Quick thoughts from QCon

I’m at QCon in London – a conference aimed at the “technical team lead, architect, and project manager”, according to the little printed guide, and notable for having tracks on .NET as well as Java, though in reality this is more of a Java crowd.

Good session from Martin Fowler and others from ThoughtWorks on “Modifiability: or is there Design in Agility?” This is about the distinction between agility and chaos; Fowler referenced a remark he attributed to Kent Beck about the difference between the simplest thing that will work (good) and the stupidest thing that will work (…). Just common sense nicely articulated: take most care over the decisions that are the least reversible.

I also enjoyed the comments on test-driven development, noting that a spin-off benefit of TDD is that it enforces modular design, since without modular design you cannot easily create tests.

I sat in briefly on Christian Weyer’s introduction to WCF (Windows Communication Foundation). What I learnt is that outside a niche of advanced Microsoft platform developers few people have any clue what WCF is; Weyer’s presentation didn’t change this much as few attended, which is a shame. Incidentally I’m seeing quite a bit of WCF misinformation floating about, for example that it is just a wrapper around old stuff like .NET remoting, or that it can only use SOAP and therefore must be slow. Neither is correct. Microsoft has a tricky PR job on its hands to get attention for this; the same applies to WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) and the other .NET Framework 3.0 technologies.

I won’t say more about Weyer’s session as I had to leave early to talk to Amazon’s Werner Vogels about its platform services like S3 and EC2 (internet storage and on-demand servers). I asked Vogels why Amazon offers no SLA (Service Level Agreement) on these services; he said it was early days and to watch this space. Ironically he mentioned that Amazon attaches great importance to SLA’s internally, so at least it understands the need. He added that Amazon is committed to maintaining its current strategy of relatively low pricing. It was a good chat and I’ll try to find time to write some more about it shortly.

That’s it for now; next up for me is Larry Constantine’s keynote on usability; tomorrow Eric Maijer is speaking on LINQ (Language Integrated Query), which he created. More later, but not from the conference center as the internet connection is injuriously expensive (£6.00 for 30 minutes). Ouch.