it started the very minute that the last sessions were scheduled to end (and we all know that speakers never exceed their time slots, don’t we) and lasted for about 15 minutes. By the time that I came out of the last session it was already over.
Anyway, I am very much looking forward to EKON 14 and other community events that will hopefully be happening during the next 12 months. See you there!