Tuesday, October 26, 2010

SWFox 2010 Review

This was my 2nd year in a row of attending a SWFox conference. Each conference I attend is just as rewarding as the last.

I arrived early this year to attend Rick Strahl's Double Impact preconference session, a two day event. As I am still working in v2.97 of Web Connection I really wanted to see what v5.53 looked like. All I can say is wow!. Rick is a great presenter and developer. He showed us some cool stuff. The things I brought back with me: AJAX, jQuerry, and the need to learn CSS syntax. That might not seem like much but there is plenty of documentation for me to read through to get the details. Rick writes some of the best documentation plus he is active on his message board to answer questions if a person can't find the answers in the documentation .

Thursday night was the opening session with a keynote by Craig Boyd. Craig delivered the best keynote I have ever heard. To start was the entertainment value, very entertaining and captivating. Then came the serious part of the keynote. Craig talked about perceived value; this is the value the customer perceives in the products developers deliver. The mirror image is the value that we as developers perceive in using VFP, but more importantly it is the skill that we as developers use to find solutions to customer's problems. It really shouldn't matter what tool (VFP) we use as long as we find the best solution. Craig also emphasized that VFP9 is based upon C++ v7.1 as a codebase. He does not see Microsoft developing a OS that would cause programs written with the 7.1 codebase to no longer work for a long, long time.

Craig's keynote was very inspirational to me; I really needed to hear his message. For me it validated what I do and confirmed what I have been thinking. I love FoxPro. I love creating solutions using FoxPro. I believe that I am good at what I do. I want to continue to use FoxPro to create solutions for customers. But... I acknowledge that I also need to learn new tools. For me, the inspiration and motivation I received from Craig's keynote was worth the costs of attending the conference. Thanks Craig.

When I go to a conference there are certain speakers I will not miss. My first session on Friday was Toni Feltman's The Pomodoro Technique. Since returning home from the conference this is the one session I have thought about the most. Time management. I'm not very good at it; I hope to apply the technique Toni presented so that I can be more productive. If I'm more productive I will also feel better about myself. This technique is about commitment and self-discipline, but in small pieces. I can do that.

Another speaker I really enjoy is Doug Hennig. I attended both of his sessions (Themed Controls and Cool Controls). Doug exhibits so much energy during his presentations. The 75 minutes fly and before you know it the session is over. I saw some really cool stuff; now I just have to figure out how and where to use it.

The third speaker I didn't want to miss was Rich Schummer. I attended his session on Mocking Your Customer. Rick explained that he uses mockups during design instead of creating sample applications. The benefits are: 1) It takes less time. 2) The customer understands that it is a mockup, not a running application. Rick explained that when a customer sees a running demo that the customer has the perception that the project is almost complete; whereas with a mockup the customer understands that the coding hasn't even begun. A great point in my opinion.

Friday had two Show Us Your App sessions. One before dinner, and one after. During each session I saw at least one cool application. I have to say that the FoxyPreviewer was really cool.

Saturday was a full day of sessions for me. I attended both of Jody Meyer's sessions (Web Development Using CSS and PDF Output). While these sessions were aimed more at beginners for these topics, I learned something from both sessions. Jody's organization and presentations were superb. An observation I made at both sessions were the amount of questions. It was clear that there was a lot of interest in these topics and it was something new for many of the attendees.

I only went to two session on Sunday, both of which hit the WOW! button for me. The first was Cathy Pountney's fxReports. She demonstrated customizing the report writer to add a tab for watermarks. I thought this was really cool. I sure wish I had attended her session last year on the subject. The 2nd session was Steve Ellenoff's Integrating Windows 7 Taskbar into VFP. He showed some really cool things you can do with the Windows 7 taskbar using WinyTLib which is posted on VFPX.

There are a few sessions that I wish I had attended, but at least I have access to the white papers. There are a couple of pre-conference sessions I would have liked to have attended, but I was committed to the Double Impact sessions; I would have really liked to have seen Ruby on Rails. Also, I would have liked to have stayed an extra day to see all the sessions on Silverlight. That being said, I was ready to come home after a week in AZ.

I probably spent as much time socializing as I did attending sessions. It was really interesting to be around all these developers from around the world and the conversations that would take place. I made at least one new friend. There is more to going to a conference than just attending sessions. I think it was time well spent, plus it was quite enjoyable.

Something new this year at SWFox was online session evaluations. From what I can tell it was a success. With the paper evaluations I tended to quickly fill them out at the end of each session. With the online evaluations I could make the evaluations when I wanted and I wasn't restricted as to the space on the paper to make comments. I liked the online evaluations much better than the paper version.

There was discussion about evaluations that I believe is worth mentioning. Currently ratings are on a 5 point scale. There was a suggestion that ratings be on a 10 point scale. For example: a session wasn't quite a 5 but more than a 4; on a 10 point scale that would be a 9. Personally I'm for the 10 point scale. While on the subject of evaluations, I had a discussion with another attendee about where does one start as a basis when making evaluations. I tend to start with 4 as all sessions are better than what I would consider average. My friend starts with a 3. I found this very interesting and makes me wonder where others start as a basis when making evaluations.

Other trends that the organizers are setting is going green, at least that's what I'll call it. First, all conference materials are given to attendees at registration are in a re-usable grocery bag. I like this; I re-use the bags all the time. It sure beats those satchels I've received at other conference that I never use again. Another trend is not having the notebook binders with all the paper inside. We all received CDs with the white papers and examples that each presenter created; all excellent material. Who needs all those notebooks and all that paper. And, who wants all that extra weight to carry back home? I have enough trouble keeping my bag under 50 lbs when you consider I brought home some extra books too.

The organizers of SWFox do an excellent job of putting on conferences. They really put their hearts and souls into this and we as the VFP community reap tremendous rewards. I am truly thankful for their effort and the efforts of the speakers. I have come back from this conference refreshed and motivated, but I have also come back with a different perspective (being involved). We as a community need to help the organizers where we can. There is the obvious; attend the conference and give feedback. They read the feedback and take it to heart. Another way to participate is to make suggestions on how to make the conference better and what sessions to present. I have been trying to come up with session topics and relaying these to the organizers. I encourage everyone to suggest a topic for next year's conference.

I hope to see everyone at next year's SWFox. My plans are to attend. See you there.

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