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ColdFusion Authors: Yakov Fain, Jeremy Geelan, Maureen O'Gara, Nancy Y. Nee, Tad Anderson

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ColdFusion: Article

CF United

The chance to learn new techniques

I last attended CFUnited in 2003 when it was called CFUN-03 and it was a far smaller, less professional conference. At the time, there were around 300-350 attendees and the conference was just passing the point in which it felt like a small, developer-organized affair. This year, it has grown to approximately 900 people and feels very much like a corporate conference.

TeraTech, a ColdFusion consulting and training firm based in the Washington, DC, suburbs, is the organizer of the conference and a long-time sponsor of the Maryland ColdFusion User Group. TeraTech dedicates two full-time staff members to organizing the conference and, based on what I see, they are obviously working hard to put on a good show.

As a whole, the conference was well organized. With over 60 speakers over four days, this is the leading ColdFusion conference worldwide. Adobe is a large sponsor and it is quite clear from their commitment that they want to support the market. Adobe sent at least 10 ColdFusion developers to the conference as speakers, community support (user groups), and to man their "help desk" booth in the community area. One significant change from previous years was the addition of a fourth day of presentations, all repeats of the most popular sessions from the first three days. This made it far easier for attendees to schedule the key sessions we wanted to attend. In previous years, you could miss a key presentation if it was scheduled at the same time as another you wanted to attend. (Note that a few months before each conference, registrants can indicate session preferences and later sign up for them. This allows the organizers to modify the schedule to minimize overlap of popular sessions and to guarantee that the more popular sessions are in the largest rooms.)

The conference was held in a very nice, large conference center that is obviously new and well maintained. It was large enough to cope with the crowd most of the time; the only space problems were during casual lunches (buffet-style held in the common lobby areas with sparse seating at peak times) and in a few presentations that were heavily attended (there is additional conference space available on another floor). Each technical session was professionally recorded by a third-party firm and the audio is being made available for free to attendees. The video is being made available to non attendees at a fairly high price ($650 U.S.) with a discount price of $200 for attendees. To be fair to Michael, this is the first time he has had the sessions video recorded and to do so over four days for all concurrent sessions costs tens of thousands of dollars. This was an experiment and some experimentation with the supply and demand curve is to be expected. Michael pointed out to me that the primary goal of the recording was not to replace the need for attendees to attend or for their casual viewing, but was for employers in distant states (and countries) who could not send their staff to the conference and wanted a way for their whole team to benefit from the speakers at their convenience (hence, the relatively high individual cost). I'm looking forward to previewing the recordings in the next week or two when they are available.

To the average attendee, the problems were few and far between. There were some minor snafus with the complimentary shuttle bus to the overflow hotel as well as some minor delays in registration, Internet access, etc. As a whole, none of these were significant and shouldn't scare you away.

How can the conference grow and improve in future years? TeraTech needs to increase their staffing slightly (which I am told they have done) to cope with the increased attendance, organizational responsibilities, and minor areas that were lacking. I think they need to bring in a wider assortment of vendors (approximately 20 were represented) to display their ColdFusion products and also to increase the community networking features of the conference. Networking is a big benefit of the conference and the opportunity to network was constantly available, though not actively assisted.

The most obvious area that was lacking was electrical and Internet connectivity for my laptop. Conference centers are not normally equipped to handle hundreds of developers with laptops. I recommend that the presentation halls be equipped with long power strips on the sides of the presentation rooms farthest from the entry doors (the entry door areas typically have a few plugs and the largest density of attendees anyway). The Internet access should have been adequate, but a combination of Flex 2 and ColdFusion releases on the first day (with a large number of attendees downloading hundreds of megabytes of files) as well as configuration problems with the wireless made connecting to the Internet frustrating at times.

Overall, I would say the conference was a success. It was fun to attend and educational. I was exposed to new technologies and frameworks that will benefit me in my job while giving me a chance to learn new techniques to improve my coding.

More Stories By Ryan Hartwich

Ryan Hartwich is a mechanical engineer with 7 years of ColdFusion experience.

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