A slight change on the usual proceedings, in that Microsoft kindly provided conference facilities at their swish Cardinal Place office (nr Victoria in London). Despite a clash with bonfire night and sandwiched between conferences, 60 people attended the user group night.

Last week, at the PDC, there had been a number of important announcements around Silverlight – mainly in the Tuesday keynote.

  • Silverlight v2 had been officially released, just weeks before – an important milestone of achievement, especially since Silverlight was the main agent in providing live feeds and recorded sessions to those unable to attend the PDC in person.
  • Silverlight Toolkit was announced by Scott Guthrie, introducing a plethora of new controls and themes that will help to speed up the development time of Silverlight applications. An example of the more complicated/comprehensive controls now available include AutoCompleteBox, TreeView, Expanders and Charting!
  • Microsoft even showed a sneak peek of "Office 14 for Web" which is effectively the Office suite in a Silverlight host so that it can run on any browser! With Scott Guthrie’s announcement that Visual Studio 2010 would be written in WPF, does this mean we might see Visual Studio ported into Silverlight???


At the PDC, there was a demonstration of a multi-touch, WPF application for Windows 7 on the Tuesday keynote (~85mins in). It was an application developed  for tesco.com, by Conchango with the backing of Microsoft to showcase a possible glimpse of the future where shopping is not a "chore" but an embedded part of managing our day. I would recommend that you watch the demo by Nick Lansley (Head of Technologies at tesco.com) and Paul Dawson (Conchango) because the application is innovative, fresh and shows off many of the new Windows 7 features in action. I caught up with Paul on his return and he mentioned that although only 3 weeks was spent on development, the journey through "design and concepts" took much longer.

One of the underlying trends that seems to becoming increasingly apparent is Microsoft‘s commitment to user experience – from providing a richer platform to host our browser applications (Silverlight), bringing "killer" applications to the web (Office 14 for Web) or enriching the operating system to make it easier to design and develop highly intuitive, discoverable and interactive applications. This had in turn driven the user group to get a bit more brand and designer orientated…

I had quite a mental issue with calling our first presenter "Tricky", but nevertheless Tricky (Creative Director of  TrickyBusiness) gave a thought provoking insight into experience design and the importance of giving experience/design concepts up-front consideration when creating software. Tricky’s slick slide deck captivated the audience and contained plenty of examples of the iterative design process from projects with Audi and Alton Towers. He also set this also helped to visualise what should be the "Rules of Engagement" and important questions asked of the client when trying to plan and design their unique experience. From sketching out the initial concepts to fleshing out the designs with the Expression toolset, both designers and developers can see how to build the next set of innovative applications. <<Webcast of the session will be posted soon>>

After a break for refuelling – pizza (courtesy of Microsoft) and beer (courtesy of Conchango)…..

John Penrose (Technical Director for Graphico) and Mark McDonald (Senior Developer) gave us insight to the development journey of a couple of web sites. They initially concentrated on how they went about the building the Barcardi La Fiesta site which was part of the Barcardi festival season. The event had already passed, so John and Mark took us back in time and demonstrated the site as it counted down to the event date with a promotional video and then switched to a live feed during the event. This presented a number of challenges such as keeping elements of the event secret until the last moment, security and streaming the live feed and portraying multiple camera angles.

Then, John walked us through a number of implementations of Photosynth, which is a marvellous new medium for navigating about your photo collection of a particular object/scene – it brings to life your panoramas and gives them an extra perspective. Photosynth has spent a long time in beta and was only recently released to the public in August, so John demonstrated the new synthing experience, and discussed how Graphico went about producing a set of new synths for the London Eye. Photosynth is still an emerging technology somewhat still looking for an appropriate use outside of the tourism/hobbyist/social web sites so watch this one closely…

Finally; two of my colleagues, Richard Griffin and Felix Corke, will be doing their Developer-Designer Workflow session at TechEd 2008 next week. If you are lucky enough to be in Barcelona for the conference, check out their session it generates a lot of interesting discussion!

Hope to see you at the next meeting!


Want to join the discussion?
The event is geared to please/interest/inform both developers and designers alike, so if you are interested in coming along then please contact either myself or Michelle Flynn (here) and we will be glad to take your details.

Want to present or showcase?
We are always on the lookout for presenters for future sessions – whether it be a high or low level coding walk through, a workflow perspective or showcase demo. If you think that you have a topic/presentation that ought to be shared with the community then please contact me (here) and I’ll see if I can get you scheduled in!

In addition to emailing us directly there is also a Facebook group for the "Silverlight UK User Group" that we set up. Check for updates there too!


This is a cross post from my EMC blog, mainly for backup duplicity and to aggregate some of my past postings. My EMC blog used to be under the Conchango brand but was acquired by EMC so I’ve also retrospectively refreshed some of the old links and maybe a tweak a bit of content too.
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