Well we had a good group of almost 1300 people show up for Devcon 2018 at the Gaylord in Grapevine, Texas. I certainly had a great time and learned a few things and made some new friends. In particular shouts out to my Swedish friends (Gustaf and Nicholas) and the Scotsmen from LiveCodeFM.
The Keynote on Monday evening is always a good kickoff and was fun. But basically it just does that and gives a bit of the state-of-the-company summary plus some roadmap things that most are under non-disclosure. It was followed by a fun kickoff party, aka "Welcome Reception." Probably my only complaint is that the Keynote and the party are about as far apart from each other as you can get at this huge hotel. Maybe that was to burn off calories.
Tuesday started off with a big secretive announcement that they would tell us about until then, which is the new marketing placement of FileMaker into a newly created description of "Workplace Innovation Platform". I have to say I'm more of a development guy and a bit of a cynic about marketing campaigns. But it has always been hard to describe where FileMaker fit into things as something like a framework, platform, database, whatever. I figure in 5 years this will be either a brilliant idea or some silly thing we will have forgotten all about. As my friend Dennis Burnham said, it can be a bit like place your own flag to make the definition of something such as Adobe did with the description of "Desktop Publishing" in the 1980s when no such term existed.
The rest of Tuesday and Wednesday are what I consider the core technical sessions. I often pick up little tidbits here and there and there was a lot of focus on the new Admin and Data APIs along with cURL and JSON. But the rest of the sessions were fairly typical and most were good. Everyone will have their own opinion, but my two favorite sessions were by Mike O'Neil and Beatrice Beaubien.
The food throughout the conference was really good this year and a step up from last year in my opinion. But my friend David Agnew is vegetarian and noted that none of the salads had any protein such as eggs or beans and for that reason he did not like the meals as well this year. But for us meat eaters, it was pretty yummy.
Wednesday evening was the Attendee party where you can bring your spouses, etc. It pretty much was what you would expect a California company to do trying to think what a Texas event should be like (wearing cowboy hats/boots, rope the metal steer thing, etc.). But the food and drink were pretty good and the networking was what I mostly got out of it. It is always fun seeing a lot of friends. HOWEVER, my only real complaint was how loud the music was. It just was not conducive to networking and I left with my ears ringing for an hour or two afterwards. Maybe I'm just getting old or something. One more thing, if you're at these parties next year, be sure to make friends with the FileMaker staff. In addition to good networking with them, they all seem to have extra drink coupons!
Thursday this year was a combination of FBA Day and Customer Day. It had the FBA sessions like last year but also had sessions where users made presentations of how they use FileMaker. I usually dread FBA presentations and find them either to be marketing hype or about licensing. FileMaker has changed licensing from device licensing to user licensing and this has caused a bit of heart burn even if the end goal is good. But it has made the transition particularly difficult for those have to sell the product and there clearly have been hiccups along the way. HOWEVER, I did go to Mia Roop session on making FBA sales simple and have to say she took a topic I dreaded and made a pretty good presentation out of it and may have restored my hope in FileMaker licensing sales being made easier. Good job Mia because it was apparent the audience was not with you at the start and you seemed to win them over even when challenged with difficult questions. And I'll also throw a plug in for Rosemary Tietge for leading the User Group leader's discussion which went very well on Thursday.
The closing session on Thursday is always a fun and good to see some excited people receive awards. I'm sure FileMaker will post all of the awards here soon. I was personally excited about Christian Schmitz / Monkey Bread Software winning an award. Oh yeah, I was pretty pumped about Susan Fennema. Well, I know those two personally, but a lot of other people won some exciting awards having to do with a lot of hard work over this past year.
And the last part of the closing session was announcing the next location which will be the Gaylord in Orlando, Florida!
Some of you may note that the attendance dropped a lot this year from a little over 1600 last year to less than 1300 this year. This partly has to do with the event going back to a 3 day main event instead of 2, which I applaud. But it also raised the price from $899 to $1299 for early registrations, and I think that effected attendance. Regardless, I think they should stick to a 3 day schedule and hope they will for Orlando.
Now for some nitpicking things, but things that are noted because I have high expectations of execution of this conference. The FileMaker 17 certification name tag stickers did not arrive until more than half way through the conference. Oh, while we're talking about name tag stickers, I really think they should only have certification stickers for currently supported product versions (e.g., 3 versions). Beyond that doesn't really matter to current development. And then I found the signage to be a bit lacking. We needed more of it and what was there did not seem to be created by a graphics professional and the white space and logo size and arrows just didn't seem so professional. Speaking of which on EVERY single sign at the top was the following picture that I took and note that last word on it (bottom right) misspells Texas.
Well I hope to see many of you next year in Orlando. And thank you FileMaker Staff and Speakers and all that worked hard to put Devcon 2018 together!