How a Developer Conference Builds Community

Configura Developer Conference 2016

A developer conference is a meeting of the minds – an opportunity to connect, create, maybe commiserate, but ultimately, a chance to be inspired. It’s where developers can be part of a community.

Configura began holding its Developer Conference several years ago in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, where we’ve had an office and presence now for a decade. This year, we also held a workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where we opened an office three years ago. As our platform grows to include more external developers – whom we refer to as our developer partners – we expect to hold more of these conferences and workshops.

Just as our annual CET Designer User Conference builds community among our users, our Developer Conference and workshops build a network among our developers. We’re working together toward a common goal, and we’re learning from each other. The community is rooted in Configura’s unique culture – quirky, spirited and collaborative.

At these gatherings, we train our developer partners to produce best possible Extensions – ones with good code quality, and with the “touch and feel” that stands up to our high expectations for PGC-based solutions.

Configura’s solutions are based on our unique programming language, CM, which we developed years ago because no other language existed that simultaneously could handle complexity while maintaining a “simplicity of interface” in both the developer and end-user environments – and do so with speed and accuracy.

But because CM is a unique language, learning it requires a good teacher – and regular, immersive usage and practice. Ours is a language that avoids “verbosity”; rather, it emphasizes clean, elegant code.

And it is this immersion that we offer – and this  “brevity of code” that our teachers preach – at our developer conferences. To quote Göran Rydqvist, one of Configura’s co-founders, head of R&D and a frequent presenter at our developer conferences: “We must create a culture of low tolerance for complexity, bugs and disruptive pauses. We must provide strong encouragement for simplification, design, creativity and user empathy.”

At the conferences and workshops, we also drill down into some specifics. We cover everything from “What’s New in CET Developer” to programming strategies to holding evening hack sessions.

We also have discussions in which our developer partners help us to understand their needs, and how we should shape our development focus going forward. And of course, we emphasize the end-user experience, and how to make CET Designer and its Extensions the best possible solutions for the manufacturers and designers who have invested in and use them.

We usually have different developers leading and speaking. For example, one of Configura’s Grand Rapids-based developers, Magnus Carlgren, led our recent workshop in Kuala Lumpur; Emma Johansson, one of our Linköping, Sweden-based developers, led the recent Grand Rapids conference.

Each developer has a particular expertise to offer, and, because of this, each conference has a certain focus. At the March conference in Grand Rapids, four of the presenters were from Configura’s Sweden headquarters and the rest from our Grand Rapids office or among our partners. This conference featured a variety of programming topics, inspirational discussions and knowledge sharing.

At the Kuala Lumpur workshop held in February, Magnus focused on debugging techniques. Attendees from our KL office, as well as Steelcase programmers based in KL, also participated in a number of group discussions and sessions.

Different focuses and points of view create dynamic environments that lead to new and innovative solutions.

And maybe even more important, people are getting to know each other in person – and building community as a result. They see that they’re part of a bigger picture, working toward a common goal, and creating solutions with powerful implications.

“It’s good to send different people each year so everyone can have a chance to meet the external developers in person. It is also good for them to meet us. We are sending emails to each other, but it is always easier to create a good contact if we have actually met,” Emma said.

In the future, we’re looking to broaden the group that attends our developer conferences and workshops to also include IT managers, Catalogue creators, programmers and quality assurance people.

We’ll also make these gatherings more frequent. We plan to continue holding the spring Developer Conference in conjunction with our biannual Partner Meeting in Grand Rapids (a gathering of our manufacturer partners that have invested in CET Designer Extensions). At the spring meeting, developers and manufacturers meet for a portion of a day so each can hear from one another about needs and goals for the future.

The workshop in KL will continue to grow into a full-scale conference as we get more developers in Asia, and it will be more formalized, with more speakers flying in from other parts of the Configura network.

At the same time, we’re also increasing our virtual offering of webinars and sessions to benefit our growing developer community around the globe.

We plan to start holding a fall Developer Conference as well – this one will be in conjunction with our annual CET Designer User Conference. This year’s user conference will be held Oct. 18-19 in Grand Rapids. Our fall Partner Meeting will occur on Oct. 17, as will an evening of enjoyable welcome events for all who are attending the various meetings and conferences.

Including our developers as part of this large gathering truly brings the entire Configura community together – from those who originally conceived of the solutions, to those who have invested in them, to those who are moving the solutions forward, and finally, to those who use the solutions on a daily basis.

We think that mixing our developer audience with our users will fuel a dynamism that will benefit everyone. Some incredible art – and new friendships – will be formed as a result.

By Nicklas Dagersten

Nicklas is Configura’s Chief Product Officer.