Monday, March 14, 2011

QCon London 2011 Review

I’ve done a quick round-up day-by-day, but here are my overall thoughts on QCon 2011.

The conference as a whole seemed slightly subdued after last year – it was sold out, so I guess it had the same number of attendees, but many of the sessions were half-full, and there was often an uncomfortable silence at the end of presentations when they were opened up for questions.

There was no stand-out presentation of the calibre of last year’s Facebook keynote, nor anything as technically impressive as the LMAX talk, despite presentations from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Netflix, VISA, Best Buy and a host of other big names. This year seemed to be more about getting things done – the nuts-and-bolts rather than the vision.

On the plus side, there was an entire track devoted to NoSQL this year, and many of the other presentations included large slices of NoSQL goodness – be in no doubt, NoSQL is no longer a niche – this is mainstream technology, in production across the web today. A big thank you to Alex Popescu not only for hosting the track, but also for his tireless efforts to bring NoSQL to the attention of the community with his blog http://nosql.mypopescu.com/

I’ve touched on it my daily digest, but I got a real feeling that some of the more extreme team dynamics (see Dan North and Fred George’s talks in particular) are gaining traction – there seems to be a split forming between the radical side which is eschewing almost all project management practices, and those who are artlessly turning Agile into everything Waterfall had been (process over people).

Maybe continuous deployment is the secret sauce that moves development from being project-based to business-as-usual; no need for a project plan, it’s just the job – come in, develop a feature, deploy it, go home. It looks like developers are now working with Ops (DevOps is everywhere) so closely that they are now testing and depoying their own code, and …. drum roll … it’s working! I have a train of thought going at the moment that says that if development costs moved from Capex to Opex (and innovation becomes a cost of doing business on the internet) companies would understand the requirements much better. No end date, no fixed scope – development just rolls on, day after day.

HTML5 was also hot this year – Google and Facebook were both touting their experiences / thoughts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both didn’t settle on it as a core mobile development platform – which makes the demise of WebOS all the more poignant – right idea, wrong time?

The functional programming track was down from last year – server-side JS and Node.js in particular were this year’s favourites, with asynchronous programming the new concurrency paradigm. Since no one could claim production experience with Node, it’s hard to see where that’s going right now.

Overall, another great conference, good speakers, and some interesting experiences shared. There wasn’t a truly memorable talk, but that aside, as someone said (and I’ve said before) – we are in a golden age for software development – we may never have it so good again, so get out there and make the most of it.

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