Dreamforce 2013: My Top 4 Highlights

So I looked at my blog yesterday, and realised that somehow we're at the end of November already(!) and that during the blur that has constituted the last few weeks I missed a blog post. Those weeks were blurry because, as everybody in the ecosystem should know, Dreamforce happened, and it happened in a seriously BIG way. Here, in no particular order, are some of the highlights from my perspective.

Community Zone

This really was a sight to behold, with so much sharing and helping it was hard not to be impressed by the community that keeps on giving. The first thing I saw when I walked in was the ever inspiring @SteveMoForce, punching the air and shouting "Yes!", because he'd just figured out a tricky reporting problem for someone visiting the Genius Bar. Getting direct access to some of the most knowledgable community members was clearly a big draw for a lot of people and it was heart warming to see so many smiles. I'm sure the community zone will be even bigger and better next year, and Erica Kuhl, Matt Brown and co. deserve an immense amount of gratitude for this great new addition to Dreamforce.

Developer Zone

Last year I was blown away by the size of the Developer Zone, and this year it just got bigger and better. There was some excellent content being presented, top quality staff on hand, innumerable excited developers, and even more hands-on training than last year. If you want to learn anything and everything about developing on the platform then this was the place to be, and if you weren't there you can still benefit from it as all (I think) of the presentations are available in two convenient playlists on YouTube: Developer Sessions and Architect Sessions.

I highly doubt there was a single person who visited the Developer Zone and did not see Reid Carlberg playing circus master the the Dev Zone Lab. It's not often you get to see so many gadgets and toys in one place and available for you to play with—my only regret is that I didn't get to spend nearly enough time there tinkering, I could have easily have blown the whole week making fun things happen.

$1m Hackathon


Just part of my commit logs

Yes, there is controversy around the final results of the Hackathon, and we're still waiting to find out what the eventual outcome will be, but that doesn't take away from the fact that myself and Kris had good fun hacking and enjoyed being a part of it. We spent a few days holed up prior to the conference, spending pretty much the whole time cutting code and we're pretty excited about what we built. As for the furore around the result I don't want to speculate as it's clearly a complicated situation, but personally I believe there was definitely no 'fix' and I do not for a second think that the fact that one of the (at the time of writing) winning team members is an ex-Salesforce.com employee had any bearing on the result whatsoever.

The rules of the competition were such that you could use pre-existing technology, but you'd only be judged on what was created for the Hackathon itself. The rules also stated that the first round of judging would be entirely based on the videos created and the associated descriptions, and I think this is where things broke down. Upshot seemingly failed to clearly indicate which parts of their submission were created before the Hackathon began (unfortunately this seems to be all of the cool stuff in their app) and as such it was judged on the solution as a whole. As a whole solution I'd pick it out as a winner too, but if it was just the mobile interface then it wouldn't be so clear cut; for now all we can do is wait and see what happens.

Update 3/12/13

Salesforce.com have posted an entry on the Developer Relations blog regarding the hackathon review and the final results. After deciding that both the first and second place entries were legal with regards to the rules of the competition, and admitting that the judging was potentially influenced by a lack of a transparency they have awarded each of the two teams $1m. I'm still a little skeptical about Upshot's entry, but there is no denying it's a cool solution and I do hope they manage to make something of it. There's no doubt that the whole fiasco will have damaged Salesforce.com's reputation amongst some developers and the media, but it's not the technology or the platform that is at fault here. Mistakes were made that shouldn't have been, but mistakes do happen. At any rate another hackathon would definitely be handled in a different manner which is a good thing, and I'll be up for entering again when it takes place. The Developer Relations team dropped the ball with the judging here, but they do a great job of looking after developers and promoting an excellent platform.

Developer Keynote

Once again the developer keynote effectively highlighted how much the force.com platform is growing in terms of both developer count and the number of tools available. The tooling API is really driving the creation of some great third party tools (such as the excellent MavensMate) and now the Force.com CLI app will make many a developer bunny happy.

If you've not already installed it then do it right now, being able to load data quickly into orgs via shell scripts is a huge bonus for those with automated tool chains, and getting a list of fields etc. without leaving the command line is very handy too. Personally I use and abuse "Execute Anonymous Apex" quite heavily from both MavensMate and the Developer Console, but being able to store snippets in files and just fire them off with easy is a game changer.

Wrap Up

Like last year, the Marc Benioff and Parker Harris Q&A session at the end of the event formed the perfect wrap up to the week, and if I don't wrap up this post now It'll grow to a ridiculous length; so last of all I just want to say thank you to all the people who help put Dreamforce together each year, and thank you to all the amazing (in the truest sense of the word) friends I have in the community who make it so much fun to be there. Also massive thanks to Shawna Wolverton for organising the inaugural Dreamforce Grand Prix and not smashing me into the tyres (much).

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