# Monday, January 4, 2021

Episode 642

Javier Lozano on Virtual Conferences

Ten years ago, Javier Lozano started .NET Conf - an online conference to educate people about Microsoft products. Javier discusses the challenges in creating this and other online tech events.

Links:
https://obsproject.com/
https://streamyard.com/

Monday, January 4, 2021 9:37:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, May 11, 2020

Episode 608

Christina Aldan and Jeff Strauss on Dev Around the Sun

Dev Around the Sun is a 24-hour online tech conference designed to raise awareness and funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

It begins May 12 at 12:00 UTC.

Organizers Christina Aldan and Jeff Strauss describe the goals of the conference and what viewers can expect.

Dev Around the Sun homepage

Donations

More interviews

Monday, May 11, 2020 9:31:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, April 6, 2020

Episode 603

Brent Stineman on Remote Recording

Brent Stineman talks about an internal podcast he produces for Microsoft and the challenges of interviewing people hundreds or thousands of miles away from him.

Monday, April 6, 2020 9:03:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, February 3, 2020

Episode 596

Courtney Eaton and Gabrielle Sempf on KidzMash

KidzMash is a tech conference for children, run in parallel with the CodeMash conference.

Courtney Eaton and Gabrielle Sempf talk about what goes into KidzMash and what makes it successful.

https://www.codemash.org/kidzmash/

Monday, February 3, 2020 9:44:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, September 2, 2019

Episode 577

Lorena Mesa on the Python Software Foundation

Lorena Mesa is a GitHub data engineer and a Director of the Python Software Foundation.

She describes the mission of the Foundation and how they assist Python developers and the Python community.

Links:

http://lorenamesa.com/
https://twitter.com/loooorenanicole
https://www.python.org/psf-landing/
https://www.python.org/psf/
https://github.com/psf/
https://pycon.org/

Monday, September 2, 2019 9:33:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 5, 2019

Episode 574

Mercedes Bernard on Dev Together

Mercedes Bernard started Dev Together to connect new software developers with mentors that would help them learn valuable skills. Over a year later, it is popular and spreading to other cities.

Monday, August 5, 2019 4:24:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 8, 2019

Episode 571

Jon Galloway on the .NET Foundation

The .NET Foundation recently expanded its board and its goals. Jon Galloway discusses what the Foundation does and what it strives to do.

Monday, July 8, 2019 9:54:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, April 8, 2019

Episode 558

Melanie Adcock on TechMonthChicago

Melanie Adcock has a passion for the Chicago tech community
She organizes TechMonth Chicago each October to shine a light on the numerous activities at meetups, startup incubators, public libraries, and schools in the city. This includes a website, a printed newspaper, and a semi-monthly radio show on Lumpen Radio 105.5 WLPN.

Links:

http://lumpenradio.com/techscene.html

http://techcopyauthority.com/

https://techmonthchicago.com/

Monday, April 8, 2019 3:02:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, February 11, 2019

Episode 550

Cassandra Faris on Personal Branding

Cassandra Faris talks about her involvement with the developer community and how she has managed her personal brand.

Monday, February 11, 2019 9:05:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, January 12, 2019

FriendsAs I write this, I realize I cannot recall exactly how many times I have attended CodeMash. Is it 11? 12? 13? I know I missed the first one and that I've attended every one since, so I'll call this one N-1.

This one was different than most. For years, I was a community speaker and I worked for companies that sponsored CodeMash (sometimes because I convinced them to do so). Then, I joined Microsoft as an Evangelist and large community events like this were part of my job.

Not this year. My role at Microsoft has changed and community is not a part of it. So I invited myself to CodeMash.

DavidJonJenniferFor the third year in a row, we invited Jon Skeet to speak at the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group - a group that I ran years ago - prior to CodeMash. So, I drove to Michigan and Ondrej and I picked up Jon from the airport after his flight from London, UK. He spoke that evening on Versioning 1.0.1, the same talk he planned to deliver at CodeMash. After the meeting, we drove a caravan from Southfield, MI to Sandusky, OH.

GorillaFor me, it was a working week, so I only attended about a third of the conference, but I still got a lot out of it.

I saw a few sessions. Some good ones were
Deep Learning like a Viking - Building Convolutional Neural Networks with Keras, in which Guy Royse demonstrated how to build a machine learning model to recognize pictures of Viking runes.
Notebooks are still cool…with Jupyter, in which Ryan Bales introduced Jupyter Labs - the next evolution of Jupyter notebooks.
Code Checkup: Tools to check the health of your code, in which Doug Mair described a number of IDE plug-ins and stand-alone tools to analyze code quality.
Modern 2FA in ASP.NET Core, in which Ondrej Balas showed how to make your applications more secure with the latest 2-Factor Authentication tools and technology.

During dinner Thursday evening, Brian Prince gave an inspirational talk about how he became interested in programming and how he stood on the shoulders of giants. He concluded with the call to action: "Be someone else's shoulders". This session resonated with me because Brian has had a strong influence on my career as we worked together for years.

MagicianThere were other activities, including Lightning Talks (most were by technologists, but not about technology); a kids' track, known as "KidzMash" that taught children about programming; a magic show; and a water park (I visited but did not immerse myself).

FriendsAs always, I invested a significant amount of time in what some call the Conference Hallway Track, asking questions of technologists and learning what they are working on and the things that affect their work. I had several conversations about diversity in technology and what we can do to improve it.

This part of the country has a strong developer community and I have always been impressed with the willingness people have to share their ideas.

I enjoyed the conference and I look forward to attending next year for (N+1) - 1.

CodeMashClosing

Saturday, January 12, 2019 1:44:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, November 18, 2018

GANGConf (1)Sometimes you can go home again.

I was a member of the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (a.k.a. GANG) for years and spent some time on the board, including 2 years as President. But I've had much less interaction with them since joining Microsoft and moving to Chicago in 2014.

So, I was excited when my friend Ondrej called to tell me that GANG was hosting a conference and I could speak there if I wanted. I wanted to be a part of this event, so I made the trek from back to Detroit.

The event was held at the Microsoft offices in downtown Detroit. About 70 people came to hear a presentation on both technical topics and soft skills.

GANGConf (2)Cassandra Faris opened the conference telling people how they can manage and  promote your personal brand.

J Tower was next with a presentation on how to use .NET Standard to share code among different types of applications and platforms.

I wrote a presentation about Azure Functions and delivered for the first time at this event.

Kevin Davis's presentation titled "Living your Best (Developer) Life" talked about how to choose and manage your career.

Aydin Akcasu had the best demos of the day, showing Bluetooth devices integrating  with the Chrome web browser.

Finally, Daniel Davis described the benefits of clean code and how to achieve it.

The event reminded me of a similar Saturday event I hosted to celebrate GANG'S 10-year anniversary back in 2011. This is the second year in a row, GANG has held GANGConf and president Ryan Albertson promised to do it again next year.
I hope to be there again for it.

GANGConf (3)

Sunday, November 18, 2018 8:33:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, August 27, 2018
# Sunday, August 12, 2018

Here is my presentation "How Cloud Computing Empowers a Data Scientist" that I delivered in June at IT Camp in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

ITCamp 2018 - David Giard - How Cloud Computing Empowers a Data Scientist from ITCamp on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 12, 2018 9:14:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 11, 2018

Here is my presentation “Own Your Own Career – Advice from a Veteran Consultant” that I delivered in June at IT Camp in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

ITCamp 2018 - David Giard - Own Your Own Career – Advice from a Veteran Consultant from ITCamp on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 11, 2018 8:09:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, June 10, 2018

Romania

Achievement unlocked: I played Dungeons and Dragons last night for the first time in my life. And I did it in Transylvania!

I am writing this while sitting in the Cluj-Napoca airport, waiting for my flight to Bucharest and my connection to Oslo this evening.

IMG_0762This is the fifth consecutive year I have visited Romania to attend IT Camp. I enjoy it more each time I come - the conference, the people, and the country.

IT camp has become like a family reunion for me. I look forward to seeing old friends from Romania and from Europe and America. Most of them I only get to see once a year, so it is a real treat for me to come here. And, as always, the Hotel Grand Italia spoils me with their excellent service.

IMG_0824The conference continues to grow. Attendance was 500-600 this year (about 10% more than last year) and the speaker list grew to over 40. Session times were shortened to 45 minutes this year in order to accommodate the larger number of sessions. I delivered 2 presentations: "Own Your Own Career – Advice from a Veteran Consultant" and "How Cloud Computing Empowers a Data Scientist". I had a packed room for the first session, with many people standing in the back. A number of people approached me during the conference to ask more questions about my topics and to tell me they enjoyed my talks, which is always a treat.

In between sessions, I met new people, re-connected with old friends, recorded 4 interviews, learned a few things, and Tudy taught me how to play Dungeons and Dragons, even though I was so tired I nearly fell asleep an hour into the game.

IMG_0807Some inclement weather and a need to prepare my presentations kept me close to the hotel during the conference; but IT Camp always includes a field trip the day after the conference. This year, they took us to Sighișoara, a small city in central Romania most famous as the alleged birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Count Dracula.

IMG_0818I am grateful to Mihai and Diana and Tudor and Noemi and the many volunteers who work hard to make IT Camp a success and to make me feel welcome. I got a lot out of this trip.

And how many people can say their first game of Dungeons and Dragons took place in Transylvania?

Sunday, June 10, 2018 8:48:30 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, April 23, 2018
Monday, April 23, 2018 9:21:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, December 11, 2017
Monday, December 11, 2017 11:48:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, October 31, 2017

I always like to prepare for a trip to a new country, so when I was invited to speak at .NET Conf UY in Montevideo, Uruguay, I decided I should learn some Spanish. I taught myself how to say "Buenos Dias" and "Adios". Unfortunately, I neglected to learn the many things I should talk about between these two phrases. But it worked out. Most of the Uruguayans with whom I interacted spoke at least some English and the conference provided real-time translation of all presentations, so that I could understand the Spanish speakers, and the audience could understand me.

Arrival

I arrived Tuesday morning 2 days early. Originally, I thought I might deliver a workshop, but my first session was not scheduled until Thursday afternoon. It was an all-night flight from Miami to Montevideo. Fabian - one of the conference organizers - picked me up at the airport. He recognized me from my photograph, despite my disheveled appearance. Exhausted from the flight, I checked into the hotel and slept for a few hours; then spent a few hours catching up on work for my day job.

I20171025_161849_HDRn the evening, I walked around the hotel neighborhood. I hoped to find some dinner, but I discovered that Uruguayans eat later than Americans and most restaurants do not serve dinner until at least 7PM. I settled for a salad in a nearby hotel restaurant.

I passed the Uruguayan World Trade Center - a cluster of office and retail buildings, tallest of which is about 40 stories. Then I made my way to the Río de la Plata - at 120km, the widest river in the world.

I did not realize until Wednesday morning, that 2 hotel reservations had been made for me - one by me and one by the conference organizers. I went to the Sheraton to cancel my reservation. They allowed me to cancel the week, but charged me for 2 (expensive) nights, so I decided to spend Wednesday night at the Sheraton. It was a nicer hotel, and I had already paid for it.

In the afternoon and evening, I walked around a different neighborhood and a different part of the river, exploring parks and side streets and beaches. Nearly the entire riverfront of Montevideo is public space, featuring beaches and parks, so one can walk for miles along the shore. I had heard of the fondness South Americans have for beef, so I ordered a filet in a nice restaurant.

Late at night, I stopped at a beachside tavern to try a Uruguayan wine. The waitress spoke no English, and I speak almost no Spanish, but she managed to recommend a good local wine as we typed our conversation into my phone and let Google translate for us.

.NET Conf UY

20171027_103507_HDRThe breakout sessions of .NET Conf UY took place Thursday and Friday. I delivered 2 sessions - "Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to Your Apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services" and "Big Data Solutions in Azure". The first presentation went very well, and many attendees approached me afterward with session. A demo failed in my second presentation, but I managed to recover.

I met many new people at this conference. My teammate Shahed flew down from Virginia and I had corresponded briefly with Fabian, but I knew no other speaker, organizer or attendee before I arrived.

I recorded 2 interviews for my show, including one with keynote speaker Carolina Banales. The conference hired a video crew, and they interviewed me on camera.

20171026_210522_HDRThursday evening, Kiezen - one of the conference's main sponsors - hosted a speaker dinner at their new offices. A brick grill graces the roof of this office and we were treated to Uruguayan asade, which is meat grilled over a wood fire. I ate too much.

Friday evening featured an attendee party high above downtown Montevideo. This gave me the opportunity to get to know a lot of new people. The language barrier sometimes slowed communication, but I found everyone I met to be very engaging.

Tour of Montevideo

The day after the conference, the organizers reserved a bus and took us around Montevideo to show some of the major sites. Highlights included:

Estadio Centenario, where the first World Cup tournament was held (and won by Uruguay)

20171028_221708The Montevideo sign, that spells the city name in letters 5 feet tall. The sign overlooks one of the city's harbors and is a favourite spot for photographs.

The Fortezza General Artigas, which sits atop a hill overlooking the city from across Montevideo Bay. The fort is primarily dedicated to General Jose Artigas, who led the Uruguayans in their battle for independence in the early 19th century; but it is also a museum of military history. As a bonus, it offers a spectacular view of the Montevideo skyline.

We finished with an asade lunch at an outdoor cafe in the Old City. A Brazilian band stopped by to serenade us while we ate. From there, we went to the Independence Plaza, where a parade was about to start.

Buenos Aries

20171029_131243I spent Sunday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is only 200 km from Montevideo. There are several ways to make this journey. I chose to travel by bus from Montevideo to Colonia, Uruguay to see some of the Uruguayan countryside, which is mostly flat farmland with a few rivers and isolated woodlands. Buenos Aires is a short ferry ride from Colonia.

I was only in Buenos Aires for a few hours, but I managed to visit Casa Rosado, where Eva Perrone famously addressed her people from a balcony; Iglesia de St. Ignatius, the oldest church in the city; and the towering Obelisca de Buenos Aires that commemorates the city's 400th birthday. Lunch at Cafe Tortoni - the oldest cafe in Buenos Aires - was very good. In between, I walked through numerous public parks, side streets, and riverfronts.

Buenos Aires is a beautiful city. The architecture reminds me of a modern European city. I hope to return when I have more time.

Final Day

20171026_111236My flight home was scheduled for Monday evening and I made no plans on Monday. After sleeping in, I enjoyed a leisurely lunch and checked out of my hotel. There is a small zoo just 2 blocks from my hotel, so I decided to spend some time there. Sadly, the zoo is closed on Mondays, as was the planetarium next door. Instead, I walked to a section of the riverfront I had not yet visited, took some photos, and stopped at a small cafe for a cappuccino and a light dinner.

Fabian was kind enough to pick me up and drive me to the airport.

A Few Facts

Here are some things I learned about Montevideo and Uruguay this past week.

  • Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America.
  • Over half the country's population lives in the Montevideo area.
  • There are no giant skyscrapers in Montevideo. The tallest building is 35 stories - not much bigger than my apartment building in Chicago.
  • I cannot verify this, but I was told that Montevideo comes from the following words:
         "Monte", meaning "small hill"
         "VI" for the Roman Numeral
         "deo", which is short for "de Este a Ouest", which means "From East to West"
    In other words, the city sits on the sixth hill from east to west.
  • Many of the city's sidewalks are made of bricks, which is probably why so many Montevideo sidewalks are broken.
  • Uber is available in Uruguay. I never had to wait more than 5 minutes and never paid more than $7US for a ride.

I am grateful I had the opportunity to come to South America and see the sights and meet so many kind people.  I enjoyed the experience, and I hope to return. And I even learned a few extra Spanish words.

Gracias, Montevideo.

Hasta la vista.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 8:14:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, September 24, 2017

I was recently introduced to the Developer on Fire podcast, hosted by Dave Rael. Dave has had an impressive list of guests on his show the past few years, which is one reason I was excited about being interviewed by him.

We spoke less about technology than about my experiences in my career and my philosophy toward work, education, and the community.

You can listen to the interview here.

Sunday, September 24, 2017 4:00:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, June 22, 2017

Traveling to Stockholm was an adventure. I was impeded by heavier-than-usual Chicago traffic, lost luggage, delayed flights, and a passport that I stupidly left at home on my kitchen counter.

But I made it in time for DevSum 2017 and it was worth the trouble.

I was returning to DevSum for the first time since 2015 and the event has moved from the city center to the Münchenbryggeriet conference center - 2 islands to the south.

After a long trip, I arrived at the conference feeling anything but refreshed. But the staff made me feel at home. They retrieved a lunch plate for me, despite my arrival after mealtime. And I presented that afternoon on Cognitive Services in front of a full room. I had heard that European audiences tend to be more reserved than their American counterparts, but I did not experience that. The crowd laughed where I hoped they would and remained engaged throughout. I drew energy from them.

The speaker lineup at DevSum was really impressive this year. Speakers came from all over Europe and North America, including people like Richard Campbell, Michael Feathers, Markus Egger, Kent Alstad, Tess Fernandez-Norlander, Dino Esposito, and Gil Clereen.

For me, this was not only an excellent opportunity to learn from smart people, but also a chance to interact with many people whose work I respect - either through their articles, books, podcasts, or Pluralsight courses.  The collective knowledge at events like this is always high, but it's even more so when the speaker homes span continents. I was able to meet Michael Feathers and personally tell him the impact his book had on my life when I was a consultant.

The day after the conference, the speakers were invited to a special outing - a boat trip to nearby Fjäderholmarna, lunch, a tour of a local brewery, a beer tasting, and a walk around the island. It was yet another chance to interact with the other speakers.

One difficulty about traveling to Sweden in June is the long daylight hours. The sun does not set in Stockholm until almost 11PM and it rises at around 3AM. This can be disruptive of one's sleep schedule, especially if one is already suffering from jet lag.

But I powered through this issue. And now I am home and paying off sleep debt and dreaming of next year's DevSum.

Links

DevSum home page

My photos

Thursday, June 22, 2017 12:40:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 12, 2017
Monday, June 12, 2017 12:54:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, June 7, 2017

20170526_122343_Pano

This was my fourth year in a row attending IT Camp in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Cluj is a technology hub in the heart of Transylvania. Now in its 7th year, IT Camp attracted over 500 attendees from the region.

Speakers traveled from around the world for this conference. I counted speakers from the US, the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Norway, and (of course) Romania.

Over 500 people attended the event – most from Romania.

The conference was primarily focused on Microsoft technologies, but not exclusively so. The conference began with a speech by Emil Boc, the Mayor of Cluj-Napoca. This was the only talk delivered in Romanian, so I was not able to follow; but it was well received.

20170525_092352

The mayor was followed by 4 keynotes:

  • Mihail Rottenberg contrasted his experience starting 2 businesses - BreezeCom, a pioneering wi-fi company in the 1990s; and a winery he recently began.
  • Ben Armstrong described how Microsoft's advances in virtualization are influencing their cloud strategy.
  • Peter Leeson discussed how companies can measure quality
  • Jayson Street related stories of security breaches around the world.

I delivered 2 presentations: Big Data Solutions in Azure; and Building Powerful Applications with Angular and TypeScript. Over 150 people crowded into my room for the  Angular presentation.

The day before IT Camp, I spoke at a local consulting company – Yonder – about how to “Own Your Own Career”.

As always, the day after IT Camp featured a cultural experience to which all the speakers and volunteers were invited. This year, we toured the salt mines in Turda, Romania.

20170527_115235_Pano

IT Camp was a great chance to connect with a number of influencers from around the world and return to Romania, where I have many fond memories.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 3:08:03 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, May 14, 2017

I was told there would be corn. I did not see one ear of corn.

Last week, I made my first visit ever to Iowa. In 3 days, I drove over 500 miles from Chicago to Dubuque to Cedar Falls to Cedar Rapids to Iowa City to Des Moines.  Between 6PM Monday and 8PM Wednesday (just 50 hours), I spoke at 4 user groups ion 4 different cities

This trip came about as my friend Javier and I were chatting online recently about upcoming speaking opportunities. He invited me to speak at his user group in Des Moines and I asked if he could connect me with other groups in Iowa.

20170508_192641

I entered Iowa by crossing the Mississippi from Illinois at Dubuque and I was surprised by the landscape. Cliffs rose along the river and and rolling hills marked the landscape for miles on either side. This contradicted my mental image of Iowa as hundreds of miles of flat prairie and farmland.

The Dubuque group was small but engaged. I talked about Cognitive Services, which is an exciting technology and fun to talk about. The only issue I had was the at Microsoft changed the Cognitive Services web site the day before m presentation and I found it difficult to find some of the features I wanted to show off.

Tuesday morning, I drove to Dyersville, IA to see the site where the 1989 film Field of Dreams was filmed. The Lansing family still owns the farm and continues to maintain the iconic baseball field carved out of the corn field by Kevin Costner. They built it; I came.

20170509_094823_Pano

I continued for a lunchtime presentation on Angular and TypeScript at the Cedar Valley .NET User Group in Cedar Falls. This was another small group, but I enjoyed it - in part because it was held in the back room of a restaurant that served excellent pizza.

Tuesday evening found me in Cedar Rapids for the CRINETA group, where I give another presentation on Cognitive Services. The room was full as the organizers cross-promoted with the local SQL PASS user group.

20170509_175232

Wednesday morning, I stopped in Iowa City for lunch near the University of Iowa before heading west toward Des Moines. This was the most stressful part of the trip as I drove through a driving rainstorm surrounded by semi trucks.

But I arrived in Des Moines for the Iowa .NET User Group and spoke to a packed room on Angular and TypeScript.

I delivered the following presentations at the following user groups in the following cities:

Date User Group City
Mon May 8 Dubuque .NET Software Development User Group Dubuque
Tue May 9 (noon) Cedar Valley .NET User Group Cedar Falls
Tue May 9 (evening) CRINETA Cedar Rapids
Wed May 9 Iowa .NET User Group Des Moines

It was a great experience and I enjoyed meeting people and engaging local developer communities and seeing the sites and driving across the prairie.

Now, I have to return when the corn is in season.

Sunday, May 14, 2017 1:54:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, April 22, 2017

The next couple months include lots of travel and lots of presentations

Date Event Host Location
Apr 22, 2017 Big Data Solutions in Azure Global Azure Boot Camp Downers Grove, IL
Apr 22, 2017 Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to your apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services Twin Cities Code Camp Bloomington, MN
Apr 29, 2017 Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to your apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services Chicago Code Camp Chicago, IL
May 1, 2017 Cognitive Services and HoloLens GoTo conference Chicago, IL
May 8, 2017 Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to your apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services Dubuque .NET Software Development User Group Dubuque, IA
May 9, 2017 Building Powerful Applications with AngularJS 2 and TypeScript Cedar Valley .NET User Group Cedar Falls, IA
May 9, 2017 Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to your apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services CRIneta : Cedar Rapids .NET User Group Cedar Rapids, IA
May 10, 2017 Building Powerful Applications with AngularJS 2 and TypeScript Iowa .NET User Group Des Moines, IA
May 12, 2017 Keynote: You and Your Tech Community Convergence Detroit, MI
May 20, 2017 Big Data Solutions in Azure Chicago Data Science Conference Chicago, IL
May 25, 2017 Big Data Solutions in Azure IT Camp Cluj-Napoca, Romania
May 25, 2017 Building Powerful Applications with AngularJS 2 and TypeScript IT Camp Cluj-Napoca, Romania
June 1-3, 2017 Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to Your Apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services Music City Code Nashville, TN
June 1-3, 2017 Big Data Solutions in Azure Music City Code Nashville, TN
June 1-3, 2017 Own Your Own Career - Advice from a Veteran Consultant Music City Code Nashville, TN
Jun 6, 2017 Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to your apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services Xamarin University Online
June 8-9, 2017 Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to Your Apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services DevSum Stockholm, Sweden
June 28, 2017 Building Powerful Applications with AngularJS 2 and TypeScript Node Indy Indianapolis, IN
Jul 10-12, 2017 The Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Apps Detroit.Code() Detroit, MI
Jul 10-12, 2017 Big Data Solutions in Azure Detroit.Code() Detroit, MI
Aug 3-4, 2017 Effective Data Visualization KCDC Kansas City, MO
Aug 3-4, 2017 Building Powerful Applications with AngularJS 2 and TypeScript KCDC Kansas City, MO
Sep 20, 2017 Big Data Solutions in Azure VS Live Chicago, IL
Sep 20, 2017 Building Powerful Applications with AngularJS 2 and TypeScript VS Live Chicago, IL
Saturday, April 22, 2017 10:57:07 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, February 18, 2017

Yesterday, I posted a list of community technical events in the US Central Region.

I thought this would be a useful reference to those who want to attend or speak at conferences. This is a living document as I learn about more conferences and as conferences announce their dates.

The problem with this post is that it is time-stamped and will farther and farther down the list of posts as the months pass. So I created a copy of this list and pinned it to the top of my site. You can reach this list at any time by clicking the “Tech Events” tab at the top of each page. Or you can just click here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017 3:16:09 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, February 17, 2017

Here is a list of community technical events (conferences, code camps, etc.) in the US Central Region. I have listed the dates, if they are published. If no 2017 date is published, my estimate is based on last year’s date. I provided a link to each event’s home page so you can check the latest information directly from the source.

Please let me know if I am missing any.

Event Location Start End URL
Event Location Start End URL
CodeMash Sandusky, OH 1/10/2017 1/13/2017 http://www.codemash.org/
SQL Saturday Chicago Chicago, IL 3/11/2017 3/11/2017 http://www.sqlsaturday.com/600
Northeast Wisconsin Code Camp Appleton, WI 3/25/2017 3/25/2017 http://newcodecamp.com/
Indy.Code Indianapolis, IN 3/29/2017 3/31/2017 http://indycode.amegala.com/
SQL Saturday Madison Madison, WI 4/8/2017 4/8/2017 http://www.sqlsaturday.com/604
Twin Cities Code Camp Minneapolis, MN 4/22/2017 4/22/2017 https://twincitiescodecamp.com/#/home
Global Azure Boot Camp Multiple Locations 4/22/2017 4/22/2017 https://global.azurebootcamp.net/
Chicago Code Camp Chicago, IL 4/29/2017 4/29/2017 http://chicagocodecamp.com/
GoTo Chicago Chicago, IL 5/1/2017 5/2/2017 gotochgo.com/
Codestock Knoxville, TN 5/5/2017 5/6/2017 http://www.codestock.org/
Stir Trek Columbus, OH 5/5/2017 5/5/2017 http://stirtrek.com/
Convergence Conference Detroit, MI 5/11/2017 5/13/2017 https://www.convergeconference.org/
Midwest Management Summit Minneapolis, MN 5/15/2017 5/18/2017 https://mmsmoa.com/
Nebraska Code Lincoln, NE 5/17/2017 5/19/2017 http://nebraskacode.com/
Self Conference Detroit, MI 5/19/2017 5/20/2017 http://selfconference.org/
Great Lakes Software Excellence Conference Grand Rapids, MI 5/22/2017 5/22/2017 http://glsec.softwaregr.org/
PHPTek St. Louis, MO 5/24/2017 5/26/2017 https://tek.phparch.com/
Music City Code Nashville, TN 6/1/2017 6/3/2017 http://www.musiccitycode.com/
Codepalousa Louisville, KY 6/7/2017 6/9/2017 http://www.codepalousa.com/
Open Source North Minneapolis, MN 6/8/2017 6/8/2017 http://opensourcenorth.com/
Beer City Code Grand Rapids, MI 6/9/2017 6/10/2017 http://beercitycode.com/
SQL Saturday Iowa City Iowa City, IA 6/10/2017 6/10/2017 http://www.sqlsaturday.com/634
Chicago Coder Conference Chicago, IL 6/26/2017 6/27/2017 http://chicagocoderconference.com/
Detroit.Code Detroit, MI 7/10/2017 7/12/2017 http://detroitcode.amegala.com/
Cincinnati Day of Agile Westchester, OH 7/28/2017 7/28/2017 http://dayofagile.org/
PyOhio Columbus, OH 7/29/2017 7/30/2017 http://pyohio.org/
KCDC Kansas City, MO 8/3/2017 8/4/2017 http://www.kcdc.info/
That Conference Wisconsin Dells, WI 8/7/2017 8/9/2017 https://www.thatconference.com/
MidwestJS Minneapolis, MN 8/16/2017 8/18/2017 http://midwestjs.com/
VSLive Chicago, IL 9/18/2017 9/21/2017 https://vslive.com/Events/Chicago-2017/Home.aspx
Madison PHP Madison, WI 9/22/2017 9/23/2017 http://2017.madisonphpconference.com/
Prairie.Code Des Moines, IA 9/27/2017 9/29/2017 http://prairiecode.amegala.com/
Technology Hub Appleton, WI 9/28/2017 9/28/2017 http://www.technologyhubconference.com/
Midwest Game Dev Expo Columbus, OH 9/29/2017 10/1/2017 https://www.thegdex.com/
M3Conf Columbus, OH 08-2017?   http://m3conf.com/
Tulsa Tech Fest Tulsa, OK 08-2017?   http://techfests.com/Tulsa/2016/default.aspx
CloudDevelop Columbus, OH 08-2017?   http://clouddevelop.org/
Iowa Code Camp Coralville, IA 10-2017?   http://iowacodecamp.com/
DogFood Con Columbus, OH 10-2017?   http://dogfoodcon.com/
Ohio LinuxFest Columbus, OH 10-2017?   https://ohiolinux.org/
DevSpace Huntsville, AL 10-2017?   https://www.devspaceconf.com/
DevUp Conference St. Louis, MO 10-2017?   http://devupconf.com/
MKE DOT NET Milwaukee, WI 10-2017?   http://www.centare.com/mke-dot-net/
Milwaukee Code Camp Milwaukee, WI 10-2017?   http://milwaukeecodecamp.com/
Chippewa Valley Code Camp Eau Claire, WI 10-2017?   http://chippewavalleycodecamp.com/index.html
Detroit Dev Day Detroit, MI 11-2017?   http://detroitdevday.org/
SharePoint Fest Chicago Chicago, IL 11-2017?   http://www.sharepointfest.com/Chicago/
Friday, February 17, 2017 3:14:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I have a busy speaking schedule coming up. Here are the confirmed events as of today.

Date Event Host Location
2/14/2017 Cloud and Azure intro University of Illinois Champaign, IL
2/16/2017 Building Powerful Applications with AngularJS 2 and TypeScript Northwest Chicago Javascript Schaumburg, IL
2/20/2017 Cognitive Services workshop Womine in Computer Science Champaign, IL
2/21/2017 The Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Apps  University of Illinois Champaign, IL
2/28/2017 Big Data Solutions in Azure Chicago .NET User Group Downers Grove, IL
3/1/2017 Effective Data Visualization Chicago City Data User Group Chicago, IL
3/5/2017 Big Data Solutions in Azure Software Development Community Naperville, IL
3/14/2017 IOT Workshop Mission to Mars Chicago, IL
3/16/2017 Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to your apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services Louisville .NET USER Group Louisville, KY
3/29/2017 The Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Apps  Indy.Code() Indianapolis, IN
3/29/2017 Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to Your Apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services  Indy.Code() Indianapolis, IN
4/5/2017 Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to your apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services MadDotNet Madison, WI
5/8/2017 TBA Dubuque .NET Software Development User Group  Dubuque, IA
5/9/2017 TBA CRIneta : Cedar Rapids .NET User Group  Cedar Rapids, IA
5/9/2017 TVA Cedar Valley .NET User Group Cedar Falls, IA
5/10/2017 Building Powerful Applications with AngularJS 2 and TypeScript Iowa .NET User Group Des Moines, IA
5/12/2017 Keynote: You and your community Convergence Detroit Detroit, MI
5/22/2017 TBA GLSec Grand Rapids, MI
Tuesday, February 14, 2017 5:43:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, February 10, 2017

If you are interested in speaking at a conference, many of them are currently accepting submissions. Below are some open calls for presentations in and around the Central Region. I have submitted to speak at some of them, so maybe I will see you there.

Event Location Start End Conference Link CFP link CFP Closes
Self.Conference Detroit, MI 5/19/2017 5/20/2017 link link 2/13/2017
Open Source North Minneapolis, MN 6/8/2017 6/8/2017 link link 2/15/2017
Codepalousa Louisville, KY 6/7/2017 6/9/2017 link link 2/17/2017
Music City Code Nashville, TN 6/1/2017 6/3/2017 link link 3/1/2017
Chicago Coder Conference Chicago, IL 6/26/2017 6/27/2017 link link 3/3/2017
Beer City Code Grand Rapids, MI 6/10/2017 6/10/2017 link link 3/14/2017
KCDC Kansas City, MO 8/3/2017 8/4/2017 link link 3/30/2017
That Conference Wisconsin Dells, WI 8/7/2017 8/9/2017 link link 4/15/2017
Madison PHP Madison, WI 9/22/2017 9/23/2017 link link 4/30/2017
SQL Saturday - Pittsburgh Oakdale, PA 9/30/2017 9/30/2017 link link 8/1/2017
NEW Code Camp Appleton, WI 3/25/2017 3/25/2017 link link ?
Chicago Code Camp Chicago, IL 4/30/2017 4/30/2017 link link ?
Friday, February 10, 2017 9:52:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A friend recently emailed me to say he accepted a job leading the Microsoft practice of a consulting company that doesn’t work much with Microsoft technologies. As part of his job, he is expected to evangelize the practice and technologies. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen someone do this, so I’m sharing my response below.

Congratulations on the new job! It sounds like you are on the right track.

User groups are a great way to connect with the local developer community. They are good for finding customers, but better for recruiting talent. Consider sponsoring. Also, encourage your team to speak at user groups and code camps. This builds credibility and name recognition.

The lunchtime sessions to teach technology sound great. Consider having a long session once a month and inviting the public.

You are smart to focus on Azure. Azure is a big part of Microsoft’s future and, because Azure supports so many open source and competing technologies, it will fit in well with existing projects and existing customers. Key parts of Azure that appeal to non-Microsoft technologists are:

  • Web Apps that support Java, node, Python, and other languages
  • Mobile Apps provide a back-end for Android or iPhone apps
  • Linux VMs on Azure (about a third of all Azure VMs run Linux)
  • HD Insight Big Data Analysis based on Hadoop open source supports any data type (and you can code in Python)
  • Azure Machine Learning supports any data type (and you can code in Python)

There are others, but this is a good start.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016 3:03:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, October 4, 2016

In the beginning,there was CodeMash - a small Tech Conference at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, OH. CodeMash was a developer conference run by volunteers, but it had a twist. The Kalahari features an indoor water park, so attendees could slip away to enjoy the water slides or bring their families, who would enjoy the water park while they attended sessions.

CodeMash was successful enough that some folks in Illinois and Wisconsin created a similar conference - That Conference - at the Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells, WI.

Last year, a Kalahari opened in Pocono Manor, PA, so naturally someone had to create a tech conference and host it there.

The inaugural TechBash took place September 28-30 at the Pocono Manor Kalahari and I was honored to be a part of it. I delivered 2 presentations: "Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to Your Apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services" and "Building Powerful Applications with AngularJS and TypeScript". The classroom was completely full for the latter talk.

The 3-day conference featured 2 keynotes: Pete Brown opened the event by showing off some of his favourite maker projects; and Glenn Block opened the final day of the conference talking about some of his favourite open source projects.

Speakers came from all over the US and one - Iris Classon - traveled from Sweden to present.

With a limited budget, the organizers did not have a lot of frills at this conference. Meals were simple and after-hours events were limited. There was no bacon bar or giant-size Settlers of Catan game, as we've seen at the other - more established - Kalahari conferences. But the content was excellent and I heard positive feedback from many both attendees and speakers.

Many attendees and speakers brought their families to enjoy the water park - either during the conference or on the weekend following the conference.

At 170 registrants, TechBash is about the size CodeMash was in its first year. The organizers announced their plans to host TechBash 2017 and plan to grow it in attendance and scope.

TechBash2016a

Tuesday, October 4, 2016 11:11:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, September 26, 2016
Monday, September 26, 2016 11:41:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 24, 2016

At the Chicago Geekfest meetup last week, I delivered a presentation on AngularJS 2 and TypeScript. You can see the presentation below.

It’s worth watching just to hear Chris’s introduction at the beginning.

Saturday, September 24, 2016 3:53:03 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, August 26, 2016

I have a number of presentations scheduled in the next few months. I hope you can make it to some of them.

Date Event Location Topic  
8/27/2016 PyData Chicago Chicago, IL Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to Your Apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services link
8/30/2016 University recruiting event Purdue University Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to Your Apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services  
9/20/2016 GeekFest Chicago, IL Building Powerful Enterprise Apps with Angular 2 and TypeScript link
9/28/2016 TechBash Pocono Manor, PA Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to Your Apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services link
9/28/2016 TechBash Pocono Manor, PA Building Powerful Applications with AngularJS and TypeScript link
10/5/2016 Dog Food Conference Columbus, OH Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to Your Apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services link
10/5/2016 Dog Food Conference Columbus, OH Microsoft Azure without Microsoft link
10/13/2016 Technology Hub Appleton, WI Open Source Technologies in Microsoft Azure link
10/20/2016 DevUp Conference St. Charles, MO Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to Your Apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services link
10/20/2016 DevUp Conference St. Charles, MO The Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Apps link
11/28/2016 Mobile Monday East Lansing, MI The Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Apps link
Friday, August 26, 2016 4:27:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Our new Fiscal Year begins in a couple weeks, so I compiled a list of community developer events that I expect will take place in the next 12 months.

Please let me know if I am missing an important event in the region, if a date has been confirmed, or if you notice any errors in this list.

Event Location Dates URL
Codestock Knoxville, TN July 15-16 http://www.codestock.org/
Iowa Code Camp Coralville, IA July 23 http://iowacodecamp.com/
Cincinnati Day of Agile Westchester, OH July 29 http://dayofagile.org/ 
PyOhio Columbus, OH July 30-31 http://pyohio.org/
M3Conf Columbus, OH Aug 5 http://www.m3conf.com/
Tulsa Tech Fest Tulsa, OK Aug 5 http://techfests.com/Tulsa/2016/default.aspx
That Conference Wisconsin Dells, WI Aug 8-10 https://www.thatconference.com/
MidwestJS Minneapolis, MN Aug 10-12 http://midwestjs.com/
Music City Code Nashville, TN Aug 18-20 http://www.musiccitycode.com/
CloudDevelop Columbus, OH Aug 26 http://clouddevelop.org/
DogFood Con Columbus, OH Oct 5-6 http://dogfoodcon.com/
Ohio LinuxFest Columbus, OH Oct 7-8 https://ohiolinux.org/ 
Technology Hub Appleton, WI Oct 13 http://www.technologyhubconference.com/
DevSpace Huntsville, AL Oct 14-15 https://www.devspaceconf.com/
DevUp Conference St. Louis, MO Oct 20-22 http://devupconf.com/
Midwest Game Dev Expo Columbus, OH Oct 28-30 https://www.thegdex.com/
MKE DOT NET Milwaukee, WI Oct 29 http://www.centare.com/mke-dot-net/ 
Milwaukee Code Camp Milwaukee, WI Oct or Nov http://milwaukeecodecamp.com/
Chippewa Valley Code Camp Eau Claire, WI Oct 22 http://chippewavalleycodecamp.com/index.html
Detroit Dev Day Detroit, MI Nov? http://detroitdevday.org/
SharePoint Fest Chicago Chicago, IL Dec 6-9 http://www.sharepointfest.com/Chicago/
CodeMash Sandusky, OH Jan 10-13 http://www.codemash.org/
Northeast Wisconsin Code Camp Appleton, WI March? http://newcodecamp.com/
GR Dev Day Grand Rapids, MI March? http://grdevday.org/
Chicago Code Camp Chicago, IL April? http://chicagocodecamp.com/
Twin Cities Code Camp Minneapolis, MN April? http://www.twincitiescodecamp.com/#/home
Nebraska Code Camp Lincoln, NE May? http://nebraskacode.com/
PHPTek St. Louis, MO May? https://tek.phparch.com/
Chicago Coder Conference Chicago, IL June? http://chicagocoderconference.com/
Open Source North Minneapolis, MN June? http://opensourcenorth.com/
KCDC Kansas City, MO June? http://www.kcdc.info/
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 2:55:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, June 2, 2016

On April 7 in Arlington Heights, IL, Michael Blumenthal and the PSC Group organized a day-long event, titled “Azure and the Modern Data Center”. The event featured a single track of speakers presenting on topics related to managing Azure from an IT Infrastructure perspective.

My colleague Brian Lewis delivered the keynote at this event and I gave a presentation on Virtualization Containers. Other topics included Compute & Storage Infrastructure, Networking Infrastructure, and Disaster Recovery.

The event was recorded and the videos are now available on Channel 9.

The complete agenda for the day is here:

Welcome Michael Blumenthal
Keynote: Why the Cloud will Change Your Life Brian Lewis
Azure Network Infrastructure Michael Blumenthal
Designing Azure Compute and Storage Infrastructure Bill Lee
Virtualization Containers David Giard
Device Showcase Scott Sheehy & Linda Baez
Deployment with ARM templates and GIT Geremy Reiner
Hybrid IT Management Rishi Bhatia
ASR recovery for protection and migration from on-premises Dan Rey
Designing Identity solutions with AAD Brice McDowell
Closing Remarks and Raffle Michael Blumenthal

image

Thursday, June 2, 2016 4:11:53 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, April 22, 2016
clip_image001

MadHacks is an annual weekend hackathon hosted at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI. The organizers decided to move the hackathon from the spring to the fall, which left a gap of nearly 18 months between events. To maintain interest, they decided to host a smaller, 1-day hackathon on April 16. The event was billed as MadHacks Spring Fever.

85 students formed teams and submitted 18 projects.

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MadHacks organizers

I served as a mentor and a judge at this hackathon.

I also delivered a 1-hour presentation on Microsoft Cognitive Services.

clip_image005
Presentation on Microsoft Cognitive Services

4 judges evaluated all the submitted projects and chose the top 3. The quality of the projects made this difficult and we had to ask several of the teams to show their project again in order to make a selection.

clip_image007
The judges

Many of the projects were Microsoft branded, such as Xbox games, Azure books, and Microsoft sleeping bags.

The winning projects were:

  1. UniTravel: A mobile application that mapped a route to a destination and calculated not only the time and distance, but also the estimated cost using various transportation options.
  2. Chemical Reactor: A web app that visualized atomic motion and formed new molecules if atoms collided with a force that exceeded the enthalpy required to bond.
  3. Cellular Automata Plant: A web app that visualizes the growth of plant cells over time in a given environment.

 

clip_image009
The UniTravel team
clip_image011
The Chemical Reactor team

The event was organized by University of Wisconsin Microsoft Student Partner Katie Anderson.

The projects created were particularly impressive, given that they were all created in 12 hours or less.

A much larger hackathon is planned at UW-Madison in the fall semester.

Friday, April 22, 2016 1:46:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, April 20, 2016

clip_image001

The idea for the Global Azure Boot Camp began in 2013. Community developers from all over the world would hold a workshop in different cities on the same day. In fact, I organized and delivered a Boot Camp in the Detroit area that year, before I joined Microsoft.

On Saturday April 18, the 4th annual Global Azure Boot Camp took place in 161 cities around the world. While some cities focused on presentations and others on hands-on labs, all events provided education on Microsoft’s cloud computing platform.

Microsoft Regional Director Eric Boyd and Responsive X organized an event in Addison, IL – just outside of Chicago. Based on feedback, he received from attendees last year, Eric decided to reduce the length of the event to a half day, instead of a full day. The event was free to the public.

Eric kicked off the morning with an overview of Azure.

clip_image002

Next, a representative from Baracuda Networks gave a presentation on Azure security.

I delivered a session on App Services, covering Web Apps, Mobile Apps, Logic Apps, and API Apps.

clip_image004

The only downside to the Saturday event was the number of people who registered and did not attend – over 50%. This was almost certainly due to the fact that the Chicago weather that morning was the nicest it had been in a long time. Still, over 60 people showed up to learn about Azure and cloud computing.

Response from the audience was overwhelmingly positive. Many people stayed after to ask questions about Azure and about BizSpark.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 2:37:01 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, February 24, 2016

semjs-large When I lived in Michigan, I was a regular attendee of the Southeast Michigan JavaScript meetup – a local user group that attracted close to a hundred attendees each month and excellent speakers from all over the country.

One thing I admired about this meetup is their habit of recording meeting presentations. 

Those recordings are now available on Microsoft’s Channel 9 site. You can view dozens of these presentations at https://channel9.msdn.com/Blogs/semjs.

In the past 2 weeks, over 50,000 people have watched these videos on Channel 9.

Below are some of the more popular presentations:

 
 
 
Wednesday, February 24, 2016 9:11:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, February 15, 2016
Monday, February 15, 2016 6:33:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, January 15, 2016

CodeMash2016-03  CodeMash2016-59

For me, CodeMash is like a family reunion.

CodeMash2016-46 Even though the event has grown to 2500 attendees, I still look forward to seeing people that I've got to know at previous CodeMashes - many of them have been coming every year.

CodeMash2016-83Sure, there are over 200 great sessions and I was proud to be asked to deliver one of them ("A Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Apps"); and there are plenty of great workshops and I was pleased to help out at a couple of those presented by my colleagues; and there were sponsors (including Microsoft) happy to share information about their company and talk with potential customers or recruits or just about anyone; and there were numerous activities organized by volunteers, sponsors, and others, including cocktail parties, charity events, a record-breaking Pong game (the Guinness Book folks were there to confirm this), and a game room, and a jam session, and... well, you get the picture.

CodeMash2016-52 But, for me, the conversations with speakers and attendees are what make an event special. And CodeMash is even more special to me because I was attending for the 9th consecutive year. I still kick myself for declining an invitation to the first CodeMash. I learn so much from these conversations and there are so many experts to learn from at this event. I worked as a sponsor at the Microsoft booth for most of the event, so people were coming to me to talk. CodeMash2016-22 Highlights of the week included:

  • A charity event organized by Microsoft in which attendees adapted toys so they could be used by special needs children. Over 100 participants adapted dozens of toys.
  • A conversation with Mark Miller about UX design principles
  • My own session, for which I received some positive feedback.
  • The CodeMash Factory, where numerous people came to learn about and hack on IoT and other topics and build some amazing projects.

CodeMash2016-01 This was the 10th anniversary of CodeMash and it shows no signs of slowing down. It was an excellent way to kick off 2016.

 

More photos

Friday, January 15, 2016 3:03:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, December 12, 2015

A couple years ago, J Tower and his team noticed attendance at the Grand Rapids .NET User dwindling. This trend was in stark contrast to the annual GR DevDay conference that attracted hundreds of attendees each year.

Tower came up with a novel approach - he discarded the idea of a monthly user group meeting and replaced it with a quarterly meeting that more resembled a conference than a user group. Because the quarterly meeting took place on a weekday evening and was patterned after GR DevDay, he dubbed it "GR DevNight."

Each GR DevNight begins with a keynote presentation delivered in front of all attendees. After the keynote, attendees can choose from among 3 different presentations - each lasting about an hour.

Each GR DevNight is assigned a theme and all presentations relate to that theme.

GRDevNightKeynote

At this week's meeting, the theme was Cloud Computing and I was excited to deliver the keynote address. I showed off many of the Open Source and non-Microsoft technologies supported by Microsoft Azure in a presentation titled "Microsoft Azure Without Microsoft."

While driving from Detroit to Grand Rapids, J called me to tell me that a medical emergency forced a late cancellation by one of the speakers that evening. He asked if I could deliver a breakout session in addition to the keynote. I had been working on a presentation about Azure Mobile Apps so I offered to premiere it that evening. GRDevNightBreakout3

It was an excellent event. A hundred attendees packed into a room at Cornerstone University to hear the keynote and they split pretty evenly between the three breakout sessions.

If you run a user group that is struggling to maintain interest month in and month out, a model similar to this might help you to revitalize your group as it did for the the group in Grand Rapids.

photos by J Tower

Saturday, December 12, 2015 6:42:47 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, November 18, 2015

IMG_3589_edited-1 Originally, it was 1DevDayDetroit - a multi -platform developer conference in do wntown Detroit; then came some specialized version of the conference, named "CloudDevDay" and  "MobiDevDay", focused on cloud computing and mobile technologies, respectively. 

IMG_3604_edited-1A couple years ago, the organizers changed the name to "Detroit Dev Day" and that has stuck! The conference takes place at Cobo Hall in the heart of downtown Detroit and attracts hundreds of attendees from the .NET, Java, JavaScript, Open Source, and other communities.

I was invited to deliver the opening keynote, so I spoke about the Technical Community, how it has benefited me personally, and professionally, and how others could benefit from being more engaged in their local community.

IMG_3606_edited-1I also delivered a breakout session titled "Microsoft Azure Without Microsoft" in which I demonstrated many of the open source and competing technologies supported on Microsoft Azure.

IMG_3611_edited-1In addition, Jennifer Marsman delivered a presentation titled "Introduction to Azure Machine Learning: Predict Who Will Survive the Titanic".

I attended sessions on Testing Android Applications, Visual Studio Diagnostic Tools, Developers working with QA Teams, Web Development Workflow, and Azure Machine Learning.

IMG_3608_edited-1

In addition, I had a chance to interact with many folks from the Detroit Development community - a treat for me as I spent many years living and working in this area and I even ran a user group in suburban Detroit for years.

The feedback I heard from attendees was overwhelmingly positive.

Detroit Dev Day was entirely run by volunteers and has continued as a strong presence in Detroit through its various name changes for the past 5 years. Based on this year's success, I expect it to continue well into the future.


Detroit Dev Day keynote

More Photos

Detroit Dev Day Home

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 2:37:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In my role as a Technical Evangelist, I attend and mentor at a lot of hackathons. I did not attend Hack The North in Waterloo, Ontario earlier this fall, but I heard about an incident and it caught my attention.

On the hackathon Facebook page, one student posted "Anyone building a clock for the haack?" Two students replied - one said he was building a bomb that looked like a clock; the other replied "My clock is the bomb."  This exchange was an obvious joke referring to the Texas 14-year-old, Ahmad Mohamed, who was recently arrested and suspended from his high school officials believed his homemade clock looked like a bomb.

HackTheNorth

Major League Hacking (MLH) was an organizer of Hack Up North and they took quick action after one attendee reported feeling "unsafe" due to the posts.

MLH kicked all three students out of the hackathon, sending them home - presumably to a different city.

I believe that some of you reading this believe that MLH took appropriate action and some of you do not. I won't share here my opinion on MLH's actions, but I will say this: It doesn't really matter!

I attend Hackathons as a guest of the organizers and as a representative of my employer. I've established limited agreements with both of these organization that I will abide by their rules.

In this case the rules were set by the hackathon's code of conduct and interpreted by MLH.

Some will look at this as a free speech issue, as if free speech were an absolute right, which it is not. Even setting aside the fact that this hackathon took place in Canada where the US Constitution's First Amendment holds no weight, our rights of free speech are limited by the rights of others and by agreements into which we enter. Also, free speech only protects us from the law - not from social consequences that our words trigger. If you visit my house and say something offensive to me, I'm well within my rights to kick you out of my house.

The lesson here is a simple one: Think before you post something in a public forum. How will it be interpreted? Will others feel threatened by it? How will you be perceived by those who read it?

At a minimum, pausing to consider your next public post may save you from embarrassment. It may even save you an early and unexpected trip home.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 11:32:36 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, October 31, 2015

When I moved to Chicago, I did not know many people in the developer community. But after living here over a year and working here for over 2 years, I've discovered that the metropolitan Chicago area boasts a strong developer community, led by a number of dedicated influencers. I was impressed by the number of meetups, code camps, and other events that are run by volunteers.

On October 19, Microsoft invited influencers from Chicago and its surrounding areas to come to our office for a Chicago Influencers Summit.

The goals of the summit were:

  • Get to know the influencers better;
  • Let them know that I am here to help;
  • Let them know about Microsoft DX and what we can offer
  • Give influencers a chance to get to know one another better

We invited leaders of key user groups from around Chicagoland, as well as influencers who frequently lead community events.

Not all the influencers were from the .NET community, as we invited leaders from Java User groups, the node.js meetup, Ruby developers, and many others who have very little interest in Microsoft technology but who still volunteer their time supporting the local developer community. 18 influencers attended, as well as Microsoft Technical Evangelists Sarah Sexton and me.

We began by giving everyone a chance to introduce themselves, followed by an introduction Microsoft DX and its goals within the community.

We had an excellent discussion about how we can better communicate with one another and debated the value of regular phone calls, threaded discussions with tools like Yammer and Slack; and a community calendar. We decided on creating a Wordpress site with a calendar and a comment section. We also decided to reboot the monthly "Midwest Geeks Call" - a once-popular Skype call that has not been well-attended in recent months. We settled on a more convenient day and time for this call.

An open discussion on issues faced by event organizers yielded some interesting conversation topics, including an exchange of ideas on the importance of diversity among conference speakers and how to increase diversity.

We also discussed the possibility of hosting a community event in early 2016, but did not finalize plans for this before adjourning for the day.

The biggest benefit we gained from this event was an opening of communication channels - not only between Microsoft and the community; but also between supporters of disparate areas of the developer community. I believe this will be a good step in the direction of keeping these communication channels open.

Saturday, October 31, 2015 3:26:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, October 30, 2015

Hurricane Joaquin pounded the east coast much of the week and threatened to cause havoc with thunderstorms in Huntsville, AL, hundreds of miles from the ocean. Chris Gardner, organizer of the first DevSpace conference, crossed his fingers, glanced at the sky and hoped the weather would not deter attendees and speakers.

WP_20151011_10_04_14_Pro
Huntsville, AL

Ultimately, the thunderstorms did strike Huntsville, but only in the evening and they were not enough to disrupt the first DevSpace conference.

In its first year, the DevSpace conference in Huntsville, AL attracted about a hundred attendees.

Although the attendees were mostly from within 200 miles of Huntsville, the speakers came from all over the US, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and California.

Sessions covered a variety of software development technologies, including JavaScript frameworks, Application Lifecycle Management, PowerShell, Azure Machine Learning, Unity game development, and Python.

WP_20151010_16_50_10_Pro

There were a surprising number of presentations on Application Lifecycle Management and quite a few talks on soft skills, such as Finding Leadership Opportunities, Public Speaking, and Improving Listening Skills.

Alan Stevens of Knoxville, TN delivered an excellent keynote in which he talked about the inherent imperfections in production code and how we can continually improve that code base.

I delivered 2 sessions: Own Your Own Career - Advice from a Veteran Consultant; and Microsoft Azure Without Microsoft.

IMG_3304

Huntsville, AL is also home of the University of Alabama - Huntsville and Chris arranged a student workshop for me at the university the day before the conference. I was able to teach students about cloud computing and Azure and get them to activate their Dreamspark Azure accounts and deploy a web app.

DevSpace is one of several smaller conferences that have started or grown recently in response to the cancellation of DevLink in Nashville, TN.

Conference organizer Chris Gardner announced plans for a 2016 edition of DevSpace.

IMG_3309
Chris Gardner

This was my first visit to Alabama and I really enjoyed it. The people were friendly, the area is beautiful, the conference was enjoyable, and Hun4tsville has a quaint, pleasant downtown area. My only regret is that I did not get  a chance to visit the Space Museum. But that gives me a reason to return.

Friday, October 30, 2015 2:21:42 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, September 11, 2015
 #
 

At That Conference last month, Jason and Carl of the MS Dev Show set up a small recording studio in the middle of a hallway and interviewed speakers, organizers, and interesting people. I was fortunate to be included in this list. The show is below and my part is at the end

Friday, September 11, 2015 2:53:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, August 25, 2015

ThatConferenceSign

Now in its fourth year, That Conference is one of the premiere developer community events in the Midwest. Most attendees come from the upper Midwest, but dozens of speakers traveled from all over the country to share their knowledge.

Like many code camps, That Conference features classroom-style presentations, an Open Spaces area for interactive discussions, booths for attendees and sponsors to interact, and food (good food!) in a common dining area.

What sets apart That Conference is its emphasis on family. The conference drew 800 attendees and speakers, but nearly 400 family members accompanied them. It was not uncommon to see strollers pushed down the conference hallways between sessions.

Family attendance did not happen by accident. That Conference is held at the Kalahari resort, which features a huge water park - ideal for family activities. The conference even reserved the water park one evening after the normal closing time for the exclusive use by attendees and their families. Best of all, the conference organized a kids' programming track to teach children about software development and computer science in a fun and engaging way. In fact, many of the sessions in this track were delivered by children - usually the kids of attendees or speakers. DavidAndDavid

I was happy to be a part of That Conference this year - as a sponsor, speaker, and attendee.

As a sponsor, I coordinated Microsoft's presence at the event. Microsoft was the Principal sponsor (the highest level available) and we promoted the theme "Microsoft Is Open" to emphasize Microsoft's support of Open Source Software and non-MS technologies.

As a speaker, I delivered a presentation titled "Microsoft Azure Without Microsoft" in which I talked about how developers using Open Source and other technologies could take advantage of the Azure platform. I organized an open space after my session where I heard how others are using Azure with their own sets of tools. Two people from a nearby open space ended up joining my group.

As an attendee, I sat in on a couple sessions (Wade Wegner's talk on Azure Apps was very interesting), sat in a couple open space discussions, and had numerous conversations with others at the conference. It was great sharing ideas with developers from different technologies and geographies.

DavidAndSeth I was excited to be interviewed by both Seth Juarez of Channel 9 and by Jason Young and Carl Schweitzer for their excellent MS Dev Show podcast. I conducted a few interviews of my own, which will be released over the next few weeks at Technology and Friends.

MaxLynch Of course the content was great and included keynotes from software craftsmanship advocate Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin, Ionic framework creator Max Lynch, and FBI Special Agent Byron Franz, along with breakout sessions on a wide variety of technologies.

I wish I could have attended more presentations at That Conference, but I came away with some new connections, some new ideas, and a lack of sleep. 

Links

That Conference Home Page

My Photos of That Conference

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 4:45:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 22, 2015

Last week, I had a chance to attend, sponsor, and present at the Midwest JS conference in Minneapolis, MN.

I was excited because, I used to do a lot of web development but switched to other technologies a few years ago. During my time away from web development, JavaScript technology has had some amazing advances as many frameworks were created, rose to great popularity and fell out of favor to be replaced by a new framework. I watched from a distance as the web I knew changed from mostly server side code generating HTML to powerful client-side code calling back-end web services and dynamically updating content in the browser. Although my historical experience began with "classic" ASP and continued through ASP.NET Web Forms and MVC, I've spent the past few weeks learning how to build a site with Angular.

This conference featured very little Microsoft technologies and most of the attendees did not development with Microsoft tools. A quick glance around the room revealed more Macs than PCs. I was nervous because I didn't know many attendees and speakers and because I didn't know how they would respond to a Microsoft employee in their midst.

It turns out that I worried for nothing. I met so many people who were interested in hearing about what Microsoft was doing. Our support of open source technologies the past few years really resonated with this crowd and there was a lot of interest in tool like TypeScript.

I created a talk on Microsoft Edge - the new browser that ships with Windows 10 and replaces Internet Explorer. The audience was interested in the speed of this browser (it's a total rewrite of the rendering engine) and with its support of web standards. During Q&A, one attendee expressed frustration that the Edge team had not announced a version for the Mac.

It wasn't long ago that a non-Microsoft conference would have also been an anti-Microsoft conference. But I experienced none of this. Everyone I met kept an open mind about other technologies - including ours. And I learned a great deal from them about the tools and frameworks that they embrace.

I left with a favorable experience of the JavaScript community and a desire to connect with them more. Of course, my education in this area continues as I try to catch up with the advances of the past 4 years, but conferences like Midwest JS help.

Saturday, August 22, 2015 3:48:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Two hours after Codestock ended, I sat at a local restaurant enjoying dinner with Tennessee friends. I was tired and mostly listened to the conversation around the table.

I decided only recently to attend Codestock this year - primarily to help manage Microsoft's sponsorship of the event - but I ended up participating in 4 different presentations.

IMG_2511 Scott Hanselman delivered the keynote address at the beginning of Day 1 and we were allowed to introduce him to the audience and speak for about 15 minutes. Jennifer Marsman and I decided to highlight a golf scoring application created by Knoxville developer Wally McClure. We chose this app because it used many features of Azure and ran on multiple devices, including an iPad. Rather than simply talking about the app, we wrote a short skit in which Jennifer and I bragged about how much we knew about golf and Wally patiently explained how much more complicated golf scoring was than we understood. Performing a skit is a different way of delivering a message like this, but based on the feedback I received afterward, most people seemed to enjoy it. DavidWallyJennifer

On Day 1, I was asked to sit on a "Mobile Strategy Panel" because one of the panelists cancelled at the last minute. Sam Basu of Telerik asked each panelist questions about the state of various mobile platforms and took questions from the audience. The session was recorded by Ed Charbeneau (one of the panelists) for his podcast, so this recording should be publicly available soon.

I also signed up to deliver a 20-minute Lightning Talk titled "Microsoft Azure Without Microsoft" in which I described many of the open source technologies and alternate platforms that are supported on Microsoft Azure.

On day 2, I delivered a presentation: "I Did Not Know Microsoft Did That". This presentation was created and submitted by my colleague Bill Fink, but Bill fell ill and could not make it. The organizers liked Bill's topic and asked if I could deliver it. I used Bill's slides to talk about free programs offered by Microsoft, such as BizSpark, Dreamspark, and Microsoft Virtual Academy. Everyone in the audience I spoke with told me they were unaware of more than 2 of the dozen or so programs I covered and wanted to explore at least one of them more.

IMG_2521 The local Microsoft store was on-site with several tables full of PCs, laptops, tablets, phones, and even a 3D printer. This was an idea I pitched to Codestock last year and it was so well-received that the organizers contacted the store themselves this year.

I had a chance to attend a few sessions as well. Jennifer Marsman gave an excellent demonstration in which she used a device to measure EEG brain patterns and fed data into Azure Machine Learning to determine how the brain reacts when lying versus telling the truth; David Neal gave a very good overview of node.js for .NET developers; and Jeff Fritz showed off the features coming in ASP.NET 5.

WP_20150711_14_50_27_Pro_edited-1 I love attending Codestock because it gives me a chance to connect with people in a different part of the country than I normally interact with. I spoke with people about F# and video production and web development and cloud computing. I even captured a few video interviews, which I've already started sharing online.

Attendance nearly doubled this year over last year with nearly 900 developers making the trek. The organizers moved it to a much larger venue and may grow it even more in the future.

I think you can tell now why I was so tired following the conference. Luckily, I’m home now and I’ve already started to re-energize. For next year.

Photos

Codestlock.org

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 10:25:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, June 19, 2015

At IT Camp in Romania last month, I delivered a session on Azure Mobile Services and I sat on panel titled “Cloud for Business”. The conference recorded each of these sessions and made them available online. You can view them below:

ITCamp 2015 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Services (David Giard) from ITCamp on Vimeo.

 

ITCamp 2015 - Cloud & Azure Open Panel (Andy Cross, David Giard, Radu Vunvulea, Petru Jucovschi, Mihai Tataran) from ITCamp on Vimeo.

You can view all the sessions from IT Camp here.

Friday, June 19, 2015 1:32:52 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, June 4, 2015

DevSum

This was my first time at DevSum and my visit to Sweden. In its tenth year, the conference topped 600 attendees. I was surprised by the number of speakers from America, but this fact was a big help to me because many of the Americans introduced me to other speakers, allowing me to expand my professional and personal network.

Patrik Löwendahl, CTO of Avanade Sweden, kicked off the conference with a thought-provoking talk about the challenges facing the software industry.

IMG_1528 I had a chance to see a few other presentations, including Mike Wood's Azure tools talk (condensed to 50 minutes from its usual 90 minutes); a security presentation by Niall Merrigan, in which he pretended to hack into a bank; and a very entertaining rant by Hadi Hari about "Silver Bullet Syndrome" in which he warned that there  are no easy solutions (such as new frameworks or methodologies )to software problems.

Monday afternoon, I gave a talk on Data Visualization. It's a talk I've given many times before, but I added a few new slides for this presentation and it was very well received. Several people approached me after to tell me they enjoyed it and learned from it.

I also was able to squeeze in an interview with Mark Rendle about the new features of C#.

Stockholm

IMG_1547 I spent a lot of time walking around Stockholm. The day before the conference, a group of conference speakers went to the Vasa Museum, which tells the story of the 17th century Swedish warship inside that sank on its maiden voyage and was recovered 3 centuries later. Tuesday afternoon, Chris Woodruff and I explored Old Town - the oldest part of the city - and took a guided tour of the Nobel Museum.

IMG_1599 Wednesday, Jimmy Bogard and I spent the entire day walking around Stockholm. We toured the museums of the Royal Palace and we visited Skansen - an open air museum, featuring reconstructed buildings from various periods of Swedish history and animals from all around Sweden.

Thursday, I bought a pass for the tourists buses and boats. The bus drove around the city while a recording described each landmark as we passed, telling a bit of the history and culture of the landmark. The boat ride gave a similar tour for the waterways around Stockholm. The city is located on a waterway containing an archipelago of over a hundred islands. These tours gave me a brief overview of the city highlights and also provided respite for the blister that had formed on the bottom of my foot. Following the tours, I went to the Gondolan - a restaurant suspended hundreds of meters above Stockholm that provided spectacular views of the city; then to the Photography Museum, where I saw 4 excellent exhibits. I ended the day, sharing an excellent meal with Ward Bell, Julie Lerman, and Julie’s friend Tricia.

Uppsalla

IMG_1775 Friday I took a train to Uppsalla, a university city north of Stockholm, where Tibi Covaci and his family met me and we explored the local church - a beautiful building from the 15th century and walked around the town. A local priest told us that university students were graduating today and that we could expect to hear cannons firing in their honor.

Final Hours

Friday evening, I went for a long walk north and west of my hotel - a neighborhood I had not yet explored. It was good to explore the city, even though I got lost a couple times.

This was, by far, the farthest north I've travelled in my life. The daylight hours in Stockholm are surprisingly long this time of year. The sun rises at 3:50AM and did not set until 9:40PM. This is part of the reason I did not get as much sleep as I should have.

I will carry this trip with me the rest of my life. I visited with old friends, saw a new part of the world, and met many smart people.

WP_20150527_11_52_15_Panorama_edited-1

 


More photos

DevSum

Thursday, June 4, 2015 2:27:52 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, June 2, 2015

IMG_1422

I spoke last year at IT Camp in Cluj, Romania and my friend Mihai invited me back again this year. The IT Camp organizers treated me so well last year, I felt I must return this year.

Getting from Chicago to Cluj was an adventure lasting almost 20 hours. I left Chicago Tuesday evening at 9PM and arrived in Cluj at 1AM Thursday morning (local time).

My itinerary included a 9-hour layover in Munich, so I decided to leave the airport and visit downtown Munich. Luckily, a train runs directly from the airport to the city. Unluckily, the train  was out of service because the local workers were on strike. Luckily, I shared a taxi with a woman travelling to Munich from Heidelberg and she picked up the fare. Unluckily, the weather in Munich was cold and rainy. I had been to Munich a quarter century earlier and I remembered its pedestrian area filled with shops, cafes, and beer gardens. I had lunch and a beer at the famed Munchen Hofbrauhaus and a coffee at a local cafe. But I grew tired of walking around in the bad weather, so I returned to the airport to await the next leg of my flight.

I finally arrived in Cluj around 1AM the morning of the conference. Conference organizers came to the airport to pick me up (one of the many ways they spoil their speakers).

IT Camp was as good as I remembered from last year. In 2014, I was one of three Americans but this year no one else came from the US to speak. I remembered many from last year and they made me feel welcome.  Speakers came from all over Europe. Much of the conference content focused on Security and on Azure and I was able to learn quite a bit from the other speakers.

IMG_1367 Unlike most conferences, IT Camp opened with multiple keynotes. Organizers Mihai and Tudor kicked things off and quickly introduced the mayor of Cluj, who boasted of the emerging technology industry in his city.  The first keynote was an excellent talk on security by Paula Januszkiewicz, which focused more on human issues than on technology. Peter Leeson returned as a keynoter to talk about Organizational Sociology and Anthropology in Tech Companies. Peter’s talk was also not technical (Peter is a business anaylyst, not a technologist) but was very informative.

My presentation on Azure Mobile Services was well-received, even though one of my demos inexplicably failed. I participated in a Panel to answer audience questions about Azure. This inspired a lively discussion from the audience about some of the challenges of adopting cloud computing.

We stayed at the Hotel Grand Hotel - a 5-star hotel overlooking Cluj; the organizers treated us to excellent dinners every night; and IT Camp has a tradition of taking speakers on a cultural excursion the day after the conference. This year, we all travelled to Corvin Castle for a tour of this castle built in the 15th century.

IMG_1466

The castle was a 3-hour bus ride from our hotel and we all went for a gourmet dinner in downtown Cluj after returning, which meant that I didn't get to sleep until nearly 2AM. This was a problem because I had to wake up at 4AM for an early-morning flight to Stockholm. My band tracks my sleep patterns and it announced (rudely) that I only slept 93 minutes that night. But I made it and napped on the plane and arrived tired at the hotel in Stockholm, ready for my next adventure. You can read about that trip here.

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Links

More photos

IT Camp Site

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 11:44:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, May 16, 2015

A year ago, the Chicago Coder Conference was a popular conference with presentations on Java development. This year, the organizers reached out to the local .NET community to expand the conference to include Microsoft technologies. Local user group leaders and Microsoft Evangelists (including me) found speakers to deliver content on .NET, Azure, and mobile development to complement the Java presentations.

The resulting conference took place Thursday and Friday May 14 and 15 in the Chicago Loop. Over 400 attendees showed up to hear presentations on everything from Cryptography to Exception Handling to software testing. It was impressive to see attendees from the Java and .NET communities exchanging ideas.

Many Java developers stopped by the Microsoft booth to share their impressions of the Redmond-based company - some positive and some negative. Many were appreciative of the fact that Microsoft was sponsoring what had been a Java-only conference and still contained more Java than .NET content.

It was good for me to hear the ideas of Java developers - one presenter passionately lamented the absence of a free tool to test static .NET methods.

And it was good for them to learn about some of the open source and cross-platform technologies available from Microsoft - most were unaware that you could deploy Linux, MySQL, and Oracle to Azure.

The event was a great success and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Next year should be even better.
TimB
Tim Bedrock

EricB
Eric Boyd

 David2
me

Saturday, May 16, 2015 5:38:54 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The first Ignite conference was not what I expected - at least my experience was unexpected.

Ignite is a a new conference that  replaces Tech Ed North America and a few other national technical conferences. In its inaugural year, it was scheduled at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, which was lucky for me because I recently moved to Chicago.

I wanted to attend and I tried everything I could think of to get a ticket to Ignite (short of actually buying one, of course); but I had resigned myself to watching from the sidelines. However, the evening before Ignite began, I received an email asking if I could work the Office 365 booth at Ignite. I accepted and was excited to attend. I spent Sunday night learning all I could about Office 365,

I was overwhelmed by the interest in Office 365. The steady stream of attendees did not trail off until Wednesday afternoon. Serving 5 hours a day on booth duty made it difficult to attend any sessions before Friday morning; but I did get a chance to explore the Expo area, where dozens of companies and organizations showed off their products and services.

The Expo ended Thursday, so I was able to attend a few sessions on Friday. I saw presentations on Windows 10 management, ASP.NET 5, and Automated Testing.

By one measure, I missed much of the conference because I wasn't able to attend any sessions Monday through Thursday. But I spoke with a number of smart people in the Expo Area and exchanged quite a few ideas, which was a big success. And I was forced to ramp up quickly on Office 365 development in order to perform my role as a booth babe. They even let me wear a shirt with the word "Expert" on the back.

Overall, I learned a lot this week, which is the primary reason I attend these concerts. Oh, and also Fall Out Boy. The Fall Out Boy concert Thursday night was pretty good.

INETA
Current and INETA board members at the Ignite Expo

Donovan
Donovan Brown speaking at Ignite.

FallOutBoy
Fall Out Boy in concert at the Ignite conference

Tuesday, May 12, 2015 8:02:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, May 9, 2015

I first became aware of INETA – the International .NET Association - when I was running a .NET user group in the Detroit area. Every once in a while, they would offer us some free books, software, t-shirts, and other prizes to give away to our members.

Later, I was asked to become a Regional Mentor for INETA, which meant that I approved new user groups for membership (mostly just verifying that the group actually existed and held regular meetings) and that I provided advice for user group leaders and new groups in my region. For about a year, I hosted a monthly call with local user group leaders and I corresponded frequently with new leaders, giving them advice on running a group or find speakers. At one time, I covered Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, but I later delegated some of those states to others who wanted to be involved.

In 2012, I joined the INETA Board of Directors, where I served for about 2 years. I was impressed with the dedication of a team that volunteered so much time to help out the developer communities spread across the US and world. It was a great experience.

My point is that INETA has touched my life in significant ways. I was a beneficiary, then a proponent, then an active member of the leadership team. I learned a great deal; I made many friends and contacts; I and my user group benefited from their programs; and I contributed in a small way to the success of the organization. Their speaker program has helped me to travel to a number of user groups and helped me bring to my group speakers who might not be able to travel as far.

Last week, I learned that INETA is coming to an end. President Julie Yack announced on the organization's blog that, after 13 years, they would close down at the end of 2015. With no steady stream of revenue, the group could no longer afford to finance the programs they wanted to. I was saddened to hear this news but I'm happy that INETA was so successful for so long.

I'm grateful to all those who volunteered to make it so successful for so long - particularly those with whom I worked directly. And I'm grateful that INETA helped so many people who went on to volunteer and help others, which magnified their efforts.

And I'm glad I was a part of INETA. It's a badge I wear proudly.

Saturday, May 9, 2015 1:02:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, April 23, 2015

This was the 7th Chicago Code Camp and the first time in years that it took place in the city of Chicago. The multi-platform conference had been held in Grayslake, IL the past few years but returned to the city that bears its name as the Illinois Institute of Technology hosted this weekend's event.

About 350 attendees showed up to see talks covering languages, tools, DevOps, and soft skills.

I delivered 2 presentations: The Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Services and Effective Data Visualization.

I was able to hear MVP Michael Blumenthal talk about Powershell; Matt Stratton describe the Chef tools;  Angela Dugan talk about fear and self-doubt among software developers; and some advice on project recovery from DevMynd CEO JC Grubbs.

The Chicago Code Camp was the first conference I attended in Illinois (back in 2011) and it remains a strong voice in the community. I love the fact that it has returned to the city. The high turnout is an indication of the strong developer community here in Chicago.

At least half a dozen of the conference organizers stopped me during the day to thank me for Microsoft's sponsorship of the event.

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WP_20150418_17_17_12_Pro

Thursday, April 23, 2015 3:34:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, April 6, 2015
# Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The MVP team is now part of DX and we are actively working together to connect with MVPs. One step toward this was the

The event was organized by Esther Lee, Rowena Branch, Fernanda Saraiva, Brian Prince, and others.

Registration was capped at 100 and about 90 MVPs attended for 2 days of technical content, roundtable discussion, and providing feedback.

The content was mostly presented under NDA, but a few of the presentations were:
•    "What's Next for Developers?" presented by NuGet PM Jeff Fritz
•    "Overview of Microsoft's Digital Crime Unit" presented by Tim Pash of the Philadelphia MTC
•    "Working with your Evangelist: Understanding DX priorities" presented by DX Audience TE Nick Landry. I really liked Nick’s analogy of Evangelists as sherpas, helping to guide others to greatness (I hope I’m not violating any NDA by repeating that).
•    I gave an overview of Universal Apps.

Dave Voyles and Shahed Chowdhuri of the DX Audience team also presented, as did NuGet PM Jeff Fritz and CVP Brian Harry.

MVP Open Days have taken place in other parts of the world, but this was the first one in the US. The reception was very positive by the attending MVPs with many expressing a desire to see more events like this in the future.

Another Open Days event seems likely in the future, but the location is currently undecided.

USMVPOpen
MVPs and blue badges at the US MVP Open Days

USMPVOpen-2
A packed room

USMPVOpen-3 
Me and Esther Lee – one of the event organizers

USMPVOpen-4
Hanging out with some of the organizers after the event

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 1:47:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Years ago, Brian Prince became famous for a talk on developer soft skills. This presentation resonated with developers at technology conferences and user groups because so few people were talking about this subject. Michael Eaton - a regular at technical conferences - recognized this lack of speakers addressing this topic and decided to create an entire conference focused on soft skills. This was how the Kalamazoo X conference began in Kalamazoo, MI in 2009.

Many tech leaders from around the region and the country converge on Kalamazoo, MI to lend their knowledge, including Cory House (Kansas City, KS), Alan Stevens (Knoxville, TN), Jim Holmes (Dayton, OH), Jay Harris (Hartland, MI), Cori Drew (Dallas, TX), Jeff Blankenburg (Columbus, OH), and Elizabeth Naramore (Cincinnati, OH).

I’ve been a fan of KalamazooX from the beginning and I’ve spoken at the conference twice. Those who follow me on social media will know that I begin each day by completing the sentence "Today I am grateful for...". That tradition was inspired by a couple of presentations at KalamazooX 2 years ago.

I've attended all but one KalamazooX conference, so I made a point to make it this year, even though my flight from Houston arrived in Chicago the morning of the conference and I had to drive to Kalamazoo. The morning flight meant that I could only attend the afternoon sessions this year; but they did not disappoint.

Elizabeth Naramore and Microsoft's Jeff Blankenburg each spoke about capturing the spirit of a novice, when you are driven by curiosity and unafraid to fail - before expectations make you think that there is something wrong with risking failure.

Dawn Kuczwara in her presentation titled "Give It Up" told managers that it is necessary to relinquish control and allow your subordinates to manage their own work in order for most projects and teams to succeed.

Cori Drew spoke of ways she inspires her daughter to develop a passion for technology in her talk on "Geek Parenting".

Although primarily attended by software professionals, KalamazooX is very different from any other technical conference - it focuses on the parts of our career that is important - but ignored at most conferences. I've heard many people describe how inspired and energized they are by this conference.

I woke up in Houston at 3 AM and flew/cabbed/drove over 1300 of miles to attend. And it was worth it. I'm looking forward to next year.

kalx15-15-L[1]
Kalamazoo X speakers and organizers

kalx15-01-L[1]
A full room listens to Dawn Kuczwara

kalx15-09-L[1]
Elizabeth Naramore presenting “The Beauty of a Beginner’s Mind”

kalx15-06-L[1]
Conference organizer Michael Eaton introduces the next speaker.

View more photos at http://giard.smugmug.com/Tech-Community/KalamazooX-2015/.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 4:15:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Microsoft has scheduled a series of free Web Camps in cities across the country. These 1-day events provide instructions and demos to help attendees learn about web development.

Topics include:

  • ASP.NET
  • Visual Studio tooling
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Web API
  • Single Page Applications
  • SignalR

The events are free and include breakfast and lunch. Microsoft is even giving away a $100 gift card to one random attendee in each city.

Below are the dates and cities that have been scheduled so far. I’ll be handling most of those in the Central Region.

Place Date
Detroit (Southfield) 1/19/2015
Dallas (Irving) 1/22/2015
New York 1/23/2015
Chicago (Downers Grove) 2/3/2015
Pittsburgh 2/10/2015
Denver 2/12/2015
Indianapolis 2/12/2015
Cambridge 2/12/2015
Kansas City (Overland Park) 2/17/2015
Atlanta (Alpharetta) 2/17/2015
Seattle (Bellevue) 2/19/2015
Nashville (Franklin) 2/20/2015
Minneapolis (Edina) 2/25/2015
Miami 3/3/2015
Irvine 3/5/2015
Austin 3/10/2015
Houston 3/12/2015
Los Angeles 3/13/2015
Philadelphia (Malvern) 3/19/2015
Sunnyvale 3/24/2015
Chicago 3/26/2015
St. Louis 3/31/2015
Tampa 3/31/2015
Charlotte 4/2/2015
Seattle (Bellevue) 4/7/2015
Atlanta (Alpharetta) 4/7/2015
Reston 4/10/2015
Columbus 4/14/2015
Cambridge 4/14/2015
San Diego 4/16/2015
New York 4/16/2015
Milwaukee (Waukesha) 4/21/2015
Tempe 4/23/2015

Visit http://aka.ms/msftwebcamps to find more information, including a a link to each city’s event and instructions on registration.

Space is limited so register today!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 2:01:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, January 16, 2015

The Chicago Coder Conference takes place May 14-15 and this year, they are adding a .NET Track.

The call for speakers for this track is open until February 16. Submit your sessions at this link

Friday, January 16, 2015 4:07:34 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, January 11, 2015

CodeMash (http://codemash.org)  is like a family reunion for me. So many old friends come back every year. And I always meet someone new and interesting.

CodeMash is a developer conference that cuts across technologies and communities. It brings together Ruby, Java, .NET, Python, JavaScript, and those who use other technologies; and it draws speakers and attendees from all over the U.S. and a few from Europe. And it's held at an indoor water park in Sandusky, OH in the middle of winter.

I missed the very first CodeMash in 2007 (the one at Josh Holmes and Brian Prince famously had their heads shaved), but I've been to all 8 events since then.

This year, I was a sponsor, a speaker, and an attendee. I delivered 2 presentations: A Hitchhiker's Guide to Azure Mobile Services and Effective Data Visualization; and I helped out with Jennifer Marsman's Cross-Platform game development workshop. In all, over 200 people saw me present at this conference.

I spent a good part of the conference at the Microsoft booth, answering questions and talking with people.  Bill Fink brought a "Photo Booth" that he built using a Kinect sensor, a laptop, and an external monitor and this drew a lot of people to the booth. We also had a device bar and a number of attendees stopped by to check out the Surface Pro 3 and other Windows devices on display. Nathalie Goh-Liverness showed off a game she build using Unity and Occulus Rift virtual reality hardware. Traffic was heavy and I had a chance to answer some questions and talk with a number of attendees.

My team was well represented at CodeMash. Brian Prince is now the primary organizer, taking the reins from Jim Holmes who grew this confeerence to its current state over the years. And six members of my team (Jennifer Marsman, Brian Sherwin, Nathalie Goh-Liverness, Bill Fink, Matt Thompson, and me) delivered presentations.

Other Microsoft presenters included Dustin Campbell, Chris Risner, Jeff Fritz, Alexei Govorine, Kevin Pilch-Bisson, Matthew Podwysocki, Tony Surma, and Josh Holmes.

By the time I left Friday evening, I was exhausted. I had a chance to learn about Azure, Kinect, the next versions of C#, Visual Studio, and ASP.NET and a host of other things.

This was my eighth CodeMash and I fully expect to return next year.

Sunday, January 11, 2015 10:26:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, November 27, 2014

I had always heard good things about the St. Louis Days of .NET http://stldodn.com/2014, but this year was the first chance I had to attend. It did not disappoint. I didn't hear the final count, but the hallways at the Ameristar Casino Conference Center in St. Charles, MO were packed for this event.

A commitment in Houston caused me to miss the half-day workshops held on Thursday; but I arrived in St. Charles late Friday and I had a chance to mingle with many of the speakers after dinner. I liked the fact that the event drew from areas where I had a lot of contacts (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan) but also from parts of the country where I don't travel as often (e.g., Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska). Any chance I have to expand my network of smart people is a good thing.

Most speakers were from all across the Central Region but a few travelled from as far away as Philadelphia and Ottawa.

Microsoft was well-represented at the St. Louis Day of .NET. From DX (the division where I work), Bill Fink, Jennifer Marsman, Donovan Brown, Kevin Remde, Randy Pagels, and I all spoke at the conference. Jeff Fatic and Matt Winkler of Microsoft also delivered presentations.

I attended sessions on JavaScript, Azure, and Design and I learned something in every session. I also had a long conversation about Azure Notification Hubs with Azhar Salahuddin and Charlie Chapman. I have used Notification Hubs indirectly through Azure Mobile Services, but they showed me how they work under the hood and how to work directly with notification hubs

I also spent some time with Angela Dugan of Polaris Solutions picking her brain about how organizations can become more agile and with Charlie Chapman and Gus Emery talking about universal apps.

I learned a lot at the St. Louis Days of .NET and I also got a chance to get to know the communities in the western Midwest a little bit better.

The organizers were already planning to reprise St. Louis Days of .NET in 2015. I recommend you check it out.

Thursday, November 27, 2014 4:18:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, July 7, 2014
Monday, July 7, 2014 5:23:41 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 23, 2014
Monday, June 23, 2014 9:25:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 4: Thursday, May 22

IT Camp, Day 1

Up early to hear the keynote. Peter Keller talked about fear in organizations - what causes fear; how fear can hurt us; how to manage fear; and how fear can motivate us to achieve new things.

Mihai Tataran and Tudor Damian gave a second keynote - this one about security. The highlight was Tudor's demos showing how easy it was to hack a user's password in a typical corporate environment. The main effect of this second keynote was to make the audience afraid for the security of their data, so it's a good thing it was preceded by a talk about fear.

Later that morning, I gave my Data Visualization talk. The room was nearly full and it was very well received. I was fortunate that I could give this talk in English, even though English was not the first language of most of the audience.

In the evening, the conference organizers reserved much of the hotel dining room and treated the speakers to dinner and drinks. This was a great opportunity to get to know the other speakers - most of whom were European and most of whom I had never met.

IMG_0052-L[1] 

Day 5: Friday, May 23

IT Camp, Day 2

I delivered my second presentation - this one on building a Windows 8 game using Construct 2. The audience was great and seemed to enjoy it.

I recorded 2 interviews with Technology and Friends - one with Peter Keller and one with Tudor Damian. Both of these have been published at http://technologyandfriends.com/.

I took more time today to talk with the conference attendees. Unlike most American developer conferences, this one was attended by nearly 40% women. The industry seemed far less dominated by males here than back home, although I did notice only one female speaker.

In the evening, the conference organizers took the speakers to a local restaurant and treated us to another multi-course meal. Again, it was a great opportunity for me to get to know the speakers. Although most of the attendees seemed to be from northern Transylvania, I met speakers from Romania, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Norway, England and the United States.

 IMG_0068-L[1] 

Day 6: Saturday, May 24

Alba Iulia

The conference was over but IT Camp reserves the day after the conference for a cultural outing for all the speakers. This year's outing was to Alba Iulia - a beautiful city south of Cluj. Alba Iulia was the first capital of Romania when it gained independence after World War I.

After the bus ride to Alba Iulia, we stopped for an excellent lunch and set out to walk around the city with a tour guide. Alba was a walled city that was well-fortified against attacks but that was never attacked. The country have spent the last five years restoring the city's historic buildings and monuments and the place is gorgeous. Our tour guide was supposedly telling us about the history of the city, but it was hard to tell as he never spoke above a whisper and there were several dozen of us.

After the bus ride back to the hotel, we were treated to one last dinner. I don’t recall attending a conference that treated speakers as well as IT Camp. From the 5-star hotel accommodations to the food to the conference organization, everything was done well.

After the bus returned to the hotel, the conference treated us to another (excellent) dinner. We hung out in the lobby after dinner talking and I decided I would drive to Budapest in the morning. I had met Adam and Magdolna from Budapest a few days earlier, so I made plans to meet them for dinner.

IMG_0085-L[1]  IMG_0074-L[1] 

This is part 2 of a series describing my 2014 trip to Romania and Hungary.

Photos of Romania

Saturday, June 21, 2014 11:53:30 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, June 8, 2014

Yesterday, I attended the Pittsburgh Tech Fest for the second time. The first time was 4 years ago, when the event was still known as The Pittsburgh Code Camp.

It’s always a pleasure for me to return to Pittsburgh. I worked for a commodity trading advisor in downtown Pittsburgh for a few months during graduate school; I had a chance to visit some college friends who have settled in Pittsburgh; and I had a chance to drive through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. If you have never been through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, I can tell you that the exit from the tunnel into downtown Pittsburgh is an amazing sight. It reminds me of the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens her door to reveal the land of Oz in full Technicolor.

I was originally scheduled to deliver one presentation – Effective Data Visualization. But there was a cancellation, so I was asked to give a second talk on Azure Mobile Services. The room was full for my Data Visualization talk and the audience seemed to enjoy it. This was the first time I gave the Azure Mobile Services talk and it was not as polished as I would like it, but I will give it 3 more times this week, so I have time to work on any shortcomings.

I watched a presentation on Xamarin that highlighted the new features of version 3; and a presentation on Building an API that gave some advice on how to approach a API development. I liked the presenter’s idea of writing client code before you begin writing the API itself.

The event was well-organized and attracted 2-300 attendees, most from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. There was no dominant platform, but it seemed that .NET and JavaScript were more popular than the other platforms discussed.

If you are a software developer near Pittsburgh, I recommend you check out the Pittsburgh Tech Fest next year.

Sunday, June 8, 2014 4:00:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, May 12, 2014
Monday, May 12, 2014 5:31:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dev Days 2014 is a free Microsoft coming soon to a city near you (hopefully).

This event will present some of the content from the Build Conference last month.

Here is the agenda:

Time

Session

8:30-8:45 AM

Welcome and logistics

8:45-9:00 AM

Overview of the day

9:00-10:30 AM

What’s new on Windows Phone and Window 8

10:30-10:45 AM

Break

10:45-12:15 PM

What’s new in Windows Azure

12:30-1:00 PM

Lunch

1:00-2:45 PM

What’s new in Visual Studio and Team Foundation

2:45-3:15 PM

Close and raffle

The first of these events was Friday in Chicago, where over 100 people registered. The upcoming schedule and registration links are below:

Event Date

Location City

14-May-14

Southfield, MI

Register

16-May-14

Austin, TX

Register

19-May-14

Irving, TX

Register

23-May-14

Edina, MN

Register

23-May-14

St. Louis, MO

Register

11-Jun-14

Columbus, OH

Register

Meanwhile, there is still one more Enterprise Developer Boot Camp scheduled in Edina, MN. You can register for this free event at this link.

Sunday, May 11, 2014 9:20:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, February 22, 2014

I didn't know Jim Weirich well. But I knew of him. And I knew the impact he had on others.

Those of us who have been engaged in the community could not help but be aware of Jim.

Jim had a reputation as an excellent Ruby developer; but, more than that, he had a reputation for sharing his knowledge with others. At conferences, he would explain Ruby concepts to experienced and novice developers alike and taking the time to make sure you understood it. I first met Jim when I attended his "Ruby Koans" session at CodeMash 5 years ago. Most people worked the Koans in either the morning or the afternoon session, but I was a slow learner and I stayed for the entire day, trying to figure them out. Jim was patient and answered all my newbie questions.

Jim also had a reputation for being friendly to everyone he met. Some people called him "Ruby Santa Claus" - partly because of his large size and his thick white beard, but also because of his quick smile and friendly outlook. I last saw Jim on the final day of CodeMash this past January. Walking past the Neo booth, I shouted "Hi, Jim." He smiled and asked how I was doing. It was a brief interaction, but I'm glad I have this as my final memory of the man who touched so many lives with his smile and his teachings.

We lost Jim earlier this week. He collapsed at work Tuesday evening and died shortly afterward.

To Jim's family and to those  closest to him - especially Joe, Leon, and Doug - I send my prayers and my condolences. To the rest of you, I send this challenge: No matter how well you knew Jim Weirich, take his life as an inspiration to share knowledge and joy with those around you.

IMG_1674-M[1]
Jim Weirich at CodeMash 2009

Saturday, February 22, 2014 2:44:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, February 2, 2014

TechReady is an internal conference for Microsoft field employees. As far as I can tell, field employees are those who do not work for a product team in Redmond, which is still a lot of people.

Well, I am now a Microsoft employee and my group (Developer Platform Evangelism, aka DPE) does not build products, so I was able to attend TechReady for the first time this week.

What an experience! I attend a lot of conferences and my habit at these conferences is to only attend a few sessions, electing instead to find smart people in the hallways or speaker room or lunch room and pick their brains to learn as much as I can about real world software experiences. This conference was different - in part because I didn't know a lot of attendees and in part because so much of the content was not available anywhere else.  I attended as many sessions as I could and even watched recordings of a few sessions on the flight home.

Before attending, I promised I would not share the content of any sessions (much of it focused on features that may or may not be in a future product release); so I'll share my impressions and experiences here.

First, this conference was a great opportunity to meet others inside Microsoft. A number of evangelists from the west region attended and I got to know them. One night, my team had dinner with Sanket Akerkar, the Vice President in charge of US DPE. I was impressed with his openness and the frank exchange about the future of evangelism within Microsoft.

At most meals, I sat with strangers and got to know people from all over the world in many different roles at Microsoft. Microsoft is a very diverse company with all kinds of people doing all kinds of things and this week really underscored that fact to me. I also had a chance to meet up with some old friends, such as Josh Holmes, Kevin Pilch-Bisson, Dani Diaz, Chet Kloss, Mark Grimes, Jeff Wilcox, and Ted Neward. Ted doesn't work for Microsoft but he invited me to dinner with his family when he heard I was in town. I had a long conversation with consultant David Chappell, a Microsoft consulting partner who has written extensively on the impact of the cloud on businesses. Part of that conversation was recorded and I'll share it in a few weeks.

I heard a lot of talk about technologies that I want to explore later - in particular Project Siena and Unity.

I listened to many people smarter than me discussing product feature decisions. I was impressed by how much of Microsoft product features are driven by customer requests. A frequent exchange I heard was: "Why did you decide to implement Feature A and not Feature B?" "Because many of our customers have requested Feature A and we hear very little demand for Feature B, so we deferred B for a later release." Microsoft is sometimes perceived as a walled tower that unilaterally pushes products on customers but this week showed me emphatically that is not the case.

Overall TechReady gave me a greater appreciation for my new company. The conference is bi-annual, so I hope to get back to it shortly.

Sunday, February 2, 2014 1:34:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, January 20, 2014
Monday, January 20, 2014 10:22:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 23, 2013
Monday, December 23, 2013 5:24:42 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 2, 2013
This post is for the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (MIGANG). Download and rate each of the Windows 8 apps listed below to help MIGANG win fabulous prizes, including an Xbox One!

Application

HyperLink

Baby Needs for Girls

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/99AE246C-7953-467F-9EC2-F84C4FE2A3E4

The URUS fan app

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/5CB5C553-F174-4875-B001-A039D0F940A2

Bo Burnham Fan Club

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/69F035C4-8EE3-4596-BDEA-0DE1908CBFFC

Nerdist Fan Club

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/CA0359EC-4844-4E9A-B6F3-816BE95F551A

Basketball Pop

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/59586E27-8AD4-45E9-946D-512BB03B90AA

Celebrity Memory Match

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/23D50658-04A3-41AF-825C-C466EE795075

Halloween Match

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/0026370E-5628-4094-A93A-6D3BFDB14310

Switching Stick Figures

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/EB4C81AD-4905-4A5C-A7F7-E48C8249951B

BrooklynOMG

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/33A1B2D2-E429-4486-9021-234EB95F50FE

Barnyard Bash

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/A703C74D-0475-467B-8D1D-24A157CEF750

Jump Squirrel, Jump!

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/E913581C-4BCD-48C6-8202-47AFEFD51EF3

Protect the Dragons 2

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/DA3B4877-E3D4-4D4C-9C0E-AFED29697A78

Spring Sting

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/696FD0A6-B6D5-4D42-A541-3F4249472418

Sunny Summer

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/F692C1A6-000A-43CF-987A-453BF289A3DF

Whimsical Winter

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/B2646AF8-7E9C-40DC-A2E1-A24A2096C17A

Shape Sifter

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/130E44CE-9746-480F-9FC7-C949CDC4F213

BCBSWNY for Windows 8

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/57C7310D-51C5-40D4-8CEE-CB608CCF53BB

Tennis Elbow HD FREE

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/675DC1DB-1CB5-4372-B89B-DA067E545807

Fly or Die

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/812ACD4F-7B5F-48DC-81E3-26513F99584E

Picture Memory

http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/84C141C4-8E9A-4208-B786-E375616CDB3E

Monday, December 2, 2013 12:51:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, December 1, 2013

This post is for the Chicago .NET User Group. Download and rate each of the Windows 8 apps listed below to help CNUG win fabulous prizes, including an Xbox One!

Courier and Press http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/F7926F57-F5E4-4B80-9DE4-83AE596C1A1D
Kitsap Sun http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/F973832F-4D16-4F66-BF06-CFFE5CC60A66
Naples Daily News http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/21CA1C4E-B0E7-40F9-BE51-347133A5C7A0
Record Searchlight http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/97F30C2B-DE68-4904-BCE8-0D3E442F3F6A
San Angelo Standard-Times http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/1F9917D4-1146-4624-AAD2-6E583C17B63C
TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/2536D67B-23ED-4C98-B7C2-EF8289CB0FDE
Times Record News http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/E5ADDF04-2D96-405D-97BC-D793F1F8F6E3
Ventura County Star http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/EF075C20-BB6B-46D6-A810-07FEA0B18646
Dutch Spell Check http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/944C633B-EED1-4D25-AF08-410B92ECCBA4
Teacher Pay (CA) http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/12AF4C07-3007-45DB-8E7E-277C869EBD87
Miami Weather http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/D6656C13-DB73-4B3D-94E3-1EFC5C14036D
New York Weather and Image http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/A018275D-5BC5-4600-ACEA-0B9D4D59AF6F
A Rainy June and Other Stories Ebook http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/49CE8EAA-8D60-43CB-B032-A2E3D01E9A52
Bingo Call Simulator http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/F3D59EEE-4EE0-46F0-B008-7D84AA666267
Coins Flip Simulator http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/7D6E4ECB-A679-4C81-9D4D-CBA43BED2BB7
Custom RPG Battles http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/DDAE76B4-4F33-4E70-B82D-DC5F30015780
Dead Pixels Search http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/087FE823-9DD3-4A71-8CF8-D33AD6CE5058
Fact About Cat http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/9B7B7F6E-364C-4D2A-92D8-9616F37FB2A3
Headphone Directional Test http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/D20B8504-35AE-4CDC-8036-AA6FFDD610AA
Jumbled Image - Fire Emblem http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/5B75E954-F72A-4091-BECD-9E6EBB225150
Jumbled Image - F-Zero http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/96441A68-E765-4384-91D0-043208203E32
Tarpan http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/8B7F3DA6-7E95-47EA-BB83-FA5034138F6A
Complete and Absolute total Cost Calculator http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/B0EB3EAA-04BE-4CA1-B2C8-88F254C1722E
La Gran Sabana http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/7727A62F-18B8-4C4E-AE0D-D30F242AD950
Garry Goat Eats a Can http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/0F690D6D-FD9F-4783-ABF9-A9C6EEBBC5A6
Sunday, December 1, 2013 8:58:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Saturday December 14, the Detroit Mobile .NET Users’ Group will host a Windows 8 Hackathon. Bring your laptop and build an application. Jennifer Marsman and I will be on hand to get people started with Windows 8 development, show some tools to quickly create an app, and help people along. Other experienced developers will also be attending and should be able to answer questions.

Developers at all skill levels should get something out of this event and should have the opportunity to create an app and submit it to the app store.

This event takes place December 14 starting from 9AM to 5:30PM at the Southfield, MI Microsoft office (1000 Town Center, Suite 1930).

You can find details and register at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/devunleashed-se-michigan-windows-8-hackathon-tickets-9449308135.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 8:23:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, October 21, 2013

I wanted to speak at Southwest Fox because I had heard good things about conference and because FoxPro was the first computer language I was paid to program in. I have fond memories of both the technology and of the community surrounding this language.

Spending time with FoxPro developers 15 years ago gave me my first taste of a passionate developer community. People who developed in FoxPro believed in its power and often expressed frustration that it didn't have the commercial success of other products. I remember hearing the audience boo loudly when a photo of Visual Basic 6 displayed on-screen at a FoxPro Developers Conference in the late 1990s.

So, here I was - back to my roots - hanging around people who make their living writing Visual FoxPro – a language that finally released its last version a couple years ago.

You would think a community like this would be ready to move onto something new, but that wasn't what I found. There are thousands of applications successfully built with FoxPro and still going strong in Production. And in many cases, the businesses have no compelling reason to migrate these applications to a newer language. I learned there are even some good reasons to stay put, such as the low hardware requirements. As a result, many people have found a good business maintaining and enhancing these applications.

Attendees flocked to Southwest Fox in Phoenix, AZ from all over the world. I met people from New Zealand, Germany, Holland, and Nigeria. They came because this is one of the few events where you can learn about FoxPro in person and meet other Fox developers.

This year marked the tenth consecutive year of the conference and about a dozen people had attended all ten conferences.

It was my first time attending.

I delivered almost 7 hours of content at Southwest Fox - 3-hour session on HTML5; 2 75-minute sessions on jQuery; and a 75-minute presentation on maintaining legacy code. Even though my sessions had nothing to do with FoxPro, many people went out of their way to tell me they learned a lot from them.

Several people told me that Southwest Fox is their favorite conference - an event that attendees look forward to all year. Partly, this is true because so few conferences have a focus on FoxPro; but the most common reason was that people had the chance to see friends they only see once a year.

"It's about the people", said speaker Jody Meyer.

The event felt as much like a family reunion as a developer’s conference.

I am grateful I was invited as part of this family event.

Monday, October 21, 2013 3:57:10 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, October 6, 2013

This week was my second visit to DevConnections and first as a speaker. Two years ago, the event was much larger and more spread out across the Mandalay Bay Conference Center in Las Vegas. I enjoyed the conference back then and I enjoyed the conference this year, as well. The content was intriguing, the speaker pool was excellent, the venue was first-rate, and the atmosphere was great.

Because I was a speaker and because I was presenting 2 brand new presentations, I spent the first day in the speaker room preparing my talks. This strategy seemed to work as several people came up to me after my session and during the conference to tell me they enjoyed my sessions.

After my preparation was done, I was able to attend some sessions on Creating Windows 8 Games, Windows Azure, TypeScript, and Do’s and Don'ts of Software Development.

The conference attracted a diverse group of speakers from all over the world and attendees from all over the US. At lunch one day, I met the guy who wrote the online ordering application I use to order my lunch. In the speaker room, I met people from Israel, Italy, and all across the US.

You can download my slides and demos below:
Connecting the Dots: Using Web API, jQuery, and HTML5 Together http://sdrv.ms/1e15q3P
Maintaining Legacy Code http://sdrv.ms/1e15sZu


My notes from attending sessions are below.

Cloud Computing

Mark Minasi
Mark Russinovich

Microsoft moved from
Plan/Develop/Test/Ship
to "DevOps"

System Center Virtual Machine Manager
Windows Azure Fabric Controller

Issues of scaling

Commodity hardware in Azure data center

Redundancy
(e.g., Azure fabric controller runs on multiple servers)

Efficient data centers
2 people watching servers
2 people taking calls

Price breaks buying hardware in huge volume

Customers with global customers need cloud provider with data centers around the world
Latency

3rd Phase of Computing
1. Birth of mainframe
2. Client-server
3. Cloud computing

What happens in China?

Cloud is changing jobs - not eliminating them
Managing virtual machines/ monitoring system vs managing hardware

Building Games for Windows 8 – Using GameMaker
Daniel Egan

Step-by-step using GameMaker

Build vector graphics with Inkscape http://inkscape.org/

Keep graphics quality consistent.

Do's and Don't's of Software Projects
Dino Esposito

Big Ball of Mud (BBM)=Spaghetti Code
Not big in the beginning. Grows over time
No single developer can create BBM.

Communication is key
Misalignment btn requirements & features

When individual changes occur frequently, the system changes over time and may require a change in architecture.

Software is not like engineering: More dynamic.

Clean Code

Cohesion: Keep together logically-related methods and classes

Layers

Don't be afraid of refactoring

Tools can help

Sunday, October 6, 2013 2:00:09 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, September 30, 2013
This past Saturday, I experienced my first bar camp - The Bar Camp Tampa Bay. For those who don't know, a bar camp is a technical conference run by the attendees. Unlike a code camp, sessions are not selected in advance; instead, any attendees can sign up to deliver a presentation during an open slot. Technically, I attended this same event last year. However, last year, the Bar Camp was combined with the Tampa Code Camp and I delivered five presentations, which prevented me from visiting the Bar Camp side of the event. This year, I experienced Bar Camp head on. I signed up to deliver a presentation titled "Connecting the Dots: Using HTML5, jQuery, and Web API Together". It went really well. The room was packed and, after every seat was filled, people sat on the floor in the aisles. The only downside was that I ran out of time, but a number of people came out in the hallway with questions. It was a good experience because I'm delivering the same (but longer) presentation at DevConnections this week. I attended a few sessions: students showing off robotics, how to write a successful blog, and lessons from the Game of Thrones (Winter/death is coming to us all eventually and we should be ready). Although most of the attendees were technologies, I noticed that most of the sessions were not about technology - many were about startups and social media and marketing and soft skills. Still, people were engaged and I didn't hear a single complaint about a disappointing session. I also had a chance to meet a number of new people. Most attendees were not Microsoft developers, but we still found common ground and I came away impressed by the Tampa area developer community.
Monday, September 30, 2013 1:36:48 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 19, 2013
Monday, August 19, 2013 11:41:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, July 13, 2013

Earlier this month, I was honored to be renewed as a Microsoft MVP. This is the third year in a row I have received this award.

Although Microsoft is not specific about criteria, I believe that I receive this award primarily because I've been willing to share whatever knowledge I have with those around me. This community involvement, helps Microsoft to evangelize their products and it happens to be something I enjoy doing.

For me, there are two main benefits of the Microsoft MVP Award.
1. It is recognition that I'm doing some good in the world and that my skills don't suck. I won't pretend that peer recognition is not important to me. I get warm and fuzzy when I earn the respect of someone I respect and this is some pretty nice validation.
2. I get to attend the Microsoft Global MVP Summit. I go to a lot of conferences and each has its strength, but the MVP Summit attracts a high concentration of really smart people. Attendees get to see the next version of Microsoft products and even provide feedback to affect the direction of the development of these projects. But for me, the best part of the conference is the chance to talk face-to-face with authors, speakers, bloggers, and product team members. Many times, I've had the chance to meet someone

The MVP program does provide other benefits - most notably free software, both from Microsoft and from its many partners. But, for the most part, I could receive this through my work or my user group anyway.

As with most awards, many others helped me to earn this one. The volunteers at the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG); the speakers who traveled to Detroit for GANG; the conference organizers and user group leaders who invited me to speak at their events; and INETA, Sogeti, and Telerik, who helped by financially supporting my travels, making it possible for me to speak far from home; and everyone who agreed to appear on my TV show.

Recently, a well-respected member of the Developer Community started a debate on Twitter, questioning the value of receiving an MVP award. I cannot speak for him, but the advantages I listed above are enough incentive for me to fill out a brief form every spring.

The best part of this deal is that I'm rewarded for doing what I love and what I would be doing anyway.

MVP2013Trophy[1]

Saturday, July 13, 2013 7:34:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 8, 2013
Monday, July 8, 2013 7:54:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, June 15, 2013

Last week, I was doubly fortunate. First, because I had the opportunity to attend my second Tech Ed. Although I attend a lot of conferences, the large, commercial conferences tend to be out of my price range. But more importantly, I was fortunate to be invited to speak at Tech Ed this year. This was by far the largest in-person event at which I have ever spoken and it was a great experience!

I arrived in New Orleans Saturday night and had dinner with Richard Campbell and Tibi Covaci - two of the smartest people I know.

Saturday morning, I woke up early and took a bus with a bunch of volunteers to a New Orleans neighborhood still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina 8 years ago. Tech Ed partnered with several local charities to invite a busload of attendees to help build houses in this neighborhood. You can read more about the event here.

A morning pounding nails left me exhausted but a hot bath later I was ready to attend the INETA Meet and Greet - a chance for those in the developer community to connect with one another. It was also a great chance for me to catch up with others on the INETA Board of Directors, an amazing group of people who put a lot of effort into making the developer community better.

My presentation was scheduled for Monday afternoon, so I spent most of the morning preparing for it. The topic was "Effective Data Visualization" - a talk I have given many times in the past. I was nervous but the presentation went well and the 70 minutes flew by. Over 200 people attended the session and several people approached me afterward to tell me how much they enjoyed the talk and what they learned. Microsoft Evangelist Brady Gaster was kind enough to sit in my session and provide some valuable feedback on my presentation skills. You can watch a recording of my presentation here.

At Tech Ed last year in New Orleans, I won "Speaker Idol" - a competition among those who have never presented at Tech Ed before. Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell of .NET Rocks fame host the contest in which each contestant must deliver a 5-minute presentation, followed by critiquing by a panel of 4 judges. A heat takes place each day during lunch and the finals are held on the last day of Tech Ed. As last year's Speaker Idol champion, I was asked to be a judge this year. The quality of the competition was amazing this year and I was excited to see Jeff Fritz - whom I met at last year's Speaker Idol - finish as runner-up this year. The champion was Jessica Devita, who gave an excellent presentation on Office 365 Migrations. I had a blast judging this event and I'm grateful I was asked to do so.

One advantage this conference has is the number of people on the Microsoft product teams who attend and make themselves available. One section of the trade show floor is designated "Ask the Experts" where Microsoft employees and industry experts make themselves available to answer questions of attendees. I took advantage of this opportunity, getting answers to my question about how to configure startup options for Lync (the menu is hidden until you click the 'Gear' icon); and my question about how to configure DNS to point to my Azure Web Site without prefacing the URL with "www" (I need to add the URL to the "MANAGE DOMAINS" list in the Azure portal).

On Wednesday, I volunteered to work one of the Ask the Experts area and I answered a number of questions about Visual Studio.

Tech Ed features over 700 sessions, which can be a bit overwhelming. I managed to catch a few of these - some in person and some via recordings. My notes are at the end of this article. I'll likely be watching some more videos during the coming weeks. They are available at http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2013#fbid=-b30gJBZH1s

Even without Tech Ed, a few days in New Orleans is a pleasant experience. The hotel (Loews) was great; I explored the French Quarter in the evenings; Thanks to Becky Isserman, I experienced my first Beignet (at Cafe du Monde); I attended a number of parties thrown by sponsors; I had dinner with many old and new friends, including Mihai Tataran, Mark Minasi, Brent Stineman, Dustin Campbell, Chris Woodruff, and too many others to list here; I ate too much excellent spicy food; and I walked so much that my feet ached by the time I left.

The only downside was that I had to leave a day early to attend my son's high school graduation, so I missed the closing party at the Louisiana Super Dome that featured a concert by Tina Turner.

All in all, Tech Ed was an amazing experience and I hope to be invited to speak again next year.

Photos of Tech Ed

IMG_4682-M[1] IMG_4671-M[1]


Session Notes

KEYNOTE

by Brad Anderson
video

Key Changes to Azure
    BizTalk in cloud
    Billing prorated by the minute
    Web sites now support SSL

Brownfield Development: Taming Legacy Code with Better Unit Testing and Microsoft Fakes

by Peter Provost and Joshua Weber
http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/NorthAmerica/2013/DEV-B331#fbid=i3RgnF-27j2

Legacy Code=Any code without tests
    Risk of change outweighs value of new features
Start writing tests
    Pick something you know; then another thing you know
What test
    Code you will change
    Code that affects what you change
    Test to understand code

Do not test
    Irrelevant edge cases
    Unrelated working code

Recommended:
    Working Effectively with Legacy Code by Michael Feathers
Large methods are painful
    Do too much
    Need to understand it all to make a change
    Solution
        Refactor into smaller methods
        Single Responsibilty
    Use SENSOR variables
        private Object SENSOR;
        this.SENSOR = somevariable;
    Shim/Seam:
        Change what a method does
        Requires a scope with using()

Visual Studio Tips and Tricks

by Dustin Campbell and Scott Cate
video

Solution Explorer
    Expand class: View members
Right-click  class or method: Scope to: Used By
Filter pending changes

Common metaphor
    Back arrow

CTRL - Last cursor position
CTRL SHIFT - Reverse direction

View | Code Definition
    Always shows definition in a window without navigating away

CTRL ,
    Navigate To
    Global Search

CTRL SHIFT V
    cycles through items on clipboard ring

SHIFT ALT F11
    Prompt which nested function to step into

Building Modern, HTML5-Based Business Apps on Windows Azure with Microsoft Visual Studio LightSwitch

by Beth Massi
video

Rapid Application Development for data-based apps
Handles CRUD for you

Single Page app
"Responsive Design": Layout changes as screen size changes
1. Start
2. Describe your data
3. Create screens for common tasks

Customize screens
Define custom queries

Design or Die: The Challenge to the Microsoft Developer Ecosystem

by Billy Hollis
video

Software landscape is changing
    Customers expect apps to work on different devices

Layering information in a single panel is now possible

You don't have to be as good as professional designers; You have to be better than you are now
Need basic understanding of composition and a process

Data Grids tend not to be good for touch
    If we expand size of cells to touch, less data on screen

OK to have incomplete metaphors; Mind fills in the details

Gutenberg Principle
    In left-to-right reading cultures, people tend to scan rectangular surfaces from top-left to bottom-right.
    Fitt's Law
        Big buttons are easier to find and use
        Hollis: If buttons are too large, insulting to user (Fisher-Price principle)
    Hick's Law
        Too many options confuse / slow down users

People like wide open spaces

Screen real estate is no longer as valuable as it once was. Easy to swap screens.

Recommended books
    Universal Principles of Design
    Designing with the Mind in Mind

Keys for Design Process
    Create multiple design. Compete for best one.
    Collaborate
    Iterate
    Starts with paper (tools constrain your brain to what you know how to make the tool do)

    Observe users in the field

Present multiple prototypes
    Focuses users on differences between options, rather than nitpicking limitations of a design

TypeScript: Scaling Up JavaScript

Jonathan Turner
video

JavaScript Designed to
Client
Server
work on any OS
(so does Typescript output)

JavaScript code works in TypeScript

Compatibility: Can call into 3rd party javascript libraries from Typescript

Type system
Statically typed
  Better Intellisense
  Type-checking only at design-time (removed at compile-time)

http://www.typescriptlang.org/
"Play" link: Write Typescript: See compiled JavaScript

Saturday, June 15, 2013 6:25:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Tuesday, April 30, 2013 7:10:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, March 18, 2013
# Thursday, March 7, 2013

Last week, I attended my third Microsoft Global MVP Summit. The Summit is a conference held in the Seattle area open to Microsoft MVPs.

I signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement that prevents me from talking about most of the conference content; but I can tell you about my experience and my impressions.

By far, the best part of the MVP Summit is the chance to meet so many smart people. Many of them I know by reputation before I meet them. Every year I joke that I plan to be the dumbest guy in every room at this conference. And every year, the joke is very close to reality. There are some amazing people here - those with deep knowledge of a technology; those who have built amazing products or open-source projects; those who have written books and blogs that I've read; those who produce podcasts that I listen to regularly; and those who have a story to tell about how they use technology to solve real problems. I love meeting and talking with all these people.

The sessions are good, but, other than REDACTEDREDACTEDREDACTED, I didn't hear about a whole lot of new stuff.

There are some regular events in the evening and I took advantage of those. A party at Ted Neward's house attracted a who's who of technologists and the annual Party With Palermo (hosted by Jeff Palermo of Austin, TX) always attracts a great crowd. I attended a reception for first-time MVPs, even those this was my third summit, because:

  1. It was hosted by INETA and I am on the Board of Directors
  2. It was organized by my friend Joe Guadagno, who did an amazing job
  3. INETA presented a Lifetime Achievement award to Russ Fustino at the event and I wanted to be present to congratulate Russ.

The day after the Global MVP Summit was the ASP.NET Insiders Summit organized by Scott Hanselman. I was excited to attend this conference because I was invited to join the Insiders only a few weeks ago. (I think I was the newest member at the time of the Summit). These sessions were really informative. We got a look at new and proposed language, framework, and IDE features. We also had a chance to provide feedback to the product team; and to see several open-source web frameworks. Another NDA prevents me from revealing too many details of what I saw there, but I really learned a lot from this extra day. I plan to attend the ASP.NET Summit again next year.

Two days before the MVP Summit, a group of attendees and a few other volunteers traveled to the Northwest Harvest Food Bank in Seattle to help pack fruit for needy families in the area. This was a great opportunity to meet people, have fun, and do some good.

The week was exhausting but well worth the trip. If Microsoft will have me, expect to see me at the 2014 Global MVP Summit. And I still expect to be the dumbest guy in each room.

Thursday, March 7, 2013 1:08:02 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, February 12, 2013

sogetilarge[1]

A lot of exciting things are happening at Sogeti in Michigan. We hired a new leadership team about a year ago; we recently realigned our region with the offices in Columbus and Cleveland; and we moved our Detroit office from Farmington Hills to Southfield on January 1.

To celebrate our move to a much nicer home,  Sogeti is hosting an open house tomorrow, February 13 at 6PM.

The event begins with plenty of past and other Italian food from Buca di Beppo, which is why we’ve titled this event “Sogeti and Meatballs with a Side of Technology”. Three Sogeti consultants will be giving technical presentation during the evening: Sogeti Mobility Lead Samidip Basu will talk about Windows 8; Sogeti Managed Testing Practice Manager Matthew Eakin will present The "New" Tester: How Agile is changing the Testing Skillset; and I will deliver an introduction on Cloud Computing and Windows Azure.

The purpose of the event is to introduce or re-introduce Sogeti to the Detroit technical community; however, it’s also a great opportunity for you to learn something and to network with your peers.

The event is free, but we ask that you register at http://sogeti.eventbrite.com so that we can get an accurate count for the food. The address is:

26957 Northwestern Highway
Suite 130
Southfield, MI

I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 2:15:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, January 19, 2013

CodeMash 2013 is in the books. A record 1500 people attended this conference and many (including me) left with their brains and bellies full.

This community event has swelled to 1500 attendees - almost the size of many commercial conferences that charge many times the $280 price tag. It also attracts many of the same speakers as these larger and more expensive events.

As a result, you get to hear great presentations from top technical people; and a chance to interact with these speakers, asking technical questions of industry experts and finding out how they are applying technology on their projects.

Attendees had their choice of about 200 presentations on a wide range of topics. Presentations covered development platforms, such as .NET, Java, Ruby, JavaScript, and Scala; as well as development concepts such as Testing, Agile methodologies, Application Lifecycle Management, and User Experience.

CodeMash also included an area for open spaces. In these sessions, the attendees picked a topic and discussed it as a group, rather than listening to a lecturer. I found these to be better suited to my learning style because I could ask specific questions of the most knowledgeable people and draw on the experiences of more than one person in the session.

In addition, CodeMash offered a few things I did not take advantage of:

  • Coding Dojos allowed users to get hands-on experience practicing their coding skills by solving defined algorithms.
  • KidzMash was a mini-conference aimed at teaching software to children. (The waterpark makes this an ideal conference to bring your family to)
  • At the Thursday evening Jam Session, musicians could bring their instrument and play together.
  • Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell recorded an episode of their popular .NET Rocks podcast in front of a live audience.
  • Customer obligations kept me from much of the "Pre-Compiler" sessions. These are half-day sessions that either dive in-depth to a topic or provide attendees a chance to try out a set of technologies and skills as they learn them. In particular, I would have like to attend the speaker workshop, because I'm hoping to organize something similar in Michigan.

Here are a few things I learned at CodeMash

  • I learned a new technique for redirecting old links when migrating a web site. This is important for Search Engine Optimization.
  • I learned the difference between JavaScript and CoffeeScript.
  • I learned the strengths and weaknesses of Backbone.js and Knockout.js. (Backbone is better at interacting with server data; Knockout is better at automatically updating visual elements in response to model changes)
  • I saw examples of how to build robotics using Arduino and Netduino microcontrollers.
  • I learned the advantages of using KendoUI controls and learned the basics of adding them to a web site.

CodeMash takes place at the Kalahari Conference Center in Sandusky, OH - a venue most famous for housing "America's Largest Indoor Waterpark". Conference activities always keep me occupied during the hours that the water park is open; fortunately, the CodeMash organizers negotiated one evening when the park re-opened for a few hours for the conference attendees.

This was my 6th consecutive year attending CodeMash (of the 7 total). For the second consecutive year, I was honored to be selected to speak at CodeMash. My presentation was titled "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love jQuery" and focused on how jQuery made client-side JavaScript coding much easier.

Photos

Saturday, January 19, 2013 8:12:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Tuesday, January 8, 2013 4:51:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 24, 2012

A few months ago, David McKinnon told me he planned to organize a conference at Cobo Hall. I was skeptical. At this larger venue, he could attract a much larger audience than to the previous 1DevDay, MobiDevDay, and CloudDevDay conferences he had organized, but the cost was higher. A lot higher.

Still, Dave decided to take a chance and he signed a contract with Cobo.

Months later, over 500 people showed up to see presentations on various software development technologies, platforms, and languages. The common theme was software development.

On Saturday, November 17, the lines began to form at Cobo Hall. The registration line was so long that we had to delay Ted Neward's opening keynote presentation by 30 minutes. After that small glitch, the conference went very smoothly. Dozens of technical presentations were available to the attendees, open spaces, plus panel discussions, plus a gourmet lunch. The event finished with an excellent keynote by Chad Fowler and an after-party.

I had the privilege of serving as Master of Ceremonies for this event and I could not have enjoyed this more.  Throughout the day, people kept coming up to me and telling me how much they enjoyed the conference.

After a few days rest, we may consider a 2013 1DevDayDetroit.

Saturday, November 24, 2012 3:40:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 12, 2012
# Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I'd like your feedback on a conference I am considering helping to organize.

This idea was originally suggested by Matt Ruma, but I like it and I would like to help him execute it.

The conference would feature speakers delivering 10-15 minute "Lightning Talks" on a technical topic. Following each talk, a designated panel of experienced speakers would provide 5 minutes of feedback to the speaker about his presentation. The feedback would cover the topic, the demos, the speaking style, the slides, anything that contributed to the quality of the presentation. After 2 speakers, we would all take a short break to stretch.

Using this format, we could have 12-15 Lightning Talks in a single-track, all-day conference.

There are two primary goals of this conference.

  1. Audience members could learn from hearing a series of Lightning Talks, possibly getting a brief exposure to some new technologies.
  2. Speakers (particularly inexperienced speakers) would receive valuable experience speaking in front of an audience and valuable feedback on their presentation. One advantage of this format is that delivering a 15-minute presentation is far less intimidating than delivering a 60- or 75-minute presentation.

Part of the inspiration for this conference comes from the excellent Kalamazoo X conference, organized each year by Michael Eaton. However, the speaker feedback and the emphasis on technology rather than soft skills would distinguish this conference from Kalamazoo X.

I'd like to hear your opinions on this. Is it something you would be likely to attend? What ideas could make the conference more successful? Please add your comments below or post them on Twitter with the hashtag #SpeakerConf. You can find me there at @DavidGiard.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 3:29:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, November 4, 2012

If you are running a user group or organizing a technical conference, one challenge you will face is finding good speakers.

The problem is compounded by the fact that most such organizations run on a limited budget. Many speakers are willing to freely donate their time because they enjoy presenting, they want to help out, and it increases their reputation. However, it’s not reasonable to assume these speakers will also be able to donate their own money to travel to your group.

Some areas don’t have a large pool of good speakers on which to draw. Even if you are fortunate enough to live in such an area, I still think it enhances local events to bring in some speakers from other areas.

Bringing in a speaker from another area costs money. Someone has to pay for transportation and lodging. Either the speaker will decide to donate his money as well as his time or your group will find the funding to make this travel possible. Fortunately, you have a few options.

INETA: For years, INETA has helped bring speakers to other parts of the country. Recently INETA changed their speaker programming, focusing more on helping speakers who travel within their own region. Currently, there are hundreds of speakers registered with INETA. This expanded the number of speakers, but decreased the maximum amount paid to each speaker. You can request an INETA speaker at http://ineta.org/Speakers/SearchCommunitySpeakers.aspx. I am a registered as a speaker with this program and I know many others also registered and I can tell that it does help to offset at least some travel costs.

Local Sponsors: Because user group audiences are a great target market for recruiters and hiring managers, you can often find companies willing to pay a speaker’s travel expenses in exchange for some free publicity and a few minutes in front of your group. Find out what companies are hiring or recruiting and make a few phone calls.

Evangelists: The job title “Evangelist” is a relative new one in the software world. However, many companies employ individuals as full-time Evangelists. Their job is to spread the word about the company and its technology – often by delivering technical presentations at user groups and conferences. Part of their performance review includes something called “reach”, meaning the number of people who read, see or hear their message. By inviting them to your group, you are increasing their reach. If your audience is in their target market, it probably won’t cost you anything. My experience is that most Evangelists are not focused on delivering a sales presentation; however, it’s worthwhile to verify the topic with the speaker ahead of time.

Speaker Programs: Many companies sponsor a select group of speakers who travel to user groups and conferences. While these speakers are not employees of the company, they do get some of their travel costs offset by the company in exchange for some publicity during the talk. This allows the company to reach a larger audience than they could using only their Evangelists. It also allows many speakers to travel to more events than they could afford on their own. I am a member of such a program - the Telerik Insiders - and it has been very beneficial to me and to Telerik. You can see a list of all Telerik Insiders at http://www.telerik.com/community/insiders.aspx. Several other vendors have similar programs.

These are some resources to find speakers and some ideas for finding funding for speaker travel costs. Don’t let geographic barriers prevent you from bringing the best speakers to your next event.

Sunday, November 4, 2012 12:11:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 3, 2012

If you are running a user group or organizing a technical conference, one challenge you will face is finding good speakers.

I recommend starting by looking in your own area for good speakers.

My geographic area (southeast Michigan and environs) is blessed with many good speakers and we often exploit this at local user groups and conferences. Get out and find these speakers. Learn who is speaking at user groups and conferences in your area and contact those people. Better yet, attend those events so you can hear and meet these presenters. Establish a personal relationship with them, so they will be more likely to donate their time to your event.

You can also use your event to help cultivate inexperienced speakers. Multi-track conferences and short Lightning Talks at a user group are great ways for new speakers to gain experience in front of a live audience. At the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group, we host up to two Lightning Talks per monthly meeting. A Lightning Talk is a 10-minute presentation on any topic and is a great way to practice one’s presentation skills in a low-risk environment. Often a member will start by giving a Lightning Talk and will go on to speak at local and regional conferences.

It’s tempting to bring in big-name speakers from other parts of the country, but don’t ignore your backyard. You are likely to find some excellent speakers in a convenient location.

Saturday, November 3, 2012 8:33:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our noses were pressed against the inside of the 19th floor window when the giant RV drove by. I called Richard to tell him we saw them and he asked where they could park their 37-foot vehicle. “Ask the valet to park it,” I joked. Within seconds, I heard Richard asking a terrified valet if he would park his car.

A few minutes later, Richard Campbell, Carl Franklin, and their driver found a few concurrent spots to park the RV and arrived at the 19th floor for a special meeting of the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG) and a special live recording of the Tablet Show. The event was part of the 2012 DotNetRocks Road Trip that spans 39 cities and nearly 3 months. At this stop, Richard delivered a presentation on DevOps; Carl a presentation on Building Windows 8 applications; and Jeff Wilcox of the Microsoft Azure team gave a brief presentation about his life and work. Afterward, Carl and Richard interviewed Jeff about his Fourth and Main application, built for Windows Phone 7. You can listen to that interview here.

The trip was initiated by Carl and Richard, who are the famous hosts of a number of popular podcasts, including The Tablet Show, DotNETRocks, and RunAs Radio. When I heard the trip would include a stop in Michigan, I immediately contacted the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group volunteers and a great many people worked hard to make the October 9 stop in Southfield a great success.

We billed it as a second October GANG meeting with President Kent Fehribach hosting, New World Systems chipped in some extra sponsorship money and we ordered a barbecue dinner from Lockhart’s of Royal Oak. About 120 people packed the room and nearly all stayed for the entire 4 hours. Many went to the pub after the show to continue the conversation.

Somehow, I ended up getting the credit for the local event, but that simply isn’t fair – many people contributed to the night’s success and I’m proud to have been one of them.

I’m hoping this isn’t the last tour Richard and Carl organize and I’m hoping it’s not the last time they visit Michigan. We have a lot more valets waiting to be terrified.

 


Links

Photos

Dot Net Rocks Road Trip

The Tablet Show

Interview with Jeff Wilcox

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 3:03:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, October 22, 2012
Monday, October 22, 2012 3:50:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, October 21, 2012

For many, the Tampa Code Camp was an experience to learn about others; for me, it was a challenge and an adventure.

I submitted five talks because I wanted to allow the organizers to pick what they wanted and in case someone else submitted some of the same topics I did. Little did I know that they would ask me to deliver all 5! There were only 6 time slots and I was scheduled for 5 of them! To be fair, I could have e-mailed the organizers and asked them to cancel some of my talks, but I saw the thrown gauntlet and I accepted the challenge.

Because I was speaking almost the entire time, I didn't get to experience much of the Code Camp directly. However, I can say that the audiences in my sessions seemed really energized and there was a lot of enthusiasm at the after-party.

The Tampa Code Camp was held in conjunction with the Tampa Bar Camp. About 1000 attendees turned out in total. I don't know the numbers for Code Camp versus Bar Camp, but it didn't much matter as the sessions all took place in the same 2 buildings. I was told that the Bar Camp tends to include more open source presentations, while the Code Camp was focused more on Microsoft technologies. I love this kind of mix because it gives attendees a chance to learn about things about topics outside their comfort zone and to meet people working in other disciplines.

I did record an interview with Kevin Wolf, who had built a remote-controlled helicopter using a variety of hardware and software. This will be available on Technology and Friends in a few weeks.

I was able to attend this year’s Tampa Code Camp, thanks to the support of Telerik.

All in all, the Tampa Code Camp was a great success for the organizers, for the attendees and for me personally. I will definitely consider this conference again next year.


Photos
Sunday, October 21, 2012 4:39:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, September 13, 2012
Date Event Location Topic  
Sep 15 Code Camp NYC New York, NY Effective Data Visualization Link
Sep 22 SQL Saturday Kalamazoo, MI Effective Data Visualization Link
Sep 25 Software GR Grand Rapids, MI Effective Data Visualization Link
Oct 13 Tampa Code Camp Tampa, FL TBD Link
Nov 7 Ann Arbor Computer Society Ann Arbor, MI How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love jQuery Link
Feb 21 Greater Lansing .NET User Group Okemos, MI Persistence In The Cloud:
How to User Azure Storage
Link
Thursday, September 13, 2012 3:00:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I have been listening to DotNETRocks almost since the show's inception and I am an unapologetic fan. I'm not the only one: The show is the oldest and most popular podcast target at .NET developers.

So I was thrilled to learn that hosts Richard Campbell and Carl Franklin planned a cross-country Road Trip and that this trip would include a stop in the Detroit area. Upon hearing about the Road Trip, I immediately reached out to Carl and Richard to ask how I could help. It has been a few weeks since the initial announcement and plans are now taking shape.

Richard and Carl will be in Michigan on Tuesday October 9. The Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG) will hold a special meeting to host the event. Jeff Wilcox, creator of the Fourth and Mayor Windows Phone 7 app will be their guest.

This event will include the following:

  • A presentation by Jeff Wilcox
  • A barbeque dinner from Lockhart's barbeque in Royal Oak, MI (courtesy of a generous donation from New World Systems)
    A live recording of Carl and Richard interviewing Jeff for an upcoming episode of DotNetRocks. The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions of Jeff
  • A technical presentation by Carl Franklin
  • A technical presentation by Richard Campbell

This is a lot to pack into one night, but if you are a regular GANG attendee, you know that we regularly pack a great deal into each meeting.

Richard Campbell traveled to GANG in 2011 and that meeting was one of our most successful ever!

This evening is made possible by the vision of Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell and by the hard work of the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group volunteers.

Because of the limited seating, the popularity of the event, and the need to buy the right amount of food, you will need to register in advance for this free event. Do so at http://dotnetrocks.eventbrite.com/.

You can learn more about the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group at http://migang.org.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 3:24:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Here is Randy Pagels's presentation on What's New in Visual Studio 2012at the August 2012 Great Lakes Area .NET User Group meeting.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 6:14:01 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, August 23, 2012

The organizers of That Conference knew a good thing when they saw it. For years, CodeMash has set the standard for community technical events. And when community leaders from Illinois and Wisconsin saw the success of CodeMash and experienced how well it was run, they resolved to create something similar.

The similarities are immediately apparent - a large polyglot developer conference, run by volunteers, taking place at an indoor waterpark. They even chose another location (Wisconsin Dells, WI) of the Kalahari water park. They added a bacon bar - an idea that I first saw implemented at CodeMash earlier this year and upped the ante by roasting a pig for dinner one night.

But it's not enough just to draw inspiration from success, have a good concept, and borrow a few ideas. To be successful, you still need to execute well. And the organizers of That Conference executed their plan very well.

They attracted an impressive list of speakers covering a wide variety of topics. Not only did this make the presentations great, but it also made the lunchtime and hallway conversations great. I saw some excellent presentations by Steve Bodnar, Jimmy Bogard, and Scott Hanselman, among others. My favourite was Bogard's session, which described how to write code that is easier to functional test.

My presentation on Azure Storage went really well. The audience was great. They asked good questions and were genuinely interested in this technology. I even overheard a couple people talking about my presentation in the lunch line. And thanks to Bob Laskey, I now have a new photo (below) that I can use on my conference profile pages. As you can see, I was very excited about my presentation.

Photo by Bob Laskey

But talking one-on-one with experts in the industry is where I get the most value from these conferences and I gained a lot of value from conversations at this conference (or is it “that conference”?). Many of the talks were so interesting, that I asked permission to record them, so you will soon see Chris Powers, Keith Casey, Ian Felton, Scott Hanselman, Samid Basu, Clark Sell, Jeff Nuckolls, Jay Harris, Michael Collier, and Ted Neward on Technology and Friends. Topics ranged from Windows Azure to telephony to home automation to the relationships between developers and managers.

That Conference included a few extra events, including a hackathon, a code retreat, a game night, open spaces, and a night in which the water park stayed open until 1AM, allowing the attendees a chance to play.

The only downside was the cost to attend, which was higher than most community events. The ticket cost was very reasonable ($350 for 3 days), but hotel rooms were almost $200 a night, the flight to Wisconsin was expensive, and the closest major airport is over an hour from Kalahari, meaning one still needed ground transportation. I was fortunate to receive sponsorship from Telerik (a sponsor of That Conference)and others received a training budget from their employers, but not everyone is so fortunate. Still, it is much cheaper than the large for-profit technical conferences.

600 attendees is an impressive turnout for a first-year conference. But the Kalahari can hold many more, so I expect this conference will grow next year. Especially if word gets out what a great job the organizers did.


That Conference home

Photos

Thursday, August 23, 2012 1:23:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Here is Mike Wood's presentation on Continuum (of the Windows Azure Variety) at the July 2012 Great Lakes Area .NET User Group meeting.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 1:36:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, July 28, 2012

I have volunteered for many community-run conferences and I have organized two: GANG10 and Detroit Day of Azure. One of the challenges of a conference is getting people to attend. It's not enough to have great content. You have to spread the word about the event and you have to inspire people to register and to attend. If your target audience doesn't know about you event, they will not attend it.

Here are a few things my team and I have done to promote conferences.

Create a web site as soon as possible and keep it updated. This will save you time. When people ask for event details, you can point them to the web site. A Facebook or LinkedIn page is fine, but not sufficient because these sites are for members only and your audience will need to log before they can read all the information.

Create a Twitter account and post to it regularly. Have that Twitter account follow all your speakers and volunteers and ask that they follow it back. The new Twitter account won't have many followers at first, but you want followers who are willing to re-tweet what you post. Prior to the event, I would post to the Twitter account every day; then re-tweet from my own account (which had more followers). Because the promotional messages are coming from the event Twitter account, it feels less like spam to my followers than if it were coming from my personal account. Consider using a service like FutureTweets or an application like TweetDeck to schedule tweets in advance. This makes it easier to space out your tweets throughout the day. Be creative in your tweets: announce the speakers; announce some of the other perks, such as door prizes and lunch menu; talk about the venue; thank the sponsors. If you repeat the same message over and over, people tend to tune it out.

Make a list of people you think might be interested in the event and contact them. If it's a couple dozen, send a personal e-mail to each one or call each one; If it's several hundred, send out an e-mail blast. Services like Constant Contact can help with this.

Who are the influencers in the area that the conference covers? Offer them a free ticket to the event. Call them and let them know you'd really like them to be there. They will spread the word and reach more people than you could on your own. If they are talking about the event, that is great advertising.

Think of popular bloggers who would be interested in this event and tell them about it. Even if they can't make it, they may blog about it, increasing exposure.

E-mail your co-workers to let them know about the event. Ask them to spread the word among their colleagues, customers, and friends.

Print flyers. Hang them up in your workplace and in your customer's workplace and anywhere that your target audience congregates. Many companies have a bulletin board in the lunch room or break room just for things things like this. Ask others to do the same. Make sure the flyer has all the relevant information, such as date, time, and the web site URL.

Register the event at http://CommunityMegaphone.com.

Get others involved. Recruit volunteers. Not only will it help defer your workload, but those who are involved will feel ownership and will be more likely to spread the word enthusiastically.

Contact user group leaders. Ask them to promote the event at their meeting. Ask if they will send out an e-mail promoting the event. Some groups have a monthly newsletter and will be happy to add to this. If possible, attend user group meetings and promote the event yourself. Ask the leader if you can have 2 minutes to talk about it.

Send an e-mail to speaknet@googlegroups.com. You will need to join this group first.

Create an event on Facebook and LinkedIn. As mentioned earlier, this is no substitute for a web site, but you may reach an audience that you otherwise might miss.

Contact the chair of the CS department of local universities and ask them to promote to their students. Consider offering a discount or free admission to students.

Contact podcasters and ask if you can be a guest on their show to talk about the event. I appeared on Community Megaphone a few weeks before GANG10 and this helped spread excitement about that event.

For Microsoft events, contact your local Developer Evangelist. They have their own channels for communicating with the local technical community.

I have done almost all of these things in order to drive interest in the event. The two key points are: let as many people know about the event as you can; and get people excited about the event.

Planning an event is a lot of work and a lot of fun. But the payoff is more satisfying if you have a good turnout.

Saturday, July 28, 2012 7:44:54 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, July 20, 2012

Here is a video of the Azure Q&A Experts Panel at the 2012 Detroit Day of Azure.

Friday, July 20, 2012 3:00:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, July 19, 2012

Here is a video of Dennis Burton's Single Page, Real Time Web Apps Using Node.js And Windows Azure presentation at the 2012 Detroit Day of Azure.

Thursday, July 19, 2012 3:00:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of presenting at the aspconf online conference. I delivered 2 presentations: HTML5 is the Future of the Web; and Using Windows Azure Storage.

As promised, my slides and demos are available by clicking the links below.

   
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 3:43:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Here is a video of Jason Follas's Using Geospatial Data With SQL Azure presentation at the 2012 Detroit Day of Azure.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 3:00:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, July 15, 2012

Here is a video of Michael Collier's Windows Phone 7 And Windows Azure – A Match Made In The Cloud presentation at the 2012 Detroit Day of Azure.

Sunday, July 15, 2012 3:21:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, July 14, 2012

Here is a video of Mark Stanislav's Cloud Disaster Recovery presentation at the 2012 Detroit Day of Azure.

Saturday, July 14, 2012 3:20:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, July 13, 2012

Here is a video of Brian Prince's Architectural Patterns For The Cloud presentation at the 2012 Detroit Day of Azure.

Friday, July 13, 2012 3:17:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Here is Gael Fraiteur's presentation on An Introduction to Aspect-Oriented Programming with PostSharp at the June 2012 Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 11:00:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Two years ago, I was recognized as a Microsoft MVP for the first time. This past Sunday morning, I received my third MVP award. Since the award lasts for exactly one year, I wake up every July 1 with a sense of hope and dread.

I often joke that I receive the award because of a glitch in the selection software, but the official word from Dora Chan, my MVP Lead is that the award is given for "technical expertise, community leadership, and voluntary community contributions"

I find it difficult to apply that definition to my community efforts, so I always think of it as people with knowledge of Microsoft technologies who take the time and effort to share that knowledge with others. In other words, it's not necessarily the smartest people or those with the deepest knowledge who win the award; rather it’s those with a solid understanding who are spreading this understanding throughout the development community. This definition works well for me because, although there are many people with deeper knowledge of the software than me, I have experience with a wide range of development tools on the Microsoft stack. More important, I always enjoy sharing that knowledge with others - whether it's through user groups, conferences, blog posts, articles, books, or general interactions with developers.

For me, the best pats of the award are public acknowledgement from people I respect; and a chance to go to the MVP Summit in February. The MVP Summit is a treat for me because I often find myself in a room filled with people smarter than me.

I'm grateful to Microsoft for this award and I'm grateful for Telerik, who provides some financial support, without which I could not afford to travel to as many conferences. I'm also grateful to Sogeti, for allowing me to occasionally take time away from my day-to-day responsibilities.

It is a blessing to receive recognition for something that I would be doing anyway.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 3:50:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, June 19, 2012

If you are in or near Michigan or northwest Ohio this week, you have a rare opportunity to learn from the creator of one of the most popular Aspect-Oriented-Programming (AOP) frameworks on the market. PostSharp inventor Gael Fraiteur will conduct a user group tour this week, primarily talking about AOP, using PostSharp for his examples. During the day, Gael will be stopping at area companies to educate them. AOP provides a way of adding functionality across a variety of classes and methods without cluttering said methods with a lot of extra code.

Originally from Belgium, Gael now resides in the Czech Republic, so it’s not often we get to hear him in-person.

Gael’s evening schedule is:

Date Group Location Link
Tue June 19 Northwest Ohio .NET User Group Toledo, OH http://nwnug.com/ 
Wed Jun 20 Great Lakes Area .NET User Group Southfield, MI http://migang.org
Thu Jun 21 Greater Lansing .NET User Group Okemos, MI http://glugnet.org/

I hope you can make it one of these nights.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 3:29:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, June 16, 2012

I attended my first Tech Ed conference in Orlando this week. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work for INETA at the conference. In exchange, INETA covered my admission and expenses which would have been prohibitively expensive if I had to pay them myself.

My INETA work involved the following:

  • Working at the Community Leadership Summit the day before Tech Ed
  • Staffing a booth on the Expo floor
  • Volunteering at Birds-of-A-Feather sessions
  • Meetings throughout the week to talk about board business
  • Preparing a sponsor prospectus for the INETA Champs program

This was a small price to pay and I enjoyed most of these tasks. I got to meet some of the other board members in person for the first time and I had a chance to spread the word about user groups to a broad audience.

I gave a presentation at the Community Leadership Summit on attracting volunteers to a user group.

Two of my Birds-of-a-Feather topics were accepted at this conference, so I served as a moderator for these. The topics were "Getting Involved in my Local Developer Community: How is it a Win-Win? " and "Is Windows Azure a Contender for my Next Application?" Attendance wasn't particularly high at these sessions (possibly due to the 530PM and 830AM time slots) but the attendees participated in an active exchange. One exciting aspect of these sessions is that they were streamed live online and INETA volunteers monitored a Twitter hashtag to accept comments and questions from beyond Tech Ed.

Attending Tech Ed gave me the opportunity to spend some time with some members of the Visual Studio team and ask them some questions about the testing tools in VS Ultimate. I've been struggling with some aspects of this for my current project and I now have a better understanding of the capabilities and limitations of these tools.

I was invited to a Q&A with Microsoft VP Jason Zander in which we heard about some directions Microsoft is taking in the future. Unfortunately, I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can say nothing about this event except that I'm very excited about this future.

I competed in the Speaker Idol contest, hosted by Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell. Because I won, I now have an invitation to speak at next year's competition.

Of course, I also recorded 5 interviews that I plan to publish on Technology and Friends over the next few weeks.

The busy schedule above left some time to attend sessions. My favourite sessions were Web Sites on Windows Azure
and Building HTTP Services with ASP.NET Web API. I saw some exciting new technologies in these sessions that I can use in my work soon.

Of course, there were many hallway conversations and a chance to meet technologists from all over the world, which is always an opportunity to learn.

My notes on the sessions are below:

Web Sites on Windows Azure

Presenter: Bill Staples

10 free web sites

Supports Classic ASP, .NET 2.0,

Usage info on dashboard

App Gallery: Create blog in WordPress on Azure

WebMatrix 2 (in beta)

Install & download WordPress site

Publish automatically syncs with Azure (no configuration needed)

Publish via

  • FTP
  • Web Deploy
  • Git
  • TFS

Essential Tips for the Windows Azure Startup

Presenter: Michele Leroux Bustamante

  • Avoid web.config for
    • Settings that vary between staging, production
    • Use Web.config transformations
  • Caching
    • Co-located caching (% on each VM)
    • Shared caching (on one VM)
    • Same API
  • Queuing
    • Service bus queues
      • unlimited lifetime
      • 5GB max storage
      • Duplicate detection
      • Guarantee order
    • Storage queues
      • 7 day expiration
      • 100TB max storage
  • Diagnostics
    • Trace.TraceWarning
    • Listeners in webrole<trace><listeners>
  • Monitor from Outside
    • Monitoring Service
  • noSQL Kool-Aid

If the learning curve for noSQL is great, only use it for "obvious" data (e.g., profile, location data).

  • Enable Social Logins. Simplify signup
  • Don't ask users for too much info
  • Estimate costs
    • Calculate projected costs and revenue based on expected usage in advance
    • What is break-even point?

Beyond Master-Detail: Interaction and Navigation Patterns for Modern User Experience

Presenter: Billy Hollis

List

Hicks Law: Too many choices slow down user

Add 'FIND' capability

Launchpad

Make important buttons bigger

Combinations

Different patterns at different parts of the app

Wizard

Lots of new users

Complex but rarely use

Spreadsheet

Flexible Sort

Allow drag/drop columns

Context switchers

Toolbars & Ribbons

Usually action-oriented

Ribbon designed for en-users (not devs)

Most users don't like toolbars

Galery

Visual array of items

Multi-select

Dashboard

Visualization & navigation

Queue

Next item on top. No naviagation.

Don't use confirmation'

Underused.

Can increase productivity dramatically

Configurator

See changes as you select them

Timeline

Vertical or horizontal layout

Metaphor

Interface resembles something familiar in the real world

May be cute the first time, but gets old over time

Map

Items laid out in real world

Use lat-long

May use geocoding to get lat-long from address.

Viewport

Semantic zoom: Change view as you zoom in & out

For multiple levels of detail

Book recommendation: Mobile Design Pattern Gallery by Theresa Neil

Building HTTP Services with ASP.NET Web API

Presenter: Daniel Roth

VS 2012

MVC app

Scaffolding to create CRUD methods around entity

GetById

If not found, throw httpException (not found/404)

Post

Create new entity

Return HttpResponse

Url pointing to new entity page

ASP.NET Roadmap: One ASP.NET – Web Forms, MVC, Web API, and more

Presenter: Scott Hunter

In release mode, all js files are combined and minified

Put validation on model. Enforced in client script.

Migrations

  1. Inherit from DbMigration
  2. Up() method
  1. Update columns in db

HTML 5 emitted

e.g., <input type="datetime" … />

Page.cshtml

Page.mobile.cshtml <-- Displayed when Page is requested on mobile devices

Signal R

  1. Inherit from Hub
  2. Send() method
    1. Clients.addMessage

Real-time communication with server

Design for Non-Designers

Presenter: Jennifer Smith

Good design makes a product useful, usable

Dieter Rams:

Good design

  1. is innovative
  2. Makes a product useful
  3. Is aesthetic
  4. Makes a product understnadable
  5. Is unobtrusive

Putting things in boxes is not good design

Keep UI focused

Before starting

My ___ app will be the best at _________

Talk through app using low-fidelity prototype

Recommended design tools

Illustrator

SketchFlow (Expression Blend)

Use rule of thirds (Divide into thirds, horizontally and vertically)

Golden Region

Viewers look at apps, pages, pictures, etc via Fibonacci (spiral in)

"Dead center is dead wrong"

White space is OK.

Fonts

Use sans serif fonts

Counter size = space inside 'e' or 'p'. Larger is better

Saturday, June 16, 2012 5:42:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, June 7, 2012

Next week, I will attend my first Tech Ed conference. I don't really know what to expect. Although I attend a lot of conferences, the great majority are small to medium community-run conferences. Larger conferences like this are usually out of my price range. Fortunately, I'll be doing some work for INETA at Tech Ed, so they will pick up my ticket.

I have scheduled a few things.
I will be delivering two Birds-of-a-Feather sessions: Getting Involved in my Local Developer Community: How is it a Win-Win? on Tuesday evening and Is Windows Azure a Contender for my Next Application? on Wednesday morning.
I will be working at the INETA booth, answering questions about how our organization helps user groups.
I signed up to compete in Speaker Idol, a contest in which each contestant delivers a 5-minute technical presentation. Winners of each heat advance to the final round and the grand prize winner is invited to speak at Tech Ed 2013.

I will also be working and presenting at the Community Leadership Summit the day before Tech Ed.

Looking through the web site, I see that Tech Ed offers a great many technical presentations and workshops. I hope to attend some of these. But, more importantly, I hope to have a chance to talk with a lot of smart people and add to my toolbox.

Thursday, June 7, 2012 3:50:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, June 3, 2012

If you are planning to attend Tech Ed North America or if you will be in the Orlando, FL area June 10, I recommend you check out the INETA Community Leadership Summit.

This free event will bring together leaders in the developer community to exchange ideas with one another. INETA is hosting the event at the Orlando City Hall on Sunday June 10 from noon to 5PM.

As part of the Summit, I will moderate a discussion titled "Getting Others Involved: Building a Leadership Team, Recruiting Volunteers & Growing Your Membership". This is based on my experience helping to grow the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group over the last couple years. Expect lots of interactions and a chance to listen and to share ideas. Other moderated discussion sessions will include “How to start a user group” and “Working with sponsors”.

In addition, this is a great chance to meet the INETA Board of Directors and other influencers in the development community.

The Summit is free and there is even an after-party hosted by Grape City, but you must register in advance at http://inetals2012.eventbrite.com/.

You can find more information at http://ineta.org/summit2012/.

Sunday, June 3, 2012 4:06:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, April 28, 2012

Here is the video of Glenn Block’s presentation at the November 2011 Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG) meeting. Glenn described his 2 latest projects: Web API and node.js.

Community | Video | Web
Saturday, April 28, 2012 3:59:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Episode 208

Joe Guadagno on INETA

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 7:10:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, April 22, 2012

This year, Michael Eaton and his colleagues hosted the 4th annual Kalamazoo X conference. I have attended all 4 years and I have to say this was the best one. For those who haven’t yet heard of Kalamazoo X, it is a conference targeted at software developers, but the topics focus on the softer skills (i.e., the non-technical skills) required in your career. Each presentation is only 30 minutes long, which keeps things moving very rapidly. A single track provides a shared experience for all attendees. Every presentation was excellent and the room was packed. Speakers would often reference a presentation from earlier in the day.

Below are my notes from the sessions I attended.

Joe O'Brien
People Patterns
Packed a lot of great ideas
Never seen a project fail for technical reasons.
Corollary: Never seen a project SUCCEED for technical reasons.
Deliver bad news quickly

Laura Bergells
The People You Like the Least are the People You Need the Most
Teams require different personality types
Idea people (Putting the "Fun" in "DYSFUNCTIONAL") and rational people (Putting the "No" in "INNOVATION")

Suzan Bond
Intuition: Your Very Own Super Power
Learn to understand intuition and trust yourself.
Takes guts
OK to find ways to back up intuition.

Leon Gersing
Going Gonzo – an exploration of cultures in software development
Allow yourself to separate from the dominant culture and its associated dogma.
Drew inspiration from Hunter Thompson, Frank Zappa, and Georges Seurat.
"Most people doing Agile today are actually doing Waterfall with Agile terms. Agile is dead."
More important to be right than to be wise. Understand the problems you are solving.

Tim Wingfield
Your Career is Yours
Watch Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk
Ask Why? Does my customer really need this feature?
Coding Katas: Practice how to code.
Need to build trust. Be honest.
Work/Life balance: You need to enjoy your career; not endure your career.

Justin Searls
The Mythical Team-Month
If you are going to fail, fail quickly.
We are conditioned to avoid failure
Finding great developers:
Most traits are non-technical
Look for one who can succeed without you.

Sunday, April 22, 2012 3:25:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Saturday, I spoke at the Orlando Code Camp at Seminole State College, just east of Orlando, FL. This was the seventh year of the Code Camp but my first time attending.

The first session I attended was Memory Management Fundamentals – Garbage Collection Deep Dive by Scott Dorman.
Scott explained the way memory management works under the hood.
Key points: 
The garbage collector takes care of cleaning up objects when they are no longer needed.
It's generally not advisable to implement a finalizer.
If your machine has plenty of memory, garbage collection might not occur until the user exits the app.
Larger objects are cued up for cleanup.
Here is a list of resources
http://geekswithblogs.net/sdorman/archive/2008/09/14/.net-memory-management-ndash-resources.aspx

The next session I attended was Creating a HTML5 WinRT application by Brian Kassay
You can build Windows 8 applications in either HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3 or in XAML. This session focused on HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3. In order to work with this, one needs to install Windows 8 and Visual Studio 11 (both are in beta).

I planned to see Richie Rump's Entity Framework - Code First and Magic Unicorns session, but others had the same idea and the room was packed. Rather than stand for an hour, I opted to hear Greg Leonardo's Line of Business development with MVC3.
This was a basic overview of how to use MVC. It consisted of more slides than demos.
He did explain how MVC's Anti-forgery library works (issues a token to the user with a response and checks for that token in subsequent requests).
He also discussed the MVC Anti-XSS library, which is designed to protect your site against cross-site scripting errors. By default, MVC disallows HTML input by. If you decide to allow HTML input, it is important to scrub input with the Anti-XSS library.

The final session I attended was Elijah Manor on Exterminating Those Common Pesky jQuery Bugs
Elijah went through a series of common JavaScript mistakes made by developers and showed ways to correct them.

I delivered a session on Visual Studio 2010 Database Tools. It was very well received and the audience asked lots of questions.

The conference was organized by local user group leaders, including Esteban Garcia, a fellow Telerik insider (Telerik sponsored my trip, BTW). The organizers did a very good job on this conference and everything ran smoothly.
The one drawback of this event was the lack of an obvious common area, where attendees could talk and meet one another. When it was over, we regrouped at a local pub, which gave me the opportunity to meet many of the local developer community. This was particularly important to me at this conference because I only knew about 5 people among the speakers and attendees. One of the reasons I came down to Orlando was for a chance to meet people in the local Florida communities. It turns out that Orlando, Sarasota, and South Florida have very vibrant communities based on the enthusiasm of those I spoke with.

Of course I recorded a couple episodes of Technology and Friends. Elijah Manor and Max Trinidad agreed to go on camera to discuss JavaScript and Powershell respectively.

The Orlando Code Camp will take place again next year and I'm seriously considering making this an annual trip. I also heard of a few smaller events in the area which might bring me back here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 3:46:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cloud computing has been a hot topic in the software industry for the past couple years. Many of us hear about cloud technologies such as Windows Azure, but don't know how to get started.

I wanted to make it easy to find that information, so I'm organizing a 1-day conference to teach people about Windows Azure.

The Detroit Day of Azure will take place Saturday March 24 from 8AM to 6PM at the Microsoft office in Southfield, MI.

14 speakers from 8 different states have agreed to deliver 19 presentations at this event. The speakers (listed below) are among the foremost Azure experts in the region. The list includes MVPs, Microsoft insiders, book authors, and people delivering real Azure solutions for their customers.

Dennis Burton
Michael Collier
Jason Follas
John Ferringer
David Giard
Joe Kunk
Jennifer Marsman
Jeff Nuckolls
Brian Prince
Mark Stanislav
Brent Stineman
Mike Wood
Chander Dhall
Eric Boyd

Azure MVP and Sogeti National Cloud Computing Lead Brent Stineman will deliver the keynote; then we will split into 3 rooms for the rest of the day, where you can choose from several great topics and speakers. Our plans are to record at least some of the conference on video. We may even live stream some of it, but that is still in the planning phase.

We will designate one room for programmers to build Azure applications. Attendees can bring a laptop and either work on their own project or work through the Azure labs, which we will provide for you. Many smart people will be around if you get stuck. Remember to download and install the Azure SDK and sign up for a free Azure Trial before you arrive!

Download Azure SDK
Sign Up for Free Azure Trial

As with any successful event, many people helped out. Onorio Catenacci, Jamie Altizer, Matt Ruma, Shelly Noll, Sukhdev Tur, Justin Baker, Akhil Mahajan, Brian Korzynski, Jelard Macalino, Jim Priore, and Falicia Starr have volunteered their time to help; while Microsoft, Sogeti, The Epitec Group, Telerik, and RIIS donated their money; while Pluralsight, Wrox, and O'Reilly donated products to give away.

If you have been attending the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (where I was president the last two years), you won't be surprised to learn that we are serving some excellent food at this event. Included in the $20 admission cost is a continental breakfast and a buffet lunch from Lockhart’s barbeque in Royal Oak. We will also have some door prizes to give away at the end of the day.

More information on the Detroit Day of Azure is available at http://DetroitDayOfAzure.com. You can register at http://DayOfAzure.eventbrite.com/.

Space is limited and only a few tickets remain.

I'm very excited about this event and looking forward to it as an organizer, as a speaker, and as an attendee.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 5:45:12 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, February 6, 2012
Monday, February 6, 2012 5:17:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dr. Greg Low has been running a technical user group for years. In Building Technical User Communities, he shares what he has learned - what works; what doesn't work; and advice that may or may not fit your group.

As a longtime user group contributor and leader, I had already considered many of his recommendations, but I found most of them to be solid advice. In fact, at my group - The Great Lakes Area .NET Users Group in Southfield, MI - we were already doing many of the things that contained in this book.

For example, we found that members appreciate a consistent meeting place and time for our group. We have also used our group as an opportunity for new speakers to build their skills in a low-risk environment.

Like Dr. Low, I have found the best way to grow a group's attendance is by word of mouth - get to other user groups and technical events in the area and promote your group; and encourage your members to invite their friends and co-workers to the next meeting.

You don't need to take every bit of advice. For example, Dr. Low recommends 2 speakers per meeting, while my group has been successful with just one.

A month after the expiration of my term as user group president may not be the perfect time to read a book on how to lead a user group. But it's a good time to evaluate such a book.

If you are part of the leadership of a technical user group or you are considering forming your own group, an evening spent with this guide will give insight into what can make it successful.

BuildingTechnicalUserCommunities

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 6:36:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, January 30, 2012
Monday, January 30, 2012 4:28:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Here are the slides from my Data Visualization presentation that I delivered at CodeMash last week.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 9:23:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Recently, Dave McKinnon, the brains behind 1DevDay, the Detroit Java Group, Detroit Dev Digest, and a host of other happenings in the Michigan developer community, called me to ask a few questions. My responses are part of an article he wrote about me, which you can read at http://detroitdevdigest.com/2011/12/26/mvp-dave-giard/

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 8:07:35 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Tuesday, December 27, 2011 2:52:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I have been President of the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG) for the past two years and Wednesday was the final meeting of 2011. At the beginning of 2011, the other officers and I sat down and defined some goals for the year. Here are those goals:

  • Cultivate Ownership In Group
  • Continue to Attract High-Quality Speakers
  • Support and Connect with other Area User Groups
  • Average 60 attendees per meeting
  • Increase supporting membership by 15%
  • Increase Monetary Sponsorship by 10%
  • Make it an event

I wrote about these goals early in the year and we displayed them at each 2011 GANG meeting. Today I'd like to review if and how we met each of these goals.

Cultivate Ownership In Group

This year, GANG had more volunteers helping out than ever before. In the future, I expect some of these volunteers will become officers of the group. In fact, Matt Ruma was elected the new Vice President this week.

Codeslingers - the monthly pair programming event that we started last year - has moved from a local coffee shop to The Epitec Group offices, giving them more space, more privacy, and more flexible hours.

Gerhard Weiss established the monthly DevLunch this year. Here members get together and socialize over a weekday lunch at the Troy TGIFriday.

The popularity of the post-user group social hour has also exploded. It's not uncommon for 30 people to come to Copper Canyon after a meeting.

Last year, we established Lightning Talks to give members experience at speaking and to share knowledge with the group. In 2011, the number of Lightning Talks more than doubled over last year.

The number of people with whom we are connecting has increased dramatically: In addition to the 625 people on our mailing list, our LinkedIn group membership has increased 84% and the number of our Twitter followers has increased 71% from a year ago.

Continue to Attract High-Quality Speakers

This is an area I'm particularly proud of because it's something GANG has always done very well, but we managed to take it to a new level in 2011. Below is a list of featured speakers at GANG in 2011.

Gary Short
Michael Eaton
Mike Amundsen
Charles Stacy Harris
Gus Issa
Jennifer Marsman
Brian Prince
Steve Bohlen
K Scott Allen
Richard Campbell
Leon Gersing
Josh Holmes,
Darrell Hawley
Bill Wagner
Richard Hale Shaw
Godfrey Nolan
Glenn Block

As you can see, there are many big names on this list. Speakers include Microsoft insiders, MVPs, Regional Directors, Book Authors, popular bloggers, and podcasters. We reached out beyond our geographic region this year and attracted speakers from 7 states (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington) and 4 countries (US, Canada, Scotland, and Ireland). The presentations covered a wide range of topics from refactoring code, to the .NET Micro Framework to async features in the next version of C#.

Support and Connect with other Area User Groups

The first thing we did was to commit to attending other user groups. In 2011, GANG officers attended over 50 user group meetings this year, not included GANG meetings! I spoke at 12 different user group meetings in 2011.

This year, we came up with the idea of co-hosting meetings with other groups. The Greater Detroit Cloud Computing Group co-hosted the March GANG meeting, which featured Mike Amundsen speaking on RESTful Hypermedia. In January, we plan to co-host a meeting with the Ann Arbor .NET Developers Group.

This year, we offered our space and time to anyone looking to start a user group. We felt this would reduce the effort and risk involved in starting a group if it began as a Special Interest Group. The F# Special Interest Group and the .NET Micro Framework Special Interest Group both were hosted during our meetings in 2011. The F# Group has since moved to its own night and location.

Another way we collaborated with other user groups is by helping to organize user group tours for out-of-town presenters. Gary Short, Mike Amundsen, Richard Campbell, and Steve Bohlen all traveled to Michigan and spoke at more than one user group, including ours.

Average 60 attendees per meeting

In 2010, GANG averaged 54 attendees per meeting. We set a goal to modestly increase attendance this year. Our strategy included bringing in big-name speakers, promoting meetings via social media, and hosting a membership drive at which we gave away an Xbox 360 and Kinect.

Our strategy worked as we averaged over 82 attendees per meeting in 2011 - an increase of 52% from last year.

Increase supporting membership by 15%

We met and exceeded this goal, increasing supporting membership from 23 in November 2010 to 53 in November 2011. That's an increase of 130%!

Increase Monetary Sponsorship by 10%

This goal is difficult to measure because many sponsors pay for things without writing a check to GANNG. However, we received about $10,000 cash from corporate sponsors in 2011, an increase of far more than 10%. We are especially grateful to ComponentOne, New World Systems, TypeMock, The Epitec Group, Telerik, RedGate, and Plex Online, all of whom donated at our Platinum level.

Thanks to these donations (and those of our supporting members), GANG was able to upgrade the dinner served at every single meeting. Whether it was Chinese food, fried chicken, shawarma, barbecue, or a burrito bar, we didn't serve pizza at a single meeting this year.

Despite increasing the budget significantly, our end-of-year cash reserves were about double the level of a year ago.

In addition to cash, sponsors such as Telerik, DevExpress, ComponenentOne, and JetBrains paid the travel expenses of speakers, so they could afford to come speak at GANG. Most of these expense reimbursements were not included in the $10,000 mentioned above.

We also continued to receive books, software, and other prizes that we gave away at each meeting.

Make it an event

Last year, I heard someone describe GANG meetings as more of an event than a user group meeting. I took that to heart and we explicitly made this a 2011 goal.

It all started by bringing in some big-name speakers, such as Richard Campbell, K Scott Allen, Glenn Block and Gary Short.

It culminated with our October meeting - an all-day event featuring 6 presentations by those who built GANG.

We designated several special meetings: A membership drive; and a food drive. The food drive was so successful that we are probably going to hold one every year.

We also included some fun things for our members, such as creating music videos to show during meetings and trivia contests to give away some of the swag.

We have one or more volunteers at each meeting designated as greeters, making sure members feel welcome and get a name badge.

Finally, we recorded most of the 2011 presentation and made them available on our web site.

Declaring Success

Overall, 2011 was a very successful year for GANG. We exceeded all our goals for the year and feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive. I often hear people pointing to GANG as a success story in growing a user group. I’m very proud of what my fellow officers and I were able to accomplish this year. I love that so many people got so much out of GANG; I love that people keep coming back; I love that they tell their friends and co-workers about GANG; and I love that other user groups draw on us for ideas and inspiration.

I'm looking forward to more success in 2012.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 12:35:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, October 20, 2011

I've been a technical consultant for a long time. I've been actively involved in the Development Community for almost as long.

For those who aren't familiar with the phrase, the "Developer Community" refers to a loose-coupled network of software developers who communicate at user groups, technical conferences, and via various social media channels. Some people are only involved enough to show up and listen to presentations or to take part in the conversations initiated by others. Other people are actively leading these conversations: They are blogging; speaking at conferences and user groups; taking leadership roles in community organizations; and organizing educational events, such as code camps and give camps.

I fall into the latter category.  I run a user group, maintain an active blog, speak wherever I'm welcome and often initiate conversations with strangers at conferences. I've been on the planning committee of a bunch of events and I led the planning of the recent GANG10 conference.

All these activities take a lot of time - time that could be spent billing customers or other tasks directly related to my day job.

So why bother? Why spend all this time and effort? Does my consulting career suffer because of my community involvement?

I have a lot of reasons for participating in the Development Community, but I won’t hide the fact that my own enjoyment is one of them. I'm involved in the community because I enjoy it. It's a lot of work, but I get gratification from helping others to learn and from showing off what I've learned. I also have made a number of friends in this community of bright people and I love the social interactions it brings me.

But is enjoyment or helping others enough of a reason? Is altruism sufficient motivation for community involvement? Can a consultant actually boost his career by spending time in the community?

I have found several tangible benefits of community involvement. Here are a rewards I reap from my community involvement.

It helps one’s reputation. If people see me active in the community or hear me speak, they are more likely to remember my name. If I’m doing a good job in public, that provides credibility. I've been on a number of projects where the customer knew about me in advance because of a talk I gave or a blog post I had written or because of my involvement with user groups.

Education. I can only learn so much on my own. Interacting with smart people is a great way to transfer knowledge. Not only can others teach me the nuts and bolts of a technology they've spent time with; but they can show me how they have applied that in a real-world situation. There is simply not enough time to gain real-world knowledge in every technology. Learning from the trials and errors of others is a way around that limit.

Knowing who the experts are. Every day, I encounter new challenges. Sometimes I can conquer these challenges on my own; but sometimes I need help from someone who has been there before. Recently, I needed help on a security issue. I reached out through Twitter and a developer in Columbus, OH volunteered to help me out for a few hours. I was in my car the next morning happy to make the 3-hour drive in exchange for his help. If I have a network of experts in a variety of topics, this exponentially expands the amount of knowledge that I have available for my customer.

Exposure to new technologies. New software is released every day and this can be overwhelming. Having a chance to hear what tools others outside your organization are using is invaluable in managing this flood of information. Interacting with people outside your job exposes you to those working on other projects, products, industries, and technologies.

Finding new work. As you interact with the community, you hear about companies looking for work and about consultants looking for help. Each of these is an opportunity for more billable work. I’m seldom actively selling, but I always have my ears open for opportunities.

Recruiting. It's much easier to recruit consultants if they know you and your organization. Community involvement is a great way to get that exposure. The flip side is that you meet many quality people who are looking for work through networking at user groups and conferences. These events give you a chance to get to know them in an informal setting and form an opinion about their intelligence, skill set and personality. I’ve found this better than a formal interview process. Involvement in the community typically means a passion and dedication, which are qualities you probably seek in your employees.

For me, participation in the community and my consulting career go hand-in-hand. One helps and complements the other. In the foreseeable future, I will continue to devote time and energy toward both.


Note: I am grateful to the following people, who contributed ideas to this article. I know most of them through the developer community.

  • Matt Ruma
  • Brent Stineman
  • Keith Elder
  • Elizabeth Naramore
  • Susan Anspaugh-Yount
  • Seth Petry-Johnson
  • Samidip Basu
  • Rick Schummer
Thursday, October 20, 2011 12:33:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Last weekend, the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG) celebrated its 10th birthday with an all-day technical event in Southfield, MI. In addition to great speakers, great presentations, and great food, I created three videos to commemorate the last ten years. These videos are below. Enjoy.

Photos
 
Happy Birthday GANG!
 
GANG Presentation highlights
Wednesday, October 5, 2011 7:18:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, October 4, 2011

G. Andrew Duthie and Dane Morgridge were kind enough to have me on their Community Megaphone podcast this month. I spent most of the show talking about the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group and promoting our 10-year celebration – GANG10.

You can hear the show at http://communitymegaphonepodcast.com/Show/31/David-Giard.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 3:09:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It was the fall of 2001 in the home of Richard Irwin. Richard, John Hopkins, Josh Holmes, Darrell Hawley and Martin Shoemaker gathered in Richard's kitchen to discuss their plans for a new user group. This group would be focused on the new .NET technology. That night they drew up the group's by-laws and came up with a name: The Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG for short). A couple months later, the group began holding regular meetings at the Microsoft Southfield office.

That group still meets today - 10 years later. The format of the meetings and the mission of the group has remained largely unchanged. But the group has grown from a couple dozen attendees to over 80 per month.

Today, I am the president of GANG and my fellow officers and I wanted to do something special to commemorate this milestone. We decided to host a special meeting. Instead of a Wednesday evening meeting with a single main speaker, we will hold our October meeting on a Saturday and offer presentations throughout the day.

The presentations will be topics that we would consider for a regular monthly meeting, but most of the presenters are the people who helped found and build GANG. Many of these people have gone on to become thought leaders in the tech world: People like Bill Wagner, Josh Holmes, Richard Hale Shaw, Darrell Hawley, and Godfrey Nolan.

We felt it would be good to bring in a keynote speaker who was not a .NET developer and would give a non-technical talk that techies could relate to. So, we invited Leon Gersing to give a keynote address on "You", focusing on self-actualization. Many of us heard this talk at the recent Lansing Day of .NET and were impressed with Leon and how well his presentation resonated with the audience.

Staying inside at a conference all day can drain the energy,  so we will provide plenty of nutrition, including a continental breakfast; a barbecue lunch Lockhart's BBQ of Royal Oak, MI; and some treats from the Franklin Cider Mill  in the afternoon.

In addition, we will be having some fun, showing photos and videos of GANG and its members over the years.

This conference promises to be educational and entertaining and it will only occur once - on Saturday October 1.

You can get more information at http://migang.org/tenyear/ and you can register at http://gangten.eventbrite.com/. The cost is $20 for the general public and $10 for supporting members of GANG.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 4:01:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 24, 2011

Although I cannot prove it or even measure it, I believe that Richard Campbell is the most famous speaker we have ever had at the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (aka GANG).

This is quite a claim, as GANG has been around for ten years and numerous excellent speakers have presented here.

Richard spends a large percentage of time traveling the world and speaking at major technical conferences; he has written books and magazine articles; and he is the co-founder of an Internet company. But he is most famous as a podcaster. Richard is the co-host of .NET Rocks, RunAs Radio, and Mondays; and a regular guest on Hanselminutes.

The reason I pursued Mr. Campbell for our user group is because he is an excellent storyteller and because he can speak on a wide range of topics: from software to hardware to networking infrastructure to fine scotch whiskey to barbecue to the history of Nepal. Share a glass of scotch with Mr. Campbell one evening and you are bound to learn something.

In September, Richard traveled to Michigan to speak at three user groups in the area: Tuesday at the Northwest Ohio .NET User Group in Toledo, OH; Wednesday at the Great Lakes Area .NET User Group (GANG) in Southfield, MI; and Thursday at the Greater Lansing .NET User Group (GLUGNET) in Okemos, MI. The GLUGNET group moved to Okemos from its usual home in East Lansing in order to accommodate the larger crowd that Richard drew.

I attended all three presentations - each a variation on his "Scaling ASP.NET Applications" talk. At each venue, the audience was impressed and engaged. The questions were many and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Following the Wednesday and Thursday evening meetings, we headed to a local pub, followed by many admirers who wanted to ask more questions of Richard. I lost some sleep this week but gained some knowledge about web site scaling and an appreciation for how much a good speaker can do for a development community.

All in all, this was one of the most successful user group tours we have ever had around here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011 11:08:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, September 20, 2011

User groups are a great place to hear technical presentations to industry leaders. User groups tend to attract speakers who live nearby. Bringing in speakers from far away is harder because of the expense and travel time.

This week, the user groups near me (in Michigan) are fortunate that a famous speaker from far away (Vancouver, British Columbia) will be visiting.

Richard Campbell is best-known for the podcasts he hosts (Dot Net Rocks, RunAs Radio, and others), but he is also a featured speaker at many major conferences around the world. This week, he will be presenting The Scaling Habits of ASP.NET Applications at user groups in Toledo, OH; Southfield, MI; and East Lansing, MI. His schedule is below.

Date Group Location Link Registration
Tue Sep 20 Northwest Ohio .NET User Group HCR Manor Care
333 N. Summit Street
Toledo, OH
http://www.nwnug.com http://nwnug10year.eventbrite.com/?ref=ecount 
Wed Sep 21 Great Lakes Area .NET User Group Microsoft office
1000 Town Center Dr.
Suite 1930
Southfield, MI
http://migang.org  
Thu Sep 22 Greater Lansing .NET User Group TechSmith Corporation
2405 Woodlake Drive
Okemos, MI
http://glugnet.org http://glugnet092011.eventbrite.com

The Northwest Ohio Group is celebrating their tenth anniversary at this meeting. If you attend the Northwest Ohio group or the Greater Lansing group, please register in advance at the links above.

Richard is here because he was kind enough to donate his time to our groups and because of a generous donation from Telerik, who is covering Richard’s travel expenses.

If you are in Michigan or Ohio, I strongly recommend you attend one of these meetings. It promises to be educational and fun.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 3:35:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, September 2, 2011

I've lost count of the number of Give Camps in which I've participated. I've been on planning committees, found sponsorships, worked as a developer, and led a team. I've worked all night at some Give Camps and left halfway through the weekend at others. One year, I didn't register for the Lansing Give Camp, but showed up Saturday afternoon for a couple hours while my kids were at a basketball game. I was placed on a team and did some database work while I was there. I've participated in Give Camps in Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Grand Rapids. I've slept on the floor; I've slept on the couches at friends' houses; and I've gone without sleep.

I keep coming back for two reasons: The good it does others and the good it does me.

A Give Camp does a lot of good work for a lot of charities and that makes me feel good about myself. Hundreds of charities have been helped just by the Give Camps in Michigan alone. At the closing ceremony, as we hand over the finished product, it's not uncommon to see charity representatives cry when they see what they have received. Some of them are amazed by what people are willing to give them for free.

I also love the opportunity to learn at a Give Camp. I've learned how to build applications using CMS tools, such as DotNetNuke and SiteFinity; I've learned how to use JavaScript to manipulate images on a web page; and I've learned some of the subtleties of migrating a web site from one host to another. I've even learned things unrelated t the projects on which we were working. That's what happens when smart, passionate people get together. The wonderful thing about a Give Camp is that it brings together people of different experiences.

The concept of a Give Camp is simple: A bunch of developers and designers and DBAs get together for a weekend and write software for a bunch of charities. In most cases, this software is a new web site; but sometimes, a charity needs an application to maintain a list of donors or schedule events or some other custom functionality. These charities have limited resources and hiring a consultant is often beyond their budget.

The next Give Camp in Michigan is September 17-19 in Ann Arbor. Sign up as a volunteer if you want to help others or you want to learn something or you want to connect with others who are passionate about technology.

Sign up today at http://annarborgivecamp.org/Volunteer.

What have you got to lose? Except a bit of sleep.

Friday, September 2, 2011 6:25:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I am scheduled to deliver my Data Visualization presentation 4 times in the next few months: At DevLink in Chatanooga, TN on August 18; at the Dayton .NET Developers Group in Dayton, OH on August 24; at 1DevDayDetroit in Detroit, MI on November 5; and at the Detroit Area FoxPro Users Group in Southfield, MI on November 17.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 5:08:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's surprising that more people aren't aware of the Lansing Day of .Net (LDODN). This past Saturday marked the third time this event was held in the greater Lansing area. Every instance outdistances their previous efforts.

Like most code camps, this community-run event features “eyes-front” presentations delivered by experts in the community. But in Lansing, they always offer a little of the unexpected. The first year, the mayor of Lansing showed up to discuss the role of technology in the economy; At the second LDODN, the event was held at The Breslin Center - home of the Michigan State University basketball team; and this most recent LDODN held many surprises.

The conference took place at the TechSmith campus. TechSmith, which makes some great software like SnagIt and Camtasia Studio, operates out of Okemos, MI. Two large classrooms accommodated the two tracks of LDODN.
The conference was small enough to list all the topics and presenters below:

  • ASP.NET MVC: A Web Coder's Salvation (Jay Harris)
  • Diversity in IT: Optimize for what everyone brings to the table (Jennifer Marsman)
  • Top 10 Tips for Moving from Winforms to WPF (Michael Eaton)    
  • Field Guide to Moving to the Cloud (Michael Wood)
  • You (Leon Gersing)    
  • Intro to Windows Phone 7 Development (Jeff Fansler)
  • The Swamp King’s Vision: A Tale of Project Management (Darrell Hawley)    
  • That's It, I've had enough, I'm starting my own company (Jeff McWherter)
  • Build a Complete Website Using HTML5 and CSS3 in One Hour (Amelia Marschall)    
  • Be a Better Developer (Michael Wood)
  • jQuery (Leon Gersing)    
  • Panel: Ultimate Tools Edition

Notice anything about these sessions? Although the conference has ".Net" in the title, only three talks focused on Microsoft technologies. This was far more than a .Net or Microsoft-focused conference. Instead, we had talks on open source (jQuery), web standards (HTML5), and vendor-agnostic technologies (Cloud computing). A plurality of talks focused on soft skills (Diversity, Project Management, You, Be A Better Developer). Clearly the organizing team kept the Day of .Net branding only to provide continuity; They chose the best content they could find, regardless of the technology stack.

For the record, I attended 3 sessions: Michael Wood's Field Guide to Moving to the Cloud; Leon Gersing's You; and Leon Gersing's jQuery.

Mike Wood is an Azure MVP but his presentation was applicable to any cloud vendor. Key points: Understand how to secure your data when you move offsite; Estimate the demand on your application, so you can scale appropriately; Decide what parts of your application should be kept in-house; Don't migrate your mission critical application first.

Leon Gersing's You presentation was a thought-provoking treatise on how one can take better control of one's life by becoming aware of what your own needs are and of how others perceive you. There was a lot to this talk and the large audience was engaged. I recorded an interview with Leon on this subject and I plan to release it soon on Technology And Friends.

Leon's jQuery presentation was a 100-level talk. It was mostly review for me, but I found it useful because I am scheduled to deliver a similar presentation this week at MADExpo, so I wanted to steal some ideas.

Like most good conferences, LDODN offered more than presentations. This one featured a catered lunch and dinner. Dinner is rare at a one-day conference. The food was first-rate (Chipotle burritos for lunch; and barbecue dinner from the Michigan Brewing Company).

After dinner, the celebration began with a dunk tank. Dennis Burton, Jeff McWherter and other leaders in the Lansing development community agreed to get dunked for charity. All proceeds benefited Lansing's Impression 5 Museum, which hosts the Lansing Give Camp each year. An inflatable slide provided more fun for those stayed late.

And I haven't told you the best part. During the raffle, dozens of books, software and hardware was given away.

And I won a brand-new iPad!

Photos of LDODN

Thursday, June 30, 2011 2:32:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, June 21, 2011

At the June 15 meeting of the Great Lakes Area .Net Users Group, Microsoft Developer Evangelist Brian Prince delivered a presentation titled “A Lap Around Windows Azure”.

Here is that presentation:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 5:53:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 20, 2011

As an INETA Mentor, one of my responsibilities is to approve requests from user groups seeking to join INETA.

I was recently asked what criteria I use to approve a group. Generally speaking, I like to approve groups. If you are serious about running a .Net user group, then you should be welcome in INETA. INETA is trying to grow the number of groups so I don’t turn many away. But I don’t accept every request. The criteria I use is:

  • Clear mission
  • Regular meetings
  • Commitment from leadership
  • Open to the public
  • A web presence

Clear Mission

The user group should have a clearly stated purpose and that purpose should be related to Microsoft technologies. In the states I cover, there are groups devoted to .Net, SharePoint, and Architecture. A group doesn’t need to focus only on Microsoft technologies, but there must be some focus there.

Regular meetings

A user group needs to commit to hold regular meetings at a consistent time and place. Monthly meetings are by far the most common and are frequent enough to keep members engaged. Generally, I require a group hold three monthly meetings before I will approve them for INETA membership.

Commitment from Leadership

I frequently get requests from user groups that have yet to hold even a single meeting. I don't want to approve a group; then learn a few months later that they never actually held a meeting or that the group fizzled after one meeting.  Running a group is a lot of work and I want to make sure the group's leadership is in place and committed before approving that group. The "three meeting" rule above helps to verify this commitment.

Open to the Public

The group should be open to the public. Some companies sponsor user groups for their own employees and don't allow non-employees to attend.  Others require attendees to pay dues each year or an admission fee to each meeting. I haven't had a membership request from such a group, but I would not accept them if they had a restrictive rule like these.

A web presence

If a group wants to attract members, it is essential that they have some sort of web presence. This can be a web site or a single page or a subscription to meetup.com or any way that I can find them using a popular search engine. Users should not need to sign in before viewing the web page, so Facebook pages and BaseCamp accounts do not meet this criteria.

At a minimum, this web presence should state the date, time, location, and frequency of the each meeting. The topic of the next meeting should also appear on this page, but I would probably approve the group without this, since so many groups do not provide this information.

Wrapping Up

Generally, I apply the criteria above before approving a user group for INETA membership. These rules are not carved in stone and I might consider deviating from them if a group leader presents a strong case, but they are a good starting point for that conversation.

It's also worth noting that I am the INEAT mentor for Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, so I approve groups only in those three states. Other mentors in other states may apply slightly different rules.

User groups are welcome to apply for INETA membership before they have met all these criteria. They will remain in the "Pending" state until I approve them. Send me an e-mail (David Giard (At) David Giard (Dot) com) if you have a user group and would like to apply to INETA.

You can learn more about INETA at http://ineta.org.

Monday, June 20, 2011 2:27:18 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This year's Codestock was my third and it did not disappoint. I was scheduled to deliver two presentations - Visual Studio 2010 Database Tools and An Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming. These were two talks I had not given for some time and I altered both considerably since I last delivered them. I stayed up most of Thursday night preparing to deliver them during the first two time slots Friday.

By 11AM, I was finished presenting and prepared to relax and enjoy the conference. After a leisurely lunch, I attended Seth Juarez's 2-hour presentation on Machine Learning. I heard about this talk last year and was determined not to miss it this year. Seth described algorithms that allow computers to predict results after observing a set of sample data. I was impressed enough with this talk to invite Seth onto Technology and Friends.

The keynote address was Friday evening at the nearby Bijou Theater. Charles Petzold - one of the world's most famous computer science authors - delivered an impressive narrative about scientists of the 19th century. He began with the work of William Thomson (who later became Lord Kelvin) and his analog computer designed to predict the height of tides. Petzold expanded the talk to cover Thomson's clashes with the geologist of his time and with naturalist Charles Darwin. Petzold was informative and entertaining and delivered one of the best keynotes I've ever heard. I was thrilled when he agreed to appear on my TV show the next day.

Saturday was supposed to be spent taking in sessions and open spaces. But a speaker canceled at the last-minute and I was asked to fill in. I chose to do a talk on Data Visualization, which I originally delivered at the Kalamazoo X conference and which I am scheduled to deliver at Devlink in August. Originally, this talk was only 30 minutes but there were so many good questions that it lasted almost 60 minutes.

Later in the day, Mike Eaton asked me to help him deliver a presentation on user interfaces. I stood near the stage and made a few contributions, but he did not need my assistance. Mike showed off some impressive WPF applications he has built and described why he made the design decisions in these applications.

I brought some work with me - a problem with Microsoft Windows Identity Foundation with which I had been struggling - and Microsoft Evangelist Brian Prince was kind enough to sit with me and patiently answer my questions. This assistance alone was worth the trip.

I brought my video camera and recorded 5 episodes of Technology and Friends, which will air over the next few weeks. I also filmed some spots for a user group project I’m assembling. The final result will be published in October. Improbably, I did not take any photos at the conference.

As always, the best part of this conference was meeting and interacting with smart people, exchanging ideas and business cards. It’s funny how I can attend a conference, sit in only one session, attend no open spaces and still manage to learn a lot

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 6:40:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, May 15, 2011

It’s Sunday morning and I’ll be checking out of this hotel and heading home soon. I’m digesting what I learned and experienced yesterday at the Chicago Code Camp in Grayslake, OH.

The code camp offered 5 session slots. I sat in on 2 sessions and spoke at 1.

I began the day watching John Petersen describe Dependency Injection in ASP.Net MVC 3. With version 3 of MVC, Microsoft introduced a pattern for wiring up Dependency Injection Frameworks as the application starts up. John explained how to wire up a DI framework, such as StructureMap or Unity in your application. His examples helped to clarify this concept. I do a lot of work in ASP.Net MVC, but I have not had a chance to explore many of the new features included in version 3. John was kind enough to sit with me after his session and answer a few of my questions. A few months ago, I wrote and submitted a book chapter on MVC and I was recently asked to update this chapter to reflect the changes in version 3, so this topic helped me directly.

Session 2 was on Coded UI testing. Eric Boyd went out of his way to get the crowd involved. He brought gifts of books and t-shirts to give away to anyone who contributed a good anecdote or question. Using Visual Studio Ultimate, Eric walked through recording a UI test, showed the generated code, then showed the generated code and added assertions and other modifications to the test. He also briefly demoed the Microsoft Test Professional,  a tool for testers to script and record the results of manual tests; and data-driven tests, which allows you to run a single test multiple times with a variety of inputs.

I was scheduled to speak in slot 4 and, as is my practice, I hid away during session 3 to prepare for my talk. This was a brand new talk for me titled “How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love jQuery”. I tried to show how much easier a framework like jQuery can make JavaScript development. I prepared and showed a lot of code demos on using selectors and binding events. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and had to rush through my Ajax demo and did not get to my jQueryUI demos. Still, the room was full (30+ people) and the audience was engaged. I’m scheduled to give the talk again at MADExpo, so I will tighten it up before then.

During the final session of the day, I recorded two episodes of Technology and Friends. I was introduced to Micah Martin, Dave Hoover, and Ashish Dixit via Twitter and got to meet them after my session. They have a passion for mentoring and apprenticeship programs and we talked about this on camera for a half hour. Next, I recorded a show on the SOLID principles with Chander Dhal, who is a fellow Telerik insider and a world-class yoga practitioner.

The best thing about this conference was the new people I met. Most are not from my geographic area or from my area of knowledge, so I felt my boundaries expand.

It’s time now to pack up, pick up Mike, and drive back to Michigan. I need to prepare for my next trip.

Sunday, May 15, 2011 1:04:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Kalamazoo X conference isn’t like other conferences. Although it is targeted at technical people and the audience is filled with software developers, the content presented is typically not technical. Instead, sessions highlight soft skills, such as team building and education.

Another major difference between Kalamazoo X and other conferences is the session format: The length of each presentation is limited to 30 minutes – much shorter than the 60-90 minute presentations seen at most technical conferences. This serves to keep the audience focused. It’s rare to see any audience member get up out of his or her chair and walk out of a session, partly because they will miss a significant part of it and partly because the session is always close to the end.

The final major difference is that Kalamazoo X offers only one track. This provides all attendees the same shared experience, that they can discuss and compare afterwards. One never has to choose or feel he is missing something.

This year’s conference took place last Saturday at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and featured something for everyone. Nine speakers delivered ten presentations and the day ended with a panel discussion on Interviewing. A fishbowl exercise during lunch got the crowd excited. 5 chairs were placed in the middle of the room and a topic was thrown out. The ground rules of the fish bowl were: You must be seated in one of the chairs in order to ask a question; and one chair must always be empty. Attendees entered and exited the fishbowl area frequently and the conversation grew excited as ideas fired back and forth.

Kalamazoo X is the brainchild of Michael Eaton, who envisioned a conference that fill gaps he saw in the education of software developers. Technical information is readily available to technical people from a variety of venues, but soft skill training is much more rare and this lack of training often shows up in the lack of soft skills displayed by the developer community.

Kalamazoo X is now in its third year. I have attended all three – including the one last Saturday. I have spoken at two of them. Each time, the success was evident – The room was full, the content was excellent, and the atmosphere was electric. I’ve learned about leadership from Jim Holmes, about Community from Mike Wood and Brian Prince, about self-promotion from Jeff Blankenburg, and about life from Leon Gersing.

I’m already thinking about next year’s conference.

Photos from 2011 Kalamazoo X

Kalamazoo X home page

Photos from 2010 Kalamazoo X

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 3:20:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One thing I really enjoy is speaking at conferences and user groups. I learn a lot and I get a chance to interact with other developers around the country, and I get a rush when I can pull off a really good presentation. Unfortunately, traveling can be expensive and I need to limit my talks to what can fit in my budget.

One thing Telerik enjoys is supporting the developer community. They have great products and presentations at user groups and conferences are a good way to let people know about those products. Unfortunately, Telerik does not employ an army of professional presenters to cover all the events they’d like.

Telerik recently solved both those problems by forming the Telerik Insiders Program. The program consists of people in the community – like me – who enjoy speaking at developer events. The deal is that Telerik will sponsor our trip to a conference or user group and all we need to do in exchange is give away a bundle of their software. This is a great deal for me because I’ve been a fan of their products for a long time and because I love giving away stuff that someone else paid for.

Telerik has recruited a number of outstanding speakers to this program, including John Petersen, Lee Brandt, and Malcolm Sheridan.

You can learn more about this program and request a speaker for your event at http://www.telerik.com/community/insiders.aspx.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 1:04:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I recently added a few dates to my speaking schedule. Here is the most up-to-date information.

Date Event Location Topic  
Apr 13 Ann Arbor .Net User Group ann arbor, MI Real World Lessons with Windows Workflow Foundation More Info
Apr 21 Greater Lansing .Net User Group East Lansing, MI Real World Lessons with Windows Workflow Foundation More Info
Apr 26 Findlay Area .Net User Group Findlay, OH Real World Lessons with Windows Workflow Foundation More Info
May 14 Chicago Code Camp Grayslake, IL How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love jQuery More Info
May 17 Northwest Ohio .Net User Group Toledo, OH Real World Lessons with Windows Workflow Foundation More Info
June 3-4 Codestock Knoxville, TN Using the Database features of Visual Studio More Info
June 3-4 Codestock Knoxville, TN An Introduction to Object Oriented Programming More Info
Jun 29 West Michigan .Net User Group Grand Rapids, MI Real World Lessons with Windows Workflow Foundation More Info

I’m still waiting to hear from DevLink and MadExpo, so this list may grow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 3:20:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, March 31, 2011
Thursday, March 31, 2011 10:04:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, March 24, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011 8:59:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, February 19, 2011

GOALS

At the end of 2009, I took over as President of the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group (GANG). One of the first things the new officers and I did was to meet and set goals for 2010. We set the following goals for the year and announced them at the January 2010 meeting.

  • Get members more engaged and involved
  • Increase meeting attendance by 50%
  • Increase supporting membership by 30%
  • Continue to attract high-quality speakers
  • Increase sponsorship by 100%
  • Finish year in the black financially

Most of those goals focused on growth of the group. Prior to 2010, the group was successful, but we felt it had plateaued and we wanted to make more people more aware of GANG and excited about coming to meetings. We successfully met the 2010 goals by increasing attendance, sponsorship and supporting membership during the year.

At the end of 2010, the leadership team met again to discuss goals for the upcoming year.

This year’s goals focus on connections: Connecting members more with the group; connecting the group more with its members and connecting with other user groups.

Our goals for 2011 are

  • Cultivate Ownership In Group
  • Continue to Attract High-Quality Speakers
  • Support and Connect with other Area User Groups
  • Average 60 attendees per meeting
  • Increase supporting membership by 15%
  • Increase Monetary Sponsorship by 10%
  • Make it an event!

Below I describe our plan to achieve these goals.

CULTIVATE OWNERSHIP IN GROUP

If a member feels connected with a user group, he or she is more likely to support that group with his money and his time; he is more likely to run for a leadership role in the future; and he is more likely to recommend the group to his friends and colleagues.

Last year, we implemented things like networking time before the meeting, name badges, and after-meeting social hour to help members connect with one another. This year, the big change is in the number of volunteers we have. Over the holidays, the officers sat down and listed all the tasks that go into putting on a user group. When people told us they want to volunteer, we were able to send them this list and allow them to pick the tasks they want. 

I have already announced that I will not run for President next year. By getting more people involved, there should be no lack of leadership when I step down. I think this turnover is good for the group.

CONTINUE TO ATTRACT HIGH-QUALITY SPEAKERS

GANG has always done a great job at this. Over the years, we have had some outstanding speakers. Many of them were Microsoft insiders, MVPs, book authors, Regional Directors, and heartland influencers. Many of the speakers at GANG also speak at major conferences around the world.

This year, we are looking to attract speakers with bigger names than in the past. This means bringing in speakers from a wider geographic area. Our sponsors will help defer some of the cost of this. As of this writing, we have confirmed Richard Campbell and Steve Bohlen will speak at GANG in 2011 and we are waiting to hear on some other well-known speakers.

SUPPORT AND CONNECT WITH OTHER AREA USER GROUPS

GANG is part of a strong developer community in Michigan and the Midwest. Currently, we have the highest user group attendance in Michigan, which gives us a platform for making our members aware of other groups in the area. We will be strongly encouraging our members to attend other user groups and the officers of GANG have made a commitment to attend 20 other user groups during the year. This will help us connect with other groups and to bring new ideas into our group. In January, we actively promoted the 5-year anniversary celebration of the Ann Arbor .Net Developers User Group. I attended this event and saw a number of GANG members there.

The March GANG meeting will be presented in partnership with the Greater Detroit Cloud Computing User Group and will feature a presentation on REST and hypermedia.

AVERAGE 60 ATTENDEES PER MEETING

We finished 2010 strong in terms of attendance and we’d like to continue that trend. Average meeting attendance rose from 35 in 2009 to 54 in 2010. We will continue our strategy of promoting the group via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, e-mails, and our web page; However, word of mouth remains the best method for getting the word out.

This year, we will repeat our membership drive in which members earn raffle tickets for attending meetings and for bringing new people to each meeting.

The best way to increase attendance is to deliver a quality product.

INCREASE SUPPORTING MEMBERSHIP BY 15%

If we provide value to our members, I believe those who can afford it will gladly support us. We have made it easier for them to do so by allowing members to support us via PayPal and by clicking a link on our web site. We also plan to send a reminder e-mail when a membership expires.

INCREASE MONETARY SPONSORSHIP BY 10%

In 2009, the Michigan recession caused corporate sponsorship to dwindle so low that we could not provide food at most meetings. In 2010, we raised over $4000 from corporate sponsors, a huge increase over the previous year.

This year, we are looking to raise even more. Our strategy is to define sponsorship levels and to communicate the benefits a sponsor receives by contributing at each level. Benefits include mentions during our meetings, logos on our web site, slide decks and e-mails, and the opportunity to present Lightning Talks before meetings.

This money will go toward providing food at the meetings and travel costs for speakers traveling a great distance.

MAKE IT AN EVENT

I don’t remember who it was, but someone described a GANG meeting last year as more of an event than a user group meeting. I really liked this description and want to strive to make it even more true in 2011.

We are planning some fun things at each meeting, such as trivia questions, and a more personal introductions for each speaker. We have also planned a few special events throughout 2011, such as a Food Drive and a Membership Drive.

The biggest event of the year will take place in October, when GANG celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Our October meeting will be replaced with a day-long, single-track conference featuring many of the founding and early members of GANG. Details will be announced soon.

CONCLUSION

The goals we set for the coming year are more evolutionary than revolutionary. GANG seems to be heading in the right direction and we want to keep that momentum going. As of this writing, we have held two meetings in 2011 and we are on track to achieve these goals.

Saturday, February 19, 2011 11:39:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, January 28, 2011

Tuesday January 11, Microsoft hosted a Community Summit in Sandusky, OH. The featured event at the Summit was a Panel Discussion on User Groups and community events. The panel consisted of user group leaders from several developer communities in the Heartland region:

  • Joe O’Brian, Columbus, Ruby
  • Elizabeth Naramore, Cincinnati, PHP
  • Mike Wood, Cincinnati, .Net
  • David Giard (that’s me), Detroit, .Net

Below is a video of the panel discussion.

Friday, January 28, 2011 11:11:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, January 27, 2011

On January 18 at the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group (GANG), DevExpress Evangelist Gary Short delivered a well-received presentation on Refactoring. You can see a video of this presentation below.

You can see photos of the meeting at my Smugmug page

Gary Short

Thursday, January 27, 2011 3:48:41 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011 8:40:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We have just finished an amazing year at the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group (often abbreviated “GANG”).

As many of you know, I took over as president of GANG at the end of 2009 and I presided over my first GANG meeting in January of 2010. 28 people attended that meeting. Last week, 80 people attended our final meeting of the year.

When the year started, I sat down with the other newly-elected officers – Vice President John Hopkins; Treasurer Kent Fehribach; and Secretary Gerhard Weiss. Together we set 6 goals for the group:

  • Get members more engaged and involved
  • Increase meeting attendance by 50%
  • Increase supporting membership by 30%
  • Continue to attract high-quality speakers
  • Increase sponsorship by 100%
  • Finish year in the black financially

I wrote about these goals back in January. As I described, we set out a plan to meet these goals. Now that the year has ended, I’d like to review how we did against these goals.

Get members more engaged and involved

In addition to the elected officers, GANG recruited several volunteers - Chris Roland, Shelly Noll, and Kelly Brownsberger - to help with all the work that goes into each meeting.

In the past, the group was a venue for people to watch a technical presentation - but little else. The technical presentations are important, but we wanted members to get more out of it. So we designated the period before the meeting as networking time, when users can enjoy their dinner and talk to one another. We handed out name tags, which help to break the ice.
After the meeting, we invite everyone to a local pub, where we can enjoy some relaxed social time. It wasn't uncommon for us to go out after a meeting, but we made it more inclusive this year.

We introduced Lightning Talks this year. A Lightning Talk is a 10-minute presentation that any member may deliver on a topic of his or her choosing. In addition to providing more content for the audience, it gives members experience speaking in front of an audience in a low-risk environment.

This year, we started a monthly get-together that we called the Motor City Codeslingers. This is a chance for programmers to get together to do some pair programming and share some idea.
We held a Food Drive in November and almost 60% of the attendees donated. This was a huge success, collecting over 160 food items and over $600.

Increase meeting attendance by 50%

We began the year with a membership drive. People could enter into a raffle by attending a meeting and by bringing a guest to a meeting. Microsoft donated a Zune HD as a grand prize for this drive. We drew for the Zune at the June meeting.

Throughout the year, we encouraged members to spread the word among their friends and colleagues and we introduced first-time attendees at each meeting. Word of mouth remains the best way to attract new members.

We also advertised the group on the social networks Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

These tactics worked. Attendance increased from about 35 per meeting in 2009 to over 54 per meeting in 2010. More impressive was the steady increase in attendance throughout this year. We went from 28 attendees in January to 80 in November and the average attendance in the second half of the year was over 65.

Increase supporting membership by 30%

There is no charge to join GANG or to attend meetings, but we do offer a supporting membership for an annual fee. This goal was a partial success. The number of supporting members increased by only about 10%, but the dollar amount was more than double last year due to an increase in the amount of the fee we set.

Continue to attract high-quality speakers

For years, GANG has attracted outstanding speakers. This year was no different. We held twelve meetings in 2010 and our list of speakers reads like a Who’s Who of developers in the region. We had Microsoft program managers, evangelists, Technology Specialists, MVPs, book authors, and influencers. All our speakers also present at conferences.

Increase sponsorship by 100%

We blew away this goal. In 2009, Michigan was hit hard by the recession and our sponsors reflected this with reduced sponsorship. Our funds were so low last year that we did not provide dinner for our last few meetings.

This year, we pursued existing and new sponsors and raised several times the sponsorship that we did last year. Not only did we always provide dinner – several times this year, we could afford to upgrade from the typical pizza dinner to something more interesting, such as tacos, fried chicken and Chinese food.

In addition to raising more money, we reached out to vendors to donate software, books, and training that we can give away at a raffle at the end of each meeting. We give out thousands of dollars worth of merchandise at this raffle – more than many conferences.

Finish year in the black financially

We added this goal, because GANG owed about $300 at the end of 2009. This year, we increased sponsorship donations as described above. We also implemented some cost savings by doing things like buying soda and chips from the grocery store, instead of from the caterer.

We are finishing 2010 with a surplus of over $1500, which will be a good start for 2011.

Wrap-Up

In addition to the accomplishments listed above, GANG also did the following in 2011:

  • MessageBox.Show Newsletter
  • Monthly E-Mails
  • Upgraded web site
  • Signage during the meeting
  • PayPal

Overall, I’m really proud of what my team and I accomplished in 2010. It’s not like we took a group that was floundering and brought it up to acceptable. We took a stable, successful group and took it to the next level. Other user groups in the area often look to us now for ideas of how to be successful.

The only remaining question is: How do we top this in 2011?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 3:46:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, October 4, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010 4:59:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, September 30, 2010

G. Andrew Guthie and Dane Morgridge invited me to be the featured guest on Community Megaphone Podcast this week.

We talked about community, give camps, user groups, INETA, MVPs, fried foods and kilts.

I had a blast.

You can listen to the show here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010 3:32:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, September 2, 2010

Don't let anyone tell you that nothing ever happens in central Kentucky. The Great Pork Chop Incident of Carrollton, KY was still fresh in my mind as I drove the 300+ miles from Michigan to Lexington, KY Tuesday to speak at the first-ever meeting of the Lexington .Net User Group.

The drive down was uneventful and I arrived early enough to review my presentation before the meeting began.

Matt McKnight, who - along with his wife Tiffany - had founded the user group, sent me several text messages directing me to a good parking spot, the ideal building entrance and the location of the meeting room inside the Lexington Public Library.

But I never made it inside the library. Matt's final text message arrived as I was getting out of my car. That was the moment that everything changed. The police had arrived and ordered an evacuation of the building. I found Matt outside the library and he took me to a local bar, where about 20 user group attendees were self-applying beer to help recover from the emergency evacuation. The bar wasn't adequately equipped for a presentation, so Matt made some phone calls and found that DeSha's Restaurant had an available back room. The entire group headed across downtown Lexington to our new destination.

The restaurant had no projector, so I gave an abbreviated version of my presentation - Writing Your First ASP.Net MVC Application - using only my laptop. It went well. People were engaged and asked good questions and no one complained that my presentation was too long.

I was really impressed with this crowd that was willing to walk 5 blocks across downtown Lexington in order to attend a user group presentation. I think this bodes well for the future of the group.

I'm very glad I was present for the nascence of this group. I expect great things from them in the future.

LEXNUG site.

Thursday, September 2, 2010 8:27:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 1:43:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, August 17, 2010
 #
 

John Kellar Sitting in the hotel bar last night, surrounded by geeks from around the country, I realized that I did not want DevLink to end. We all came to Nashville to exchange ideas and to learn a little more about our profession.

John Kellar – a Nashville resident until a few weeks ago – is the driving force behind the DevLink developers conference. With the help of a group of volunteers, he puts on an amazing conference that brings together a diverse group from the IT industry. People with a variety of roles, focusing on a variety of technologies traveled from all over North America.

I was scheduled to deliver only one session – Communication in the Workplace – an expanded version of a presentation I gave last year at the Kalamazoo X conference. I delivered it Saturday morning and was pleased with the reception it received. My main message was that you should be proactive in seeking frequent feedback from your manager, in order to improve your performance and raise the perceived value of your work. The slides are below.

After arriving at DevLink, I also arranged for a panel discussion on Finding a new Job in the IT Industry. I moderated a panel that included John Kellar, James Bender, Jay Harris, Diane Sanders, Jeff McWherter and Todd Anglin.  The panel participants did such a great job articulating ideas about the how to approach a job search. Everyone agreed on the high value of networking, but there was a spirited debate on the value of a college diploma.

The last few conferences I’ve attended, I have favored open spaces and hallway conversations over the more traditional “eyes-front” presentations. This one was different for me. At DevLink, I attended five sessions (other than my own two). A brief summary is below.

The Rich Standards: Getting Familiar with HTML5 by Todd Anglin.

This was an eye-opening session for me, showing a look into the emerging standards of HTML 5. The next version of HTML promises more semantic markup, making web pages more accessible to search engines and to screen readers. It will also provide native support for audio and video. Some HTML5 features have already been adopted by some of the major browsers.

NHibernate and Friends by Lee Brandt

In this introductory presentation, Lee ran through the basics of NHibernate, Fluent NHibernate and LINQ to NHibernate. He also explained why why he chose this stack over other ORMs (earlier adoption of key features), the conventions that NHibernate expects and how to configure NHibernate when your data and objects deviate from those conventions.

Getting Started with Entity Framework 4 by Dane Morgridge

This presentation assumed no prior knowledge of EF and walked the user through the creation of a data layer in less than an hour. I really liked the simplicity of the presentation and the demos. Don’t tell Dane, but I may borrow some of his ideas for an EF presentation I am developing.

Iconoclasm (Closing Keynote) by Ted Neward

The conference ended with a compelling lecture by Ted Neward, who warned of the changes to the American software industry and recommended that we set our vision higher and redefine our own roles in this industry. He refers to those who have blazed new trails in other areas as iconoclasts.

Todd AnglinIt’s hard to define why this conference is such a success. Sure, there are many great speakers and the attendee can sometimes choose between a dozen different sessions at a given time. But there are also open spaces and hallway conversations from which to learn. And, because so many of us stayed in the recommended hotel, there were numerous opportunities in the evening to meet smart people.

The attention to detail by the organizers added to the event’s quality. From the excellent speaker dinner to the hand-written Thank You notes given to each speaker, everything contributed to the quality of the conference.

If there is a DevLink next year, it is already penciled onto my calendar.


Photos from DevLink

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 5:50:06 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, August 1, 2010

This is a 2-part recording of Len Smith's presentation JavaScript is Real Code: SOLID and TDD in the Browser, delivered at the July 21 meeting of the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group (GANG)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Sunday, August 1, 2010 11:35:54 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 26, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010 12:11:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 1:35:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 5, 2010

Here is a fun slideshow of photos I took at the Codestock Developers conference in June

You can view all my photos from Codestock here.

Monday, July 5, 2010 12:02:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, July 2, 2010

Today, I received a message from Microsoft awarding me a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in Visual C#.

I have been aware of this award ever since my friend Nino earned one years ago. I never quite understood the selection criteria but I knew that it was recognition of a willingness to share knowledge with others in the community. Since sharing knowledge is something in which I a lot of take pride, I am happy to be recognized for this.

A Microsoft employee once told me that he wouldn't nominate anyone who sought to become an MVP, so I never tried to reveal any aspirations, working in the community because I enjoyed doing so. I even joked about it, posting an e-mail on this blog from Mike Woelmer, who nominated me as an NVP (Not Very Professional). But the truth is that I did want this award and that I am excited and proud and grateful to receive it.

I want to publicly thank Jennifer Marsman and Alan Stevens who nominated me. I was told that some other folks said nice things on my behalf as part of this process. I don't know who they all were, so I won't list them here, but know that this was much appreciated.

I am aware of some tangible benefits - software, admission to the MVP summit, access to the product team - and I know there are a few other benefits that I haven't sorted through yet. But, for me the most important benefit is recognition by my peers.

And for that I am grateful.

Friday, July 2, 2010 12:33:55 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 28, 2010

Mike Neel does an amazing job with Codestock. Two years ago, he (along with Alan Stevens) introduced open spaces to the heartland; Last year, he wrote an application that allowed attendees to vote on their favorite sessions; and this year, he held the keynote in an classic movie theater and invited Rachel Appel to talk about community and bring onstage others to give their views of community.

Two days after Codestock (and a day after a 9-hour drive home from Knoxville, TN), I’m still processing the information learned.

I delivered two presentations and hosted a discussion panel. My first presentation – Writing Your First ASP.Net MVC Application – was well-received. I love showing people how accessible a hot technology like MVC is. In the afternoon, I gave a 2-hour presentation on An Introduction to Relational Database and T-SQL. I had no slides: I spent most of the talk showing examples of writing T-SQL code to modify schemas and data. I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested in this topic, but I heard some positive feedback. Many in the audience were experienced C# developers, who knew very little about the data they were accessing; and there were a couple experienced people who listened to get ideas on teaching this topic to others.

Because I had 4 hours of material to present, I spent most of Day 1, delivering or preparing my presentations. As a result, I was unable to observe much of the conference on Friday. My evening was free, so I was able to enjoy a nice dinner with about 20 folks from the community, watch the keynote, and hang out in the hotel lobby talking with developers from all across the US and Europe. I also sneaked in the filming of a couple episodes of Technology and Friends.

Saturday, my only responsibility was hosting a Panel Discussion – How to Put on a Great Conference. I did one really smart thing: I invited some really smart people to be on the panel. Because of this, I had to do very little during the discussion. I would ask an open-ended question, such as “What is the first thing you need to think about when planning a conference” and the conversation flowed with many great ideas exchanged. (The most popular answers to this question were venue, date and goals).  Jamie Wright made a video recording of this session and I plan to release it soon as an episode of Technology And Friends.

I was able to watch a few sessions on Saturday.

Chris Woodruff asked me to film the premiere of a new talk he created called “Embracing Failure”. Chris emphasizes that we should examine our shortcomings, accept responsibility for them and use them to improve ourselves.

Patrick Foley gave a presentation on becoming and independent software vendor (ISV). Patrick suggests that you don't try to tackle every feature on every platform: Instead, start by focusing on one platform and do something better than everyone else.

In Nathan Blevins’s Mindstorming presentation, he showed off programs that controlled a car, making it drive, turn and automatically avoid falling off a ledge.

Saturday evening included a dinner sponsored by Telerik (Thanks Rob and Sasha) and a trip to Alan Stevens’s house for an evening of ping pong, cigars and fellowship.

During my time in Knoxville, I also spent a lot of time picking the brains of other attendees and speakers. I met a lot of intelligent and passionate people at this conference.  I was late for dinner every night because I found myself engaged in a conversation with someone about error handling or MVC view engines or search engine optimization or one of  dozens of other topics. Often I turned on the camera when I realized how much information I was getting from a conversation, so many of these talks will be available on future shows.

As with most conferences, it was the people that made this one. Codestock attracts many of the same people that attend local events in Michigan and Ohio. But it also draws people from New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Alabama, and many other parts of the country. There were even people from Manitoba, Canada and from the United Kingdom.

I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Tennessee (DevLink in Nashville in August) and my trip to Codestock next year. Let me know if you will be there.

 

More photos from Codestock

Monday, June 28, 2010 6:26:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Episode 92

At the 2010 ann arbor Day of .Net, I hosted a panel discussion in front of a live audience.

Michael Eaton, Jay Harris, Patrick Steele, Jim Holmes and Jason Follas described how they cope with the information overload of keeping up with technologies.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 10:57:39 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 7, 2010

I had every intention of going to more sessions at the Central Ohio Day of .Net. But one speaker was sick and I was asked to fill in with a second session. So I spent time after lunch preparing and only saw bits and pieces of other sessions.

But I did learn a lot. This conference always attracts smart people and I exchanged ideas on unit testing, code refactoring, Visual Studio 2010 new features and web hypermedia. Many of these conversations took place on camera, so I will be able to share them online in the coming weeks.

And I delivered presentations on ASP.Net MVC (scheduled) and Managed Extensibility Framework (unscheduled).

Many thanks to Mike Wood and the rest of the crew that put on this excellent conference.

  

More photos from CODODN

Monday, June 7, 2010 2:12:36 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This is a 5-part recording of Chris Marinos's excellent presentation F# and Functional Programming for C# Developers, delivered at the May 19 meeting of the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group (GANG)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Community | F# | Video
Tuesday, May 25, 2010 11:08:33 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Episode 87

In this interview, Day of .Net organizers John Hopkins and Jason Follas describe what went into planning this event and what were the results.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 5:04:36 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, April 19, 2010

Episode 82

Monday, April 19, 2010 1:28:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yesterday, I attended the second Kalamazoo X conference. This year's event featured a great list of speakers, presenting many thought-provoking topics. Ideas came at me so fast, it was tough to keep up. Here are some highlights of the presentations I saw.

"Treating the community like a pile of crap makes it stronger" by Brian Prince

The title of this talk comes from Brian's experience growing up in rural Maine and shoveling manure in the summer months. Manure works better as a fertilizer if you periodically mix it, moving the bottom to the top. The same can be said for user group leadership.
If you are a community leader, plan for a peaceful transition. Identify others who can take over and groom them to do so. Take some time off from the lead role in order to re-energize before coming back.

"Agile+UX: The Great Convergence of User Centered Design and Iterative Development" by John Hwang

John is a web designer and his company is applying agile methodologies to its project. He discussed the challenges of using Agile to manage User Centered Design (UCD) AND User Experience (UX).  The big challenge is that Agile is geared toward making developers more efficient, yet designers are a key part of any web development project. John avoids responding to amy Request for Proposal (RFP) because an RFP forceS you to estimate many tasks that you don't yet know and that are almost certain to change. He emphasized that development and design should be done in parallel and that the feedback loops and iterations of agile should apply to both. Developers and designers should work cooperatively, rather than in conflict.

"How to Work Effectively with a Designer/ How to Work Effectively with a Developer" by Jeff McWherter and Amelia Marschall

Jeff is a developer and Amelia is a designer and the two recently went into business together. They have worked together in the past and they related some of the challenges and lessons learned from their previous collaborations.

"Communication is the key" was a message they reiterated several times during this talk: Ensure that your partner knows what you are doing; verify that it is consistent with what they are doing and that the technology supports it. Developers and designers should strive to learn about the tools and skills of the others. It will help them figure out what they can accomplish.

Mock-ups are a key means for designers to convey information. Jeff said that he often writes business rules in the margins of Amelia's mock-up drawings.

"Does Your Code Tell a Story?" by Alan Stevens

Alan told us we should not bury the lead, so I will tell you his main point now: Beauty is the ultimate defense against complexity.

Alan took the advice of successful novelists and applied their principles to the art of writing code. "The code in our industry is crap", he asserted; then he explained how to make it better: Take chances; write shitty code in your first draft; refactor it several times; and make it clear, simple and obvious before releasing it.

"Unwritten Rules of Resumes" by Jeff Blankenburg

Jeff's major point was that your resume should stand out and distinguish you from other candidates. He advised ncluding a strong first paragraph in a personal letter, accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped return post card with your resume. This will help to establish you in the minds of the hiring personnel. Establish a strong professional network and avoid the temptation to burn bridges when you leave a company.

"Have you hugged your brand today?" by Clovis Bordeaux

Per Clovis, building a brand begins with a mission statement. A critical part of building your brand is getting every employee involved and on the same page, regarding the message you are sending about your company. 


Kalamazoo X home page

Photos

 

Sunday, April 11, 2010 5:31:03 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Episode 70

Dave Bost, the host of the popular Thirsty Developer podcast discusses what goes into each episode and some of the technology he uses to record and produce the show.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 7:22:33 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, February 8, 2010

Episode 69

Shortly after CodeMash, chief cat herder Jim Holmes discusses what went into the planning and what makes this conference different.

Monday, February 8, 2010 3:50:07 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

I gave a talk on MEF a numbe of times during January. You can get the slides and demo from the link below

or you can view the slides below:

Monday, February 8, 2010 3:36:13 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Episode 68

James Bender, Mike Wood and Chris Woodruff created NPlus1.org to assist software architects, lead developers and those aspiring to these roles. In this interview, James and Mike discuss the goals and accomplishments of NPlus1.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 12:47:35 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, February 1, 2010

Many software developers are using Pair Programming to increase the quality and maintainability of their code. In a pair programming environment, two programmers work together to write code.

Tonight in Southfield, MI, the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group is sponsoring a pair programming event, which we have labeled The Motor City Codeslingers. We invite programmers who work in any language to bring their laptops and pair with another developer. You may bring a side project with you, work on an open source project, work on a programming exercise (we'll provide a few) or just exchange ideas.

Joe O'Brien is a noted Ruby developer and owner of EdgeCase in Columbus, OH. He has agreed to stop by and provide some mentoring on pair programming techniques. Joe's company is well-known for its commitment to pairing as a way to maintain high quality.

The Motor City Codeslingers will meet at the Biggby Coffee House at 26185 Evergreen Rd in Southfield, MI tonight from 6-9PM. If we fill up Biggby, the overflow crowd can head to the Potbelly or Chipotle next door. The official announcement for this event is at http://is.gd/7pFGL

I hope to see you there.


Monday, February 1, 2010 12:38:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

Episode 67

In this interview, Steven "Doc" List discusses the concepts behind Open Spaces and Community Courtyards and his role in facilitating these events.

Monday, February 1, 2010 12:28:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, January 31, 2010

I smiled as I drove across the state line into Michigan Friday morning. I was returning home from spending most of the week in Ohio, speaking at user groups throughout the state.

I spoke about Managed Extensibility Framework at four user groups over three days in four different cities.

Tuesday, I spoke at an internal user group of the Cincinnati Financial Corporation, before heading over to the Cincinnati .Net User Group in Mason, OH. Wednesday I drove up to Dayton to speak at the Dayton .Net Developers Group. Thursday I presented to a packed house in Columbus at the Central Ohio .Net Developers Group.

The trip was a great success. At each stop, the crowd was larger than their average meeting.  Everywhere I went I heard probing questions that indicated that I was communicating the concepts of MEF and loosely-coupled architecture. This was gratifying as most people had no idea what MEF was when they arrived at my talk.

The best of the trip was that I had a chance to see old friends. I spent ten years living and working in the Cincinnati area and many of my former colleagues came out to hear me. Some I hadn't seen in years. I once worked for a Columbus-based company, and through them I got to know much of the developer community in that area and I saw many familiar faces in Central Ohio this week. Tuesday and Thursday night, we went out for drinks after the meeting, which gave me a chance to talk one-on-one with a lot of smart people.

I also got a chance to see the inside of the Sogeti offices in Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus and talk with some of the team in these offices.

I had a great time on this tour and I'd love to do another one.

Thank you to all who came out to hear my talk. Thank you especially to Mike Wood, Jim Holmes and James Bender, who allowed me to stay at their homes on my trip.

Sunday, January 31, 2010 5:07:49 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, January 25, 2010

Tomorrow I travel to Ohio for a user group tour. This is a trip I've been hoping to do for some time. The .Net user groups in Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus meet on consecutive evenings, so I am planning to speak at each of these this week. The idea began last summer, when I invited Phil Japikse to come to Michigan from Cincinnati and speak at the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group. I notified the leaders of user groups in Toledo and Lansing that Phil would be in town and they invited him to speak at their groups the same week. Phil asked me to come to Cincinnati in January and he reached out to Dayton User Group president Joe Wirtley about hosting me in Dayton the following night. Joe liked the idea and confirmed the meeting. Later, I contacted James Bender, the newly-elected president of the Central Ohio .Net Developers Group in Columbus about completing the sweep through the Buckeye state. He had already booked Jeff McPherson for January but Jeff was willing to defer his talk to March, allowing me to speak Thursday in Columbus.

Phil and Mike Wood have also arranged for me to speak at an internal user group at the Cincinnati Financial Group Tuesday afternoon.

So I'll be doing 4 user group presentations in 3 cities in 3 days. The topic will be the same for each talk: Extending your application with the Microsoft Managed Extensibility Framework. I've given this talk a number of times in the past, but I recently reworked my presentation and added to my demos. I'm excited to do this tour. It reminds me of a similar tour I did during the fall of 2008, when I spoke at user groups in Toledo, Southfield and Lansing on consecutive nights. By the time I got to Lansing, I knew the material inside and out.

My schedule at public groups this week is

Tuesday 1/26: Cincinnati .Net User Group (http://www.cinnug.org)

Wednesday 1/27: Dayton .Net Developers Group (http://daytondevgroup.net)

Thursday 1/28: Central Ohio .Net Developers Group (http://condg.org)

If you are in or near Cincinnati, Dayton or Columbus this week, I hope you come to hear my talk and to say 'Hello'.

Monday, January 25, 2010 5:09:33 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Today I host my first meeting as president of the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group (GANG). I've been an active member of this group for a couple years and I've always been impressed with the way it was run. Still I had ideas about ways it can be improved and I've lately given a lot of thought as to the direction I want to the group this year. In this column, I'll share some of my goals for GANG for the year and discuss how I and my team plan to meet those goals.

Below are my goals for GANG for 2010

  • Get members more engaged and involved
  • Increase meeting attendance by 50%
  • Increase supporting membership by 30%
  • Continue to attract high-quality speakers
  • Increase sponsorship by 100%
  • Finish year in the black financially
  • Here is how I expect us to meet these goals

Goal: Get members more engaged and involved
For the next few months, we will give members an opportunity to present a Lightning Talk prior to the main presentation. A Lightning Talk is a technical presentation lasting 10 minutes or less. It gives the group a chance to hear a new voice and a new topic; and gives the presenter experience at public speaking in a safe and friendly environment.
We will designate 20-30 minutes prior to each meeting as "networking time". Food will be served during this period and members will be encouraged to meet and talk with one another. We will provide name tags to facilitate this networking.
Typically a few of us go out for a drink after each meeting. Going forward, we will announce this to the group, so that anyone is welcome to attend. Note that this is not a GANG-sponsored activity (translation: buy your own drinks and be responsible for your own actions)
Between each meeting, we are sponsoring a pair-programming session known as Motor City Codeslingers. This is a chance for developers to get together with their laptop and discuss coding issues or work on programs together. The next meeting takes place Monday February 1 at 6PM at Biggby Coffee House (26185 Evergreen Rd in Southfield)

Goal: Increase meeting attendance by 50%
Southeast Michigan has thousands of .Net developers and we are reaching only a small fraction of them. I believe we can increase our attendance by reaching out to the following groups: Developers active in nearby user groups; Developers in corporate IT departments; graduating computer science students; and independent developers. We are asking our current members to advertise their friends and co-workers to tell them about this group. I plan to contact local universities to promote the group to graduating seniors; and I have been reaching out to leaders of user groups in Michigan and Ohio, offering to promote their group in exchange for them promoting ours.
As an attendance incentive, we are running a promotion the first half of 2010. In June, we will have a drawing for a Zune HD. You can increase your chances in this drawing by attending meetings and by bringing guests to meetings.

Goal: Increase supporting membership by 30%
It costs money to put on a user group. Our dues are very low relative to other professional organizations. The renewal rate 2010 will be $40 per year. This is the first increase the group has ever had in its existence. If you are currently a supporting member, you remain a member at the until your next renewal date.
In the past, we haven't done a good job of thanking our members and reminding them when it is time for a renewal. We will address both these by including a slide in our presentations listing and thanking each supporting member and displaying their renewal date.
We also offer a new gold membership level for $100. This is for members who wish to contribute more to our organization. Gold members will be recognized publicly at each meeting.

Goal: Continue to attract high-quality speakers
This is something that GANG has always done well, so I have no intention of changing how we get our speakers.

Goal: Increase sponsorship by 100%
Printing, communication, web sites and food at meetings all contribute to the costs of running a user group. Most of this cost is offset by sponsorship.
Due to the weak southeast Michigan economy, sponsorship dropped off significantly in 2009. We have set an ambitious goal this year of doubling the amount of money and merchandise we get from sponsors during 2010. We have already secured two new sponsors for the year and look forward to retaining all our sponsors from last year.
This year, we will display our sponsors more prominently. At the beginning each meeting, a slide show will loop to announce the speaker, the topic, and the sponsor for the meeting. We will also have a framed sponsor flyer next to the attendance sheet during the meeting. Of course, we will continue to promote our sponsors on our web site and in our monthly newsletter.

Goal: Finish year in the black financially
This sounds obvious, but at the end of last year, we borrowed money to cover the cost of food at some meetings. As a result, we owed money at the end of the year. This year, we have decided to be more responsible: We have resolved not to purchase anything until we have money to pay for it. If a meeting has no sponsor, we may end up foregoing food or limiting ourselves to chips and pop.

And Now... Meet the gang behind GANG!
We have a great leadership team this year at GANG. No one holds the same position as last year, but three of our officers have served on the board in the past.
John Hopkins is a former President of GANG and is now the Vice President. His biggest project this year is recruiting sponsorships.
Kent Feribach served as Secretary last year and is now the Treasurer. In my opinion, this is the position with the most responsibility.
Gerhard Weiss is new to the GANG board but he has brought a lot of energy and fresh ideas to the group in the short term he has held this position.

So we hope you will consider being a part of this group and our goals. We meet the third Wednesday evening of each month at the Microsoft office in the Towne Center in Southfield, MI.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 12:41:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, January 15, 2010

CodeMash came to an end too quickly.

Friday lunch featured an entertaining keynote by Andy Hunt, who discussed the challenges of life in the high-tech world, the differences between the generations, and ways for developers to improve their existence.

Late in the day, I delivered a session on the Microsoft