Today I went to the DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper day at the Microsoft campus in Thames Valley Park, Reading. It was a fantastic day with many great sessions covering a wide range of topics.

The first session I attended was “Mixing functional and object oriented approaches to programming in C#“ by Mark Needham from Thoughtworks. Mark discussed using functional programming techniques in C#. The talk focussed on using features of LINQ to replace imperative operations, such as for-each loops and if-else statements. Mark applied functional techniques at the operation-level and also at the structural-level, demonstrating how some common “Gang Of Four” patterns can implemented using a functional approach, by passing functions instead of interface implementations.

Mark recommended the book “Real-World Functional Programming” as a good resource on functional programming techniques.

The next session I attended was “Commercial Software Development – Writing Software Is Easy, Not Going Bust Is The Hard Bit” by Liam Westley. Liam gave an informative and entertaining talk on tactics he found useful when running a software development company. His tips included:

  • Offering customers an alternative to phone-based support to avoid interruptions.
  • Using automated unit tests and functional tests to prevent bugs from reaching production only to be discovered by your users. Liam said for him, automated testing didn’t immediately increase productivity, but over time has enabled him to develop high-quality software faster, resulting in satisfied customers.
  • Having good logging and error notifications. This enabled Liam to quickly identify and fix problems, sometimes before the customer had even raised the issue.
  • Get organised by tracking time, thoroughly reading and understanding contracts, always having an agenda for meetings and keeping a detailed history of support calls.
  • Improve your sales pitches by researching the business you are selling to and focusing on delivering value to the business, not just a set of features. He also recommends using light-weight specification documents that allow for change and spreading costs over time.

Liam suggested a good book on software product pricing called “Don’t Just Roll The Dice”.

The last session for the morning was “C# 4” by StackOverflow superstar, Jon Skeet. Jon discussed the new features of C#4, including named parameters, improved COM-interop, generic variance (covariants, contravariants and invariants, oh my!) and dynamic typing.

During the lunch break there was a series of Grok talks. Several presenters gave short talks on using T4 templates, the features of CodeRush Xpress, tracking tasks using a personal Kanban board and an introduction to Albacore: a non-XML based build system.

The first session I attended after lunch was “C# on the iPhone with Monotouch” presented by Chris Hardy. MonoTouch allows you develop iPhone apps using C# on Mono, an open-source version of the .NET Framework. I was amazed at the tooling support and how well it integrated with the iPhone development tools. Chris said the MonoTouch team released support for the iPad within 24 hours of the SDK being released by Apple. You still need a Mac to develop, but the fact you can use C# and standard .NET libraries makes it easy for .NET developers to reuse their existing skills. Chris stressed that it’s still important to learn how to read Objective-C to follow the Apple documentation. The talk was very inspirational and I now might have to invest in a MacBook Pro 🙂

The last talk I went to was “Testing C# and ASP.Net applications using Ruby” presented by Ben Hall (who also happed to be celebrating his birthday, resulting in birthday cake and a chorus of Happy Birthday To You). Ben showed that Ruby can be used to create more readable tests than C#. He gave an example of testing a .NET web application using Cucumber, a Ruby-based Behaviour-Driven Development (BDD) framework. He used IronRuby for calling standard .NET libraries and demonstrated using WebRat for running the tests through a browser. Ben explained the tests can be run in the background by using a “headless“ browser. The RubyMine IDE includes extensive refactoring support and a Visual Studio-like experience. The browser-based tests ran much slower than standard unit tests and Ben suggests only automating high-value, happy-path scenarios.

Further information can be found in the book, Testing ASP.NET Web Applications, which Ben co-authored.

Thanks to the organisers, Microsoft and other sponsors for putting on a fantastic day.


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