I'd like to take the opportunity to do a small review on each of the four sessions, although most of my comments will probably tie together scatterings of comments throughout the day.
I think his four topics were well selected. While obviously separate presentations in their own right, they were cohesive enough that you could see strong relationships between them throughout the day.
- Coding Therapy for Software Developers
- Writing Maintainable Code
- High Performance PL/SQL
- Automated Testing Options for PL/SQL
Mastermind he likened to the debugging mind, where given various states of being, how that suits with the expected solution. It was a very good analogy and reminded me how I used to enjoy that game.
The other was The Set Game, something I stumbled across a few years ago, possibly via a comment on his website. It reflected a consistent tenet of his that development is closely tied with pattern matching.
His first session, entitled Coding Therapy for Software Developers, I personally found to be the most enjoyable session of the day. I think we need to see more of this style of presentation at these events - unfortunately they seem to fit better with the evangalist/guru types with years of experience. Not only was it a sidestep away from the usual technical presentation, it helped remind us why we enjoy our jobs and how we can modify/affirm our behaviours and appreciate our career choice.
He recommended a number of books during the presentation, and I noticed quite a few people note them down. Steven did give a good impression of enthusiasm for these books, and I will certainly be on the lookout for them. For those who missed them:
Christopher Alexander - Pattern Language - Timeless Way of Building - Steven mentioned that day to day problems already have (good) solutions and if we can harness the concepts of pattern matching we can utilise the better, efficient solutions more frequently. One of the development perspectives here being templates and modularisation/encapsulation.
Jeff Hawkins - On Intelligence - For many years engineers have been trying to build intelligent machines, and apparently this book explores the topic well.
Daniel Gilbert - Stumbling on Happiness - An interesting look at how our minds work, and why we delude ourselves in thinking we know what we all want to make us happy.
Steve McConnell - Code Complete - A more technical book mentioned later in the day discussing best practices in the art and science of creating software. I remember thoroughly enjoying the art vs science debate of development at university, I'm sure this will be a good read.
In fact listening to his comments that morning, I have a sneaking suspicion he's a fellow evolutionist - and I would quite happily have recommended a wonderful book I'm reading at the moment.
One of my hand written notes referred to a conversation about why birds don't look sick until they are near death. A pattern of evolution and adaptation - but I can't remember how it related to software development! Oops.
He certainly mentioned to avoid caffeine, eluding to memory - based on my understanding anything learnt while under the influence of caffeine means we have a better chance of remembering it only when we have the same amount of caffeine in our system. Not really a state of being that we should desire 24-7.
Steven is a charismatic speaker, and I'm sure his fairly generic American/Chicago accent has helped his success in the presentation theatre. I recall a conversation with Lynn Munsinger on this concept.
So for me, 5/5 for the first session. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the other three. I'd certainly be happy to see the same session again, and more like it.