# Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Tuesday, July 5, 2011 2:35:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 4, 2011

The first edition of a conference is always a risk. It’s a risk for the organizers because they don’t know who will show up or how everything will play out. And it’s a risk for the attendees and speakers, who have no way of knowing how well-organized the conference will be.

The first MADExpo conference (for the record “MAD” stands for Mid-Atlantic Developers) took lace June 30 and July 1 in Hampton, VA and it was anything but a disappointment.

The first win was the venue: The Hampton Roads Convention Center was an excellent facility, providing plenty of rooms for presentations and lots of open areas for networking with other developers.

The second win was the opening keynote. Jeff Prosise of Wintellect did not talk about software. Instead he shared his hobby – flying remote-controlled jets. The passion he feels for this hobby transferred into his talk and he kept the audience engaged. Ultimately, he brought it back to software by recommending that we all apply our passion to whatever we do – whether it is flying jets or writing software.

The third win was the presentations: Speakers came from all over the eastern half of the US to provide talks on a wide variety of topics. With eight choices in each time slot, it was often difficult to choose between several appealing topics. During several time slots, I spent a few minutes in different sessions to get a taste of the topic and the speaker. On Day 2, I saw two sessions: Bullets Kill People: A Presenter's Guide to Better Slides, and Jessica Moss’s How to Increase Report Development Productivity in SSRS.

Jay’s presentation - Bullets Kill People: A Presenter's Guide to Better Slides - was one of the best I’ve seen. If you do any public presentations that involve slides, I recommend Jay’s talk. Key points: minimize extra distractions on your slides; keep the text text large enough to read; Don’t provide all content in your slides; Slides should guide the presentations, rather than repeat it.

Jessica is a very polished and enthusiastic presenter and showed an educational walkthrough of SSRS. Her presentation ended early and she was kind enough to use the time to appear on my show – Technology and Friends.

The fourth win was the people. This conference was well outside my region, so I had a chance to meet many new people in the software developer community. I love seeing what others are working on and finding out what’s going on in communities around the country. I managed to convince a few of the attendees and speakers to record Technology and Friends interviews, which more than made up for the small number of sessions I attended.

Saturday morning, I had breakfast with conference organizers Steve Bodnar, G Andrew Duthie and Steve Presley. They were already making plans for MADExpo 2012.

Photos of MADExpo 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011 5:15:50 PM (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)
# Monday, June 27, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011 7:25:37 PM (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
Monday, June 20, 2011 4:18:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

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)
# Thursday, June 16, 2011

Charles Stacy Harris III of Microsoft and Gus Issa of GHI spoke about the .Net Micro Framework and The Internet of Things at the April 2011 meeting of the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group.

Their presentation included deploying code to electronic boards, robots, vehicles, and even a washing machine!

Here is that presentation

Thursday, June 16, 2011 3:28:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 13, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011 8:32:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, June 9, 2011

I’m a big fan of the Deep Fried Bytes podcast. I’ve listened to every episode since Keith Elder and Chris “Woody” Woodruff began recording years ago. So I was thrilled when they asked me to be a guest on Deep Fried Bytes this month.

We talked about Data Visualization. I recently developed a presentation titled “Data Visualization – The Ideas of Edward Tufte” that I’ve delivered at the Kalamazoo X and at Codestock. I’m scheduled to deliver it again at Devlink.

Keith was packing for a fishing trip the night we recorded, so Woody and I spoke via Skype for the better part of an hour. I think it turned out very well. I had a blast and I hope I get invited back.

You can hear the interview and download it at http://deepfriedbytes.com/podcast/episode-71-talking-data-visualization-on-an-audio-podcast/.

Thursday, June 9, 2011 3:52:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)