Last week Sweden’s Malmö hosted Øredev for the sixth time. I believe it attracted more than 1400 people, all with varying backgrounds and interests. Unsurprisingly, the majority of attendees turned out to be Swedish and Danish people (with Malmö very well connected to Denmark via their famous Baltic Ocean crossing train).

The Cultural Experiences
Being held in Sweden, the organising committee did well to treat us to some cultural delights including the Swedish sauna-Baltic Ocean run followed up by a delicious traditional fish meal). One of the organising members even welcomed us into their home for drinks before the speakers’ dinner where Glögg continued to keep the cold at bay. The difference of soaking raisins and almonds really surprised me. Malmö’s deputy mayor then welcomed us at their majestic townhall where all the speakers unanimously marvelled at the decadent surroundings. The meal stayed true to the region with first, a regional speciality, black soup (and yes, like black pudding, it has a very special ingredient) before following that up with a hearty roast goose meal and a spiced apple pudding for dessert.

Logistics and Organisation
The organisers impressed me with how smoothly the entire conference ran. Malmö’s Slagthuset (slaughterhouse) hosted the conference for the first time and although not all the spaces turned out ideal (with small walkways between some major rooms), I think it contributed to the friendliness and openness I discovered.

The organisers also did a fabulous job responding to attendee’s needs. For example, on Monday they moved a number of tutorials to warmer rooms after realising the strong draughts let in by workmen who still needed to complete their work. Another example is when they quickly disabled the authentication on the wi-fi when it proved to be another barrier to being connected. Unfortunately the wi-fi turned out to be a little bit flakier throughout the conference.

I also really enjoyed the evening entertainment that flowed into the venue rather than the “move to another location and lose people” approach several other conferences do. This helped to keep the conversation flowing (and we all love our flow!).

Øredev offered a huge variety of interesting topics with tracks covering mainstream languages such as Java/.Net, NoSQL, Agile & Lean, Collaboration, Patterns, Smart Phones and Architecture with lots of really interesting topics. I’d keep an eye out for their website and trawl the twitterverse (#oredev) for the interesting discussions.

The keynote presenters also turned out really well.

Dr Jeffrey Norris presented what he thought as agile values leading to mission critical success at NASA (Vision, Risk and Commitment) demonstrating through a “wow” 3D demonstration using the ARToolKit. He used the stories of famous inventors, particularly the rise of Graham Alexander Bell to emphasis these elements very effectively.

I saw John Seddon a few months ago and although I’d heard him present pretty much the same talk, appreciated his message was an important one that more people really needed to hear. I think there is great value in spreading his emphasis on holistic system thinking even further in the work that we do. Entertaining and very British, Seddon completed his keynote without leaning on any slides and to a very positive reaction from the audience.

I missed Henrik Kniberg‘s keynote so can’t really comment.

The final keynote came from Atari Corporation geek legend Nolan Bushnell envisaging what the next key software projects would be in the future. I think everyone enjoyed the talk simply because it was Nolan though I think wasn’t as executed as professionally as it could have been.

People to meet
One of the really great parts of Øredev was all the people around you. As one person put it, you could be talking to a person and then suddenly realise that they created X (where X = language, framework, tool, etc) or someone who wrote a lot of the blog entries that you’ve been reading. I think that the conference does a wonderful job of creating a really relaxed atmosphere for people to converse and the speakers are all really approachable and involved in all of the sessions as well.

I have to admit I also really appreciated the opportunities to connect to a number of fellow ThoughtWorks colleagues (both past and present) who I’d either not got a chance to meet, or hadn’t seen for a very long time. This is one of the consequences of working for a global consultancy – you get to communicate and build relationships for a distance yet rarely get to meet people face to face.

iPad observations
One huge point worth noting was the large role that the iPad played during this developer conference. Obviously, being fairly geeky I hadn’t expected so many of them yet it proved to be one of the best devices for capturing notes & particularly useful for reading and contributing tweets. Laptops lose out on both portability and, on average, a very so-so battery life.

Reading tweets to view session using the native iPad twitter client also worked really well without having to use the keyboard or mouse – this is where gestures and multi touch really shined.

My session
Chris Hedgate, organiser for the track on collaboration invited me to speak. Titled, “Tightening the Feedback Loop“, I spoke about how to give and receive more effective interpersonal feedback. I had some great tweets in response and some great feedback on the presentation (meta!) I’m encouraged that more people will be better equipped in their professional and personal life after attending.

I highly recommend presenting and/or attending Oredev. You’ll meet a whole heap of really interesting people and, no doubt, come away with at least an idea or two.