Monday, March 22, 2010

CLA Summit "Trip" Report

(I say "trip" because it wasn't much of a trip for me...just a walk down two floors. Contrast that with a few of the attendees who flew in from Europe...)

I had a good time at the CLA Summit two weeks ago. We had about 30 CLAs attend the two-day summit here in Austin. Here's a chronological summary of the discussions and events:
  • LabVIEW Classes - data vs. reference - This was a discussion between Damien (of Dr. Damien fame on the NI Forums) and Stephen (Aristos Queue on the NI/LAVA forums) that boiled down to Damien's use of LV Class data wrapped within single-element queues in his xylophone project that he discussed at length on the NI Forums. Damien spent some time justifying his choice for this mechanism, and Stephen seemed like he was wondering why it was necessary. My feelings on the matter generally lined up with Stephen's in this case...
  • Error Handling - We listened to several CLAs present on different aspects of error handling. These included current solutions (like an FPGA<->Host error handling mechanism) and future ideas (like exception handling). The best part of the whole discussion is that some concrete ideas and action items came about for improvements (see here). Hopefully we can come up with another challenge topic as rich as this one for the CLA Summit 2011.
  • My tour of shipping VIs - I presented a tour of the architectures for several shipping G-based LabVIEW features. Since the CLAs were all under NDA for the summit, I was able to show some of the password-protected VIs from App Builder, MathScript, Tools>Options, and VI Analyzer. One thing that some of the CLAs said stood out to them was how heavily we use LabVIEW Classes in some of our own features.
  • CLA Recertification Exam - The CLAs all took part in the new CLA-Recertification exam. I didn't take the exam (since I wrote some of the questions for it), but the feedback I heard was generally positive. I can't imagine anyone would turn down the opportunity to recertify with a 1-hour multiple choice exam instead of having to take the entire 4-hour written/coding exam again...
  • New Features for Large Application Development - Eli gave a long discussion on all of the LabVIEW features and addons that have to do with large application development. One of his common questions to the audience was to find out why people were *not* using some of these products. The discussion became very tangential several times, but overall, I think we got some valuable feedback. For me personally, I got some good ideas during this discussion (and some of the social events) for improvements to the VI Analyzer if I get some significant project time to devote to it for the next release.
    Note: There was a parallel discussion going on at the same time as this presentation regarding RT/FPGA stuff, but I didn't attend that one.
And in addition to all this stuff, there was also a fun dinner at Brian's house Monday night, and I had the privilege of having dinner with several CLAs who were still in town Tuesday night as well. Overall, I think it was a great event (and the CLAs seemed to like it too). I enjoyed the rather unique position of simultaneously being a LabVIEW R&D developer looking for ways to improve the product, a CLA giving feedback on ways to improve the product, and getting ideas from other CLAs on how to be a better LabVIEW developer. I'm already looking forward to the next CLA summit in 2011.