Now I’m back from the conference, here’s an update on my first report.

Some highlights for me during the rest of the conference were:

  • Seeing the second part of the joint keynote by Markus Völter and Steven Kelly, where they got to discuss views, cross-references and interaction between models. It felt good to finally have an answer for this difficult area with the new modelbus in VS2010 (see my previous post on this).
  • A great goldfish bowl to discuss the question: does modeling = programming? We got as far as agreeing that executable modeling = programming, so programming was regarded as a subset of modeling, and that we need many of the tools we use for programming at the modeling level (debug and test models, anyone?). However, there was some discussion of whether there are some mdoels which aren’t programs (I argued that there were, giving examples such as business & performance models, models showing metrics for coverage, completion and so on), although conceded that these models indirectly influenced the eventual shape of the program. There is a bit of a slippery slope here, because then one could argue that they are part of the description of the program in some way, and therefore then part of the program. Mmm… all getting a bit philosophical for me. One nugget that did come out was the fact that modeling tools (at least graphical and forms-based ones) don’t let you model informally very well, and then incrementally change the informal to formal. You kind of get this for free with a text editor, because you can write pseudo code in comments and then step-by-step formalize that building as you go, until you get a successful build, at which point you can try executing the code which then leads you to a further step of validation.
  • Lots of interesting conversations, including a discussion on code generation on the MSFT platform with Kathleen Dollard.
  • Positive feedback received on the DSL Tools and T4 features we’re shipping in VS2010. Jean-Marc gave a session on this, which was well-received with lots of questions afterwards from folks wanting to know more. Folks particularly like the aforementioned modelbus. Indeed I came away with the general feeling that Visual Studio 2010 provides a solid, competitive platform and set of tools for those wanting to do model-driven development, whether it is from their own DSLs, from UML or some integrated combination of the two. 
  • Feedback received from a number of people, who have tried using both Eclipse GMF and DSL Tools, and who told me how much easier it was to build graphical designers using DSL Tools than GMF. We’re often told how hard it is to extend Visual Studio in comparison with Eclipse, but here is one area where it looks like we are some way ahead. I think folks will be surprised at the the new functionality put into the core Visual Studio platform in 2010, with the VS Extension Manager and Managed Extensibility Framework. We’ve exploited this already in DSL Tools, and have been working on exploiting it further to make the new Team Architect tools really easy to extend – but you’ll have to wait for the next preview after VS 2010 Beta1 for that. The new editor can also be extended using these mechanisms: see http://editorsamples.codeplex.com/.

[Added on 23rd June 2009]

I missed another highlight. There was a demo of Jetbrains Meta-Programming System (MPS). Although perhaps not for the masses, I thought this was conceptually very clean and nicely done. Great interactive session as well.