Community

TIP: Introducing people who already know each other

Posted on April 29, 2008. Filed under: Community, Tip |

No doubt you’ve done this at some point:

You’re at an event or user group and find yourself chatting with someone new. A friend of yours strolls over and joins the conversation. Being the polite person you are you introduce your friend to the new person. They reply with ‘oh yes, we already know each other – Bob here is my brother…’

Easy to feel embarrassed right?

You shouldn’t – in a healthy group or event this should be happening all the time.

These days I make a point of introducing people whenever I can. I’d estimate that on 20% of those occasions they already know each other.

Far from being embarrassing it is actually a good thing.

Don’t apologise, instead follow on with something like this: ‘Oh good, just checking. Have you known each other for a while?’ etc – use it is a conversation starter. (Of course, if they are brothers, you may want to use a different line… )

Why? Because it really is embarrassing if you chat for a while and then the third person takes it upon them self to make the introductions. Or worse, they part ways never having been introduced.

Some caveats

Obviously you should use a bit of common sense.

  • Introductions are best via a question: ‘John, do you know Cathy here…?’
  • Don’t go introducing people who clearly recognise each other (eg they are already chatting :-)).
  • And don’t go out of your way to introduce people who are in a hurry eg they may be just passing by to quickly mention something to you.
  • Oh, and be careful introducing people if one of them is very well known (eg ‘Tim, let me introduce you to Bono…’). Famous people – at least those worth being introduced to – are usually gracious and take the initiative of introducing themselves. Which is why you’ll hear things like this at a developer user group: ‘Hi, I’m Scott Guthrie, pleased to meet you…’

 

Forgetting people’s names

We all do it. Don’t try to hide it.

If you obviously recognise them, and think the chat is going to be more than a passing hello, then bite the bullet and ‘fess up. A simple ‘I’m sorry, I’ve completely forgotten your name…’ is better than dancing around the ‘good to see you mate‘ routine.

And if like me you’ve been in situations where you chat with them later at the same event and you’ve forgotten their name again, just ‘fess up again: ‘I’m so sorry, this is embarrassing, but I’ve forgotten your name again…’ – they may be a little peeved, but that is still better than them realising via your use of ‘mate’.

 

What’s the point?

User groups, events and other community gatherings are about getting to know each other better.

So, focus on the good of ensuring everyone is included, and less on the etiquette and social dance that can otherwise detract.

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COMMUNITY: CodeCampOz 2008 report

Posted on April 28, 2008. Filed under: Community, Microsoft |

When: 25-27 April 2008

Where: Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia

This has easily been the best CodeCampOz I’ve been to (and I’ve been to all of them :-). Mitch and Greg have done another stellar job organising this event. All of the sessions have been high quality and relevant. Big thanks to Microsoft, Readify, IT Masters, SSW and CSU for their involvement.

The Twitter coverage has been a highlight (view the Hashtags summary here), and meeting people who I’ve been following for a while has been a bonus. Photos have been put up on Flickr thanks to Roger.

As Angus has reported, we’ve got tons of ideas and suggestions to take back and implement at Elcom.

I’m not really one for gratuitous praise or for singling out people, but I have to say that during Paul Stovell’s session I had the distinct feeling we were in the presence of greatness…

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SBTUG: Wed 30 Jan – Understanding PR, and SQL Server 2008

Posted on January 17, 2008. Filed under: Community, SBTUG |

Only two weeks until The Sydney Business & Technology User Group (SBTUG) kicks off for 2008.

And what a great return meeting we have lined up.

Business

On the business side of things, Cecelia Haddad will be giving us an overview of PR. The whole public relations side of business is a mystery to many, so this session will be especially relevant for business owners.

Cecelia has more than 15 years experience in PR and runs her own PR firm: Marketing Elements. I’ve seen Cecelia present previously, and was so impressed (and helped) by her session that I begged her to present at SBTUG.

Technology

Following that, Peter Ward will be giving us an overview of the new features in SQL Server 2008, with a particular emphasis on how they are relevant to software companies. The focus will be on which features are of most relevance to software businesses.

Peter is a Brisbane based SQL MVP, and owner of WardyIT, one of Australia’s leading SQL Server consulting firms.

Details

Date: Wed 30 January 2008

Time: 6pm for a 6:30pm start

Venue: Microsoft, North Ryde

Contact: call me on 0413 489 388 if you have any questions

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COMMUNITY: User groups are starting up again

Posted on January 13, 2008. Filed under: Community, SBTUG |

Is it half way through January already?

That must mean it’s time for user groups to start up again! And what a great bunch of sessions they’ve got coming up this month. Here’s a few to get you excited:

Immediate problem: which group to choose for this Tuesday night? – they both look excellent.

Others to keep an eye on (not yet announced):

(I keep a list of Sydney User Groups on my home page. Readify also keep a fuller list of Special Interest Groups from around the country.)

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SBTUG: This Wed with Social Networks, and Silverlight. Plus a great Prize

Posted on November 25, 2007. Filed under: Community, SBTUG |

Another (!) big night this Wed 28 November 2007 with Laurel Papworth and Michael Kordahi presenting.

Both sessions will focus on the business value of their respective topics – eg is social networking of use to businesses? Is Silverlight really of interest to companies at this stage? The answer to both is Yes. Come along and find out why.

A bit about the speakers: Laurel is a Social Media lecturer at Sydney Uni as well as an online community strategist (amongst other things). Her passion is analysing social networks.

Michael is a Developer Evangelist in Emerging Web technologies, of which Silverlight is a big player right now.

Prize: I will be giving away a copy of Eric Sink’s excellent book: The Business of Software.

Details at www.sbtug.com

See also the Facebook group details and the Facebook event details.

Date: Wed 28 November 2007

Time: 6pm (till 8:30pm)

Location: Microsoft HQ, 1 Epping Road North Ryde (view map)

Phone: 0413 489 388 (call me if you are having trouble getting in – doors are locked at 6pm, and need a security guard to let you in)

See you there.

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SBTUG: This Wednesday: Assessing Business Ideas, and Team Foundation Server

Posted on October 28, 2007. Filed under: Community, SBTUG |

This Wednesday 31 October 2007 the Sydney Business & Technology User Group has yet another great night lined up.

Our Business talk will be presented by James McCutcheon on ‘Assessing Good Business Ideas’. James is a serial entrepreneur and gifted speaker, as well as being a Microsoft MVP. He spoke last month on How to Start a Venture which was highly acclaimed.

[Note: Previously we advertised a speaker from the Department of Agriculture discussing R+D claims, however the calling of the election recently has meant government officials are now prohibited from presenting at many meetings and groups. We will be rescheduling him for next year. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.]

For our Technology talk we have none other than Grant Holliday (TFS MVP) presenting on Team Foundation Server. If you’ve ever wondered how TFS can bring productivity to your software organisation then this is the session to see. Grant will be giving a high level overview of TFS and its application to companies.

Full details of the meeting are on the SBTUG site, but in summary we meet at 6:30pm on the last Wednesday of every month at Microsoft North Ryde.

To keep in touch with what is happening feel free to join the SBTUG group on Facebook and you can also view the Event on Facebook.

And, if you haven’t already please Add me as a friend on Facebook.

Catherine Eibner has created a Twitter feed for SBTUG.

(Oh, and I’ve put the meeting on Eventful since I’ve been playing with that lately.)

See you there.

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COMMUNITY: Are events worth the cost?

Posted on October 23, 2007. Filed under: Community |

Q: Is it worth going to community events like SQL Code Camp?

A: Yes – read on for explanation…

SQL Code Camp 13-14 October 2007

When considering any developer event these days it is important to calculate whether you are getting good value. With so much content available online, we need to evaluate the costs (financial, comfort, time and otherwise) involved in traveling to a venue to learn similar information. The greatest cost is of course in personal time. These days I put an hourly $ value on my time and use it to compare options. Sounds clinical and selfish perhaps, but is primarily an attitude of considering yourself as your own personal business – you need to make a profit or else you’re not around for long.

Let’s breakdown the costs

First the financial costs of attending an event like SQL Code Camp… the event is free, but everything else adds up. Airfares: $240, Accommodation: $268, Hire car: $191, Meals: $40, so roughly $750. Sure, there’s ways of minimizing these expenses, but I have certain standard of living expectation, so these values are about right.

Next, personal time cost: You are giving up at least 2 and probably 3 days (including travel down on Friday, recovery on Monday morning etc) of your personal time that could have been spent on other activities. Giving myself a nominal personal charge out rate of $1.5K a day and I’ve basically said that I am expecting $3K value out of the weekend for it to be worth my while.

[Aside: My personal hourly rate is based on a combination of personal time and professional charge out rate: so I use $200 an hour and $1.5K a day when making these calculations. I treat weekend days and week days the same.]

What about the comfort cost? This is a hard one to gauge, but basically amounts to how unpleasant (or pleasant) the conditions are. They include everything from an uncomfortable bed (serves me right for being tall) through to eating too much pizza at lunch. I’m on a bit of a health kick at the moment, so I really notice it when I eat badly (yes, I could have catered for myself I guess). Sounds picky? I guess, but I don’t really mean it to come across like that, rather I’m just evaluating. Let’s put a nominal half day cost on the comfort side of things…

Other costs? Well, if I were in Catherine Eibner’s shoes I guess there’d be a few more costs to consider…

So, let’s add it all up. $750 travel expenses, $3K time expenses, $750 comfort. That’s about $4.5K. So what value did I get in return?

Return on investment

There are three main returns from an event like this. First of all there is the content delivered by the speakers. At this code camp the quality of speakers varied a lot. Crowd favourites like Greg Low, Adam Cogan and Grant Paisley delivered in fine form, Kevin Kline from the US was excellent, and even a few of the ‘new’ speakers were well worth the time (Mai and Ducas were standouts). The majority of sessions were helpful, but approximately a third were disappointing. The main reasons were due to poor presentation skills and too little content for their allotted time (I won’t pick on anyone in particular, but when much of a session involves looking at the syntax of a command and encouragement to check out Books OnLine, you know you are getting poor value). This is of course the problem with community events – you can’t expect to have top content for the whole event. Verdict: Overall content was fair to good value.

Next is the value of networking. This tends to get overrated by people in my opinion. For example, I often hear people talking about how one of the main benefits of an event like TechEd is the networking. Whilst I don’t disagree, I am less hasty to tout this aspect. Networking is indeed important, and must (yes MUST) be a part of every developer’s time in the community, but it is also something that is available via other avenues (and I guess that’s why the ‘social networking’ fad is so big these days). There’s nothing like meeting in person mind you, but, like many developers, I have a limit to the amount to talking and chatting I can manage. In general I’m on the introverted side of the scale, so a few hours over a weekend is all I can manage. Thus, it is about a balance really. In terms of networking, SQL Code Camp is a good opportunity. Meeting and chatting with a few experts is important, and to be honest some of the tips I picked up from sitting next to Peter Ward on the flight home were priceless. so, I’m not going to underestimate that.

If I was a speaker (I wasn’t) I could include some kind of exposure benefit from attending. For example, Kevin Kline would have received great exposure from speaking, and I’m sure Quest will get a few more hits and even purchases in the coming months. Thus being a speaker could return great value.

Let’s discuss the content a bit more. As I mentioned earlier some of the sessions were excellent. For someone in my position I need to be aware of as much as possible that is happening in the technology circles. Although I’ve been developing with SQL since the 6.5 days, given the size of the product now, there is no way to be competent across all areas. Thus, although I don’t have to know the specific details of how to program in a particular area, I do need to know what a product is capable of. And, in this regard, the event was fantastic. I was given exposure to a broad range of areas involving SQL Server. Everything from performance tuning, to migration strategies, tips and tricks, to SSIS, SSAS, SSCE, even a touch on VSTA, and plenty more. In a single weekend I’ve seen a number of SQL 2005 areas and have a high level overview of where SQL 2008 is going. This was a great return on investment for me.

Other options

But let’s compare it to other avenues. If I’d taken my $4.5K of opportunity cost elsewhere, what could I have bought? The first possibility is self-study. I could have taken a week off work and just studied, played, read and worked with SQL 2005 and the latest CTP of 2008. But consider this… how often have you spent half a day trying to work out something that turned out to be really simple? Something that you perhaps picked up from an off hand remark an accomplished speaker made… Yes, there is a definite value from seeing people present and work with a product. Never devalue the live performance.

Another option would have been to take a training course. Given my budget of $4.5K this is probably the equivalent of a 2 day course (if including the cost of my time etc). The advantage of this approach is that you can (normally!) be confident that the course is high quality throughout. And you can also control the content (because you decide which course you are attending). The down side is that courses are usually more detailed and specific to a particular topic, as opposed to the broad range offered at a Code Camp event. However, this post is about the value of events in general, not just Code Camps, so often the level of topic changes with the event.

Moving on to other options, there are paid events/conferences (eg TechEd, ReMIX, PDC, etc). I’m calculating my $4.5K would only buy 1 day of a conference like TechEd (factoring in conference registration cost, accommodation + travel), so I’d likely need to equate 3 Code Camps for one TechEd. The advantage of a conference like TechEd is the range of topics that one can choose between, the calibre of the speakers and sheer size of the event. There are no real downsides by comparison that I can think of.

The value of repetition

So, let’s compare going to TechEd with going to 3 Code Camps. What represents the better value? I suspect few would choose Code Camps over TechEd, but does that mean that we should only go to TechEd? Or is there value in attending both? What if I attend TechEd and also Code Camp? Is the value of Code Camp in anyway reduced? This last part is an interesting question. And this is perhaps one of the best value parts of Code Camp – the value of repetition. You’ll all know that being shown something twice makes it much easier to learn (doing it yourself is even better). Therefore, the maximum value of a Code Camp in my opinion is combining it with other events. The ideal would to attend TechEd, then a number of events afterwards to reinforce things learnt at TechEd. In fact, even greater would be to attend TechEd first in the US, then follow it up with the Australian version :-). If you are an MVP, then you are even luckier, since you can get the heads up on technology at the MVP Summit, then follow it up at TechEd.

[Another aside: This is also why I will happily see a presentation twice, eg if a great speaker presents a great session at two different events, I am happy to see it twice as I will often get more out of it the second time.]

Conclusion

Let’s draw this all to a close. Do I think there was $4.5K of value in attending SQL Code Camp? Answer: Given the broad range of content, the quality of some of the speakers, the networking potential and added value of repetition, the answer is a resounding yes.

Therefore, as an overall statement of my position:

Question: Is there value attending community events? Answer: Yes.

Question: Is it valuable to attend both community and paid events? Answer: Even more so.

Question: Given the limitation of having to choose between community or paid events, which offers more value? Answer: Paid events.

Question: If there was one thing about free community events that you wished could be improved, what would it be? Answer: I wish the quality of the presentations was consistently high.

But finally…

A big thank you to Greg Low, Readify and helpers (including Microsoft, WardyIT, Quest and others) for putting on another fine community event. See you again next year.

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ACS: James Crisp on .Net 3.5

Posted on October 7, 2007. Filed under: Community |

I went to the Australian Computer Society (ACS) meeting in the city last Wednesday night to hear James Crisp present on .Net 3.5 and VS2008.

James has his slides available here. It was a good session, with James explaining the following:

– A very brief overview of WWF.
– A few simple WPF examples (Flipper, Particles, 3D materials).
– Next up a discussion of WCF.

Then onto an example. James chose a nice little Recipe example to demonstrate the abilities of WPF. Using a local web server hosting a web service, he showed how to use WPF to talk to the web service and display recipes from the service.

Moving on to C# he covered the basic enhancements (Lambda functions, O-R mapping, extension methods and of course LINQ). Whilst not covering VB directly he did indicate that many of these enhancements are also in VB.

Delving further into his example application, he showed how the app pulls down data from the web service and updates a local SQL database
(Aside: He’s using Query Express to talk to the SQL Express database)

Next he dived into LINQ and explained some of the details for tying the XML data into objects that are then updated to the database.

Then onto the Search functions and how he uses Lambda functions (=>) for the searching of the XML data

Finishing up he gave a nod to the Castle Project (think Rails for .NET) and also mentioned Mono briefly (a .Net runtime for running on Mac, Linux and Unix platforms).

Overall, a great session.

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RDN: Readify Developer Network 2 Oct 2007

Posted on October 2, 2007. Filed under: Community |

Readify Developer Network

Here’s a quick summary of the Readify RDN session I attended tonight.
Event details: Sydney, 2 October 2007, 6-8pm

Paul Stovell kicked off tonight’s session with an Introduction to Windows Presentation Framework.
Overall an excellent session, covering the tools (Visual Studio, Expression Blend and Expression Design) before diving into XAML.
Some examples to illustrate the ease with which WPF can be constructed.
Only an introduction, so we can’t expect to be covering code behind or complex data binding, but at the very least the power of WPF is well presented.
Paul ran through his top 10 likes about WPF, and then finished up with a hearty recommendation for Enterprise Library (which seems to be the Readify tool of choice for all application development these days, even really small ones 🙂

Philip Beadle was up next with a reasonably detailed ‘introduction’ (as opposed to the usual basic introduction 🙂 to Silverlight. He’s using Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2, along with the Futures pack installed and the latest Silverlight 1.1 Alpha Refresh. [Aside: The Silverlight site has the general details on what you need.]

[Although you really need the 1.1 stuff installed to work with the code behind, it would have been nice to see one or two demos based on the released 1.0 version. But that’s just me nitpicking.]
Phil’s session was a great eye opener to the ‘real’ possibilities with Silverlight, quickly dispensing with the usual video and rich media based demos we’ve been accustomed to expect whenever Silverlight is trotted out these days.
The main takeaway for me was the ease with which we can now code everything in code behind that used to require JavaScript. Phil harped on this a number of times, and I have to agree with him. Although I don’t quite have the same distaste for JavaScript that he perhaps did (I wasn’t really sure if he was more tongue in cheek) I certainly do appreciate the problems that JavaScript introduces to big enterprise development. Think of the debugging, the source control, the performance monitoring, etc. Being able to replace this with compiled in code is an exciting prospect.
I have to admit to getting slightly lost towards the end as Phil flipped around between windows, but then again it had been a long day (I was pretty tired) so I can’t really hold that against him.

Overall this was an excellent event. Readify have provided yet another wonderful community contribution. Whilst perhaps in competition with some User Groups, I for one (as a user group organiser) welcome them all. The event was free and well managed (we were kept on track time-wise and finished right on 8pm as advertised). I’m writing this on the train home, knowing that I’ll be home in time to eat dinner at a sensible time. Yay!

[Important UPDATE: I had dinner at a sensible time]

I strongly recommend attending the next event – they are on every two weeks. Details of upcoming sessions are on the Readify RDN site.

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EVENTS: Community events coming up

Posted on September 7, 2007. Filed under: Community |

Just a quick note to promote a few free (primarily Sydney) events coming up (some you’ll know about, others you might have missed):

September 14: BizTalk 2006 R2 Launch (via Andrew Coates blog)

September 18: Enterprise Search Seminar

September 25: NSW.NET ICT Cluster – Business & Technology Directions for the Web

October 2: Readify Developer Network sessions commence

October 13-14: SQL Code Camp and Security Code Camp

November 3-4: Office DevCon (TBC)

(I’ll be going to all of them)

And of course don’t forget all the usual User Group meetings

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SBTUG: Winning new business, Enterprise Search, Prizes and Facebook

Posted on August 23, 2007. Filed under: Community, SBTUG |

Next Wednesday 29 August we’ve got a jam packed Sydney Business & Technology User Group (SBTUG) meeting all lined up.

The meeting kicks off at 6:30pm with free pizza.

Business

Kicking us off will be Steve Herzberg (http://steveherzberg.blogspot.com) from NRG Solutions (http://www.nrgsolutions.com.au/) with an detailed session on ‘Winning New Business’.

Steve is a sales and marketing guru who specialises in training SMEs and company managers. His session will outline tools and tips for company owners, software managers and senior developers to increase their effectiveness at winning new business.

Steve has more details about his session here (http://steveherzberg.blogspot.com/2007/08/winning-new-business.html).

Technology

For our technology session, SharePoint expert Deon Taylor (http://sharemypoint.blogspot.com/) from SDM (http://www.sdm.com.au/Pages/home.aspx) will be going through Enterprise Search and its implementation within the company perimeter. Enterprise Search is an extremely important business requirement these days, so this session will be invaluable to people investigating the different options available. Deon has details of his session here (http://sharemypoint.blogspot.com/2007/08/enterprise-seo-sharepoint-search.html).

SBTUG on Facebook

Perhaps you’ve avoided Facebook so far (it can be a time waster, that’s for sure).

However, if you are on Facebook I invite you to join the SBTUG group (and also the SBTUG Events).

The benefits of the Facebook group are that we can easily stay in touch, post comments and notices, as well as sign up for events and RSVP to events (which will help me with catering).

To join simply visit this page (you’ll need to log in for all these links) and click on the ‘Join Group’ link:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5695001142

To add the SBTUG 29 August Event, go to this page and click on the ‘Add to my Events’ link:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=5058354417

Please use the RSVP link to let me know if you’ll be attending.

If you’d like to add me as your friend, please go to my profile and click ‘Add Craig as a Friend’:

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=650760158

Prizes

I’ve got some great SBTUG T-Shirts, so as a special incentive to join me on Facebook, I’ll be giving a T-Shirt to the first 10 people who join the SBTUG group on Facebook.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5695001142

(You’ll need to attend an SBTUG meeting to pick up your prize.)

Looking forward to seeing you this coming Wednesday 29 August 2007 at 6:30pm.

More details on the meeting at the SBTUG web site: www.sbtug.com

Address is:

Microsoft Sydney Office
Theatre 2
1 Epping Road
North Ryde NSW 2113

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