# Monday, 25 January 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, 25 January 2010 05:09:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)

Episode 65

Wrox just released a new book 'Testing ASP.Net web applications' by Jeff McWherter and Ben Hall. In this interview, Jeff and Ben discuss the importance of testing, the different types of tests and how to effectively test your web application.

Monday, 25 January 2010 05:04:09 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, 20 January 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, 20 January 2010 12:41:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 18 January 2010

Episode 64

In this interview, author and developer Bill Wagner discusses the dynamic features in the upcoming C# 4.0.

Monday, 18 January 2010 15:03:20 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, 15 January 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 Managed Extensibility Framework. My talk wasn't until 3PM, so I spent a good chunk of the day preparing for it.

One of the hallways at CodeMash was filled with PCs, preloaded with Visual Studio 2010 labs. I spent some time going through these labs, including writing F# code for the first time.

Of course, I recorded a few more Technology And Friends episodes with some smart developers.

I had a great experience this week. The CodeMash organizers made an effort to ensure that one always had multiple options at any given time. There were as many as nine sessions during each time slot; If none of those interested you, you could attend an open space, pair program, complete an online lab, or exchange ideas with other attendees. Social hours in the evening, included a game room, a concert (featuring Canadian-Celtic artist Enter the Haggis, and ad hoc gatherings in the hotel bar or in various hotel rooms.

I made a special effort this year to make new connections. I decided in advance that I would not eat with the same people each meal and I would eat with as many strangers as possible.  Doing so helped to expand the network from which I can learn.

It's no wonder that I had no time to set foot in the water park.

Friday, 15 January 2010 23:28:19 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, 14 January 2010

Although I've been here at the Kalahari since Tuesday, today was officially the first day of CodeMash.

The first session I attended was an Introduction to Silverlight talk in which Jesse Liberty walked through the basics of creating a simple online data form, showing off the layout elements and databinding features of Silverlight.

I followed this by attending a session on JQuery. The presenter - Adam McCrea - was a Ruby developer working on a Mac (I'm a .Net developer working on a PC), but it didn't matter as he showed a few simple JQuery functions to perform some tasks inside a browser.

I attended an open space in the afternoon. The topic - MEF and Silverlight - sounded intriguing but I left when it went far off-track, devolving into a debate over the usefulness of MEF and Inversion of Control container. This might have been an interesting side topic, but the arguments seemed fueled by emotion and I had little desire to engage, so I left halfway through.

Lunch featured a keynote address by Microsoft engineer Hank Janssen, who has been instrumental in bringing PHP to the Microsoft platform. IIS now supports PHP and bridges the gap with other open source technologies. This was a topic I know very little about, so I was able to absorb a lot of new information. As an bonus, NPlus1 sponsored a private dinner with Hank, where community leaders could ask him questions about Microsoft's future plans with open source technologies. I wasn't able to contribute much to this conversation, but it was a delight to listen to others discuss it in detail. Microsoft appears to be opening up their technologies and making them available to work with open source tools more than ever and it seems this trend will continue.

I recorded a half dozen more Technology and Friends episodes throughout the day. Topics include MongoDB, Open Spaces, and Software Craftsmanship. I will edit and release in the coming weeks.

Thursday, 14 January 2010 22:25:29 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, 13 January 2010

CodeMash officially begins tomorrow, but you wouldn't know it if you saw all the activity here at the Kalahari.

My morning was spent seeking out and talking with smart people. Many times, I get more information at a conference from hallway conversations than from sessions. None of the morning sessions appealed to me, so I learned of technologies and Microsoft programs and jobs and people.

In the afternoon, I attended Mary Poppendieck presented a 4-hour session titled "Competency and Leadership in Software Development". I was excited to see this because I recently read and enjoyed the book "Lean Software Development – An Agile Toolkit",

that Mary co-wrote with her husband Tom. This session focused on what it takes for individuals and teams to achieve expert competencies (years of directed practice); followed by types and characteristics of effective leaders (such as transmitting passion and commitment to the team).

Afterwards, I was happy that Tom and Mary agreed to record an episode of Technology And Friends. I expect to release this episode shortly.

In the evening, the folks who produce the Java Posse hosted a panel discussion on stage. Java developers were joined by C# expert Bill Wagner and F# tester and author Chris Smith to answer questions submitted by podcast listeners.

I missed dinner Wednesday night but I did get to meet some of the evangelists from DevExpress whom I know of by reputation.

Bedtime came late and Thursday comes early but tomorrow will be a full schedule.      

Wednesday, 13 January 2010 22:18:03 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 11 January 2010

Juanary is offically MEF month. I have scheduled "Extending Your Application with the Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF)" at least 6 times this month. The first time was last week, when I delivered a Grok Talk at Sogeti that was available via Live Meeting.

The following presentations will all be about MEF

  • Fri Jan 15 at 3PM, I will be delivering a vendor session at CodeMash in Sandusky, OH.
  • Tue Jan 26 at Noon, I will deliver a presentation to Financial Corp User Group in Cincinnati, OH.
  • Tue Jan 26 at 6PM, I will present at the Cincinnati .Net User Group in Mason, OH
  • Wed Jan 27 at 6PM, I will present at the Dayton .Net User Group in Dayton, OH
  • Thu Jan 28 at 6PM, I will present at the Central Ohio .Net User Group in Columbus, OH

In addition, I will deliver two presentations Fri Jan 22 at the State of MI Developer Briefing in Lansing, MI.

  • At 1PM, I will deliver my MEF presentation (of course).
    At 2:30PM, I will present on "Speeding your application with Microsoft Velocity".
Monday, 11 January 2010 13:48:24 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, 31 December 2009

2009 was a difficult year for me in many ways. My sister Denise was less than three years older than me when she passed away in July. Her death left a wound that is still healing. Worse than her death was the revelation afterward that she had been betrayed by someone close to her - someone we all trusted. We are still fighting this battle and it continues to elevate stress in my family.

But I also experienced many positives events in 2009.

The support of friends and family has been instrumental in getting me through these difficult times. If you are in this group, then I thank you. The tragedy shared by my family has brought us closer together in many ways.

My two sons continue to grow (physically and emotionally) and they continue to impress me with each new stage of their life. Timmy is now in high school and is showing more leadership qualities than I expected. Not long ago, he organized an independent basketball team completely on his own. They competed in a large league and he even convinced his brother to coach the team. His team performed well, despite playing in a league with kids mostly 1-2 years older. Timmy is working hard to balance school work with football and basketball. Nick is in his first year at Michigan State University. The time away from home is maturing him and each time I see him, I see more of a man and less of a boy. I remember a similar transformation in me during my first year at MSU. I particularly admire the fact that he is setting high goals for himself.

I have been dating a woman for quite a while. She didn't grow up in the US and her background is very different from mine, which presents some challenges; however, she is exceptionally kind and she is the most giving person I have ever met and I'm grateful she remains part of my life.

I did a fair amount of volunteer work this year, but most of it was not altruistic. I volunteer at a local non-profit music club in exchange for free admission to the concerts; I volunteer at the local public access TV station as a way to learn more about television production. The most good I did through volunteering was with the three Give Camps in which I was involved this year. I'm looking forward to participating more next year.

The biggest personal goal I did not hit this year was to lose 25 pounds. Resolving my sister's estate, being a single father, and other commitments kept me in the car so much that I had little time to exercise. Still this needs to be on the list next year.

One of my professional goals for this year was to be more involved in the software development community. In particular, I wanted to do more public speaking.  In 2009, I spoke at 5 conferences, 4 user groups, 3 internal Sogeti talks and 2 special events (ArcReady and NPlus1 summit). I expect this trend to continue as I have 5 presentations scheduled for January 2009.

I also became more involved in the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group this year. As Vice President, I took on the role of speaker coordinator and was able to line up some excellent presentations for the group.

In January I began production of my TV show "Technology and Friends" (although the show did not have a title for the first few episodes). During 2009, I published 63 episodes online. Recently this show has also begun airing on Channel 17 of my local cable system. Recording and producing was a great experience. It gives me the opportunity to talk with a lot of smart people and I have learned a lot about software, communication and video production.

I began my blog two years ago, but I devoted more energy to it in 2009. This article is the 155the entry for the year - an average of almost 13 per month. I don't know if I'll keep up that pace in 2010.

Despite the poor economy in Michigan, I managed to stay employed all year. During 2009, I worked for a significant time for three customers. At the end of each engagement, each customer had wonderful things to say about my work.

As the Microsoft Application Development lead in Michigan for Sogeti, I focused primarily on technical training for our consultants and on building a sense of community. I organized a series of "Grok Talks"  designed to exchange information. Some talks were delivered by Sogeti consultants (giving them valuable presentation experience) and some by experts in the industry. This was a big success and we plan to continue it next year, even though I will not continue in the same lead role.

As I write this, I realize that 2009 had more positives than negatives. The loss of my sister and subsequent discoveries still made it a difficult year, but I was able to accomplish a lot, thanks to some hard work and the support of family and friends.

I am looking forward to a happy and productive 2010. I have big plans, some of which I plan to share soon on this site.

Happy New Year and may God bless you all. 

Thursday, 31 December 2009 17:41:05 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, 28 December 2009

In this screencast, I demonstrate some of the enhancements in the user interrface of Windows 7.

Monday, 28 December 2009 12:10:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)