On Monday, June 18th I made the trek from my home near Philadelphia to Burlington, Vermont for a speaking engagement with the Vermont.Net user group. This was my first speaking engagement for a user group outside of the Philadelphia area, and I must admit: I was a tad nervous about the trip.
I’m not one who enjoys driving for long trips. If I drove straight through to Burlington, it would have been a 7 hour drive… yuck. I worked out that I could drive to New York for a JetBlue flight to Vermont. That may sound strange, but it cut my travel time by two hours, gave me some rest after driving and my expenses were going to be covered by INETA. With the speaker travel reimbursement offer from them, I just about broke even on the travel costs.
My drive to the JFK airport looked like it would be uneventful, as I left after morning rush-hour in the Philadelphia area and crossed into New Jersey with good speed, and no traffic. I pulled into a rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike to grab some snacks before lunch near JFK, and departed to find myself stopped not 5 miles further down the road. Fire trucks went screaming down the shoulder and traffic started moving about 10 minutes later. The culprit: a car had caught on fire in the middle of the road. I have never seen a vehicle spontaneously-combust, but in Jersey, I guess these things happen. The rest of the drive to JFK was uneventful and I found the Jetblue personnel to be very friendly and helpful, a blessing for a first time traveler on their airline.
When I arrived in Vermont, I was a bit surprised at how small the Burlington airport was… all of my prior flights had been to larger cities: Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, Dallas, Orlando, Atlanta… you get the picture. I was greeted by Matt Bean from the Vermont.Net user group and we went for a quick walking tour through Burlington.
The event started at 6:30 at mywebgrocer.com’s offices in Winooski. The venue was an interesting setup as I had a projector hooked up to my laptop and alternate video split to two large LCD displays that were facing me. This was a big help to me, as I have been ‘accused’ of referring to my slides and speaking towards them too much when I present.
I was the first of two speakers on this evening, and presented my ‘Introduction to CQRS’ talk. For those that have not seen it, I discuss the differences between a standard n-tier architecture and a CQRS/DDD architecture in a web application. I use a modified version of the NerdDinner website to demonstrate how a domain object is constructed, task-based-ui can be implemented, and how events are stored and are then available for an ‘audit-log’ type of presentation. The group was great, and had lots of feedback and questions. As this was an introductory talk, I led them to the sample code of NerdDinner I had posted to BitBucket for more experimenting after the event.
The second speaker was the accomplished and very impressive Glenn Block. Glenn spoke for an hour on WebAPI, and opened my eyes to some of the easier ways to reliably have machines communicate with each other over standard web ports. I’ll be considering how best to use WebAPI in my next project for my employer…
The real experiences that I gained from this trip was the discussions after the meeting. An unexpected visitor in the form of Darrel Miller who came in from Montreal to talk a bit about REST services. After some discussion between Glenn Darrel and myself, I was impressed with the depth and direction that REST services are headed. While I initially entered the discussion with the feeling the REST was just another way to communicate with a webserver, I learned that there was a lot more to it. I definitely need to spend more time researching content types and header records that are used in requests to RESTful services, as this is a communication strategy I planned to use in my next sprint.
Finally, I got to spend the second day of my trip with the amazing Julie Lerman. Julie is the author of several books on the Entity Framework, and I had a full day to enjoy with this brilliant technologist. What a good thing for me as I spent the previous 6 months leading a project that uses Entity Framework as the core data access technology. We spent the day hiking, chatting, and enjoying the amazing views and mountains of Vermont. I was able to ask several questions that had been dogging my team, and got some great insight as to how my team should address our issues in a future sprint. Many thanks to Julie for her hospitality during my visit.
All in all, a great trip to Vermont. I learned a lot from a group of great technologists who were visiting the area for the evening. For a first trip outside of my geographic comfort zone, it was very encouraging to me. I now have some confidence that I can do more of these trips over the coming months.