Marcos Placona Blog

Programming, technology and the taming of the web.

Category: Reviews

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Reading time: 2 – 3 minutes

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SotR09 London – An honest review

Reading time: 8 – 13 minutes

So, I’ve been to Scotch On the Road 2009 here in London and will write some of my point of views on it, including some of the important things I saw there.
I want to make it clear here that all the opinions expressed herewith are solely mine, and by no means I want to be disrespectful to anyone, and hope people read my review as a constructive criticism and nothing else.
I’ll split it up by topics, so people don’t get lost on what I’m talking about.
The venue:
The Scotch guys used three rooms of The Sway Bar in London for the presentations. It couldn’t be in a better place, as it’s right in the heart of London, and within a walking distance from Holborn tube station. The main room is really spacious, and is by far the best of the rooms. The other two are not so great. One of them has a simple 40″ TV and no projectors. You’d have to squeeze if you wanted to be in track two or three, as the rooms were really small.
None of this really bothered me, as I was there for the content, and not for the technology they used. One thing that really annoyed me were the chairs, no matter where you go, the chairs would be as uncomfortable as you can think of; and I can tell you that sitting for 50+ minutes in one of those chairs is not the best experience. It’s a kind of a show stopper really, as after 20 minutes you start to get so uncomfortable that you can’t really pay 100% of attention.
The speakers:
As usual the quality of the speakers was great. Most of the speakers are well known in the Adobe community, and the contents were highly relevant. At least from the sessions point of view.
The sessions:
The keynote was made by Terry Ryan, who really gave us some fresh air on what’s coming up with ColdFusion 9. I think it was really unanimous that his presentation gave us a nice feeling about Adobe’s intentions for the ColdFusion future. He showed some impressive features on ColdFusion ORM, and some very nice examples of “code generation”. The capabilities on ColdFusion 9 are simply amazing, and it does most of the job for you, but in a clever way, so you can still make sure you are in control of the application, and not the other way round. For some reason I have a feeling that the next codename for ColdFusion will be Sagittarius. I could be wrong though ;-)
I then went to Mark Drew‘s presentation on frameworks comparison. He did a nice “show & tell” where he demonstrated most of the actual ColdFusion frameworks. What really impressed me is how nice ColdBox is. He also showed us how to install the frameworks properly, and commented about documentation for each of the frameworks. We all know how steep the learning curve can be when starting with a new framework, and in these cases, a good documentation is essential.
It was then time for Peter Bell‘s preso on Requirements and Estimating. Not too many people there, but the content was just excellent. It was certainly the best track of all IMO. I really like Peter Bell’s approach when it comes to presentation. He started giving some small examples on how to estimate small projects starting in £800, then going up to £100K projects. Estimation really varies from project to project, but he gave us some tips on what he actually uses when it comes to requirements and estimation. It was definitely a very valuable lesson. it wasn’t related to ColdFusion at all, which is great, as you can use the concepts with any technology.
I then went to Gert Franz‘s presentation on Open Source Railo. As you all know, I’ve been using Railo for a while now, and am a great fan of their work. Gert showed some great features of the oncoming version, and hinted us about the next releases. For all we know, Railo 3.2 will be released somewhere in the Fall 2009, and Railo 4 on the second quarter of 2010. I then asked Gert a few questions (after the session as we were short on time) about the new features of Railo 3.2, and the answers for my questions were:
Q: Is Railo going to have full CFScript support?
R: Yes, it will come with Railo 3.2

Q: In terms of number of users, is Railo really doing well?
R: We’ve had approximately 24 thousand downloads on the last three months and we still are not online on the JBoss website
Q:Can you overwrite functions as well as you can overwrite tags (new feature since version 3.1.0.015).
R: Yes, you can simply do it the same way you do with tags (like a custom tag, but on the functions folder)
Q:The documentation for Railo is still a bit weak, do you plan to have a better documentation anytime soon?
R: Yes, we are gonna be opening the wiki, and we already have someone writing a very thorough and detailed documentation
The next session was David Stockton’s Fusion Analytics / Reactor. I really haven’t got much to say on it, as I couldn’t stand it for more than 20 minutes. Again, this is only my personal opinion, but I think David was really trying to sell his products too hard, and not really focusing on showing working examples. The company I work for is a client already, and have a few licenses of Fusion Reactor, so I’d be much more interested in learning about it then buying more licenses. I do understand that as sponsors they have the right to try to sell their products, and this is something David himself made clear at the beginning of the presentation, but he asked us to be patient as he’d be showing things. Well, I wasn’t too patient, and gave up after about 20 minutes as previously stated. I’ll be very weary about this kind of presentation in the future.
One would ask why I didn’t go to any of the other tracks. I was going to track 2 (Securing ColdFusion applications), but then was informed that this track was another “buy our products” track. Track 3 was Peter Elst’s track, and I thought it would be only a “I’m not a ColdFusion developer but am impressed with its features“. To be fair, I assume I was wrong, as I heard excellent reviews of this track later on.
At this stage I was a bit fed up, as I really didn’t have anywhere to go, so I sat with Kev McCabe and had a beer.
For the next and last session, I went to Track 3, presented by Sven Ramuschkat on performance tuning. In an overall, the track was great, as he really gave some valuable tips on ColdFusion server tuning. Not many people are actually interested in server tuning. If you are a developer, you really won’t be interested, but if you work with things like deploys, server management, and is between the ones who need to worry about server performance, you better have been to this one. Sven talked about some very simple but powerful settings you can have on your ColdFusion Administrator in order to have good performance.
He then explained a few key things about ColdFusion administrator configuration such as:

  1. You should only allow 3-5 simultaneous client connections per core, but not more than that;
  2. A good number of cached templates is 1024;
  3. You should only allow trusted cache is your source code never changes, or doesn’t change very often, and it can improve your server performance in up to 10%;
  4. Normally you should never have to restart your ColdFusion server (considering it’s got the right configuration);
  5. It’s a good practice to have “maintain connection” on your datasource configuration. That way, ColdFusion doesn’t need to open and close connections multiple times for the same session;
The presentation was then interrupted as the end keynote was about to start. So unfortunately, I couldn’t ask the questions I wanted to ask, but I hope I have the chance to talk to Sven some other time.
Organization:

I really think organization is key on this kind of event, and I know the guys made their best to have it all working. Things not always happen as we expect, and none of the tracks started or ended on time. It’s no big deal really, as I enjoyed every second of my time there. The networking you can get from this kind of conference is really huge, and it would have helped if we had badges. I can think about other two or three things I’d do different in terms of organization, but in an overall, everything was as expected. There were a few flaws here and there, but we are all human and certainly make mistakes.
Conclusion:
It was an amazing conference with a satisfactory content. Some of the content has already been discussed so many times in other conferences/meetups, but I’m sure there’s still some audience for it.
The price (£49 + VAT) was just fair considering the economic situation, and that also included 2 beers and free snacks buffet.
I had a great time catching up with some people I haven’t seen in a while, and could finally put names to some faces. I really missed badges (as previously stated) on this conference, and think they are an essential thing for this kind of event. With the new twitter hype, we get to know many people by their names, but not by their faces, so badges would really be essential to amplify your network.
I haven’t seen every single presentation, so I can’t speak for the ones I haven’t been. I’ll leave the comments open, and if you have seen any of the presentation I haven’t, or have another opinion, please feel free to back me up here.
I’d like to thank Kev McCabe and Andy Allan for the conference, and hope they keep the good work with the next conferences.