Oredev 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to visit this year’s Øredev conference. Øredev is a software development conference that’s been held each of the last 6 or 7 years in Malmö, at the southern tip of Sweden. Not only was this my first time in Malmö, it was also the first time I’ve given talks myself at such a large conference, and I thought I’d share some thoughts with anyone who cares to listen.

The conference started off with a sort of “pre-conference”, consisting of a couple of days of lengthy workshops, which my schedule didn’t allow me to attend. I did get there in time for the speakers’ dinner the day before the main conference started, which was quite nice, and was preceeded by a glögg-drinking session at the tightly-packed apartment of Magnus Mårtensson. The dinner was a great chance to break the ice a bit and meet some interesting people.

Øredev 2010 featured 3 days’ worth of speakers split across a number of tracks (smartphones, java, web, agile, etc). You could mix and match things however you liked, and I spent most of my time on the smartphones track, partly because that’s where I gave my presentations and partly because that’s where my interests lie. Fortunately, all the presentations will be made available for free online viewing later on (in fact many of them are already up), so it’s possible to catch up somewhat on whatever you missed during the conference.

The smartphone track was pretty iOS-centric (which suits me fine), but most of the other smartphone platforms were represented as well. Overall I was pretty pleased with most of what I saw, though most of the iOS presentations were quite basic and didn’t expect the audience to know much of anything about Objective-C or iOS development in general. This critique covers my own talks as well, by the way. I think that in a way, Java developers have an easier time presenting more advanced topics, because they can assume that everyone has a basic understanding of the language. With Objective-C, that’s not so much the case, since you may have a number of people who are still stuck in “what’s with all the colons and square-brackets”-mode. At any rate, I felt a little leery of presenting too much advanced material, and I think I perceived the same in my fellow iOS developers’ presentations.

Apart from the smartphone track, I probably spent the most time in a very different track, something that Øredev calls Xtrack. Xtrack contains a variety of topics that are quite far from the world of software development, many of them centered on music. Several sessions were hosted by Kathy Compton and Thierry Holweck, who together form the pop duo Panda Transport. It was really great meeting both of them and talking about music. They also performed one evening, as evidenced by the embedded video here. Too bad this recording didn’t pick up the audio very well, it really sounded great live.

As for my own talks, the first one, on using the Cocos2d framework for making iOS games, unfortunately suffered from too little preparation. I think that the material was solid, but didn’t have quite enough visual examples to tie things together. I have only myself to blame, but considering how crazy this fall has been for me in many ways, it’s understandable that I didn’t have enough prep time (if you knew, you’d understand too). I hope to remedy this some time by fixing up the slideshow with additional content, and perhaps recording a screencast.

One thing that stood out for me about this talk, both during and after, is that none other than Nolan Bushnell, a true pioneer in video gaming and home computing, was sitting in the audience! I’ve looked up to Nolan since I was a kid, and if you had ever told me that I would some day give a talk about some gaming technology and have Nolan in the audience, I probably wouldn’t have believed you; but, there it is. Fortunately Nolan is a really nice guy who I got to meet before my talk (and spent quite a bit of time with during the rest of the conference as well), so this unlikely situation didn’t stress me out one bit.

My other talk, on the last day of the conference (in the last time-slot as well), seemed to work a lot better, both for me and the audience. This time I was talking about making money on the App Store, a topic that is always in my head anyway, so preparation was easy and hardly necessary. This talk is completely non-technical, not a single line of code is shown, so it should be pretty accessible to anyone interested in how the App Store ecosystem works. It’s already online at Vimeo, so check it out if you’re interested.

Apart from the sessions, I learned a lot and got some great insights from a variety of discussions between sessions, at meal breaks, and evenings out with a huge range of people from all across the development spectrum. To me, this sort of thing is really what makes conference attendance worthwhile. It’s the people you meet and connections you make that really stick with you even after the content of the sessions has faded from memory; I guess we are social animals after all. I met so many great people I couldn’t properly list them all, but particular shout-outs are in order to Piers Cawley, Chris Hughes, Mattias Rosberg, Fredrik Olsson, Nolan Bushnell, and of course Øredev organizer Michael Tiberg, to name a few.

I’m not a regular conference-goer, so I don’t have much to compare with, but over all I’d say this conference was a huge success and well worth my time. I’m already looking forward to Øredev 2011!