Smart Bears at Austin StackOverflow DevDay: Technology Overflow
  October 16, 2009

About 250 developers swarmed the Austin StackOverflow DevDay on Wednesday, October 14. Many of us awoke before the sun (something I personally avoid at all costs) to make sure we didn't miss the keynote, Joel Spolsky (of Joel on Software, StackOverflow, and Fog Creek Software fame) giving his insights on streamlining usability. I couldn't agree with him more in his core message: keep user interfaces as simple and uncluttered as possible, and don't offer users options they don't need.

The DevDay's eclectic speaker line-up offered a little something for everyone, featuring a variety of technologies from iPhone development to Python to Erlang. Jason Cohen, our illustrious founder, wrapped up the day with a lively presentation, Code Review Doesn’t Have to Suck. (As we all know, of course, with our Code Collaborator peer code review tool, it doesn't – but that's not what Jason talked about). Many tweeters in the audience gave Jason high praise; my favorite comment hails from @timdanner, "Funniest talk at Austin #devdays was by @asmartbear. Nice accomplishment when sharing a stage with @spolsky! Great case for code reviews too." Thanks, Tim!

At $99 for a full-day, this conference is a total bargain. If you can hit it in one of the other cities, go! The organizers told me they took walk-ins at the first DevDay in Boston even though it was sold out. People converged from far and wide, packing the auditorium for most of the day; for a while it was standing-room only in the back. Best Kept Secrets of Peer Code Review, our free book of code review tips, flew off the tables – more than 100 disappeared before 10 a.m. and we had to fetch more.

Alas, the coffee coffers were nonexistent before Joel spoke, but the lively music woke folks up (I've been assured that the remaining 8 DevDays will be well-stocked with caffeine). Definitely some grumpy bears until the 10:40 a.m. munchies and coffee appeared. Fortunately, what the DevDay lacked in morning coffee, it made up for in sugar later – both the morning and afternoon snack bars overflowed with pastries. Can't fault the feeding options here! Unfortunately, no bandwidth cornucopia appeared to balance out the abysmal wi-fi – but Joel obviously already knows this.

In a stroke of genius, the DevDay team organized lunch in a 'birds of a feather' format so folks with similar interests could seek out like-minded companions. A similar option persisted for happy hour – folks interested in different technologies could meet to continue the festivities with liquid refreshments.

As always, our software-developing panda bear attracted attention and comments, like this tweet from @CoderDennis, "Why is there someone in a panda suit on 2nd row?" My suggestion: go ask him! Then ask him about code review. After all, bears have been known to eat bugs for breakfast.