Sunday 1 December 2013

Dreamforce 2013: A developer diary

Last week I was lucky enough to fly over to San Francisco and attend Dreamforce 2013. This was my third consecutive year attending the event, and was the biggest, best and most inspiring yet. Here is a diary of my experience...


Despite the fact that Dreamforce did not start officially until Monday, that was not going to halt the community from kicking things off early. Postcode Anywhere hosted the networking event Ale Anywhere, a chance for delegates to get together before the event and discuss the upcoming conference. This was a great night, heavily attended by UK representatives (hence the ale). I'm sure that next year the event will be running again, which I would really recommend for any UK delegates looking to acclimatise themselves before the conference. In the mean time, check out Postcode Anywhere's key DF takeaways .


When attending Dreamforce in previous years, I have always had a tendency to hit the ground running, and this year was no exception. Not long after the massive devzone was officially opened in the Moscone West, I presented in a session entitled "I passed the Advanced Developer Certification". It was a panel session including Peter Chittum, Leah McGowan-Hare and Barry Hughes. The aim of the session was to show the varied personal experiences of developers who have successfully passed the certification, and the positive and negative experiences throughout the process. I really enjoyed taking part in the session, I felt that it represented the human element of the certification experience really well.

here is the session recording:


If you're interested in more sessions about certifications, there is a similar session for the Technical Architect Certification

After my session, I spent the majority of the day exploring the devzone, visiting partner stalls, attending some cool sessions and getting hands on with some practical exercises. The main difference between the devzone this year and previous years was the emphasis on connected devices in the new "connected devices lab" area. This area was set up to demonstrate how the data we hold in cloud applications can be generated by sensors and be used in turn to affect connected systems physically. All kinds of systems were on display, from large scale 3D printing to a digital piano with bananas and pears as keys.


Tuesday morning was all about one thing, the Dreamforce keynote with Marc Benioff and special guests. As per usual, the keynote was full of inspiring technology and a view of the present and future of Salesforce. The keynote opened with the companies philanthropic efforts, which was a nice touch personally as I am a massive fan of the 1-1-1 model Salesforce endorses. The keynote included a lot of cool demos, not least using Google Glass to update a support case in real time, check it out below, I challenge you not to be inspired.

This year's big announcement was the introduction of the Salesforce 1 Platform. The 1 platform is a culmination and enhancement of all of existing Salesforce functionality into a full mobile ready crm platform. This was a welcome announcement, not least because it was available that day, right then. This wasn't merely a forward looking statement, it was all live now, already my chatter mobile app had been replaced with the new 1 platform mobile app, which included all of my org standard objects and apps. The whole mobile experience for users is now a lot more complete and slick, if you have an org and android/iphone, I suggest you download the mobile app ASAP. 

After the keynote, fully charged with awesome enthusiasm for all things Salesforce and, I returned to the devzone to take part in some developer mini-hacks. The mini-hacks are a set of coding and development challenges designed to get developers started with some features they may not have experienced before and some cool partner apps.

After a long day of hacking, I managed to finish 4 of the partner hack challenges, set by Docusign, Skuid, HP and Twilio. I particularly enjoyed the Docusign and Twilio challenges, which were about electronically signing important documents from Salesforce objects and sending text messages directly from a Salesforce page respectively. Even better, because I was one of the first 10 developers to finish the challenges, I got presented with some beats audio headphones and a hoodie by the Docusign stand.

Congrats to fellow Desynit developer Simon Lawrence (check out his blog), who was also one of the first ten to complete the challenges!

I finished the day by going to the Dreamforce Gala, which included performances by Blondie and a slightly damp Green Day :) , as well as free beer and all the hotdogs you could ever want. It's a hard life for a dev sometimes ;) .


First call on the third day of Dreamforce was the developer keynote session. The top headline for me was that the total number of developers had nearly doubled in the past year, jumping from 800,000 to over 1.4 million! Wow that's a big jump, but even so the demand for new Force devs is still higher than ever.

The keynote included a demo of the Command-line Interface tool for, a command line tool for configuring environments. I must admit I was a little skeptical at first, but once I saw the ease of which a new org was set up and field values were added, I was sold, well worth a look.

After the keynote, I ventured to the other end of the conference to attend the "Listen up Marketing! The User Group Program has some valuable lessons to share" session hosted by Desynit's very own Amy Grenham and Matthew Morris. Desynit have had a very active role in the user group program, and this was a great opportunity for us to show the lessons we have learned, and how users groups can adapt to their local environment to make sure attendees get the most out of events. If you are involved in a user group, or have ever contemplated running / attending an event, then this is the session for you.

After some lunch, I returned back to the developer zone, for some further exploration, experimentation and sessions. One of the real highlights was a session titled "The Apex Ten Commandments", hosted by Francis Pindar and Kevin Poorman. The purpose of the session was to outline 10 core best practices for developing on the platform. This is a great session for new and experienced developers alike, if we could all follow these rules, our own and fellow developer's lives would all be made a lot easier.


It was the last day of the conference, but everyone was still buzzing. I started the day by taking one last tour of the devzone and the cloud expos. I had already been at the conference for 3 full days, but still had the feeling I had hardly scratched the surface. I saw a few demonstrations of sensor / actuator tech from Reid Carlberg, who was starting to lose his voice after three solid days of high energy demos (the man is a machine).

Throughout the conference, a $1,000,000 hackathon challenge had been running. One of the last sessions to start in the devzone was a demonstration of the five shortlisted apps to win the grand prize. The range of entries was inspiring, and although I was dubious about the degree to which the solutions had be "hacked", I couldn't help but be impressed by the quality and usability of the varied solutions. The entry that particularly impressed, upshot (the eventual winner), was a natural language instant report generator for Salesforce users on the go. It was simple in terms of development components and interface, but when combined made a simple incredibly usable and effective app. Another noteworthy finalist was Salesfetch, a lead history app that showed the entire interactions the business has had with an individual, not least because it was produced by four French students who had no experience prior to that week.


I made my way back to the UK having fully enjoyed and been inspired by Dreamforce like never before. The introduction of the 1 platform and the move towards a more connected world of devices and customers were the key elements of the conference, and provide devs with more than enough to get their teeth into for a long time to come, well until at least DF14 anyway ;)


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