As I listen to the .NET Rocks! recorded at devLink, I realized that I haven’t recapped my experience. So here we go…

Over August 21-24th, I was down in Tennessee, networking with many developers while attending devLink. This was definitely an interesting experience.

I joined a lot of my Twitter friends on the devLink bus ride down, leaving late Wednesday night. It was great to be running with them again – I love hanging out with them. Unfortunately, the bus we took was meant more for short day trips rather than the long trip from (in my case) Toledo to Nashville. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not get much sleep.

Now if I ever have to run around sleep-deprived, this is the group that I’d prefer to be with. We tend to keep each other going. Since my Thursday was pretty well packed, I knew I had to run around with little chance of sleep. Thursday afternoon, I spent some time with some of the most influential devs in the region and had a great time networking with them. I’m definitely looking forward to the ideas that some of us tossed around, and I’m looking forward to working with these guys on various upcoming events.

Thursday evening, I attended the devLink VIP dinner. I had completed a survey on their site and won a spot from a drawing. It was neat to see so many people there. After the dinner, I floated between the poker gathering thrown by Jeff Blankenburg and the gathering in the hotel bar. My pictures from both of those gatherings can be seen in my devLink pics on Flickr.

Friday, I was still tired, but I wasn’t going to let my unbalanced sleep state throw me off completely. After surviving the keynote, I decided to head to the opening circle of open spaces. On my way there, I saw Sirena Benefield – an ITT tech student that Brian Prince brought to the community – at the Microsoft booth. I was able to get her to come with me to the opening circle. Alan Stevens was the open spaces facilitator, and I think he did a great job of getting things rolling. Various topics came out – including community building, how comments are evil, Microsoft and open source, agile practices, Ruby, and even one on suggestions for a university and their computer program.

devLink Open Spaces sign

After the open spaces opening circle, it was lunch time. We had boxed lunches, and I sat with part of the tribe in the open spaces room. That’s where I met Mac Fowler, one of the Michigan devLink bus riders. It was nice to enjoy lunch with this group – we get the most random topics whenever we’re out.

Friday afternoon, I went to the one session that I wanted to catch that day – Jeff’s presentation on Silverlight and some of the cool things that can be done. He covered the 2008 Olympics website, Line Rider, and his own information site.

After that, I took a session off to scope out the conference as a whole. I ended up getting pictures like this one of an open spaces session:

Open spaces

For the last session on Friday, I checked out the open spaces on community. It was great to talk community with this group, as many of them are involved in one form or another. The only thing I didn’t like about this open space was that it was at the end of the day. I could see this going further if I hadn’t gestured over to Mike Wood that we had to start wrapping it up (since many of us still had to meet the bus shortly after that).

Friday night, there was an attendee party at the hotel. They had Rock Band and Guitar Hero in the game room:

Game room at attendee party

They also had karaoke going on in another room. Snacks included wings, sandwiches, and some other things. There were supposed to be contests going on, but I didn’t stay for the whole thing. I ended up running around with a bunch of friends for awhile and then hung out in the lobby chatting for quite a bit afterwards.

I was torn about what I wanted to do on Saturday – the open spaces topics were tempting, but there were a couple talks that I wanted to catch as well. After talking with Jeff McWherter (he who got me my “VBA ALL THE WAY” shirt), I skipped his talk and went to Sara Ford‘s open space on Microsoft and open source. Having been exposed to open source and the image of the Evil Empire while in my linux days, I was curious to see how this open space would go. It definitely was interesting to see how people got into open source and why some do not. There’s definitely a change in Microsoft in who they are now and where they are with open source than what it was in the late 90s, and it’s good to see them going the way they are.

In the second slot, I could have seen Brian’s Soft Skillz talk again – this time with cake! It was his birthday, so he celebrated with cake in his presentation. (No, the cake wasn’t a lie.) However, I went to the other presentation that Brian was supposed to give at the same time – the presentation that he and Jeff Blankenburg did for the launch event. Now I had heard about this presentation plenty of times before, but the launches in my area conflicted with some of my go-live dates, so I missed it. I’m glad I caught this presentation – I learned a bit more with Visual Studio 2008. For example, did you know that if you had the Intellisense dropdown up but needed to see behind it, you could press the Ctrl key and the Intellisense dropdown would go transparent? It was nice to see the Apply Styles dialog, which shows just how the CSS class would look. Of course, the sexiness known as AJAX happened to get mentioned as well – who thought a cleaning agent would be labeled sexy? šŸ˜‰

We had another day of boxed lunches, and after lunch, I ended up checking out James Bender‘s intro to WCF presentation. I work a little with web services, but I’d love to learn more about WCF, since that’s the way web services are going. What I loved about this presentation is that James uses a simple example that everyone can relate to. He explains concepts using people in the audience as an example. This was a presentation where I actually didn’t get lost and feel over my head in (as I usually end up feeling with WCF talks).

There must have been something with the 2:30pm sessions, as once again I took time off to take pictures of the conference and to call home and sing “Happy Birthday” to my mom. After that, I caught some of the closing circle of open spaces.

The last session of the conference was our closing keynote with Joe Stagner from Microsoft. After his talk, the devLink team did giveaways – and two of the bigger prizes were won by fellow devLink bus mates.

After the conference wrapped up, we headed back to the hotel to eat and then load the bus and head home. The bus ride home was okay – I managed to get some sleep (after hitting the point of being desperate for sleep) and was awoken by Mike Eaton on the ride home, who let me know that the bus blew a tire. We were about an hour away from Cincinnati and ended up having to wait 4 hours before we could get back on the road again. If ever I had to get stuck on the road with a group, I’d hope it’d be this group. We continued our random discussions and waited while they replaced the tire. The only other headache about getting home was our ride from Columbus to Toledo by way of Cleveland/Sandusky. Either we had the case of a lame GPS or the driver just wasn’t paying attention… either way, we got back to Toledo-ish a bit later than usual.

Overall, I am glad I had the opportunity to go on this trip. I went with the goal to meet new people and maybe learn new things. I managed to do both, and now I have even more people that I can talk with. I’m definitely looking forward to devLink 2009!