Last week we participated in Australia’s first Artist in Residence training at Microsoft Melbourne. Over a busy 5 days designer and developer pairs undertook a mixture of hands on labs with formal training skilling us up to build our own mini project under the guidance of Shane Morris, Michael Kordahi and Jordan Knight. On the final day we presented 7 Silverlight applications.
7 designer/developer pairs, our trainer Jordan, along with Microsoft’s Michael and Shane all converged in the Franklin room of Microsoft’s Melbourne office. With this many geeks in one room there wasn’t much desk left after all of the laptops and their cables were connected.
We spent the day filling the void in our head full of all things Silverlight, even Shane got his head into some C# goodness. We covered XAML, Layout, Deep Zoom (DeepEarth even got a showing), Media, Blend, Data binding and much more.
Day 2 we started by covering some more advanced topics and an application walkthrough of a video application. The 2nd half of the day we spent in our pairs thinking about what we wanted to build. We went through a few stages:
Ideas – What sorts of things did we want to build and and how to make it look cool.
How-to – How we were going to build it. What components were we going to use, what was possible and where would we get data etc.
Reality – Taking what we wanted to build and work out what we thought we could accomplish in 3 days.
Mockup/Wireframe – Drawing up the plan to communicate to ourselves and the others what we wanted to build
Presentation – Final part of the day each groups discussed what they planned to do with the remainder of the week.
The pairs had ambitious plans but we all agreed to start with something fairly small and build upon it if we had time left.
Day 3 and 4 we busily worked away on our projects…
I worked as the developer with Harry Zanios (designer) and Mark Smith (developer part-time) from . We built a “Profitability Explorer” that allowed you to do “what if..” scenarios with costs/sales/pricing etc and visually see the effect on profit margin. We made good use of data binding and got a head-start using the graphing and numeric up/down controls from the Silverlight Toolkit.
Coming into the training I hadn’t done any Silverlight but had spent the last month or so working on a WPF project. For me it was great to see how much of my learnings from WPF translated exactly over to Silverlight. This made the learning curve much less steep as I was familiar with Blend, XAML and patterns like Model-View-ViewModel.
What I really liked about the course was building your own project. I find learning by doing by far the quickest and most effective of any learning style. You don’t really understand things until you have to spend an hour working out why your binding isn’t working or some strange wrapping is happening in your layout. You don’t normally hit these things until you build something semi-real.
I was the developer working with Diane Pierce from Stamford Interactive on a way to navigate related tags and explore collection items visually while maintaining context. We decided to use the Flickr API to provide us with some rich content and our application “Seasons” was born.
The application begins with the 4 seasons of the year as static buttons, upon selection 12 images are dynamically queried from Flickr and 3 related tags, each with 12 images bubble up on the right.
We limited the functionality for the short time we had but still managed to have fun with data binding, a Model-View-ViewModel structure and plenty of animations. Di did a great job with Blend and I was very pleased with the final result.
The most valuable part of the two days was exploring how best to work together as Designer and Developer. It wasn’t until the end that I really got it and I know the lessons learnt will make future projects run significantly better.
Day 5 was show day. The morning was spent frantically polishing off our projects in preparation to present to the group. Lunch was eaten on the fly and the list of functionality was trimmed as the time ticked away.
A crowd started to gather to see what we had come up with and listen to what we had learnt in only one week.
Here are photos from the other 5 teams and for those with Silverlight installed a 100MB of Deep Zoom goodness including a few panoramas of the presentations:
The other teams:
Team Europe – MyCareer.com
Team DTD – Changing Rooms
Team Rob/Andrew – Movie Friends
Team Pan Software – Risk Management Software
Team Hyro – Share price graph
A big thank you to the organisers
Thanks to Michael, Shane and Anna for organising the event and making it happen. Jordan did a great job and we looking forward to more Silverlight from his new user group and list.
It was a great week of learning and playing with a technology that is going to have a serious impact in 2009. We’d encourage anyone who gets an opportunity to participate in any future events to grab a spot!