CLA Summit (Americas) 2015 – Post event review

This post was originally published at Walking the Wires

I’ve just returned from the 2015 CLA Summit (Americas). This annual event is held in Austin, Texas at National Instruments corporate headquarters and runs approximately 5 months out of phase with NI Week.

It is a free to attend event, provided you hold a valid CLA Certification. Obviously you’ve got to fund transportation and accommodation, but NI are generous hosts and provide a great daily lunch and a social / networking dinner on the first evening. If you are a CLA looking to continue your LabVIEW education then I can’t recommend these events highly enough. If you are not a CLA then please get in touch with me, I’d love the opportunity to try and convince you why I think certification is valuable.

Did I mention that many members of the LabVIEW R&D team are in attendance along with Jeff Kodosky, the father of LabVIEW? I’ve tried to attend every US CLA Summit event for that very reason, but was unable to attend in 2014, so I was looking forward to getting back to Austin. Highlights for me are not only increasing my own knowledge but getting to hang out with my LabVIEW friends from the US and with Fabiola De la Cueva, my partner at Delacor. I also love the diversity of good food available in Austin and the city generally has a great “chilled out” vibe that I love.

The format of the CLA summit is highly conducive to the promotion of open discussion. Unlike NI Week, where presenters often speak for 45 minutes in front of a large room of people, leaving just a few minutes for questions, the CLA Summit is a much smaller, more intimate affair (although it is growing fast, with 170 delegates attending this year) and discussion is openly encouraged. It’s fair to say that several of the “eureka” moments during my LabVIEW career have come during the open discussions that take place at the CLA Summit.

During the summit, the chair person (more on that later) and their co-chair will capture any talking points that warrant further discussion on a whiteboard. At a suitable point the delegates will be prompted to vote on the whiteboard content with several items then being chosen to form the central topic of a “round table” breakout session. The original presenter (or person who raised the question) will take on the role of facilitator for these sessions.

In past summits these sessions have often seen heated debate, standing on tables and much passion from NI staff members and the independent LabVIEW community.

The value of the discussions taking place in these breakout sessions is such that I have witnessed members of LabVIEW R&D being dragged from their desks and told they need to be there.

This year the event organisers were Michael Aivaliotis and Jack Dunaway, and they did a great job with what was the largest CLA Summit yet, with over 170 attendees.

Michael is an independent LabVIEW Consultant and is one of the pioneers of the OpenG network, an open source community for LabVIEW development, and was the creator of VI Shots.  If you haven’t heard of VI Shots then you’re missing out, take a look. We also have Michael to thank for helping look after LAVAG, one of the most valuable resources for a LabVIEW developer.

Jack Dunaway is another regular on the forums and can often be found making amazing suggestions on the LabVIEW Ideas Exchange, many of which are now incorporated into the latest versions of LabVIEW.

Jack is owner at Wirebird Labs, a software tools vendor making toolkits to extend the LabVIEW IDE.

Each year, when someone volunteers to chair the event (hint hint), they are appointed as the co-chair for next year’s event.  This gives them an opportunity to see first hand what is expected of them. The following year, (2 years after volunteering) it’s their turn to be in the captains chair and to run the summit.

This year Jim Kring from JKI, another prominent member of the LabVIEW community, volunteered his services to assist Jack as co-chair next year and to run the whole show in 2017.

As chair person for the 2012 CLA Summit Europe held in Paris, France. I can say it was one of the best experiences in my career, getting to interact and work with some amazingly talented individuals.

If you’ve volunteered yourself then “hats off to you”…….if not, what are you waiting for ?

This year there were some amazing discussions and presentations, I wish I could have attended all of them but due to the size of the summit there were two distinct tracks running in parallel.

The quality of preparation and content was such that I took something out of each and every presentation.  Without wanting to risk missing anyone, I’d like to mention the following presenters and their content:

Brian Powell presented on organisational structure. As a previous manager of a large (36) team of LabVIEW developers I was interested to hear what Brian had to say,  and his talk on the evolution of a team, through attrition and training, was very interesting.

Craig Bedford gave an interesting look into the Aloha framework and an extension into the domain of TestStand whilst keeping much of the code in LabVIEW. Keep tuned for some interesting developments from Delacor in this area coming soon.

Norman Kirchner from NI gave a revised version of his NI Week 2014 presentation on HAL (Hardware Abstractions Layers). As a developer of RF test systems with multiple instrument types and vendors, I found this to be a very interesting point of view. I’ve certainly used many of the techniques discussed many times, so it is interesting to see how different developers in different problem domains arrive organically at similar solutions.

Dmitry Sagatelyan gave an outstanding presentation on an actor-oriented framework that he used to solve a Data Acquisition problem on a restored ship.  His presentation was captivating and not just because of the pictures of sharks and coral reefs that Dimitry added to his slide deck !!!

Of course I have to mention Fabiola’s presentation, “5 Tips to modularise, reuse, organise and bring order to your development chaos.”  I’d love to say that I knew all of this stuff beforehand but in reviewing Fabiola’s slides beforehand I learned a few new things that I’ve already put into practise.

So, if you are a CLA and were not able to attend, then I urge you to seek out the content on the appropriate CLA community pages. If you are not a CLA, then hopefully this brief insight into the summit will provide the motivation to go and get yourself  “badged up.”

Next time we will be talking about the forthcoming European CLA Summit and what we can look forward to there, we will also be tackling some technical content, in the first instance taking a look at one of the most powerful but misunderstood tools in LabVIEW: User Events.

Lots of LabVIEW love,


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