Okay, so I've arrived back from the UK's first* ColdFusion developers' conference (*if you ignore the previous two UK-based CF conferences), and decided I would give my thoughts about it.
First, I'll start with some general things I liked:
- Turnout. Wow, there were so many people there - easily over a hundred. It's great to see so many people interested in the future of CF.
- Location. Being local to Croydon, having the conference at Fairfield Halls was great for me. But also for people coming from afar, being almost literally around the corner from a mainline train station was probably good for them - I've been to a number of events in the past and they've all been fairly difficult to reach. If this was a conscious decision in choosing the venue, well done Russ!
- Atmosphere. There was a nice and relaxed feeling, and I didn't feel imprisoned/constricted. It came across as a nice informal gathering, but with enough effort put in to make things run smoothly.
There were also some things which I felt could have been improved:
- The screen. I don't know if it was just me, but the screen wasn't very sharp, and the refresh rate was very low for some of the talks.
- Catering. The buffet lunch was ... well it looked to be fairly standard generic rubbish. Fortunately, I was able to pop out and get proper sandwiches from a local cafe. Having people serving the tea and coffee during the interval was pointless - it just slowed the queue down. And there should also have been juice and/or water available (without having to go pay silly prices at the shop in the foyer).
- Arrival. When I got to Fairfield I followed another guy through the front doors, and... we both stopped, looked around for signs, people, anything... but there was none of any in sight. Walked around and found some geeky looking people queuing at a table, and then spotted an A4 cfDevCon sign above it, and joined the queue. Maybe there was a restriction by the conference hosts, but a "cfDevCon this way" sign at the entry would have been nice.
(I hope these remarks are taken in the spirit intended - constructive criticism, not complaints.)
As for the talks themselves...
It was nice to see Ben Forta was able to make it, even if he did have to rush off right after his CF8 sneek-preview. The CFIMAGE addition will I'm sure be a welcome addition, although I do hope there isn't a massive proliferation in shitty CAPTCHAs in the wake of its release (planned for mid-2007). The PDF and Flex stuff doesn't much interest me, since it does nothing I can't do with HTML+CSS+JS, and appears to offer nothing at all in the way of accessibility.
As I just mentioned, I have little interest Flex, so was fairly disinterested by Andrew Shorten's talk about it. Apollo may turn out to be interesting though - especially if it correctly implements HTML/CSS, and gives Microsoft's half-arsed HTAs some competition.
Nick Tong's API talk was interesting, especially the REST stuff about using HTTP verbs rather than simply POSTing verbose SOAP-style packets. I'll definitely be investigating that further.
When I saw Alex Skinner's talk on the schedule, I expected it would be a rather dull thing about some obscure CMS I'd never heard about. On the contrary, it was interesting to hear about their decision and process of switching from using CFMX to primarily developing on BlueDragon, and his point about XML was a good one - not necessarily the single monolithic file, but simply that people can be too quick to shove everything in a database designed for relational content, rather than considering when other data structures are a better option.
Kevin Roche's talk on Fusebox and Reactor was mostly stuff I already knew, though the information about lexicons was interesting now that I've started exploring that area.
Mark Drew's talk on CFEclipse was also stuff of which I was mostly already aware, (having used it as my primary IDE for quite a while now), but there were a few interesting bits. I was dissapointed that the Railo dictionary I made for CFE was not even mentioned. (infact Railo was only referenced once through the whole conference, by Charlie Arehart. I'll have to see about getting that remedied for next year!)
Vince Bonfanti's session on what BlueDragon 7 will include was interesting, and seemed to be a fair comparison against CFMX 8. If I wasn't obsessed with Railo I'd certainly be considering BD7 due to the new features it is introducing.
Charlie Arehart didn't have long to run through FusionDebug and FusionReactor, but despite a couple of technical hitches, he did a good job. I was certainly firmly in the "cfdump is all I need" camp (and indeed I still am), but he has convinced me that they would be nice tools for use at work, where we have a fair amount of difficult-to-debug legacy code, and obscure IIS 503 errors - if FusionDebug or FusionReactor can resolve that nightmare problem then it might be enough to convince the company to make the investment in it - I'll hopefully be giving the trial versions a spin on it next week.
I did want to stay for the party, especially to expand my people-photographing experience, but after a day of sitting on those horrible seats and with the beginnings of a headache caused I think by eye-strain and dehydration, I didn't feel up to it.
Overall, I was pleased I went and hopefully this is just the first of many cfDevCons to come!
To all the people that helped organise it: thank you and well done!