VSJ – April 2008 – Work in Progress

Colin Mackay, MIAP is a Microsoft MVP and a Member of the BCS. He organises events for Scottish Developers in Glasgow and is currently working on their first conference, Developer Day Scotland, to be held on 10 May at Glasgow Caledonian University. Here he describes the progress both of the Scottish Developers group and of the conference.

Scottish Developers started in September 2003 and I joined in November the same year. At first there was just a Web site, but real-world events soon followed and spin-off groups gathered as like-minded people who lived near each other were able to organise themselves.

John Thomson and Craig Murphy founded Scottish Developers with a mission to improve the developer community in Scotland through events and the Web site and to strive to continuously improve and develop the skill-set of software developers in Scotland.

We also encourage our members to help each other by presenting sessions, writing articles or just turning up to events and talking to each other. The most important thing for us is the community of software developers. Software development as a subject area is so vast that you cannot know everything. One thing I’m fond of saying when I interview candidates is that the .NET framework contains several thousand methods and properties so that I don’t expect anyone to know them all. What I do expect is that they know where to find the information they need. By becoming involved in a community you get the benefit of knowing who to ask, even if they only have time to recommend a good book or Web site on the subject.

Membership of Scottish Developers costs nothing,. Most of our events are free, too. We do, however, charge occasionally, as we need to raise money for Web hosting costs and other sundries, although we try to keep that to a minimum.

At the start, we had some difficulty in getting people to events in Glasgow and I think that was mostly due to the sporadic calendar of events and the fact that we had no one living on the West coast who could keep the momentum going. That changed when I moved to Glasgow in late 2006. We also brought Frank Kerrigan on board at this time, bringing the core team to four.

We have been extremely lucky that the Division of Computing and Creative Technology at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) have been so supportive of us.  Because of their assistance we have put on monthly events in Glasgow city centre for a year now and our attendance there is now slowly growing. At our last meeting we even managed to attract a couple of delegates from Carlisle which is about a 200-mile round trip. That’s a lot of travelling time just for a 2-hour meeting!

The core team of Scottish Developers have played various parts in the Developer Developer Developer! (DDD) events in Reading since its inception, variously acting as organiser, on-the-day-helper or speaker. Over the six DDD events we noticed that an increasing number of people were making the journey on their own time and at their own expense from Scotland to the South East of England, with DDD’s increasing popularity.

We discussed bringing the DDD format to Scotland in late 2005, around the time of DDD2, and finally decided the time was right in the Summer of 2007 to start the creation of Developer Day Scotland in earnest. We called for speakers at DDD6 in Reading and, at the time of writing, now have 54 session proposals and 31 speakers. All the speakers come from the community. There are no vendor supported speakers, although some of them do work for vendors in their spare time.

In Scotland, we have had some additional challenges that the organising team of DDD don’t have. For a start, we don’t have the benefit of being able to use Microsoft’s superb facilities at Thames Valley Park in Reading. Nor do we have as much help from Microsoft for organising the event. We do receive a lot of support from Microsoft, but we have to do more work ourselves. For example, DDD uses Microsoft’s events registration system, while we will use our own. We also need to seek sponsorship to pay for things that Microsoft is able to offer on site within TVP. We asked the folks at GCU if we could use their facilities for the conference and they became our first sponsor as they donated the venue.

At the time of writing, the call for speakers is closing and voting will have started in mid-February. This is where the community gets to decide which sessions they would like to see. We encourage as many people as possible to get involved in the voting process, as it provides us with a more accurate picture of what people really would like to see.

Once the voting closes, we will look at which sessions have won the most votes and contact the speakers. I should note that we won’t simply pick the top 15 sessions and put them on. It is possible that a number of speakers will win multiple sessions or that two very similar sessions get to the top of the list. In that case what will happen is that any duplicated, or near duplicate, sessions will be removed and one of the speakers contacted. We may contact the other to ask if they’d be prepared to act as a reserve speaker. Or, in the case of a speaker winning multiple sessions, the most popular session will go ahead and we’ll ask if they could hold in reserve the second choice. We hope that this will provide a better balance and not result in the Joe Bloggs track for a popular presenter to the exclusion of other community speakers. We’ll try to let down gently any speaker who doesn’t get enough votes.

Developer Developer Developer! simply gets more popular with each subsequent event and there are a lot of people who would like to go who are disappointed. There have been WebDD and SQL Bits spin-offs concentrating on a narrower range of technologies, yet they are still held in the south of England. Developer Day Scotland represents the first regional DDD to be organised. DDD6 “sold” over 300 places in less than 24 hours. Our hope is that Developer Day Scotland, despite being half the size, will become just as popular in the coming years. After all, the first DDD had less than 200 delegate places available.

You can find out more about Developer Day Scotland by visiting www.developerdayscotland.com and about Scottish Developers at www.scottishdevelopers.com. Colin can be contacted at colin@scottishdevelopers.com.

[Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!]

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