|By Kelly Brown||
|August 9, 2005 04:00 PM EDT||
The crowded auditorium was abuzz with anticipation. The snatches of conversation from around you were meaningless jargon to those not in the know. A hush fell over the crowd as the moment they were waiting for arrived - Ben Forta walking on stage. Okay, he's not rock star, but the closest thing to it in the ColdFusion community.
If you didn't attend the CFUNITED (www.cfunited.com) conference this year (formerly known as CFUN), you should go ahead and put it on your schedule for next year now. CFUNITED has grown from a weekend event with 40 sessions to the premier ColdFusion conference with over 60 sessions and keynote speakers from Macromedia, Microsoft, and New Atlanta. The attendance has also skyrocketed with 887 attendees this year. It's hard to relate the kind of excitement and buzz that occurred at the conference. Where else can you walk down a hall and overhear conversations about the best uses of CFCs, or hang out in the hotel bar until 1 a.m. discussing the benefits of the various ColdFusion frameworks. If you're a ColdFusion developer, this is the conference for you.
The conference actually started earlier in the week with full-day preconference classes given by some of the leaders in the ColdFusion community. Hal Helms taught a class on object-oriented programming using ColdFusion, Simon Horwith taught a class on creating APIs and Design Patterns, and Charlie Arehart taught a class on leveraging .NET in ColdFusion. There were also several other great classes. The preconference continued the next day with MinMax2, in which many of the conference speakers provided 15-minute overviews of their topics or of other topics.
I arrived bright and early the first full day of the conference. I was there as a sponsor and had to make sure our booth and the community center were set up properly. The registration was quick and easy and I received my conference goody bag. The goody bag was really…well, good. It included a very nice CFUNITED backpack, a conference book with the slides for the sessions (which I found useful for taking notes in during the sessions), a technical book, and various handouts from the conference sponsors. The technical book was on ASP.NET, which is a point of contention for many conference goers since it is a ColdFusion conference. However, I can't really fault Microsoft for pushing their products and, despite the many wonders of ColdFusion, it's good to know more than one development language. (No flames please.)
I had time before the morning keynote to explore the sponsor area. Several companies had a strong presence. Of course, Macromedia was well represented at the conference and I was surprised to see they had sent their entire ColdFusion development team. This is a good sign that Macromedia recognizes the growing importance of this conference in the ColdFusion community. Microsoft had a large booth; of course, they spent the whole conference pushing the .NET and Visual Team system. Next to Microsoft was New Atlanta, maker of the Blue Dragon ColdFusion server. It may have just been a coincidence, but I thought it was interesting that Microsoft and the company that makes a version of a ColdFusion server that runs natively in .NET were next to each other.
There were many other companies represented and I can't list them all, but I thought I'd mention a few that I found interesting. CFDynamics and HostMySite do ColdFusion hosting and I've heard good things about both. Interakt was promoting their Dreamweaver plug-in, which has some nice features including a much nicer query builder and code templates. PaperThin and Savvy Software both have nice content management systems, though PaperThin is targeting a higher-end market with a feature-rich product. SeeFusion had a very cool tool that allows you to remotely monitor your ColdFusion pages in real time and see which pages are running, the run time for each query, and other statistical data. It also has the ability to kill a page remotely in case you see a page that is taking too long to run.
Ben Forta and Tim Buntel gave the opening keynote. They discussed how ColdFusion 7 was doing in the marketplace (quite well for those of you who were not in attendance) and some of the lesser-known features of CF7, and talked about the upcoming update that will provide better support for additional platforms, especially Mac OS X. The big announcement at the keynote was that Macromedia would be supporting the CFEclipse project, a competing IDE to Dreamweaver.
The opening keynote was followed by sessions, lots of sessions. There were so many really good sessions it was hard to choose which one to go to, as there was usually another one I was interested in at the same time. I'll mention a few I liked here, but they were all good. My favorite sessions were: all the CCS sessions by Sandy Clark, Simon Horwith's "Design Patterns," Robi Sen's "Advanced Scaling and Tuning," and Hal Helms "Creating a Domain Model."
Unfortunately, I didn't get to go to as many sessions as I wanted because I had to spend time at the booth and the community center. Not that it was bad. The community center turned out quite well, though my opinion may be biased. About Web ran several contests for the community area. There was a ColdFusion trivia game with new questions every hour. "Shoot the Guru" in which you used a Nerf gun to shoot targets of famous ColdFusion gurus, such as Simon Horwith and Hal Helms. There was also an X-box, provided by House of Fusion. Of course, all of the contest winners got to spin the "Wheel of Fusion" to win fabulous prizes. Well, some of the prizes were not that fabulous, but thanks to Macromedia we had copies of Dreamweaver, ColdFusion 7 Standard, and ColdFusion 7 Enterprise to give away. I also want to thank CFDyanmics, Interakt, HostMySite, and House of Fusion for providing prizes.
The keynote speaker at lunch was Joel Spolsky, author of "Joel on Software." Joel is a very entertaining speaker. The keynote wasn't really ColdFusion related but it made it you laugh and, in many cases, made you think about what makes good software design. I was also fortunate enough to be able to attend his session on software management. It wasn't so much a methodology, rather he presented some of the things you should be doing. Of course, Joel had his typical humorous real-work examples, which are all the more funny because you know they're true.
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