FileMaker DevCon is my favorite time of the year. More than Christmas or even a vacation, I enjoy the deep dive into FileMaker for an entire week. The pool in the lavish hotel is a distant thought; I’d rather focus my time and energy on the technology and the community that makes up FileMaker.

And so I did throughout this entire week. Let’s take a look back at the highlights of the event, surrounded by Smurfs and QuakeCon and filled with great food, connections, and inspiration.

FileMaker DevCon 2018

This year, DevCon was held in Dallas, TX at the Gaylord Texan Hotel & Resort Center. The hotel was fabulous. There were plants and water and waterfalls and bright sun and Texas architecture.

The atrium of the DevCon hotel

The atrium of the DevCon hotel

I arrived a few days early to finish my training session. I could work in my room for a bit. Then I could walk to the atrium to do some work at a randomly placed table or chair, then move outside in the shade and humidity to continue for a bit. I enjoy getting there early just to relax. I found I could sit near a waterfall or geyser and the noise would drown out the sound of people talking as I focused on my work!

It’s tough to nail down one event that made this year’s FileMaker DevCon so special and inspiring. There’s too much going on in the week, and most of it great, to know exactly what causes the high I feel at the end of the time. Since there are are a plethora of event, I’ll group them not by day but by topic: Community, Sessions, and FileMaker.

The Community

I’m an introvert. A lot of FileMaker developers lean that way on the spectrum. But I think our introversion goes out the window at DevCon. For at least this week, we introverts tap into the current of FileMaker running through the Exhibitor Hall/food hall, in sessions, and at the bars. (Full Disclosure: I did often get away to a secluded spot on the grounds just to enjoy some solitude).

Geist Interactive’s booth at DevCon. Super comfy!

Everywhere I looked people were there, and I endeavored to meet them all.  I met folks as I walked to get some liquid energy, and met folks as I squeezed between them and narrow rows of chairs to find a spot in a session.

There’s always a bit of a balancing act between meeting new people and refreshing connections from folks I’ve met over the years. I tried to do both. I’m partial to meeting those people with the 1st-year ribbon since I recognize this is an intimidating event to attend. I seek those folks out and have made many connections and friendships that remain over the years.

As I walked through the hallways or peeked in the bars, I saw FileMaker DevCon attendees sitting there engaging in some conversation with each other. Inevitably, they huddled around a computer talking animatedly about some cool technique they either learned here this week or have been using already. I love seeing that.

The FileMaker community is an exciting one. It is awesome to come to DevCon and be a part, in person, with this group of people that love or are learning FileMaker.

The Sessions

FileMaker people are great, and I tried to meet as many as I could, but I was there to learn more FileMaker. There are sessions for everyone, and it’s my opinion we can continue to learn. I went into each session with an open mind and willingness to listen and learn, and I did learn. I picked up something valuable from each speaker, and I can apply to my thinking and development practices.

The videos of each session will be available soon in the FileMaker community.

Here are some highlights of the sessions.

Geist Interactive

We at Geist Interactive led in total four sessions during the normal week. Here’s a quick recap of each.

Todd Geist spoke on two topics: Modular FileMaker 2.0 and Microsoft Add-ons. In the first session\, he spoke of the changes coming to the Modular FileMaker site and how these changes are preparing for the future.  Not wanting to wait for said future, Todd, the night before, started the website the night before and wrote a small app to copy the XML from some custom functions to place into any custom app. Live coding!

In Todd’s second session, he again built an add-on for Outlook to connect directly into FileMaker. He did this on the stage, coding and talking and not making too many mistakes. Certainly, people show up to learn, but I also think they show up just to watch him code in real time.

Lance Brandenberg talked about testing in FileMaker. The session went quickly, filled with details and information and good live coding. I was sitting near the front, and as I got up and turned to leave at the end, I saw folks sitting there in some sort of amazement. They were trying to digest all that they just saw.

The crux of Lance’s session is that we should test in FileMaker the same way JavaScript developers test. We should write tests that test the intended functionality of each business-logic script. Of course, that presupposes each script is set up in this way: It receives a JSON payload, and it returns a JSON payload. We should write scripts that test the scripts in the app. I work with Lance, and I’m still trying to digest it.

I (Jeremy) led a half-day training session called “JavaScript for FileMaker Developers”. If I do say so myself, it was exciting and fun. There were over 150 people in the small room. We worked together to learn more about JavaScript and how to integrate JavaScript libraries. As I do after every training, I came away energized and ready to do more. I’ll write about that very soon.

Other Sessions

There were so many other sessions that showed off the speaker’s passion and knowledge of FileMaker, and in many cases displayed the speaker’s innovation. Here are a few that I attended and enjoyed.

Create a Starter File Implementing Design Standards to Call your Own

Deborah Zempel. This session was a good reminder to set and continue to use design standards. She also went over ideas about when to use certain objects such as a card window or popover.

Performance Tips for Beginners

Josh Ormond It is always great to get down to the nitty-gritty and take a performance audit of any system. Josh showed those areas that could possibly cause an app to crawl and, of course, how to fix the issues.

Use JSON to Get Arrays

Daisy Graves I enjoyed this session immensely. Daisy explored everything there is about JSON and showed many examples of using the native functions to construct and read-from JSON objects.

Modular Programming with Card Windows

John Renfrew John never ceases to amaze me with some insight about FileMaker. He explained how useful card windows are to create one module or window to perform one function (such as data-input) many times throughout.

It’s a Trap! Errors in Scripting

David Jondreau David, a first time speaker and a buddy of mine, spoke on a topic of great interest. How to trap and handle errors in our scripts. I appreciated this session; there’s not a whole lot out there about how to do so. David shone the light on steps that causes errors and the steps we go through to handle them. General Ackbar would approve!

Flexible Reporting with Virtual Lists and ExecuteSQL

Martha Zink Sessions led by Martha are always full of great tips and unique demos. She takes great pains to make sure her files are clever and good looking. I use these two techniques a lot, but Martha taught me a few new things.

IoT and the FileMaker Data API: Sending Sensor Data to FileMaker Server from a Raspberry Pi

Wim Decorte. Wim’s sessions, too, are chalk full of interesting tidbits. In this session, he introduced us to the world of the Raspberry Pi and IoT and how we can use it as FileMaker developers. I’ll refer to this session for many weeks out.

Under the Hood with Clay

Special Mention: Clay Maeckel of FileMaker, Inc. Clay did two sessions, one on the new data migration tool, and one on storage and queries. I must say, I thoroughly enjoy listening to Clay speak. As one of the few original authors of the FileMaker platform, every word he says is steeped in FileMaker knowledge and history. Listen to these sessions and any other he’s done as much as you can.

There were many other sessions. I actually was exhausted by the end of the conference for the sheer amount of information I consumed. It’ll take time to digest it all.

FileMaker

FileMaker, Inc. puts on a great conference. There might have been a typo in a sign here or there, but DevCon is a well-organized event, full of everything FileMaker. I’m sure we can all forgive the random misspelled word. Shari Martinez and her team pull off something extraordinary for the community. Rosemary Tietge and her team organize the sessions and speakers and events. Rick Kalman and his team of FileMaker PMs and engineers get to share the present and the future and generally their passion for the platform. It’s an amazing week of fun and learning.

Engaging with those that Create FileMaker

The PMs and the engineers of the platform left the Wedge and joined us. They got to speak of the platform they clearly love developing for us.  They are incredibly interested in making each product as strong and as full-featured as possible. Many of them sat with FileMaker developers to flesh out reported bugs or performance issues. And of course, they love talking FileMaker. I sat with a few of them at dinner one evening, and for three hours, we just talked FileMaker (I might have initiated all the conversation topics, but they joined in).

The entire platform is doing well and has a bright future. FileMaker DevCon is a chance to see the current state of FileMaker and to see what the folks at the wedge are working on to make it even better.

FileMaker DevCon 2018

FileMaker DevCon 2018 was a success. I enjoyed it. I got to meet a few folks and even get my picture taken with a few! Like others, I’ll be reviewing the notes from each session and try to incorporate some of the best tips and techniques into my daily practice.


Also published on Medium.

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