# Tuesday, 23 October 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, 23 October 2012 15:03:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 22 October 2012
Monday, 22 October 2012 15:50:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 21 October 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, 21 October 2012 16:39:27 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 15 October 2012
Monday, 15 October 2012 18:37:32 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 08 October 2012
Monday, 08 October 2012 12:23:01 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 07 October 2012

The Horror, the Horror…

I have been delivering technical presentations for a long time and have experienced many highs and lows. Here are a few of the more difficult challenges I’ve faced while presenting.

Expert in the Audience (Cincinnati, OH, 2000)

I used to do a lot of classroom training and my habit on the first day was to go around the room and ask each student to describe his or her experiences and goals. I once taught an XML class that included a module on a new product called “BizTalk”. I knew almost nothing about BizTalk but it was so new that I assumed no one else would realize the extent of my ignorance.

Imagine my surprise when, during Day 1 introductions, I learned that one of my students was a senior Microsoft consultant, who was currently implementing BizTalk Server for his client.

Thinking quickly, I asked this consultant to deliver the final module to the class. We all learned something from him and I was spared any shame or embarrassment.

No Laptop (Southfield, MI, 2008)

I was asked by a Microsoft Architect Evangelist to deliver a presentation at a Microsoft event. The slides and demos were provided for me, but I did not have access to a laptop, so I asked the evangelist to find me one. Unfortunately, he never did, so I ended up borrowing a laptop from a friend at the last minute. This laptop had two major problems:

  1. It was woefully underpowered, so all the demos ran very slowly
  2. Someone had installed an unlicensed copy of Windows on the laptop, so an “Illegal Software” warning repeatedly appeared during my presentation.

No one commented on the warnings that popped up, but the audience grew restless with the time it took each demo to run.

Dead Video (Toled0, OH, 2008)

I arrived at a user group in Toledo to discover that no image would display on my screen. User group leader Jason Follas came to my rescue. Using a crossover cable, Jason connected his computer with mine, which allowed me to remote into my laptop and present from his, averting a crisis. Sometimes one has to think outside the box.

Lost in Genesee County (Flint, 2009)

The Flint, MI .NET User Group met at a New Horizons training center. I had the address and a map, but I drove around the area for at least a half hour looking for the building. I had to stop at each building in several adjacent office parks and walk inside to see if it was the correct one. I finally found the group inside a building hidden behind an unlit parking lot. I only discovered this was the correct location because someone happened to be walking out as I was walking in.

I was 45 minutes late and completely rattled and this as one of the worst presentations I ever delivered.

Overcommitted (Southfield, Lansing, 2009)

I try to avoid overcommitting, but it sometimes happens. One memorable time occurred when I was scheduled to deliver a talk at Lansing Day of .NET; and was subsequently asked to fill in the day before for an event in Southfield. Another presenter was called away by a family crisis, so I had little time to prepare for my 4-hour presentation and I had to create nearly all the materials myself.

I was unable to start preparing for the Lansing presentation until the night before, so I ended up staying up most of the night.

Dead Laptop (Lansing, 2009)

My laptop completely died the morning of the 2009 Lansing Day of .NET. I had to borrow one from Michael Eaton. Unfortunately, I did not have a backup of my presentation (I now use DropBox, so I always have a backup), so I had to recreate it. To make matters worse, I was unable to install the necessary software on his laptop, so I had to forego my demos and only display slides.

The Bomb Threat (Lexington, KY, 2010)

It was a crazy idea to drive down to Lexington, KY and back in a single day; but I wanted to be the first speaker at this new user group. The meeting was scheduled in the basement of a public library. After a five-hour drive, I called my host, who informed me that a bomb threat had been called into the library and the police had evacuated the building and the user group attendees were standing on the corner outside the library. The projector and the pizza remained inside. The building did not reopen until the following day and I ended up delivering the presentation (sans projector and demos) at a local restaurant.

So, What’s the Point?

I share these stories for several reasons

  1. Preparation is the key to success. The more familiar you are with your material and your demos and your hardware and the location of the event, the less likely things will go wrong. You will also be more aware of what can go wrong and ready to deal with it.
  2. It's possible to recover from a mistake. It doesn’t matter if it is your fault or something beyond your control – things will sometimes go wrong. Deal with it and move on with your demo. Don't assume that everything will go well. Have a backup of the completed project or a video or slides showing code. You can still teach concepts even if your demo fails.
  3. Know that it's OK to screw up. If you are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about your topic, your audience will be surprisingly forgiving. Don’t dwell on your mistakes: Learn from them.
Sunday, 07 October 2012 22:07:18 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 01 October 2012
Monday, 01 October 2012 15:32:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 27 September 2012

Azure In Action by Brian Prince and Chris Hay has something for everyone. It provides a good overview of the use cases for Windows Azure and a high-level overview of the Azure architecture, which is useful for those new to the platform. It also provides many in-depth examples of Azure features, such as web roles, worker roles, and storage options.

The book also benefits from the light-hearted style of Prince and Ray, who are as entertaining in print as they are in person.

The only downside is that newer Azure features are not covered in this book and Microsoft is adding new features at a startling rate. As far as I know, no updated edition is in the works to cover these new features.

Still, the book remains relevant because of its focus on the uses of cloud computing and on the still-relevant core features.

If you are new to Windows Azure, this book is a good starting point.

Azure | Books
Thursday, 27 September 2012 15:38:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 24 September 2012
Monday, 24 September 2012 14:03:36 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Tuesday, 18 September 2012 01:54:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)