Tag Archives: SDNUG

A Visit from Zain

Last night the Shreveport .NET User Group hosted our resident developer evangelist from Microsoft, Zain Naboulsi.  He gave a presentation that gave us a little taste of what’s in store for Visual Studio 2010.  Some very cool stuff; I especially like the dump saving/loading and the ability to tear off code tabs for better multi-monitor use.

More important than the presentation, though, I think, are the ideas Zain has for moving our group forward.  The evangelist territories were recently rearranged so that Zain is the evangelist for the state of Louisiana.  You can expect better communication and coordination between the user groups in Louisiana, including aligning our meeting dates so that we can make it easy for a speaker to make a tour through the state and catch most of our meetings.  I’m also looking forward to seeing what we can do to make sure the word is out about our group.  One of the biggest challenges we’ve run into is making people aware that our meeting exists and that it can be a great free resource for developer education.

I look forward to seeing what comes of some increased attention toward our group from Microsoft!

May SDNUG Meeting

Tonight my friend Zac Kleinpeter gave a great presentation CouchDB, a schema-less document-oriented database from the Apache Software Foundation.  I have to admit that I don’t completely grok it yet, but the schema-less model does seem to be catching on in platforms designed for high scalability, such as Google’s BigTable, Amazon’s SimpleDB, and Microsoft’s SQL Data Services (at least the first available incarnation of it).  

Since it’s mostly popular with the Ruby and Python crowds, there isn’t a whole lot of effort being put into .NET libraries, but they do exist.  The SharpCouch library, part of the couchbrowse project on Google Code, is the main one that I’m aware of, but I believe there are others.

Definitely something that merits more investigation.  I’ll just squeeze it in alongside my experimentation with Mono, NHibernate, Rails, and the myriad of other goofy things that I continue to fill my free time with. 😛

January SDNUG Meeting

Last Monday (yeah, I know, I’m a week behind), the Shreveport .NET User Group for the first time this year.  I have to say, I think it went much better than last time.  Not only did we have an experienced speaker in David Penton, but we actuall had pizza, too!  Seriously, Brandy at Software and Services did a great job coordinating the food and drinks, and things went off without a hitch.

Everyone seemed to enjoy David’s talk on HttpRuntime.Cache Management.  All 8s and higher on the evaluations!  If you’d like to see his presentation slides and sample code, check it out here, or you can download it from the SDNUG site here.

Next month, we’re going to have another Microsoft MVP (and newly minted INETA speaker), Tim Rayburn come out and speak about parallelism features in .NET 4.0, which ought to be really interesting.  Come out and join us on February 16th at Centenary College!

November SDNUG Meeting and My First Presentation

The whole meeting this past Monday was kind of an interesting experience for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the pizza never showed up.  I confirmed with the sponsor earlier in the day, but once we had been waiting in the room for about 20 minutes, it was clear there wasn’t going to be any food that night.  It was an honest mistake on the sponsor’s part, but I think I’m going to do things a bit differently from now on.  If I (or another group leader) pay for the pizza, we can be sure it’s going to be there, and I can just work out reimbursement with the sponsor later on.  That way, if there are issues, I’m the only one who has to deal with them, and the group gets to eat.

Also, it was my first time to present at a User Group meeting.  My talk was titled “Debugging Evolved:  An Introduction to Automated Unit Testing”.  I used Roy Osherove’s forthcoming book on the subject, “The Art of Unit Testing”, as an inspiration for the topics I covered, and I highly recommend it.  It’s not due to be published until March ’09, but the unedited draft is available in PDF format through Manning’s MEAP program.  I learned several things based on the experience, plus the feedback I got from the group members.  For one thing, Comp Sci students and user group members are two very different audiences.  This may sound obvious, but it was important in my case. 

I was scheduled to go on a recruiting trip to Harding, my alma mater, around the same time as the November meeting, so I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone.  I wished we had covered automated unit testing in school, so I wanted to give the students there some exposure.  Also, I wanted to be able to bring in some speakers to the Shreveport DNUG to speak on TDD and related practices, but I wanted to make sure that the members had had some exposure to testing frameworks so they wouldn’t get caught up on tools during a presentation on what is really a design topic (TDD, BDD, etc).  I wanted to avoid the scenario of the first Fort Smith DNUG meeting, where we had a great topic and speaker (Raymond Lewallen on BDD), but a lot of people there had never seen a testing framework before, and I think they may have had a hard time following the presentation. 

In the process of creating my talk, however, I had to try to balance the content for students (some of whom had never seen a managed language before, let alone a testing framework in .NET) and the experienced developers at the Shreveport .NET User Group.  In the end, I think it might have been a better idea to do two different presentations, or at least have a much more fleshed out version for SDNUG.  I think a lot of the stuff I was talking about went over the students’ heads, but I got the impression the SDNUG members (understandably) wanted a bit deeper dive into more practical scenarios and potential business value of unit testing. 

I also learned that I need to work on my presentation skills.  I pretty much expected that, though, given that I haven’t given a public presentation since college.  One of the feedback forms I got suggested that I start attending the local Toastmasters group (which is actually held in the same building where I work).  I’ve been to one meeting, but the heavy emphasis on procedure kind of turned me off.  I realize that it’s there to help you learn how to behave appropriately on occasions where such procedure is the standard, but it just seemed a little silly to have someone introduce the person who was going to be introducing everyone else when there were about six or seven people in the room.  I will admit, though, it’s probably a good idea if I’m going to be presenting with any frequency in the future.

Though it was far from the optimal situation, I hope that both the user group members and the Harding students

enjoyed the exposure to unit testing, and that it will pay off when SDNUG brings in some speakers on some more advanced topics.

First Shreveport .NET User Group Meeting

We’re finally off the ground!  On Monday August 18th, the Shreveport .NET User Group held its first meeting in the science lecture auditorium at Centenary College.  We had 26 people in attendance, and Chris Koenig, developer evangelist from Microsoft, gave a great presentation on Silverlight 2.0.  I thought he struck a good balance between high-level feature descriptions and technical detail.  (I think the feedback forms bore this out; the few suggestions for Chris were about half “too detailed” and half “more detail.” 😉 )

The projector situation kind of made me sweat for a bit.  The one in the room hadn’t been working, and I couldn’t get the spare one I brought to work right.  Fortunately, the AV crew at Centenary was there about an hour before the meeting, and had the projector working by the time they left (about 15 minutes before people started showing up).  Other than that, there weren’t any logistical difficulties to speak of.

Chris also gave us some great stuff from Microsoft for door prizes at the next few meeting, including a licenses for Visual Studio, Office, and Vista Ultimate, so we’ll have some pretty high-dollar stuff to give away.  In addition, we’ve got some books coming from Microsoft Press and O’Reilly.

In retrospect, getting swag from software vendors was just about the easiest part of the process, and finding a good (read: “free”) location turned out to be the hardest part.  What I really need to work on, though, is delegating some of the administrative tasks to other people.  Chad Morgan and Chris Benard both helped out a lot with making this thing happen, but I probably should have recruited more help.  On Chris’s Koenig’s advice, we may institute specific roles for people who want to be involved with leading the group.  Someone to handle swag, someone to coordinate with the venue, someone to find local sponsors so we can continue to have pizza, etc.

All in all, I think it went pretty well, and we’ve at least got a start at increasing the level of involvement of local .NET developers in the programming community.

Shreveport .NET User Group

Most of the people who read my blog know this already, but I’m in the process of starting up a .NET user group in the Shreveport/Bossier City area.  The group in Fort Smith got started just a couple months before I left, but it was something that I really enjoyed and felt had real value for developers interested in improving their craft.  When I got to Louisiana, I was surprised to find out that a city the size of Shreveport didn’t have a user group already, so I thought it was about time we did.

I got some great advice from Michael Paladino, the leader of the group in Fort Smith about sponsorships, delegating leadership, and related organizational matters.  Getting swag was actually a lot easier than I expected it to be.  Every single vendor I contacted offered to give us something. One of the first component vendors I contacted, Telerik, offered to give us a license to their CMS package Sitefinity, as well as free hosting through a pertnership with DiscountASP.net.  You can find the site at www.shreveportdnug.org.  It’s kind of bare-bones right now, I apologize.  It’ll fill out as we nail more things down logistics-wise.

The hardest part, which I still haven’t figured out yet, is finding free space to meet.  Most of the businesses that employ .NET developers in the Shreveport area rent office space from the large buildings downtown, so parking and difficult after-hours access make those a no-go.  I tried a couple of local universities, but the facilities they could provide would only hold arond 30 people max.  Not exactly a limitation I’m confortable with.  We’ve got one more school to try, but I have a bit of an inside track there because the son of the university president works for my current employer.  That means that I’m not the one in charge of calling the appropriate people, but I’m not sure it’s a very big priority for the son.  I need to ping him about it again on Monday.  There’s one facility at one of the schools that sounds perfect, but it’s $120 per use of the room, and I’d like to keep the amount we have to get from sponsors to a minimum.  If anyone else has some suggestions about where to look for space, please leave a comment!

I’ll continue to post about this as we get closer to holding our first meeting.  Wish us luck!