CFUnited 2006, Day 3

The last day of the conference, and our last day in DC; thoughts on the day and the conference in general; dinner at a Lebanese restaurant in Bethesda; an ominous start to travelling home.

The last day of the conference, and I could tell that I was getting full. Thoughts:

  • An excellent session on SQL Server 2005 Express Edition by Jeremy Kadlec. Despite the fact that I dislike almost all of what Microsoft stands for and their tools, I am forced at present to use some of them. This looks like it might represent a valuable tool for us on our development boxes, at least, for our SQL Server-based tools. Jeremy, as usual, did a great job.
  • Another excellent session by Charlie Arehart on tips and tricks related to using and writing Web services in CFML.
  • An interesting general session by Vince Bonfanti of NewAtlanta on their BlueDragon server product: a mixture of history, marketing, and a look ahead at what’s coming in version 7 later this year. The ability to do multithreaded Web app development in CFML looks very interesting (particularly when coupled with the reported differences in performance and stability between their product and Adobe’s ColdFusion).
  • A miserable session on optimizing and troubleshooting CFMX server performance — this is the one session that I sat in on that was terribly disappointing and that I came out of feeling like I hadn’t really learned anything. To be fair to the presenter, this is an incredibly challenging topic to present anything on and to do it within an hour seems problematic anyway. It was compounded, however, by the presenter’s lack of meaningful examples and his lack of organization. Very disappointing.
  • Oddly, the session above was followed by another session on configuring and troubleshooting CFMX by Dave Watts. This session, in contrast to the previous one, was well organized, full of useful information (or at least leads to check on), and entertaining based on Dave’s style.
  • An only-moderately interesting closing session, with a Q&A session with some of the notables at the conference. Not much real out of this, and then they did all the normal raffle stuff where they give out lots of books and software that most of us already have or can’t really use.

And that wrapped up the conference. All in all, three days definitely well-spent with several very key things we need to look into in the coming year. Topping the list, in my opinion, are the following (not nessarily in any order of precedence):

  • CFEclipse and Subclipse as a viable development platform for us to come close to standardizing on within our team
  • Selenium as a framework to support testing our applications, and testing in general
  • CFAJAX and/or Spry as a framework to incorporate AJAX into our CF apps (the one interesting thing that did come out of the closing Q&A was the unanimous vote from the panelists that Spry was very exciting, if immature and still evolving, in terms of how it fits with CF)
  • BlueDragon as a replacement for CFMX
  • CF-specific sessions at MAX this year
  • Microsoft’s SQL Server 2005 Express Edition for our development boxes

Stuff I didn’t like about the conference (or more correctly, I suppose, things I would like to see changed):

  • I wish they would look into alternating locations between the East and West coast, and moving it so that we don’t have to try to travel home on the weekend before the July 4th holiday
  • Get a real MC to chair the conference; Michael Smith is obviously very bright, but he is not an MC — and please don’t hand this responsibility to Simon Horwith.
  • Find a conference center with solid wireless access capable of handling this conference, its audience, and its network needs.
  • Lose the inch-thick door chock with all of the slides in printed format; you’re handing us a CD with all of the same content anyway. I have to wonder how many other copies of this they threw out (or that the hotel staff threw out because people left them in their hotel rooms on checking out because they didn’t want to lug them home).
  • Have a meaningful closing session.
  • Consider a single day, reduced rate registration fee for students, where they can pick any one day to attend at a very low price. Make it less than $100. Make it feasible for younger people to get a taste of a conference like this and get them hooked. This is the future of this group of technologies, and this conference has a great deal to offer, but even the Saturday track (new this year, with the “best of” sessions) is too expensive.
  • If you are going to have a panel Q&A session, include the important vendors — they have a very different perspective on the kinds of questions that were posed than the users that were included. How can you have something like this without including a rep from Adobe and from NewAtlanta?

And that’s a wrap on the conference. Will we attend next year? Undoubtedly, but probably not with three of us — more like two — unless some changes are made for next year. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great conference and a great value for the nuggets and leads that we picked up. Jeff and I talked on the way home about why this one seemed different than last year’s for us, and he mentioned that we ourselves are in a very different place this year than last year (much of which is directly attributable to last year’s conference). We are running CFMX 7.x and using Subversion, for instance, and those two things moved us closer to where we should be by a great deal — the difference between what we are doing and the rest of the world is much smaller now than a year ago.

Dinner: we wrapped up with a wonderful, very relaxed dinner at Bacchus of Lebanon in Bethesda. This was the first experience with Lebanese food for Jeff, Ian, and Deb. A great way to end the week. Interestingly, the Metro train we rode to dinner on broke down on the way there, and we had to switch trains. This would prove to be an ominous lead-in to our travels home…