DevLink Technical Conference at Chattanooga Convention Center showcases software, draws 900 developers

DevLink Technical Conference at Chattanooga Convention Center showcases software, draws 900 developers

August 29th, 2013 by Shelly Bradbury in Business Around the Region

Jason Bryner, left, Interactive Development Manager at Southern Adventist University, talks with Jonathan Sampson of appendTo at the devLink Technical Conference at the Chattanooga Convention Center Wednesday. The three-day conference was organized to educate IT professionals on current and emerging technologies, to improve the software development community by providing quality content from industry leaders and to provide networking opportunities to build peer groups beyond just co-workers and technology disciplines.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

Every technology conference has its own flavor. Some are spicy, focusing on brand new applications. Others work like a five-course meal, delving deep into a single topic.

The DevLink Technical Conference is a buffet, a smorgasboard of tech topics that's pulling around 900 developers to the Chattanooga Convention Center this week.

"We're just talking geek stuff," said speaker Matt Winkler, a program manager at Microsoft.

The three-day conference is marking its third year in Chattanooga with record attendance and more than 160 sessions. The variety of those sessions sets DevLink apart, said Kevin Grossnicklaus, president of ArchitectNow in St. Louis and a conference speaker.

"There are all kinds of different topics, from web development to mobile development, from Microsoft to other platforms," he said. "There is a lot to go see."

Software developers speak their own language -- session titles range from "As Easy as Raspberry Pi" to "Demystifying .NET 4.5 Async." And while a layperson can't understand a word, the sessions were full of enthusiastic people tapping on laptops, phones or tablets, engaged and asking questions.

"A conference like this is smaller, but typically has a lot of really passionate developers," Winkler said after wrapping up his session on Hadoop, an open-source project for processing data.

It's is a chance to see what's new in the tech world, said five-year conference attendee David Neal, a developer advocate at LeanKit, a project managment software company in Franklin, Tenn.

"You come a way with a lot of great ideas that you can go back to your company with," he said. "Every year I come away with something."

But beyond the shared knowledge, a major part of the conference is building relationships and networking, he added.

"A lot of software developers are introverted by nature," he said. "This makes it really easy to interact, meet developers and have common things to talk about."

Developers and speakers come from all over the United States, said conference chairman John Kellar. Last year, about 50 percent of attendees were based in Tennessee. This year, most people still hail from the Southeast, although nearly every corner of the nation is represented.

"We get everyone," he said. "From the home consultant who's paying his own way to companies like BlueCross BlueShield, who send a whole team."

The three-day conference is expected to have a $486,000 economic impact on the Scenic City, according to the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau. But the real value is in the community. Every year has its own war story, whether it's cold showers or late-night parties at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

"It's just how geeks are," Grossnicklaus said.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.