Try Harder 2012

The above is what it looks like from a speakers position at the try { harder } conference. (click to embiggen).

I had indented to write this post a couple of weeks ago, immediately after the conference but STRATO denied that. But oh well, here it is anyways.

This year was the second annual try { harder } conference / coder retreat / brain explosion. I have spoken about try harder in the past but it really is a uniquely awesome event. Its a rather intimate affair  where 10-15 people getting together and sharing ideas and knowledge in the tranquil forests of Center Parks Nottingham.

The format was largely the same as last year. Everyone gave a talk on a topic of their choosing, some were technical talks such as David Arno‘s on C# (NCrunch, MVC & Mono) or Mattes Groeger‘s on developing iOS social games. Quite a few talks were on non-technical things such as David Wagner‘s talk on ‘the value of tinkering’ or Stray‘s talk on ‘Heuristics, collaboration special sauce’. Each talk was fascinating and the wide range of topics covered adds to the special feel of this event.

When deciding what to give my talk on I couldn’t make my mind up. I have been through a lot this year from launching my first business then having it fail to exploring a great many new tools and technologies to creating and launching my first mobile game. Not to mention all the cool things I have had the pleasure to work on at Playdemic. In the end it was a tweet from David Wagner who suggested that I talk about an exciting tool I had been experimenting around with lately; Adobe Monocle.

Adobe Monocle is the new profiler for flash and mobile content from Adobe and really is very nice. It currently still in pre-release and hence under NDA so I had to ask for permission before giving the talk on it. I haven’t had permission to blog about it get so if you want to find out more about it then check out this video that Thibault Imbert made a few months back:

I personally think it is a game changer for flash game makers. It makes development so much easier by giving better insights as to what is going on inside your game.

Try Harder is more about simply giving talks however. Each afternoon was set aside for pair programming sessions. Like last year we were given a deceptively simply problem then split off in pairs to try to solve that problem in a test-driven way. The kicker was that at the end of your hour with your parter you then must delete all your work and start again with the next person.

The problem we were given this year was “to find and score the palindromes with a length greater than 3 chars in a given string”. Seems simple, but when you get into it, it is deceptively complex. Because of the varied programming backgrounds of the attendees there were many different tools and technologies used.

Of the 6 different partners I had I solved the problem using: Javascript, Actionscript3, Haxe, C#, Java and Ruby using TextMate, Flash Builder, FlashDevelop, Visual Studio and IntelliJ. It was fascinating to see the multitude of ways to solving the same problem

Try Harder is held in the heart of the forests of Center Parks Nottingham. This adds to a sense of “getting away from it all” and I found it to be a really helped with concentrating on what we were doing. In many of the evenings I enjoyed walking around the forests or swimming in the pool or sampling David Wagner’s rather excellent scotch whisky that he brought with his all the way from Scotland (cheers Dave!)


So if you cant tell I had a great time at try { harder } this year. I think because I knew what to expect this time I could relax and enjoy the whole thing a little more. I also approached the event with a much more open mind which meant I could relax more and enjoy the format.

Bring on try { harder } 2013!