Initial Thoughts on the DC DevSummit

This week, I attended the first-ever Esri DC DevSummit which followed the Federal GIS Conference (please switch it back to “FedUC”). This event, intended and a smaller, Federally-focused, companion to the annual Palm Springs DevSummit, came together quickly but was very well-attended with about 300 attendees.

It was interesting to note that the most well-attended sessions of the day had to do with Javascript (every Javascript session had over 100 participants). As more and more organizations update their IT infrastructures, the acceleration away from plug-ins seems to be picking up pace. The most common refrain amongst attendees in that regard is that continued standardization on IE8 remains the biggest impediment to sunsetting things like Flex and Silverlight, but the logjam seems to be starting to break loose.

Despite the photo I posted, Andrew Turner’s open-source session was fairly well-attended. It was good to see tools like Koop in action. It is clear that there is real effort going on within Esri to produce open-source tools and that the people working on them are genuinely committed to them. That said, it is obviously still early days and such efforts are clearly swimming upstream against the preponderance of corporate culture. This is an effort that will best be judged over the long haul.

I also have to give a shout out to Andy Gup, whom I finally met at this conference. By chance, I sat through three of his sessions. He is one of the best technical presenters I have ever seen and Esri should require junior staff to sit through his sessions to see how it should be done.

I found the DevSummit generally worthwhile and I was impressed with how well it came together given the short timeframe. Since I was encouraged to blog suggestions, here are a few:

  1. Make a DevSummit a permanent fixture as a follow-on to the Federal User Conference each year. The format of this year’s Federal conference can be tweaked but stay mainly focused on user-centric use cases and some intro-level discussions of technologies. A DevSummit would mark a shift in to much more technical content with advanced discussions of APIs, security, techniques and best practices.
  2. Pull out the stops. As I indicated in item 1, ramp up the technical content, in comparison to that of the Federal conference, significantly. This year’s event started down that path. I would keep the technical content of the Federal conference on the bunny slopes and shift to the black diamonds for the DevSummit.
  3. Expand to two days. It was a quick day and there were definitely sessions I would have liked to have gotten to. Additionally, it would be good to see some user content, maybe some lightning talks on the evening between the days. One of the biggest challenges working in the Federal space is the compartmentalization between and within agencies. With the DevSummit drawing interested people to one location, it would be good to get more opportunities to interact with other developers and exchange information.
  4. FedRAMP and FISMA were non-existent this year. Jim Barry explained to me that these were areas where content simply wasn’t ready to go in the short time given to prepare for the DevSummit. That’s fair, and I certainly respect the decision to not provide content that could not be done well. These are, however, core issues for anyone doing development for the Federal Government. Next year’s DC DevSummit really needs to have content for developers attempting to deploy to FedRAMP and achieve FISMA compliance with Esri tools.

Those my quick hits. I’ll probably have more after I have time to digest what I saw and dig out from the backlog resulting from two days out of the office. Kudos to Jim Barry for his work pulling the DC DevSummit together.