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Alt.Net UK In The North

I spent much of this weekend over in Bradford, talking shop with the good folks at the Alt.Net UK ‘in the North’ conference. I had a great time, learned much, and am grateful to Richard Fennell of Black Marble and the other organisers and sponsors for making the event possible.

This was the first Open Spaces event I’ve attended, and I was pleasantly surprised at how orderly and productive the sessions turned out to be. Unlike conventional sales-pitch conferences of the MSDN roadshow variety, this was more of an open forum, with an expectation that all of the relatively small number (25ish?) of participants would, well, participate!

I was also surprised to find that there were more pragmatists in attendance than architecture astronauts. Maybe it’s a reflection of the current economic climate, but a common theme was on finding toolings that were good enough with which to deliver suitable solutions quickly and effectively, rather than striving for architectural purity and perfection.

It was great to hear some war stories, and learn about technologies, tools, methodologies and ideas that are currently exciting other people. It would be difficult to come away from a weekend like this one without some inspiration and a big list of several things to follow up on. Here’s mine:

  • MVC Framework – like myself, a lot of the attendees have had enough of the WebForms model, and are excited about the potential of ASP.NET MVC.
  • Fluent NHibernate – it sounds like the project being feverishly worked on by James Gregory et al is ready for prime time. People spoke very positively of the ability to ditch XML HBM files in favour of this strongly-typed configuration.
  • Balsamiq Mockups – loved by everyone, even despite (or should that be because of?) its use of Comic Sans MS!
  • Inversion of Control – there was a wide mix of IoC containers being used. I’ve tried Castle Windsor, other people made positive murmurings about Unity and StructureMap.
  • TypeMock Isolator – apparently capable of mocking the unmockable.
  • Sketching User Experiences – everyone who’d heard of him spoke highly of Bill Buxton’s work.
  • Open Quarters CMS – a great demonstration of a CMS built on ASP.NET MVC by Anthony Main and Andrew Magee. I look forward to taking a squizz at the source, I’m sure it will be an excellent learning aid.
  • SWAT – a web testing tool developed by some folks at Ultimate Software and released on Sourceforge as an open source project (thanks to Nick for the link).
  • Wild Blue Yonder – a delicious amber ale from Oregon which was on tap at the Sir Titus Salt pub, to where we decamped after the planning session on Friday night. Yum!

I’m probably forgetting some things, there was a lot to take in, and I regret not having a pad of paper on hand. Hopefully my memory will be jogged by the blog postings of the other attendees.

Thanks again to all who made it possible, and all the attendees for quality the chat and inspiration.

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Copyright © Ian Fraser Nelson 2023