The sessions at the Applied XML DevCon come in two flavors: theory and applied. Sometimes the theory sessions devolve into trash talk, putting down someone else’s theories – with the other person sitting in the room and making comments back to the speaker from the audience. This year’s conference was a bit more tame in that regard (compared to last year’s), but the interaction between the speaker and audience is quite dynamic and encouraged. It’s very different from a PDC or TechEd, and it makes for a very lively, entertaining, and educational conference.
The “Applied” sessions can be hit or miss (mostly “hit”), depending on who is doing the presentation (the person’s speaking skills) and the topic. It’s very interesting to see how people and companies have used the emerging XML and Web Services standards to get real work done and solve real world problems. Two “applied” talks from this year’s conference especially stood out.
Scott Hanselman and Patrick Cauldwell (both of Corillian) did an excellent job of presenting their framework (at the heart of Corillian’s banking software), explaining the rationale behind their design decisions. It was easy to tell they had put quite of bit of thought into their system and its architecture.
Whit Kemmy (Department of Defense) gave the best presentation of this year’s conference. He had pictures of submarines and missiles, which were like porn to a bunch of nerds. But beyond the pictures, the systems he described and the innovative way they have used XML were very fascinating. They work with extremely rigorous constraints and have to build and understand their systems from the ground up. They wrote their own operating system, compiler, created their own keyboards and displays. They have to intimately know every detail of their systems. And they want the systems to be very easy for a 19 year old testosterone driven soldier to operate. No “oops” are allowed when you’re working with nuclear weapons.