Finally coming up for air this week, after catching up with being on the road for the better part of three weeks. Here are my slides, samples and links for my four DevConnections Session two weeks ago in Vegas. I ended up doing one extra un-prepared for session on WebAPI and AJAX, as some of the speakers were either delayed or unable to make it at all to Vegas due to Sandy's mayhem. It was pretty hectic in the speaker room as Erik (our event coordinator extrodinaire) was scrambling to fill session slots with speakers :-). Surprisingly it didn't feel like the storm affected attendance drastically though, but I guess it's hard to tell without actual numbers.
The conference was a lot of fun - it's been a while since I've been speaking at one of these larger conferences. I'd been taking a hiatus, and I forgot how much I enjoy actually giving talks. Preparing - well not quite so much, especially since I ended up essentially preparing or completely rewriting for all three of these talks and I was stressing out a bit as I was sick the week before the conference and didn't get as much time to prepare as I wanted to. But - as always seems to be the case - it all worked out, but I guess those that attended have to be the judge of that…
It was great to catch up with my speaker friends as well - man I feel out of touch. I got to spend a bunch of time with Dan Wahlin, Ward Bell, Julie Lerman and for about 10 minutes even got to catch up with the ever so busy Michele Bustamante. Lots of great technical discussions including a fun and heated REST controversy with Ward and Howard Dierking. There were also a number of great discussions with attendees, describing how they're using the technologies touched in my talks in live applications. I got some great ideas from some of these and I wish there would have been more opportunities for these kinds of discussions. One thing I miss at these Vegas events though is some sort of coherent event where attendees and speakers get to mingle. These Vegas conferences are just like "go to sessions, then go out and PARTY on the town" - it's Vegas after all! But I think that it's always nice to have at least one evening event where everybody gets to hang out together and trade stories and geek talk. Overall there didn't seem to be much opportunity for that beyond lunch or the small and short exhibit hall events which it seemed not many people actually went to.
Anyways, a good time was had. I hope those of you that came to my sessions learned something useful. There were lots of great questions and discussions after the sessions - always appreciate hearing the real life scenarios that people deal with in relation to the abstracted scenarios in sessions.
Here are the Session abstracts, a few comments and the links for downloading slides and samples. It's not quite like being there, but I hope this stuff turns out to be useful to some of you. I'll be following up a couple of these sessions with white papers in the following weeks.
ASP.NET Architecture: How ASP.NET Works at the Low Level
Interested in how ASP.NET works at a low level? ASP.NET is extremely powerful and flexible technology, but it's easy to forget about the core framework that underlies the higher level technologies like ASP.NET MVC, WebForms, WebPages, Web Services that we deal with on a day to day basis. The ASP.NET core drives all the higher level handlers and frameworks layered on top of it and with the core power comes some complexity in the form of a very rich object model that controls the flow of a request through the ASP.NET pipeline from Windows HTTP services down to the application level. To take full advantage of it, it helps to understand the underlying architecture and model. This session discusses the architecture of ASP.NET along with a number of useful tidbits that you can use for building and debugging your ASP.NET applications more efficiently. We look at overall architecture, how requests flow from the IIS (7 and later) Web Server to the ASP.NET runtime into HTTP handlers, modules and filters and finally into high-level handlers like MVC, Web Forms or Web API. Focus of this session is on the low-level aspects on the ASP.NET runtime, with examples that demonstrate the bootstrapping of ASP.NET, threading models, how Application Domains are used, startup bootstrapping, how configuration files are applied and how all of this relates to the applications you write either using low-level tools like HTTP handlers and modules or high-level pages or services sitting at the top of the ASP.NET runtime processing chain.
I was surprised to see so many people show up for this session - especially since it was the last session on the last day and a short 1 hour session to boot. The room was packed and it was to see so many people interested the abstracts of architecture of ASP.NET beyond the immediate high level application needs. Lots of great questions in this talk as well - I only wish this session would have been the full hour 15 minutes as we just a little short of getting through the main material (didn't make it to Filters and Error handling).
I haven't done this session in a long time and I had to pretty much re-figure all the system internals having to do with the ASP.NET bootstrapping in light for the changes that came with IIS 7 and later. The last time I did this talk was with IIS6, I guess it's been a while.
I love doing this session, mainly because in my mind the core of ASP.NET overall is so cleanly designed to provide maximum flexibility without compromising performance that has clearly stood the test of time in the 10 years or so that .NET has been around. While there are a lot of moving parts, the technology is easy to manage once you understand the core components and the core model hasn't changed much even while the underlying architecture that drives has been almost completely revamped especially with the introduction of IIS 7 and later.
Introduction to using jQuery with ASP.NET
This session was in a monster of a room and to my surprise it was nearly packed, given that this was a 100 level session. I can see that it's a good idea to continue to do intro sessions to jQuery as there appeared to be quite a number of folks who had not worked much with jQuery yet and who most likely could greatly benefit from using it. Seemed seemed to me the session got more than a few people excited to going if they hadn't yet :-). Anyway I just love doing this session because it's mostly live coding and highly interactive - not many sessions that I can build things up from scratch and iterate on in an hour. jQuery makes that easy though.
Hosting the Razor Scripting Engine in Your Own Applications
The Razor Engine used in ASP.NET MVC and ASP.NET Web Pages is a free-standing scripting engine that can be disassociated from these Web-specific implementations and can be used in your own applications. Razor allows for a powerful mix of code and text rendering that makes it a wonderful tool for any sort of text generation, from creating HTML output in non-Web applications, to rendering mail merge-like functionality, to code generation for developer tools and even as a plug-in scripting engine. In this session, we'll look at the components that make up the Razor engine and how you can bootstrap it in your own applications to hook up templating. You'll find out how to create custom templates and manage Razor requests that can be pre-compiled, detecting page changes and act in ways similar to a full runtime. We look at ways that you can pass data into the engine and retrieve both the rendered output as well as result values in a package that makes it easy to plug Razor into your own applications.
That this session was picked was a bit of a surprise to me, since it's a bit of a niche topic. Even more of a surprise was that during the session quite a few people who attended had actually used Razor externally and were there to find out more about how the process works and how to extend it. In the session I talk a bit about a custom Razor hosting implementation (Westwind.RazorHosting) and drilled into the various components required to build a custom Razor Hosting engine and a runtime around it. This sessions was a bit of a chore to prepare for as there are lots of technical implementation details that needed to be dealt with and squeezing that into an hour 15 is a bit tight (and that aren't addressed even by some of the wrapper libraries that exist). Found out though that there's quite a bit of interest in using a templating engine outside of web applications, or often side by side with the HTML output generated by frameworks like MVC or WebForms.
An extra fun part of this session was that this was my first session and when I went to set up I realized I forgot my mini-DVI to VGA adapter cable to plug into the projector in my room - 6 minutes before the session was about to start. So I ended up sprinting the half a mile + back to my room - and back at a full sprint. I managed to be back only a couple of minutes late, but when I started I was out of breath for the first 10 minutes or so, while trying to talk. Musta sounded a bit funny as I was trying to not gasp too much :-)
Introduction to ASP.NET Web API for AJAX Applications
WebAPI provides a new framework for creating REST based APIs, but it can also act as a backend to typical AJAX operations. This session covers the core features of Web API as it relates to typical AJAX application development. We’ll cover content-negotiation, routing and a variety of output generation options as well as managing data updates from the client in the context of a small Single Page Application style Web app. Finally we’ll look at some of the extensibility features in WebAPI to customize and extend Web API in a number and useful useful ways.
This session was a fill in for session slots not filled due MIA speakers stranded by Sandy. I had samples from my previous Web API article so decided to go ahead and put together a session from it. Given that I spent only a couple of hours preparing and putting slides together I was glad it turned out as it did - kind of just ran itself by way of the examples I guess as well as nice audience interactions and questions. Lots of interest - and also some confusion about when Web API makes sense.
Both this session and the jQuery session ended up getting a ton of questions about when to use Web API vs. MVC, whether it would make sense to switch to Web API for all AJAX backend work etc. In my opinion there's no need to jump to Web API for existing applications that already have a good AJAX foundation. Web API is awesome for real externally consumed APIs and clearly defined application AJAX APIs. For typical application level AJAX calls, it's still a good idea, but ASP.NET MVC can serve most if not all of that functionality just as well. There's no need to abandon MVC (or even ASP.NET AJAX or third party AJAX backends) just to move to Web API. For new projects Web API probably makes good sense for isolation of AJAX calls, but it really depends on how the application is set up. In some cases sharing business logic between the HTML and AJAX interfaces with a single MVC API can be cleaner than creating two completely separate code paths to serve essentially the same business logic.