Alt.NET Seattle ’09

Couple of weekends ago, I was at Redmond for the Alt.NET Seattle conference. As this was my second time there, I was no longer a Open Space/Alt.NET virgin. Just like last year, an amazing amount of discussions were packed into two full days. It was very difficult to pick which sessions to attend, having to decide whether to sit in a technical discussion or a meta-discussion. But with so many people recording videos, it is almost possible to not miss anything. We are not quiet there yet, but I am sure in the future every session would be recorded/streamed in some manner.
Ward Cunningham Keynote

Ward Cunningham showed us the work he did during his time with the Eclipse project on unit testing on a new level of complexity. He calls it SWIM and was implemented in PHP/HTML/CSS/JavaScript. He proposed to start a new open source project to implement the same concept in .NET. This create enough interest to spawn off a separate session later this weekend. (The test case runner was provisionally named Swim Runner. Personally I think it should be named Swimmer!)
Encouraging Open Source in .NET

Last year in Seattle, a similar session was convened to discuss how to create more buzz and interest in open source projects in .Net space. This year’s session centered around how we can get more open source projects to start, worked on, and succeed. Scott Hanselman hosted this session and asked what the community can do. Should Microsoft give Oren Eini a mail-order bride so he can finish LINQ-to-NHibernate? (Joke) What about OSS projects adaption by VB.NET developers?
.NET/Mono on Mac, Linux, and iPhone

Miguel de Icaza of the Mono Project hosted the session. He showed us the tooling and technique to develop iPhone app/game using the Mono stack on the Mac. He also demonstrated autogeneration of linux bootable image with pre-configured apps. (Side observation #1: only a few people at last year Alt.NET Seattle had iPhones, this year very few people has phones that *isn’t* an iPhone. Since this year’s event was just before MVP Summit, there are lots of MVPs there with iPhones! Just to show loyalty does not lie with brand but usability! #2: Less than 1/3 of attendees aware of Twitter last year, this year, very few are *not* on Twitter.)
Why so mean?

Hosted by Scott Hanselman. We explored why there is an perception of elitism in the software developer community. Why C# developers talk down to VB.NET developers, why average Microsoft developers are dimmed un-savable. This discussion led to a new session on Sunday about teaching, ALT.NET Pedagogy.
Oxite Retrospective #2

When the Oxite project (a sample blogging engine created using ASP.NET MVC framework) was put up on CodePlex, it created a huge controversy in the Alt.NET community. This is the second part of the retrospective on the project and the aftermath. One of the Oxite team member from Microsoft joined us on Sunday and gave his point of view from the inside.
When to use F#?

With F# being the first class language within the Visual Studio ecosystem, functional programming is gathering more interest. When is functional programming be appropriate for a .NET project? What type of problem would it solve better than plain old C#/VB.NET? Why not just use F# for everything?
Abstract Test Assertions

The ASP.NET MVC Contrib project relies heavily, of course, on TDD. An interesting problem arise when contributors want to develop using different unit testing framework. This session explored the idea of abstracting test assertions so that any frameworks can be used for the project, and what technique should be employed to achieve that.
I’ve recorded all these sessions on video for those who couldn’t attend. Scott Hanselman also streamed live via Kyte.tv for a number of sessions. My videos can be viewed on Vimeo, with the rest of video links on the Alt.NET wiki.

 

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What? A year already?

How time has flied! It has been a year since I joined ThoughtWorks. In the last 12 months, I've:

  • Visited ThoughtWorks India in Bangalore
  • Worked in 3 totally different projects (.Net desktop app, build & deploy at an enterprise level, and Agile coaching) in 3 different locations (London, Connecticut, New York)
  • Became a committer of an Open Source project, DbDeploy.net
  • Attended ALT.NET conference in Seattle
  • Started ALT.NET NYC with a bunch of great, like-minded developers
  • Edited 4 ThoughtWorks IT Matters podcasts
  • Helped out with recruitment (code reviews, office interviews, phone interviews)
Skills and tools that I've learnt/developed that I didn't think I would otherwise:
  • Agile project management, planning, estimation (Mingle)
  • Presentation and coaching (PowerPoint!, public speaking)
  • Build & Deploy (CruiseControl.NET, Cruise, TeamCity, NAnt, MSBuild, PowerShell, etc.)
  • iPhone development
  • Mocking (NMock, Moq)
  • UI Automated testing (Selenium)
What I can't quantify is the amount of learning I've done during this time. Working with smarter people than myself drove me to self-improvement in ways that I did not think I can or would.
I don't know what would happen in the next 12 months but one thing for sure, I would definitely enjoy it.

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Ecto is no more (for me)

Adriaan and I have decided to part ways. We started this great partnership nearly 4 years ago under very different circumstances than what we find ourselves in today. Since joining ThoughtWorks last August, my level of commitment as a developer has risen a lot. The weekly travels, working with open source project, involvement in recruitment within TW, etc. mean that I have not been able to devote the time to ecto that it deserves.

While it is sad to see the relationship end, I gained a great friendship and his daughter photos always brighten up my day!

Name
The project will continue under the "Ecto for Windows" name until a new one is found. The hope is to have a new name by the end of next week. If any one out there has suggestions, feel free to let me know! Once it is decided, a new version of the application will be released with updated name, links, etc.
Sales & Support
As of right now, Ecto for Windows is no longer on sale. I have not decided on the course for the project yet. One of the benefit the partnership with Adriaan had brought was the sale infrastructure that he had in place. With that gone, I am re-evaluating whether keeping ecto as a commercial product is a viable option.
Even though I have less time for the project, this by no mean I am less committed to support ecto as it stands now. Ecto 2.x will be fully supported by me, just like it has been for the last 4 years. The new support forum is located here: http://mineblogging.com/support/ The existing messages from old forum will be migrated to the new forum some time next week.
Future development
The development of the next version of ecto (e.g. version 3) remains to be decided. I have re-written almost all of the backend code but significant amount of work remains. One option would to open source the project for version 3 so hopefully more people can contribute to the development effort, instead of just little old me. (Open sourcing version 2.x is not possible currently as it contains a commercial component unless a replacement is found) Another option would be to find another developer to take over the project. But finding this some one may be difficult.

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