devLink2011::Chatt Town Edition

Success in a BottleI made it back to DevLink this year, my last visit was in 2009 while it was being hosted at Lipscomb in Nashville, this year it was hosted by Chattanooga.  And just like Coca-Cola bottled their first Cokes a long time ago, the devLink organizers have found a way to bottle a successful event, again.

Imagine Tech-Ed and your favorite code camp had a baby, that’s DevLink.  The track offerings were just about anything you could imagine with all of the current tech splashing around in an ocean of technology.

The event kicked off with a Keynote from Ayende Rahien – “NoSQL – A change of perspective for the developer of today”.  Everyone walked about with the benefits and drawback of relational and NoSQL approaches.  This was a great way to kick off the conference, just an awesome talk.

The breadth of track and topic offerings were great to say the least.  There were sessions that discussed technologies we were already doing or using, but someone this time was doing it differently – we learn from things like this.  When their peanut butter and your chocolate collide – BAM; you walk out with a Reese’s cup.

The mixers they offered for attendees were great as well.  There were only three of us from FL that I know and we all made a lot of new connections.  The coders, hosts, and volunteers from the heartland are pretty welcoming and helpful.

The event sponsors really stepped us well.  The Chattanooga Convention Center was the venue for this event and its a really nice venue, with really poor wi-fi unfortunately.  I can only imagine there were was a vast shortage of twitter activity b/c of it, but I don’t think it stopped the momentum of the event in the least.  No event can be perfect, but the I would say this one gets in the high 90% range of perfect.

Ah, then there was the baseball game, this pretty much put the event over the top for me.  The game that night was awesome, don’t take my word for it, here’s the full article: http://bit.ly/oCOIoB, and here’s a few snapshots from around the stadium…

A view from the back of the ball park

I’ll definitely go back to DevLink next year if at all possible, and I drive through Chattanooga a couple of times a year so I’ll definitely make a stop here, I wasn’t able to make it to the Aquarium or the IMAX, and the local chatter I heard riding the (free electric) shuttle to and from the event they’re pretty cool to see.

Great city, great event, great venue, and a really great developer community! Congratulations devLink on another *really* successful conference!  See y’all next year!

/ofc

Barcamp Sarasota 2011

barcamp-med-white

My daughter and I went to Sarasota for Barcamp Sarasota this weekend.  The weather was awesome and the event was great.  This part of the community seems to be erupting in a good way, we are definitely going to be keeping our ears and eyes on this community.

My talk was called “Learn Your Customers’ Language”.  If you attended my Barcamp talk, here are the slides.  I hope you enjoyed it and if you have any questions, please shoot an email to me: onefloridacoder@live.com

** Update **

Put up two github gists from the code samples I didn’t get to during my talk
at #bcsrq on Saturday.  One for SpecFlow and one for StoryQ.

I accidentally bought an iTouch yesterday

By pulling the SIM card out of my iPhone and slipping it inside a Samsung Focus, one of a few Windows Phone 7 models out currently.

The last Windows Mobile device I owned was BlackJack II, and I really liked it until the display seemed to get smaller and smaller, day by day – at least for my tired eyes.  This was the only selling point for the iPhone 3GS.  I had other folks on my team sporting them and really pushing the OS to do this that or the other with some newfound app from the fruit market.  I can say I didn’t pay for any applications, I just needed a phone that played music REALLY LOUD wherever it might be.  That’s why I (saved my money first and then) purchased an iPhone. 

Over the 2 1/2 years I owned it I probably synch with iTunes a total of 12-15 times, mainly to get apps back that had problems with iOS3 and iOS4 changes, the last time was for the iOS4.1 update.  Whenever it came out, that was the last time I updated my phone.

Just like it’s big-big brother the MBP, it is solid phone, and it never died.  I could always make a call and take care of business.  I have a few friends that are iOS developers, and they love it, no love loss at all between us, they enjoy the challenges the platform gives them and the envelopes they need to push – all developers like this. 

I , on the other hand, chose not to pursue the iOS platform as exciting and challenging as my peers made it sound.  I spent about six months being mentored by an awesome Silverlight developer and evangelist who demonstrated how Silverlight worked, and what each rev could do better then the previous.  And most importantly the tooling, it seemed remarkable to me and I could figure out how to make stuff from scratch and make it work for me.  I spent about eight months bending the curve back into my favor after he left for and reached that moment when you leverage the language to make it do what you want.  It was a good day, well great IMHO.

While I was working on Silverlight, Expression Blend, and Designer Windows Phone 7 (WP7) reared it’s head and landed on a device that I could apply some of my skills to.  The WP7 platform was a blended version of Silverlight 3 and 4 (some call it 3.5) but I instantly understood the layout and notification system, but didn’t get the entire platform b/c some of it was closed.  The developers’ guide states you have to do things a certain way or “no soup”, or to be clear your app wasn’t going anywhere near the app hub.  The iOS devs have the same opportunities, but really, who wants to publish an application that sucks or broken?!  Not I, ever. 

I’ve been blessed to be (physically and virtually) around a some really talented developers who enjoy this platform, and they like to share their experience and sometimes their code.  I think I enjoy the community aspect of the platform as much as the platform itself – it’s a nice pair.  There are .NET devs that work the same types of problems on the iOS platform as we would on the WP7 platform – tomato, tomata – potato, potata, I think we should all learn from each other and quit bitching about what platform is best.  It’s a phone, YMMV on that last point.

My only testimony, and probably the best is one adopter that was in the store waiting in line with me.  She was tapping and swiping to try to see what the Focus could do.  Then she found pictures, then the games, and so on, she was definitely engaged and she was about six years old.  She totally figured it out, and I’ve heard from others that have iOS devices their kids to the same.  I hope that all kids young and old, no matter what device they pick up to tap and swipe on, learn to love a platform that challenges them.

So, I waited and waited, and saved my money. Then yesterday I picked up my Samsung Focus.  It is a phone that I can see.  With windows down and sun roof open it is a music player I can hear.  It is a device that reciprocates torment when I deploy an app to it.   It is the awesome.

BarCamp Orlando 2011

Today BarCamp Orlando took place.  I’m not sure how many have graced our city but this was my first.  Not having any expectations for what to expect, it was awesome.

The sessions are filled with speakers who volunteer in the morning to talk about things they are passionate about or that live in their wheelhouse.  Here are the sessions that stood out for me.  Apologies to the speakers b/c I didn’t get their names from the slides or the session sign-up board, but I’ve added the ones that I captured from slides or conversations.

Barcamp Orlando BuildASession
Barcamp Orlando Session Board

Here’s how the sessions get built up.  Pickup a sharpie off the table in front of thesession board and write down a catchy but descriptive title of your talk.  You have 20 minutes to to you talk and allow for 10 minutes for setup, questions, and running over.

Pause.  It’s a verb and also an acronym for what to do when you approach an opportunity for design.  Here’s the breakdown.  He started with a question about what was the oldest tool we knew of.  Give up?  The hammer, and if you imagine one with a claw opposite side of the striking surface, you have an “undo” feature.

Make a fist with your hand and you’ve got the first hammer known to man (and woman).  Then it progressed – to a stick for leverage, then a rock for durability, then a rock tied to a stick.  Then if the rock breaks, you’ve got something that looks like a chisel potentially.   Back to the acronym.

P. Purpose. What’s the purpose of the thingee you’re going to build for the solution to his opportunity

A. Actions. What actions does it need to perform?

U. User.  This adds context to the thingee, is the user blind vs color blind vs 5-yr old.  We elminate the other types of users when we apply this context to the opportunity.

S. Spacial domains.  What type of space will the thingee live in?  You wouldn’t want to build a 1000 x 800 site for a smartphone would you?

E. Evolution, just like the hammer example above, it evolved from a stick to an Estwing.  Your idea should do the same thing.

The last thing to consider are how strong are the connections between P and A, A and U, and so on, the stronger the better.

Lunch

Here’s a picture of the lunch line today, and the eats were good and filling as well.  And the weather was just screamin’ blue sky all day long!

Health Care IT

Aaron Drenberg had a great talk on his views of impacting Health Care IT in the next decade.  And the impact that the aging baby boomer population will make in that space.  Easy to understand concepts about how this space can potentially offer opportunities for consultants involved in science and engineering.

There were discussions around BarCamp today of having a few health camp events in the state, and organizing local chapters around the state.  Here’s the site for more and better information.

http://www.advancedhealthcaresociety.org

Go When Called To Grow

This designer started out a hair dresser then became a graphic artist, then after leaving a larger company found herself unemployed and found other areas of her life to explore that added to her graphic design career,  and along the way became a yoga teacher.  One of the points she made that stuck with me was “think small – business”.  There’s help to be handed out in this area and she gave one example of how she helped one client with a dream to start his online business.

The front page she created for them would have been called “hideous” by some, unable to convince the customer otherwise, it was what the customer wanted, lime green, shartruse and all.  That’s what she delivered.  She also mentioned she was also working at day care teaching kids yoga and drawing.  She thought that maybe she might be influencing a future desinger by sharing to kids at that age, while teaching herself childrens’ book illustrations at the same time.  Much about the attitude we have when we walk in the door to our job, or when our customers walk in the door.

http:// www.bilanxcenter.com

Content + Design = Great User Experience

For the whole twenty minutes Jason (Van Lue) held our attention in describing how we should be handling and thinking about content and design.   A few points I managed to jot down during this barage of information:

Content Strategy

  • Know your voice – what to say
  • Know your audience – who am I talking to

Personalize content by using filters

  • geo-ip addresses
  • social demographics
  • registration information

Responsive Design

  • Design on grids
  • Grid elements must be flexible
  • Different views in different contexts via media queries (did not know what media queries were until today)

Mobile First

One resource I eeked out of my notes was “lukew.com – mobile design”  – I checked, there’s a lot of stuff over there you might want to check out.

@jasonvanlue | www.jasonvanlue.com

There was a contingency of .NET folks up from Sarasota today as well, and I hear there’s another barcamp in store for the community down in Sarasota April 30th – May 1st.  Checkout www.bcsrq.com for more info, ping Stan Schultes at stan@vbnetexpert.com, or just register and show up.

It was a really awesome day with a lot of really talented and smart people filling the air with passion and excitement for technology.

Orlando Code Camp 2011

Over the last few months I’ve been spending just about every available hour working with the Orlando .NET User Group board and development team to build our Orlando Code Camp event for 2011. It’s an annual event that draws a few hundred Microsoft .NET Developers to our great city. We feed our minds, bellies, and idea factories with great stuff for the upcoming year.

This year we had the distinct pleasure of having our code camp begin with a plug from a Senior VP at Microsoft on video, it was the kick-off to an awesome day. We also had the distinct pleasure of being the 2nd largest code camp in the United States – next year we are going to grab that #1 slot for sure.  We have lots of ideas for the upcoming year, and the community has been blogging and tweeting like crazy (#OrlandoCC) about the event as well.

This year had a lot of great speakers, tracks, sponsors, and attendees – yes the attendees are what pushed into that #2 slot I just mentioned, and especially those folks in the bright green shirts – the volunteers!.  We were delighted they all gave up their weekend to spend it at our event.  They came from different parts of the US, and I know that one attendee hales from the UK – should’ve given him the furthest drive award.  Most of the sessions were full, and I heard great feedback from many attendees throughout the day.

We had John Papa (@John_Papa) in attendance as our featured speaker for the event.  He gave us a huge taste of what Silverlight 5 has up it’s sleeve – very cool stuff.  If you’ve never seen Scott Gu w/o his shirt, well you missed out – it was great demo.   We also had two up and coming speakers from our own user group, John Wang and Jay Hill, they nailed their own talks.  We’ll have some video from the event later on in April once post-production is finished showcasing some of the speakers in attendance.

The leader of our user group Esteban Garcia (@EstebanFGarcia) blogged about the event and put on a great talk as well, he also put a huge effort to get this event off the ground – he definitely has a vision for the community.  His blog post has all of the stats for how many, how much, etc., so I won’t spoil it for you.  I’m was (and still am) absolutely amazed at how many plates this guy can keep spinning at once.  He’s also an awesome .NET developer in his own right, there’s not too much stuff stumps Esteban – the community is very lucky to have a great leader like this.

We are going to ride this wave and keep the community rolling with some really cool stuff this year as well.  If you didn’t make it this year, don’t worry we’ve got you covered for next year. And if you did make to the event this year, thank you!

The Next Generation

My team had the opportunity to sit down with a group of engineering students from a university this week and it was interesting to see where they were at.

A large and varied group of kids that were interested in diving in, becoming an intern, being life-long learners, and those that had no interest in entering the work force before the PhD has been achieved.

Our team had 15 minutes to discuss the real-life day-to-day of what it’s like to build software, rub shoulders, and bump fists with customers and other developers.  And we tried to illustrate that sinking feeling of putting a project in jeopardy.

We think we reached our objective of describing successful software delivery, but only time will tell if anything stuck.  I did get quoted by a few of the students in conversations about some key topics, so maybe a bit of osmosis took place.

We’ll have to wait about 6 or 7 years to see for sure.  Advice is great, but you have to mix it with experience to get an elixir that you can take to the bank.

Oh, Go Packers!

The Community Steps Up, Big Time!

Three weeks ago the leader of my local .NET User Group were having problems landing a speaker for our meeting which took place last night.  I guess there’s some type of lull in the activity for speakers because we usually don’t have a speaker drought anytime in the year, until this month.

So my big campaign for the user group when I was interviewing for a board position was “Putting community back in the group”.  I put a lot of stuff on the table and this was one of them.  When I stepped in we already had a huge list of speakers choose from, and the group was getting ready for some fairly large product introductions (we also call them drops).  Our existing tools were changing and new tools were being introduced.  The speakers help sew up the gaps in our understanding of what we don’t know since depending on the speaker it’s usually their forte.

Last night we had three community speakers step up and talk about their passion and they did very well in fact.  Vastly different topics (GPU data processing, VIM/Auto-Hot-Key for keeping your hands off the mouse, and an authentication talk using pluggable providers-OAuth, OpenId, etc.  All very well thought out and presented, and I heard many compliments to the speakers on the topic and delivery.

Last night we definitely put the community back in the group, big time.