PDC2008 Summary

For the first time in a few years, I went to a professional conference. The boys are old enough now for one adult to be able to manage both of them easily, and not needing to bookend any trip with a day getting to and from Skye makes a big difference.  The  journey was pretty easy – no problems with the train from Harrogate to London, and an excellent flight on Virgin to get to LA. I’ve not flown on a Virgin plane with their new entertainment console before and was really pleased with it. I would consider flying to New York with the family on a plane fitted with this system.

I was most interested in Azure, Mesh and the Sync framework. Azure-or Azure or Ay-zure as Ozzie pronounces it. As an ISV I’m keen on Azure, but I’m not convinced that businesses will be queuing up to retire their data centres, sack their DBAs and hardware support teams, and trust it all to a company who doesn’t necessarily have their best interests at heart.

It was interesting to compare Mesh and Groove/Sharepoint. Its clear that Microsoft see Mesh as a consumer-facing option, which doesn’t compete with something built using Groove or Sharepoint. They also said that they would be scanning content uploaded to Mesh. This would clearly worry any business planning to use Mesh to distribute confidential company data.

The Sync framework has really come on quickly and I feel that most developers and very few businesses are realizing what a fantastic option it represents. I’ll be playing with sync some more over the coming months.

Stack Overflow – I’m impressed!

I’m impressed with Stack Overflow, the new programming Q&A site. You can find me on there as Mark Smith. I’ve answered just one question, but not received any ‘ups’ or ‘downs’ yet.

Amazon SimpleDB sign-up

After four months, I’ve finally got an Amazon SimpleDB account. I’m planning on using SimpleDB to store the activity logs of users on my next ASP.NET project, which will be a variant on the hackneyed ‘wisdom of the crowds’ theme.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Software Application Development – Parts 1 and 2

An excellent pair of postings regarding software development from Lorne Cooper.

Diverse Teams and The Law of Requisite Variety

In a project meeting the other day with a client, I was asked why I had said I was pleased to see a mixture of non IT graduates on the project. At the time I just gave a rather facile “Its nice to get a diversity of viewpoints” kind of answer.

A bit of digging turned up W. Ross Ashby, and his ‘theorem’ that

Only variety in a system itself can successfully counter a variety of disturbances in the environment.

Makes sense to me.

Subcontractor Blues

Some lessons I’ve learned from working with prime contractors.

  1. Never sign a ‘final’ copy of a contract without comparing it with the ‘draft’ copy that you’d agreed with the prime,
  2. Stick exactly to the scope of your contract,
  3. Don’t make any comments, positive or negative regarding anything outside the scope of your contract,
  4. If you’re selling software as well as services, get payment for the software before you do any work on a project,
  5. Never go outside the scope of your contract even if the prime has made the whole project fail,
  6. If you hire anyone onto your team, make sure you get them to sign a non-compete clause to prevent them trying to go around you.

Reading this list, it all sounds pretty negative. If I’d had anything positive to say about working with a prime contractor, it’d be here!