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Silverlight 3 at PDC

Saturday 5 September, 2009, 03:42 PM

I’m absurdly excited about PDC this year because for the first time, I’ll be speaking there! Rich Griffin and I will be talking about Silverlight 3. This is one of the day-long workshops that run the day before the full conference starts.

I’m pleased to be talking with someone who I’ve worked with as a fellow developer—Rich and I have collaborated on some of the many WPF and Silverlight projects we’ve worked on over the last few years. We both have a lot of experience solving real problems, and we’re looking forward to bringing that to the workshop—we will be talking about building real software.

PDC is just over a couple of months away, so we haven’t quite set our talks in stone yet. We’d both love to hear from you if you’re contemplating coming to our session and have ideas on what you’d like to see. That said, we obviously need to give people a fair idea of what to expect so they can plan now. So here’s what we’re currently thinking.

We see the day breaking down into four pieces, taking roughly a quarter of the day each: The Ideas of Silverlight; Connecting; Software Design; Working with Designers.

The Ideas of Silverlight

I want to start by saying what this will NOT be. We absolutely don’t want to do a laundry list of Silverlight features, or a straight forward walk through of the developer and the design tools. We believe that a sound understanding of a critical set of ideas at the heart of Silverlight is the secret to true proficiency.

So we plan to talk about some features that make Silverlight very different from most other UI technologies, and how they combine in ways you might not expect. In particular, we plan to describe the roles played by templates, and styles, the structure of controls, the surprising importance of data binding, and why something called MVVM is so important. We also want to talk about some of the practical issues around deployment, testing, and tools.

Connecting

Silverlight is for the internet, so our second section will be all about how to connect with the rest of the world. We plan to look at WCF, REST, and POX in some depth. We’ll discuss the tension between security and flexibility, and some practical resolutions. We’ll talk about RIA services too, although since that’s a topic that could easily fill a day on its own, we don’t intend to cover it in depth—our current thinking is that we want to make it clear what it’s for and when you would or wouldn’t use it, illustrating just enough of it that you’ll see its overall approach. (Although if you think we should dedicate a large chunk of the day to RIA services, we’d like to hear from you, and we’d like to know what you think we should drop to make space for it.)

Software Design

It’s all very well to look at the core ideas, features and technologies of Silverlight, both on the inside, and where your code meets the rest of the world, but how do you tie it all together in practice? We’ll look at strategies for structuring your application’s design. (That’s software design, as opposed to interaction design or visual design, by the way.) We expect to go into more detail on MVVM here. We’d also like to talk about where technologies such as MEF and Prism can fit in.

Working with Designers

Yes, PDC is for developers. So is this session. Building Silverlight applications that look great takes more than throwing a finished application over the wall to where the visual designers work and asking them to slap a layer of sparkle on at the last minute. Integrating good visual design into your application requires planning. Developers need to understand the process and get involved. The way to get the best results is for developers and designers to work together closely. We’ll talk about the steps you need to take as developers to make this possible. We’ll also show how Blend fits into the world of the developer, and we’ll offer tips for how it can make your life easier when creating Silverlight applications.

So that’s the current plan. I’ll be posting more as we refine our ideas, and most likely tweeting too—we might do a couple of polls to gauge the level of interest in the various topics, so now is the perfect time for feedback. We look forward to your suggestions!

(If you’re wondering about why I only just mentioned this, when it was all announced a few weeks ago, I came on board to speak just as I went off on an extended holiday, and now that I’m back, I’m feverishly trying to catch up with everything.)

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