Not only did I have the chance to attend my first PDC recently, but my gracious employer sent me to MIX10 this year. I’ve always wanted to go to this conference as I have design interests and tendencies and this is place where conversations about design happen in conjunction with the Microsoft technology stack.
Here is my personal recap of the event. I did this for PDC09 and it was quite helpful to not only reflect back on the conference but also in compiling a list of sessions that I wanted to watch offline (or rewatch again).
The main excitement was, of course, Windows Phone 7. However, my main objective at the conference was to hit up a lot of the sessions on design, learning more about it myself, and how I can better change my own personal development process as well Starkey’s development process. With that in mind, and especially because he is doing some iPhone development, my colleague picked up the Windows Phone sessions. I’m definitely going to dive in on some of those now that the conference is finished.
The best part of the conference was probably just meeting and hooking up (for the first time) with some of the other WPF Disciples. You can always take in the conference offline (and often in a better manner), but it isn’t every day where you can talk with (and have fun with) great minds and people.
It was an excellent conference! I hope I will soon be able to attend again.
Sessions That I Attended
|Session Code||Session Title||Presenters||Notes|
|WKSP02||Design Fundamentals for Developers||Robby Ingebretsen||This workshop and Robby’s other session (which was kind of a follow-up to the workshop) were the highlights of conference for me. He is a designer that has a background in development and was part of the team that made WPF. He has done some beautiful and amazing work. A recent piece of work is his design efforts on Seesmic for Windows (which has been converted from WPF to Silverlight recently). He is also the creator of one of my favorite tools: Kaxaml. Besides the cool name, it is the best loose xaml split-view editor out there. The session was all about introducing design to people who don’t have a background in design. As this was a pre-conference workshop, it probably won’t be released as a video you can watch offline. However, Robby also did this session last year, and for some reason they did release it for MIX09. A must watch.|
|WKSP03||Design Tools & Techniques||Arturo Toledo, Guido & Luigi Rosso, Corrina Black||I was very excited for this session because Arturo is a designer PM for Microsoft. Last year he published a great series on UI Design for Developers. Unfortunately, they changed things around and he was not the one presenting but the content was still top-notch. A set of twins, one a developer (Luigi) and one a designer (Guido), presented for the first two hours. They talked about the design and development process for their company, Archetype. They also showed off some amazing experiences they’ve created and then how to do create those experiences in Expression Blend. One of those applications was a Windows Phone 7 news reader that was jaw-dropping (and demoed in the keynote) and it was obvious that they get and totally understand the designer/developer collaboration/workflow. I encouraged them to blog about this because I think a lot of people could learn from them. Finally, Corrina Black finished off the third hour with a high-level Windows Phone 7 design overview. As before, since this was a workshop, the video will likely not be posted … which is too bad. Definitely worth a watch, if it becomes available.|
|KEY01||Keynote Day 1||Scott Guthrie, Joe Belfiore||This keynote was all about Windows Phone 7 where Joe covered what it was about and Scott Guthrie covered the development tools (Visual Studio 2010) and technology (Silverlight, XNA) for the phone. The only disappointment was that they didn’t hand out a phone for us to start playing with. PDC really set the bar high for swag (they gave us a free netbook at that conference). I really, really like that I’m already a Windows Phone 7 developer due to my WPF and Silverlight skills.|
|DS11||Great User Experiences: Seamlessly Blending Technology & Design||Andy Hood||This was a session by Andy Hood of AKQA. He leads a creative development team there and ran through four AKQA gigs where they blended (think: no rough edges) technology with great design. My favorite was how they used Photosynth in a Facebook Connect game called 221B (that is associated with the Sherlock Holmes movie). They also went to great lengths to remove the Facebook branding and from what they showed, you couldn’t tell it was associated with Facebook at all. Favorite quote: “Beware the lollipop of mediocrity, lick it once and you will suck forever.”|
|EX14||Understanding the Model-View-ViewModel Pattern||Laurent Bugnion||Here is another session that I was greatly looking forward to and I wasn’t disappointed. Laurent is a fellow WPF Disciple and his session was an Open Call session that was voted in by the people planning on attending MIX. That is something in and of itself. He covered what the pattern is and what the pattern is not with a special emphasis on how to keep things blendable (i.e. how to use MVVM and still be able to use the design surface in Blend). If you know me, you know that is right up my alley! He also went over what is contained in his MVVM Light Toolkit. Laurent in a word, rocks. Definitely a must watch.|
|EX06||10 Ways to Attack a Design Problem and Come Out Winning||Robby Ingebretsen||I’ve already mentioned (above) that this session along with the workshop were my favorites. This session was more practical, more of the how, and less of the theory of design. In particular, he went through and gave the audience 10 design attack moves. My favorite was number 5 which was: Learn Technique. And, as an example, he showed off several techniques that he uses in Photoshop … a couple of which use blend modes. Ah, now, you see why it was my favorite! I just so happened to have created a blend mode library for WPF & Silverlight (see here and here). I really liked number 4 too which was: Sketch Early and Often. I don’t even have to say this: definitely a must watch.|
|KEY02||Keynote Day 2||Scott Guthrie, Dean Hachamovitch, Bill Buxton, Doug Purdy||This keynote was focused on Internet Explorer 9, design, and OData (a web protocol for querying and updating data on the web). Dean Hachamovitch talked about what’s new in IE9 and I was particularly impressed with the continued trend in taking advantage of hardware acceleration and your system’s GPU. Doug Purdy talked about OData and Bill Buxton talked design with an emphasis on what it really means to design for natural experiences.|
|DS06||Touch in Public: Multi-touch Interaction Design for Kiosks & Architectural Experiences||Jason Brush||Jason Brush from Schematic gave this presentation and it was focused on design of touch user experiences in a public setting, e.g. like kiosks or large screen wall type experiences. After recently getting an iPod Touch, I’ve become very interested in natural user interfaces (NUI) and it is quite fascinating (and obvious I guess) that you need to design differently for each of theses experiences. The basic message: design for the space that you will be in. Don’t forget the context of your application.|
|DS08||Creating Great Experiences Through Collaboration||Noah Gedrich, Eric Perez, Sean Scott||This session was presented by a trio of people from Blitz: a developer, a creative, and a user experience guy and its focus was how collaboration between all the disciplines can yield some amazing experiences. They talked about collaborating early and often and the mutual respect between disciplines required to make that happen. They also shared some of the practical methodology that Blitz uses, including how they brainstorm as a team. Another interesting thing they brought up was how they use the 6 human needs (significance, connection, certainty, variety, growth, and contribution) in order to craft immersive experiences.|
|DS12||Total Experience: A Design Methodology for Agencies||Conor Brady||This session was presented by an Irish fellow named Conor Brady of Organic. In it, he talked about Organic’s creative process and how they navigate the complex world of technology. One of the key things I was trying to get out of MIX personally was how other companies go about creating experiences and how they blend design and development in doing so … and so this session was right up my alley. Conor really knew his stuff and the experiences he shared were very cool, but it was a little too high level for my taste.|
|DS16||An Hour with Bill Buxton||Bill Buxton||If you’ve never listened to Bill Buxton, you have to check this session out. He keynoted both last year and this year and is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever listened to. An influential designer on the world stage, he is also a principal researcher at Microsoft that is changing the company from within. He has a very engaging style: it is very laid-back and it’s like you’re talking to a friend or colleague. He was very keen on what he called BXT. BXT stands for Business, Experience, and Technology and he maintained that every team must have this trio of expertise and that they each must be on the same footing.|
|EX25||Design the Ordinary, Like the Fixie||DL Byron, Kevin Tamura||Yet another design/UX session that I attended. The main message here was of minimalism. Good design is hard, but it makes the complex … simple. That is, it is all about taking away. Once you can’t take anything else away, you’ve nailed it. This is a good message to internalize as a software developer for in my experience it is all too easy to keep cluttering up that user interface and creating a behemoth that scares (especially new) users and intimidates them.|
|EX18||Developing Natural User Interfaces with Microsoft Silverlight & WPF 4 Touch||Joshua Blake||This was another Open Call session voted in by the community and it didn’t disappoint. It was focused on the practicalities of how to create natural user interfaces (NUI) with multi-touch and using Silverlight and WPF 4. In fact, he even gave his presentation using some software that he created (that he called Natural Show). Definitely one of the better session at the conference.|
|CL03||Prototyping Rich Microsoft Silverlight Applications with Expression SketchFlow||Chris Bernard||In this session, Chris Bernard, a UX Evangelist at Microsoft went over how to use SketchFlow in order collaboratively sketch, prototype, and explore the user experience you are trying to create. This was a nitty-gritty session that personally exposed me to more of SketchFlow’s functionality. Chris did an amazing job and made several interesting claims about how useful SketchFlow is. The one that stands out is that he says that you should always be able to sketch up an animation faster in SketchFlow than doing it in code or xaml. He also said that you should start with SketchFlow animation before you use Blend behaviors. Great session and worth your time especially if you are new to SketchFlow like I am.|
Sessions That I Missed but Want to Watch
|Session Code||Session Title||Presenters||Category|
|CL02||Authoring for Windows Phone, Silverlight 4 and WPF 4 with Expression Blend||Christian Schormann, Peter Blois||Blend|
|CL55||Dynamic Layout & Transitions for Microsoft Silverlight 4 with Microsoft Expression Blend||Kenny Young||Blend|
|EX15||Build Your Own MVVM Framework||Rob Eisenberg||MVVM|
|CL52||Microsoft Silverlight Optimization & Extensibility with MEF||Glenn Block||MEF|
|DS03||Running with Wireframes: Taking Information Architecture (IA) into Design||Matt Brown||UX/Design|
|EX26||From Comp to Code: A Design Communion||Evan Sharp||UX/Design|
|DS04||The Life Cycle of a Wireframe||Nick Finck||UX/Design|
|DS13||The Elephant in the Room||Nishant Kothary||UX/Design|
|DC01||The Laws of User Experience||Anthony Franco||UX/Design|
Above are the ones I most want to watch, but I’ll definitely want to take in some of the Windows Phone 7 ones as well as some of the Silverlight ones. So, here those are (for easy access for myself and others).
Other Interesting Sessions
Heh. This recap got longer than (and took more work) I thought it would. Hope it is useful and helpful to others.