# 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)
# Thursday, January 14, 2016

Recently, I chatted with Oisin Kim, CEO webdoctor an online prescription and medical service. We talked about Azure and BizSpark and their market.

You can watch the interview below.

Thursday, January 14, 2016 11:29:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2015 was the year my son Nick completed his Masters degree at the University of South Florida, He is now the Director of Basketball Operations at Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville. I was able to attend 2 SIUE games in December - at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and at Northwestern (both losses by the Cougars).

2015 was the year my son Tim decided to pursue Informatics - a field of applied Computer Science - as a major at Indiana University. He is currently halfway through his third year of college.

2015 was the year I finally got serious about my health. It had been years since I had a medical checkup so I scheduled one, along with a long-overdue colonoscopy. I had not been to the dentist since the Reagan administration so I scheduled a checkup and a series of teeth cleanings. Miraculously, I had no health issues and only one small cavity. The doctors did not point it out, but I was aware that I had been steadily gaining wait over the past few years. So I began a serious exercise program and cut my calorie intake dramatically. As a result, I lost about 45 pounds and I've kept it off for 4-5 months now. I hired a personal trainer and worked with him to increase my stamina and core strength and I began riding my bicycle all over downtown until the weather dropped below freezing.

2015 was the summer I finally sold my house in Michigan, closing an unpleasant chapter in my life. My drivers license now reads "Illinois" and I have very nice home in urban Chicago. More importantly, for the first time in over a decade, I was able to choose where I want to live.

2015 was the year that my friend Jay lost his wife to an automobile accident and my friend Bill lost his life to cancer. It was also the year my cousin Sharon successfully made it through her cancer treatments.

2015 was a busy year for me professionally. I delivered well over 100 presentations at user groups, conferences, universities, and startup incubators; mentored at 7 student hackathons; held monthly office hours at 2 startup incubators; staffed the Office 365 booth at the Ignite conference; and attended countless user group meetings. I delivered 9 Cloud Camps and 14 Dev Camps during the year. I traveled around the country from Miami to Seattle to San Diego. I made my first trip ever to Alabama when I spoke at the DevSpace conference in Huntsville. I delivered 2 keynote presentations: One at Detroit Dev Day at Cobo Hall and one at GR DevNight in Grand Rapids, MI.

2015 was the year I accelerated my practice of producing online videos. I released a new episode of Technology and Friends ever Monday (Episode 400 aired in early 2016) and I recorded and released 15 DevRadio episodes; I also began a new series - GCast - featuring short educational screencasts.

2015 included a trip to Europe. In May, I flew to Romania to speak at the IT Camp (my second time speaking at the this conference); then to Stockholm, Sweden to speak at DevSum. I spent a few extra days in Stockholm visiting friends and exploring the region. This is by far the farthest north I have ever been. Although most days were partly cloudy, the sun set after I went to bed at night and rose before I awoke in the morning. I highly recommend a visit to Stockholm.

2015 was an excellent year for my favourite sports teams - the Michigan State Spartans. Both the basketball team and the football team advanced to the national Final Four - an unexpected and amazing accomplishments. I was blessed to see a few games, including the Big 10 Championship football game in Indianapolis last month.

In 2015, I continued my practice of beginning each day thinking of something for which I am grateful.

It's hard to believe 2015 consisted of only 12 months. I packed a lot into this time. On the other hand, it feels like I wrote a retrospective of 2014 just a few weeks ago. 2016 is beginning strong. I've already attended one excellent conference and I have some adventures planned for the first month. I approach this coming year with much optimism and much anticipation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 1:27:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, January 11, 2016
Monday, January 11, 2016 9:20:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, January 4, 2016
Monday, January 4, 2016 12:29:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, January 3, 2016

Today I am grateful for unbound optimism for the coming year.

Today I am grateful for the progress I made on my software project yesterday.

Today I am grateful for an amazing season by the Michigan State Spartans football team. ‪#‎GoGreen

Today I am grateful for 2015 - all the good times and all the challenges and opportunities to learn and become better.

Today I am grateful for a hot tea in a warm room on a cold morning.

Today I am grateful that Matt and Tim made it back to Michigan yesterday, despite the bad weather and hazardous road conditions.

Today I am grateful for a couple days in Chicago with my son Tim and my nephew Matt.

Today I am grateful for a visit to Shedd Aquarium yesterday with my son and my nephew.

Today I am grateful for Christmas with my family.

Today I am grateful for Christmas Eve dinner with Nick and Tim last night.

Today I am grateful to re-start my Personal Trainer sessions after a long hiatus.

Today I am grateful for a morning exploring Chicago's South Loop yesterday.

Today I am grateful to those who donated over $800 to the Fink family in the first couple hours the donation page was online.

Today I am grateful to win a bottle of wine at a Christmas party raffle last night.

Today I am grateful for a rare day of relaxing and doing almost nothing.

Today I am grateful for: -Seeing "The Force Awakens" yesterday morning. -Watching a 4-overtime victory by the Pistons last night at the United Center.

Today I am grateful for the empathy shown by friends, colleagues, and strangers.

Today I am grateful to know William Fink as a friend and a colleague and that I had a chance to spend time with him the last few months of his life.

Today I am grateful for inspiration and education from those around me.

Today I am grateful to be able to ride my bike in the middle of December. In Chicago!

Today I am grateful I live in a neighborhood with beautiful churches.

Today I am grateful for dinner with Kate last night.

Today I am grateful that my car is now fixed.

Today I am grateful to J. for inviting me to speak at GRDevNight in Grand Rapids and allowing me to stay at his house last night.

Today I am grateful for: -A chance to teach young children to code yesterday -A holiday party at 1871 last night

Today I am grateful for God's grace that shines on me every day.

Today I am grateful for dinner with my team last night.

Today I am grateful to arrive home safely yesterday morning after driving all night.

Sunday, January 3, 2016 4:16:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 28, 2015
Testing | Web
Monday, December 28, 2015 11:16:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Last week, my friend and colleague Bill Fink passed away. He was 46 years old.

DavidBill A few months ago, Bill went to the hospital complaining of a severe pain in his side. He was fearful it was a gall bladder problem but it turned out to be much worse. Bill was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in his pancreas. The outlook was bleak and his chance of recovery was small, but he underwent treatment anyway. The treatment did not work. In September, Bill was placed in hospice care. All treatment was stopped and his caregivers focused only on managing the pain that inevitably comes with this disease. On December 16, Bill succumbed to the cancer. He weighed about 120 pounds at the time of his death.

Bill and I were both Technical Evangelists on the same team at Microsoft. He joined the company in late 2014 - about a month after I did. A few years ago, we both worked for the small consulting company GA Sullivan. We never met during this time because he lived near St. Louis and I lived near Cincinnati, but we shared many common friends and acquaintances.

BillOnTechnologyAndFriends We finally met when we shared a room at a team off-site in Scottsdale, AZ in early 2014. I found Bill, intelligent and easygoing and funny and silly and very passionate about technology. Bill loved tinkering with hardware and writing software. Earlier this year, he missed his flight home from Seattle because he was so engrossed in writing software for a Hololens. One of his most impressive projects was a photo booth application that used the depth sensing technology in a Microsoft Kinect device instead of a green screen to replace the backgrounds in photographs.

Bill loved being a Technical Evangelist and he wrote about that last December after a year on the job. Bill spent much of his life and his career helping others. Whatever knowledge he had, he was always happy to share it with others. I have encountered many people who learned from Bill’s teachings.

I was lucky. I had a chance to spend some time with Bill these past few months. I visited him 4 times since Labor Day and we spoke on the phone between visits. Because our team is so spread out geographically, it was difficult for most colleagues to travel often to St. Louis. I was only a 6 hour drive away, so it fell to me to keep everyone updated on his status. Some people have asked if this made it more difficult to deal with Bill's death; but for me, connecting with him at the end, has made it easier for me to deal with his death. We had a chance to talk and I had a chance to say goodbye. And I had a chance to see the best in him.

Bill faced his illness with great courage and grace. He never denied its seriousness and he was not afraid to talk about it. But I never heard him complain about the hand he was dealt.

BillDavidJenniferEven in death, Bill is making an impact on the technology world. Bill’s brother wrote an obituary that described Bill’s demise using computer terminology, such as "...encountered an unhandled exception in his core operating system, which prematurely triggered a critical ‘STOP’ condition" and "Bill’s application has been migrated to the Cloud". The obituary began to trend on Reddit and many newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, and the Washington Post, wrote about it.

I will miss Bill's humor and his passion but I will carry part of him with me until I encounter a critical 'STOP' condition and my applications are migrated to the cloud. I hope I do so with courage that Bill Fink showed.

If you would like to make a donation to help Bill's family, you can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/BillFink.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015 5:22:51 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 21, 2015
Monday, December 21, 2015 7:34:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Last night, I attended a Founder Institute session for the first time. I was invited to tell members about the BizSpark program, but I stuck around after my presentation was done.

Founder Institute is an organization designed to assist people start a new company - helping them through every aspect of the startup process. At last night's meeting, members practiced pitching their startup idea to potential investors. Three experienced entrepreneurs listened to each 3-minute pitch and provided feedback on the presentation. It was good practice for the startup and it was educational for me.

Here are a few of the things I learned last night

What problem are you solving?

Identify this early in your presentation. Why do customers need your product or service? Who will potentially buy it?

Compare to something they know

Investors are unlikely to have heard your idea before. Make it easy for them by comparing it to things with which they are familiar. If your sales model uses contract salespeople who reach out to individual consumers, compare it to Avon. One startup proposed providing practical tests for companies hiring electrical engineers. Remind the audience that similar tests are now used successfully by companies hiring software engineers.

Identify your market

Not everyone is a potential customer. Identify what you are selling and who will buy it. If this is an established market, what are the current revenues - both worldwide and in your local area. One startup mentioned that the current market was in the trillions, but provided no context for that number, making it difficult to digest such a large number. Filter those customers to those who might reasonably consider your product and define who those customers are and how much they spend.

Stress your credibility

One hopeful startup was planning to sell wedding dresses online. At the end of his presentation, he casually mentioned that he owned a store that sells wedding dresses. Each of the panelists told him to lead with that information as it established his credibility. He was already familiar with the marketplace and the potential customers. In his case, it was even more important to establish this credibility because he is a man and his target audience is mostly female.


Startup pitches tend to be short (each pitch last night was limited to 3 minutes), so focus on the things that will make your startup successful. It doesn't help to list dozens of features your product will eventually have. It does help to list those features you plan to include in the first release of your product and why those features will resonate with potential users.

In my job as a Technical Evangelist, I work with many startups, often providing mentoring to them. Listening to experienced entrepreneurs last night will help me to serve as a better mentor in the future.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015 3:35:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)