# Monday, 24 August 2009

Episode 43

Kathleen Dollard is the only person I've met who is building a production application using Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF). In this interview, she describes how to use MEF and shares her vision of how it will affect the way we architect applications in the future.

17 mins, 37 secs

Monday, 24 August 2009 04:24:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 23 August 2009

Those who attended DevLink last week should enjoy these photos I took. Even if you didn't attend, you may like to see shots of what you missed or people you know.  You can view over 200 photos here.

If you have a very short attention span or if you enjoy the heart-pounding music of Link Wray, the slideshow below is for you.  Turn up your speakers and move your furniture out onto the front lawn before clicking 'Play'.

2 mins, 28 secs

Sunday, 23 August 2009 23:26:29 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 22 August 2009

I started using DasBlog for this blog almost two years ago.

For the past couple months, I've been struggling trying to add a permanent page to my web site. By permanent, I mean a page that is always relevant and is always available at the top of the site; as opposed to a blog post, which is dated and moves down as new blog posts are added.

My biggest problem is that I wanted the new page to have the same theme as all existing pages. It seemed simple enough but DasBlog did not provide an obvious way to do this.

Recently I discovered an old post by Omar Shahine at http://www.shahine.com/omar/FormatPageMacroInDasBlog.aspx

He described in detail exactly what I wanted to do.

Essentially, I create a file named xxx.format.html and add any static HTML I want on my new page. To apply the theme, I need to use FormatPage.aspx, which ships with DasBlog. FormatPage.aspx accepts a parameter path, which points to an HTML document and displays that document with the current theme applied.

After uploading my HTML page, I can apply a theme by linking to FormatPage.aspx?path=DaveSchedule.format.html.

Now I have a link in a tab at the top of every page pointing to my past and upcoming speaking schedule and that page has the same theme as the rest of the site.

Saturday, 22 August 2009 16:43:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, 21 August 2009

Episode 42

The 2009 Lansing Day of .Net was held August 1 at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing, MI. This was the first event that Dennis Burton organized and he discussed it with us here.

8 mins, 28 secs

Friday, 21 August 2009 05:16:31 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

I will be presenting "An Introduction To Object Oriented Programming" at the Findlay Area .Net User Group August 25 (next Tuesday) in Findlay, OH. For more information visit the group's web site at http://fanug.org

This is actually my second time speaking at this group but it's the first time since 2002, so they have probably forgotten.

If you are in Northwest Ohio or central west Ohio, please come.

Friday, 21 August 2009 01:52:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Episode 41

Sara Ford is the Program Manager for Microsoft's CodePlex site. In this interview, she discusses the CodePlex site, open source software, and what she has in common with an Apollo astronaut.

19 mins, 50 secs
Wednesday, 19 August 2009 06:05:54 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 18 August 2009

John Kellar stood on stage in the final minutes of the DevLink closing ceremonies, gazing across the audience and smiling. In front of him, someone was introducing the members of the staff that had helped him organize and execute the conference. Behind me, the applause began. A few people in the back stood and clapped; then two more in front stood up; then I stood and applauded; soon, the entire auditorium was on its feet, cheering those who had put together an amazing conference.

John said he wanted to focus on the entire conference experience to make it worthwhile for the attendees. He succeeded at an amazing level.

Here are some highlights from my experience at DevLink 2009

'Configuration Management with Team Foundation Server' presented by Steve Andrews
The first day, all sessions were three hours long. Steve Andrews showed how to configure the automated build settings in TFS. He dug deep into the details of TFS and showed the various options available for continuous integration and how to customize the process.

'Good ways to use Live Mesh' Open Space
I called this session because I wanted to use Live Mesh as my backup strategy, easing my angst about rebuilding a laptop or PC. Jeff Blankenberg showed me the details of this very cool technology, answering all my questions and showing how he used Mesh to backup and share files.  Others looked over our shoulder as he did so, making this a successful Open Space for several people.

'MEF' Open Space
I have been delivering a talk on Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF) for almost year. But in this session, I got to ask questions of Kathleen Dollard, who has been working with this framework on a production application and has some very definite ideas about the future of MEF. It’s startling to me how much I learned during this hour.

'Enhance your .NET Application with SSRS' presented by Jessica Moss
Jessica had some hardware issues in this session, but recovered well enough to put on a solid presentation. I was glad to see because I have a customer looking for a class on SSRS and she looks like a good candidate for that.

'Dot Net Rocks' panel discussion
Prior to the closing ceremonies, Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell recorded an episode of their popular Dot Net Rocks podcast. A panel consisting of Josh Holmes, Jim Holmes, Kathleen Dollard and Billy Hollis discussed whether software development was becoming too complex. It wasn't one of Franklin and Campbell's best shows, but it was fun to watch them perform live.

Networking
Conferences are a chance to meet up with old friends, meet new friends and exchange ideas. DevLink was particularly good for this because so many people attended from outside my geographic region. The usual suspects from Michigan and Ohio were there, but I spoke with people from Atlanta, Virginia, Colorado, Canada and Great Britain.  Hallway conversations were as good as any I’ve had at a conference.  We were even able to meet in a more relaxed atmosphere at several organized evening events. The 3-day format made it possible to establish relationships with people through multiple conversations. John Kellar reminded me that this is not an accident and it's the reason the word "Link" appears in the conference name.

Technology and Friends
I recorded thirteen interviews for my show at this conference. I've already released one episode and cannot wait to produce and share the rest.

This was the best-run community conference I have attended to date. From the time I woke up to the time I went to bed, there was not a minute that I lacked something to do and learn. Often I had to choose between two or three options. I am already looking forward to next year.


DevLink web site

Tuesday, 18 August 2009 13:22:12 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 17 August 2009

Episode 40

On the third and final day of DevLink 2009, John Kellar sat down and talked about the planning and work that went into the conference; what the conference accomplished; and what it meant to the developer community.

13 mins, 35 secs

Monday, 17 August 2009 13:14:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 09 August 2009

A year ago, I was surprised to find myself on a bus rolling toward Tennessee.  Although I had made it a habit of attending as many community events in the area as I could, Tennessee seemed too far to travel for a conference. So I originally balked at the idea of going all the way to Murfreesboro, TN for the DevLink conference.

Matt B But I found myself between jobs last August and I decided I needed to use this free time to network with others in the IT industry.  So, at the eleventh hour, I found an unused ticket; reserved a hotel room; and signed up for the community bus ride from Michigan to Tennessee.

For so many reasons, going to DevLink turned out to be the right decision.  I saw some very good sessions (Joe Wirtley's WPF presentation remains one of the best I've seen on the topic) and I got my first real taste of open spaces done well. But, more importantly, I met so many passionate people from the developer community. Looking back, it's startling to me how close I've become with some of them in just a few months.

This was one of the events that triggered for me an intense involvement in the developer community.  Since returning from DevLink, I've spoken at numerous user groups and conferences; I've become an officer for a local .Net user group; I've blogged with a vengeance; and I've become one of those loud opinionated guys you see on Twitter and at local events.

I won't say that DevLink is solely responsible for my community involvement over the past year. But I definitely found inspiration in the passion folks I saw there.

Carl F and Matt C This year, I'm planning a return trip to DevLink. The speaker lineup and the agenda look amazing; the event has expanded to three days and moved from Murfreesboro to Nashville; and the Open Spaces area promises to provide more stimulating discussion.

I spent most of my time at the 2008 DevLink in the Open Spaces area, but this time, I plan to attend more sessions. I'll also bring my still camera to capture the faces of the attendees and I'll bring my video camera to capture fresh ideas from passionate developers for my Technology and Friends show.

I hope to reconnect with many in the developer community and meet new people there. If you see me at DevLink - even if we haven't met before - please approach me and say "Hello". I'm looking forward to talking with you.

Sunday, 09 August 2009 21:56:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 08 August 2009

Cliff Atkinson's Beyond Bullet Points proposes a radically new approach to creating presentations based on Microsoft Power Point.

Atkinson provides a template (available for download); an outline that splits a presentation into lengths of 5, 15 and 45 minutes; and an abundance of advice on improving your presentations.

After reading the book, I discarded the template and the outline but I embraced many of his ideas.

Here is some of the book's best advice:

Allow your presentation to tell a story.
The first presentation I did after reading this book included a story about consultants Juan and Amal, who had nearly identical skills and accomplishments but received very different performance reviews. Most of my presentations are instructions on how to use software, which doesn't lend itself well to a story format. If possible, however, I try to weave a story into the presentation.

Minimize the text in your slides.
Atkinson recommends eliminating all bullet points from every slide. The only text on each slide should be a headline. I haven't gone that far, but I have drastically reduced the amount of text on each slide. When I open an existing deck, I move much of the slide text into the Notes section. This simplifies the presentation, but keeps the text with the slides when I distribute them to users. During presentation, I make the former bullet points part of my verbal presentation, rather than something the audience reads off the screen. This keeps the audience's focus on me, rather than on the screen.

Use simple graphics
A simple graphic communicates an idea visually. I have been replacing the bullet points in my slides with a headline and a single photograph that relates to the slide topic. The slides become more interesting but less distracting.

Rehearse your talk
I already knew this but the book's reinforcement helped remind me how important it is to be familiar with one's material. Nothing achieves this goal like a couple dry runs through your presentation. Ideally this should be in front of other people (to provide feedback) and in a room similar to the one in which you will be presenting; however, filming your presentation and reviewing it yourself is also very helpful.

I have not bought entirely into the Beyond Bullet Points approach. But I have internalized many of the ideas in this book and my presentations have improved as a result.

Link: Beyond Bullet Points Online

Saturday, 08 August 2009 11:21:54 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)