Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Alt.Net UK Conference

This weekend the UK Alt.Net conference was held in London. It was a good meet up with some interesting topics. I must say I didn't really know what to expect as there were not as many "names" attending as there was at Seattle (which is to be expected). Being my second Open Spaces event I felt more comfortable in the type of environment and was able to engage with a bit more confidence which was good.

Friday night basically covered Alt.Net and what it means to various people. I cant really say I got much out of this other than some people feel there is an identity crisis and too much bickering. I believe we are just pragmatic, aware and evolving developers, nothing more. I also feel that some of the bickering is just side effect of the type of people involved (i.e. driven, intelligent and probably very confident) and the means of communication (written, not verbal in which tone can be ascertained). I think we should just deal with, minimise it and move on.

Saturday was the actual sessions. I attended

  • Build/Deployment/CI
  • OSS ESBs (NServiceBus & MassTransit) and BizTalk
  • DDD
  • BDD and acceptance testing

From the Build talk I learnt about Some DB tools to help with deployment which is a stress point for us. It also sounds like TeamCity is fast becoming a preferred CI tool. The point was raise that many teams do not have any means to automatically test post deployment, i.e. is what we have rolled out actually working correctly, I thought this was particularly important, mainly because I have never really done it.

Unfortunately the ESB talk was a bit light. I was hoping (like most) that there were some users who had some pretty deep knowledge on either NServiceBus or MassTransit. There was only two of us that had even used them so we gave a brief of what they are and how we have found using them. I felt the talk got side lined as to when to use Asynch operations and then comparing to BizTalk, which I feel is like comparing apples to oranges, especially the price tag. A point the was made is that they (NSB & MT) make using MSMQ a lot easier, and to be honest, I think they validate themselves in this functionality alone. Some of the guys wanted a brief demo of MT: Check it out here. The original samples are in the download here.

I enjoyed the DDD talk most where Ian Cooper took the reigns a bit walking through the concepts as the vast majority had not actually read the blue book. This to me was good as it kept everyone of the same page. The number of DDD talks I have had with people that don't know what an aggregate root is is somewhat annoying (and that's only this year). I should clarify that its not that its annoying that they don't know, its annoying they are using the term DDD inappropriately. It was then highlighted that implementing of all aspect of DDD is overkill for many application, which is rightly so. Aggregate Root, Specification, Anti-corruption Layer, Shared Kernel and Bounded Context were all defined for those not familiar with the book. Discussions about Generic Repositories came up and how marker interfaces could be used to limit the use to Aggregate Roots, which I like. Messaging came up as a means of not letting domain concerns leak into the application and cleaning up responsibilities. I am a huge ANTI-fan of entities in the application. Use messages where possible, especially in a disconnected scenario. Refactoring is easier, maintenance is easier and the intent is much more clearly defined. A point was raised that NHibernate intrinsically leads to an anaemic domain, which I don't buy for one second. NHibernate does not stop you changing accessibility to properties (thereby avoiding property chaining), stop you adding rich functionality to entities, or force you to push logic to services. I think I either misunderstood the sentiment or there is a misconception in the functionally of ORMs.

BDD discussion basically turned to an acceptance testing talk. I am not going to lie, I was tired by then and wanted to go. The chat was relevant but I had been up since 6am packing, as we were also moving house that day. I think BDD is something that hasn't hit the mainstream as it seems to have too high a barrier to entry. Whether this perception is accurate, I am not sure. I like the idea of BDD but I am yet to jump in feet first, I will take from it what I want a continue along my happy way.

Thanks to everyone who attended, it was enjoyable.

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