From December 9th to December 12th, there is a new web developer conference in Las Vegas called Dev Intersection (www.devintersection.com) which I encourage everyone to attend. The people running it and the speakers are mostly people I have met on the typical Microsoft conference circuit and they are all good speakers and really nice guys. Having said that, what I really want to do is make fun of this conference. Please don’t take anything I say below for constructive criticism, folks, cause it ain’t – this is trolling pure and simple.
The conference is devoted to Visual Studio and ASP.NET – Microsoft’s main tool and platform for building web sites. It seems to have been organized by people who were not invited to DevConnections but I’m probably wrong about that since the speakers are pretty much the same sort of speakers we find at DevConnections or Visual Studio Live! More about that later.
If you are promising to teach people about web sites, it would be a good idea to actually build a good web site for your event – which has not been done here. The main page’s speaker carousel actually blinks at you as it rotates between the different speakers. The neon-purple logo, fortunately, does not – but really, purple, teal and yellow do not a color palate make. There is also a general cacophony of fonts competing for attention on this page and a complementary issue with spacing in different quadrants on the page.
In the header, we find a list of sponsors separated out by pipes – by convention this indicates links, but in this case it doesn’t. If you click on any of these sponsor links at the top, they instead take you to the registration page. There is also a register button at the right of the main page but, strangely, that button is absent from all of the other pages on the site. There is no registration link in the navigation menu at the top, though. So if you actually navigate deeper into the site, the only way to register for the event is to click on one of the sponsors at the top. Interestingly, in the spirit of ignoring well established web conventions, the home link on the navigation menu is the right-most item rather than the left-most as one would expect.
A lesser fault is the vertical gradient used for the page’s background which unfortunately isn’t tall enough and repeats itself if you scroll down the page. These things happen. Less forgivable is the fact that if you browse to the main page in a mobile browser, you just get the exact same page scaled down so the whole thing fits into your browser but is unreadable. Note to the site designers – in 2012 people are going to browse your site with their phones!
One of my favorite features of the site is the FAQ page and in particular a link provided for people who want to register for the event. Where does the registration link go?
It’s a big gotcha! You were supposed to select one of the sponsors listed in the header, remember?!!?! Of course, it is good form to actually have a custom error page rather than letting IIS throw up a nasty default page but … hey … this conference is for developers, not designers, right?
My absolute favorite page, however, is the speaker page. The color scheme here, unlike on the main page, is clearly lighter toned.
And as I scroll down the speaker page, it looks the way I imagine the northern barrier from A Game of Thrones would look: an unrelenting wall of white. Dev Interactions is possibly the whitest conference of the year.
Gender-wise, though, they are doing fine and the conference seems to have a file folder full of women to pick from – there are three.
Not that I want to suggest that the organizers are racist, sexist, or chauvinistic in any way. I know they aren’t. The organizers of Dev Interactions explain very clearly why they have the speakers they do on the FAQ page with the broken link:
“We're bringing together some of the best speakers (and our personal friends) for a conference…”
I do, however, think that they need to expand their circle of friends.
There is a set of events which includes Visual studio Live!, DevConnections and now DevIntersection which gets reliable Microsoft backing and is made up of a mutual-appreciation society that goes back to the 90’s. These are people who, when Microsoft Marketing said that technologies like Silverlight, SOAP, Card Spaces (remember that one?), J#, DNA or DHTML were the thing to do would quickly hop on these technologies and dependably start championing them.
Remarkably, this mutual-appreciation society has helped one another out since the late 90’s to get out of actual development. Today they are all professional disseminators, promoters and managers of Microsoft technologies who no longer have to go through the painful task of actually getting things to work – they have very little in common, that is, with the sorts of people who actually come to these events.
At the same time, these are also the people who tell Microsoft what is going in the world of development and I sometimes feel that this may be the source of the disconnect between Microsoft and the hundreds of thousands of developers who use their tools. All communication between Microsoft and the developer base is mediated by these same experts who have been around since the last millennium. Not that the mutual-appreciation society is completely static – Daniel Vaughan seems to have been replaced by John Papa, while Charlie Petzold is off doing his own thing and Miguel Castro has stepped into the vacuum he has left on the speaking circuit. But you get the gist.