What I Learned at SD

There’s always lots of good hallway and speaker lounge talk at the Software Development Conference, and this year was no exception. Over past years, hallway chatter has been an amazingly good predictor of what’s going to be hot over the coming year or two. It’s worth summarizing some of the thoughts here.


There was a lot of interest in REST this year. Doubtless I heard more than I usually do because I was teaching John Cowan’s REST tutorial so anyone who wanted to talk about REST came looking for me. However, REST certainly does seem to be growing, and a lot of people are catching WS-Fatigue.

One common response among the REST tutorial attendees though was that they’d like a lot more practical examples rather than high-level theory. This is something we RESTafarians need to work on. For example, how to do the Java Pet Store in REST, or how to do Amazon Web Services in REST, or how to do a basic shopping cart app in REST.


Equally prominent in hallway conversations was the topic of birding. However that was very clearly personal since I was leading SD’s first ever Birding BOF. The most common question was, “Do you really think anybody’s going to get up at 6:00 A.M. to go birding before the conference?” Well, ten intrepid souls did (though Europeans and East Coasters were disproportionately represented). You can read about it here. We’ll definitely do this one again next year.


AJAX has been a hot topic at the conference since 2004 and that trend continues. We’re considering an entire AJAX track for 2007. Let the conference organizers know if you’re interested in this.

Ruby and Rails

Ruby and Rails are also clearly hot topics. Rick Wayne’s half-day Railin’ on AJAX tutorial was very well attended. I learned a few things about basic Ruby syntax that had been confusing me. However, it was clearly overly compressed. For next year, I’m lobbying for at least a full day hands on introduction to Ruby and another full day hands on introduction to Rails. You may be able to demo Rails in 15 minutes, but there’s a big difference between demoing and teaching. Possibly there’ll even be a full Ruby track next year, co-equal with the existing C++ and Java tracks. Again, let the conference organizers know if you’re interested in this.

Since I teach a lot of classes at SD and spend most of my free time preparing I don’t have as much time as I’d like to hear other peoples’ talks. That’s why my reports from SD tend to focus on hallway chatter. Some year I’d like to have the luxury to just attend the show as a regular attendee. However I did hear two interesting talks this year.


John Schneider gave an informative presentation on ECMAScript for XML. Currently it’s only supported in Firefox, but it does look very promising. Aside from the namespace syntax (which is hideous, but when is anything involving namespaces not hideous?) E4X feels really clean and natural. I’ve seen a lot of efforts to improve XML processing over the years, and I’ve learned there are certain friction points where developers tend to make mistakes by cutting too many corners or not really understanding XML. Mixed content and element order are two. I was pleased to note that every time I brought up one of those points, the developers had considered it and correctly addressed it without improperly restricting XML. I do think namespaces could be handled better, but at least the way E4X handles them is accurate.


Cedric Beust gave an informative talk on TestNG. I’m a lot more impressed by this framework than I was. I still don’t think it’s going to replace JUnit for more than a niche market though, especially now that JUnit 4 is out.


The most interesting keynote was Amazon’s Felipe Cabrera on S3 and Mechanical Turk. That’s too interesting to summarize in one paragraph here. I’ll have more to say about that in a separate article later. Uncle Bob Martin gave one of his customary excellent keynotes, as did Bruce Schneier. Neither said anything I hadn’t heard them say before, but what they say is important enough it’s worth repeating.

Overall, it was an excellent show. Lots of stimulating conversation and a great audience. Conference attendance was up again this year by about 100 attendees, and the exhibit floor wasn’t the dead zone it’s been for the last few years. The show’s not what it was circa 1997, but it’s improving. If we can get the Ruby and AJAX tracks put together, 2007 could be a really interesting year to be at SD.

2 Responses to “What I Learned at SD”

  1. Erich Says:

    Guess I should have gone to SDWest. Instead I was at TSSJS and boy oh boy, now I know where the Java Hyper Enthusiasts have landed. Eech. Except for Jason Hunter’s talk on web caching and an interesting overview of Seam by Gavin King, it was quite the smoke screen of SOA/BPEL/WS/EJB3 and big-iron-ish J(2)EE love. Instead of asking about people’s real experiences with Rails, Geir Magnusson asked people in the audience to share why RoR was a failure for them – it was very one-sided, assuming that nobody would actually want to use Rails or that it would be acceptable for anybody. Also, Hani (bileblog) asked the audience the question “Who here would rather use a webmail interface than a desktop client?” in trying to elicit that the web should move to big RIA desktop type apps, or just you know, desktop apps. Dude, you’re asking a room full of geeks. The real answer is that most of the world is not so geeky and gmail works just fine. The idea of “less is more” never entered the doors at TSSJS…

    Definitely will try a different venue next year.

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