WPD203: Choosing an X-Platform Dev Strategy (in review)

Yesterday at TechEd 2014 (Melbourne) I presented a session on “Choosing a X-Platform Dev Strategy”. As the name suggests the topic is on cross platform development, from a Microsoft developers perspective, it also focused on mobile development which is where cross platform comes up for most folks.

Unlike previous TechEd events in Australia, this year they are running it twice, once in Melbourne, and once in Sydney a few weeks later. Each event is smaller with less concurrent sessions which means that the audiences for each session are pretty large (my session had folks standing at the back and outside the presentation area).

I’m always keen to look at my session evaluations (yes we do read them) as it gives us a chance to take the constructive feedback and improve generally as a presenter. This year I’ve got the added benefit at being able to present the session twice to two TechEd scale audiences, and hopefully take it as an opportunity to improve my delivery. So I figured I would do a debrief with “the Internet”, or at least those three people that read my blog.

To get started, let’s look at the aggregated scores for my session:

WPD203: Aggregated Session EvalatuionSo overall I scored a 4.23 out of 5.00 or about 84%. My worst scoring area was around the following question:

The knowledge/skills I gained are relevant to my role

As you can see I scored a 3.92 in that particular area. It would be really interesting to know what the expectations of the topic were going in just in case there is a misalignment between that and the title of the talk. One of the arguments that I made in my talk was that cross platform development is going to become increasingly more relevant to those developers who build business applications (it already is for consumer applications).

It’s hard to gain insights from numbers, but given the number of responses (49 to date) and the scores that I was getting a fair few fives, fours and maybe a few threes in everything except that question. But given the other questions really relate to my delivery of the content I want to focus on them for my next delivery. The detailed responses might provide some more insights:

WPD203: Eval COmments

Only five comments. I like it when people take the time to provide event a sentence because it really helps understand what I can change. Let’s tackle the first one.

Good presentation. Good high level of information with some deep dives into specific tech. The presentation felt a tiny bit unstructured.

Pretty good feedback and summarizes the session well, and I take the unstructured piece. When I first put my slide deck together I had it broken down it to well defined sections but what I found as I kept going through the presentation was that they kind lead to repetition. So I’ll need to figure out a way to segue more explicitly so that folks know where we are in the presentation.

Talk didn’t seem rehearsed and relied too much on code demos that had the potential to stall or go wrong.

Fair cop. I probably went through my presentation 20+ times in terms of walking the slides and demos but in terms of verbal rehearsals I tend to rely on the combination of the slides and code to guide what I say when I present. I’d be a terrible actor because I could never remember lines. On the bright side I’m pretty good at learning APIs so where I could never recite Hamlet, I’m pretty good at getting my code to compile on the first try.

One challenge that I had with this particular presentation was that much of the time was spent inside a Virtual Machine running in Parallels. That mean that some of the compilation and deployment steps take longer than I would like. Indeed one of the challenges with cross platform development, particularly when you are targetting iOS and Windows Phone is that virtualization or cross network calls is going to be involved somewhere. So to get it all running on one machine so I could flick backwards and forwards between Visual Studio and the iOS simulator. I also got caught out a few times starting to demo something but forgetting to flick back to my demo rig from the slides (you wouldn’t believe how often I do that).

Too much detail on one specific product, misleading title.

Not sure about this one. I think I could improve the title by adding “mobile”, in fact I had considered that. In terms of focusing on one specific product there was two tools that I spent time looking at. Cordova and Xamarin. Both are quite different approaches to cross platform development which is why I chose to contrast and compare them. There are other cross platform tools out there but it would have been hard to add even one more to what I presented (in fact I pretty much ran out of time). I’ll have to think about this one.

Perhaps I could trim some of the Cordova stuff since I did kind of demo it three ways (native, with Ionic, and via Visual Studio MDA). I could potentially drop Ionic since it has limited Windows Phone support anyway and go Cordova (as a point of reference), Visual Studio MDA, Xamarin and then try to briefly cover something else. I did consider AppBuilder by Telerik. It is an entire stack which leverages Cordova, but adds some UI frameworks like Kendo UI. Another alternative would be adding in the Azure Mobile Services angle. What do you think?

Overall, it was good feedback with some specific pointers on how to improve. Now I just need to figure out what I can do to improve it for the NSW folks.

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