Coming from near Columbus, OH we drove I-75 north to get to Detroit to get to the 1DevDay conference. It’s a smooth, easy drive that, in the absence of our talkative toddler, allowed my wife and I to have the longest real discussion we’ve had in months. Talking through Bowling Green and Toledo, the conversation waned as we finally neared Detroit leaving us to watch as an increasing number of giant auto manufacturing plants rolled by. Falling to complete silence to listen to the GPS guide us to the Courtyard Marriot facing the GM building, we slipped through downtown Detroit easily. The only real action we detected was the line of gamblers and diners waiting to get parked in Greektown and the automated, mostly vacant People Mover rumbling past overhead. I asked my wife “see what I mean, it seems so empty doesn’t it?”
The truth is that I was wrong. Detroit has problems but it is not devoid of all life. 1DevDay organizer David McKinnon, a corps of dedicated volunteers, a healthy roster of sponsors and 650 local software developers meeting in Detroit on a Saturday combined to demonstrate to me that there is vibrancy in Detroit.
1DevDay is a multi-platform conference for software developers and so it came with all the technical trimmings. I poured over the schedule making hard decisions like skipping Magnus Stahre’s “Git Gone Wild: Recover from Common Git Mistakes” talk, Jessica Kerr’s “Functional Principles for OO Development” talk and even having to pass on seeing Dean Wampler talk about “Map Reduce”. I get to attend many conferences in a typical year, so I skipped the gold-mine of technical know-how collected at 1DevDay and looked for something more.
What I found was a community. Throughout the day I kept running into examples of people who are working hard “to build a software developer community in the Detroit area that is regarded as the best in the world”, as is included in the mission of 1DevDay Detroit.
David McKinnon is bold to publicize this grand goal but he does have support. The conference brought in many others who have an urgent need to attract more and better software developers. In the afternoon, I listened to Prabodh Deshmukh and Vani Yalamanchili boast about the massive IT transformation that is happening at GM. Through their upbeat yet detailed presentation they proved that GM is using industry standard development practices on the desktop, on the web and on mobile devices and invited developers to consider working with them. In the morning Paul Czarnik, CTO of Compuware, walked me and thirty other enthusiastic people through a vibrant panel discussion on growing and educating software developers that spilled into a double session. I witnessed Erika Carlson and Michelle Srbinovich, founders of the Detroit chapter of Girl Develop It, handle equal parts managing their sponsor booth, attending sessions and discussing their work, passionately, with many conference attendees. Even the keynote speakers—the internationally acclaimed Ted Neward and Chad Fowler—were synchronized with the community in Detroit, capping the conference in speeches that offered advice on what Detroit developers need to become more competitive.
So I found people deeply involved with building a community of software developers every where I looked at 1DevDay Detroit. I found this in spite of the hardcore technical sessions, vendors and job recruiters that usually keep all of my attention at conferences. The feel of community was too strong in Detroit to ignore. So if you haven’t attended 1DevDay Detroit before, consider going this year. It’s worth the trip for the technical content alone, yet pays out (unlike the casinos in Greektown) winnings once you encounter the community surrounding and supporting the conference.
NOTE: My apologies to David McKinnon and crew for not publishing this closer to the conference. See the post Hiatus for more on why there was a delay.