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NDC Oslo 2015 Experience Report

Last week my son Sean and I popped over to Norway for NDC Oslo, billed as one of the world’s largest independent software conferences.

Venue

The venue, the Oslo Spektrum in the centre of the city was huge, with a large lower floor for vendors and refreshments surrounded by 9 rooms for talks. There were nearly 2000 delegates and nearly 200 speakers at the event, enjoying a veritable binge festival of hour long talks, and even a room where you could watch all the talks simultaneously on a series of big screens.

Invitation

My 8yo Sean had been invited to do a lightning talk, and according to one NDC conference organizer they were then stuck with inviting me along too, apparently something they wouldn’t have done otherwise, or so he felt compelled to tell me on our first meeting. The other organizers seemed happier to see me or perhaps were more able to exercise tact. Regardless, it was great to meet up with many friends old and new and from far and wide.


Travel

NDC were kind enough to arrange flights and accommodation for me, but I had to pay for Sean’s travel myself. The hotel was close to the venue, unfortunately when we arrived late on Wednesday night it was over-booked and the room we were initially sent to was already occupied, where the phrase what is seen cannot be unseen is probably quite fitting. Thankfully we were eventually rehoused in another hotel nearby. The next day we were asked to pay 4500Kr (450GBP) to remain in the hotel. After some assistance from organizer Charlotte Lyng we were relieved to be given an unoccupied room at the original hotel for the following nights.

Lightning talk

Sean’s lightning talk was after lunch on the Thursday, the room was standing room only with over 100 attending, and he had a great reception. He started with a short rendition of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here while I set up the laptop (thanks to Carl Franklin of .Net Rocks for the loan of the guitar). Followed by the main content, a live coding session on Composing 3D Objects in OpenGL with F#.

There was a lot of reaction on Twitter, here's a few of the many tweets:






Thanks for all the supportive comments, this was only Sean's third public speaking engagement and he really enjoyed speaking at and attending the conference.

You can try composing your own 3D scenes in the browser with F# and WebGL at Fun3D.net


F# for C# developers

My talk was an introduction to the F# programming language from a C# developer's perspective and also seemed to be well received, although in terms of Twitter I was rightly eclipsed by my son Sean's efforts. In fact from now on I think I might be more commonly known as Sean's dad.



I also appear to have made the NDC Oslo speaker leaderboard, in the 100-200 audience category, thanks for all the greens votes! :)


Other talks

We saw some fantastic talks including Phil Nash on his C++ unit testing framework Catch, Gojko Azdic's thoughts on Continuous Delivery, Grey Young's new project PrivateEye, Tomas Petricek's live coded F# web programming session, Gary Short's Troll Hunting talk and many more. It was also great to see F# feature so heavily both on and off the functional programming track, and attendance on the FP track doubling since last year!

Summary

Both Sean and I really enjoyed the conference, there were a vast array of speakers to learn from, huge numbers of passionate developers to mingle with during the breaks and a very child friendly vendor floor. The floor was complete with a surfboard simulator, and Sean was very happy to win a Raspberry Pi for his efforts on it, along with enjoying an endless supply of ice cream! Also, look out for Sean's interview on Herding Code which should be out in a month or so.

Legacy Hiring

Over the years I’ve been involved in a lot of developer hiring. Here I’d like to share a pearl of wisdom I gleaned from a colleague I shared the hiring process with.

Their angle was to give extra points to people with experience with both building AND maintaining systems, i.e those who stuck around long enough to understand the consequences of their own actions.

I found this is an interesting insight, the logic being that you learn the longer term impact of your design decisions from hanging around to fix the faults and add new features.

But what does staying the distance actually teach you? I think the only real way is to find out for yourself, but here’s a few things that spring to mind.

Prefer simple

Simple isn’t easy, there’s an old saying that goes “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”.

The same goes for code; finding the underlying simplicity can take significantly longer than just bashing out the first thing that comes to mind. However the long term payoffs for system maintenance can be huge.

Tests

Tests can be a good thing, and test-driven development (TDD) can provide a helpful suite of regression tests to move forward with. However if the end result is tightly-coupled tests then the the pattern might be better coined Test-Driven Concrete (TDC), as instead of making change easier the product becomes almost impossible to maintain (thanks to Ian Johnson for the metaphor).

Instead of testing at the class and method level you should be testing required behaviour.

Summary

If you’re embarking on a big shiny new project, it might make sense to have some developers around who’ve been through the mill and come out the other side, and can help guide you to a more maintainable future.

Do you have any tips to share?

Has C# Peaked?

Microsoft’s C# programming language first appeared in 2000, over 15 years ago, that’s a long time in tech.

Every month or so there’s a “Leaving .Net” articles, the last one I bumped into was “The collapse of the .net ecosystem” from Justin Angel:


The article shows, through a series of charts, the level of interest in C# peaking and then falling.

This is what I’d consider to be the natural continuum of things, where languages have their day, and then slowly decline. In the past C was my primary language, then C++ and so on, why should C# be any different?

Disclaimer: This is not a leaving .Net post, just some of my own research that I thought I’d share, with a focus on the UK as that’s where I live.

Job trends

Indeed.com provides statistics on job placements with specific keywords, lets look at C#:

csharp jobgraph

This chart appears to show job adverts peaking between around 2010 and 2012 and tapering off fairly heavily after that.

Google trends

Google trends lets you track interest over time based on a keyword, here I'm looking at C# in the UK:


On this chart the peak seems to be earlier, around 2009, perhaps the trend can be seen earlier in the UK, but again the decline in interest is clearly visible.

TIOBE

Questions around the validity of TIOBE’s numbers abound, but here it is anyway:

TIOBE Index for CSharp

Here the peak appears to be around 2012, although the drop is perhaps less pronounced.

PYPL

Yet another popularity index this time tracking google trends for “C# tutorial” in the UK:

PYPL CSharp UK

This chart shows uses a logarithmic scale, however what we might surmise, if the numbers are to believed, is that interest in C# appears to fall off a cliff towards the end of 2014.

Stack Overflow

The recent stackoverflow developer survey also shows a significant decline in interest from 44.7% in 2013 to 31.6% in 2015. Developer’s current preferences are also quite revealing:

image

 

Where’s everyone gone?

This is only conjecture, but from my experience of .Net oriented developer events over the years in the UK, C# has always had a significant focus on the web and ASP.Net. My suspicion is that with the rise of thick-client JavaScript and mobile, significant numbers of developers have been migrating naturally towards those ecosystems.

Should I panic?

Probably not, there’s still plenty of C# jobs out there for now, and hell, some of the best paid jobs nowadays are for maintaining C++ and even COBOL systems. But if the numbers are anything to go by then we can say that C# interest has peaked.

That said who knows what the future will hold and perhaps like C++ there’ll be a renaissance in the future, although C++’s renaissance never really brought it back to the levels of it’s heady hey days.

Then again perhaps it’s more pragmatic not to dwell too heavily on the past, accept the numbers, and look to a new future. If you’re skills extend beyond one language then I guess you’ve probably got nothing to worry about, otherwise perhaps it’s time to pick up a new language and new paradigms.

And I’ll leave you with a question: Do you think you’ll be using the same programming language in 5 years time?