Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Mix 09 Day 0

Today was “Day 0” of the Microsoft Mix conference that is being held at the Venation in Las Vegas this week.

If you aren’t familiar with the event, Mix is the Microsoft conference that is aimed at the web development community. Announcements at previous events include the release of Silverlight 2 at Mix 08.

While Day 0 offers no huge technology announcements, the workshop style offers advanced training sessions that really take a deep dive into the current technologies and offer tips and tricks from the experts.

After the quick registration process and breakfast (plus receiving a bag of attendee only swag that included a t-shirt, notebook and a copy of Bill Buxton’s “Sketching User Interfaces”) I hit the first session which was “Design Fundamentals for Developers”.

This session was really cool, well thought out and well delivered. The speaker was Robby Ingebretsen who was formally on the WPF Avalon team before leaving Microsoft to form his own company – pixelalb.

During this three hour session, Robby explored the techniques used by designers to help develop better looking user interfaces. But this was delivered with a coding audience in mind so it wasn’t a total “back to basics” session.

Topics covered included the design process, some design basics such as relationship management, good continuation and harmony, before rounding off with an in-depth look at the visual design process with a discussion on the use of colour, styles and layout.

One of the main takeaways I got from this session was a realisation of just how hard good design really is – that a really nicely application doesn’t just fall out of thin air, it takes a lot of design iterations before arriving at the finished product.

After lunch, it was time for the second session – Hiking Mt. Avalon

This workshop was delivered in a panel format with 5 top speakers from the WPF world taking it in turns to talk about some really advanced WPF features with some tips and tricks on how to overcome them. The panel included Jaime Rodriquez, Robby Ingebretsen and Jonathan Russ

Topics covered here ran across a wide range of areas including a M-V-VM demo and some tips on when to and when not to use it, a description of the WPF “team member roles” used at Microsoft and other companies with information on what recruiters should look out for when building a WPF team. Some tips and tricks on how to workaround problems with current versions of the tools and an in depth look at the inner workings of the framework to understand why some common problems can occur.

This session was extremely informative and I know at least 5-6 of my usual “why is my application doing that?” questions were answered. There was a lot of content, and the session event went over by a whole hour but the audience just wanted more and more. This was a really great session.

Day 1 looks to offer some other really cool sessions focused around some of the newer technologies so keep your eye out for the next update covering the first official day of this truly spectacular event

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