Jay Harris is Cpt. LoadTest

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Filed under: Events

My summer has been what seems like a steady stream of major events in the development community. It really all began with my election to the board of GLUGnet last April, which immediately put me as a planner for the first Lansing Day of .Net, for which I handled the web site and branding. The event, which I blogged about previously, was held on June 21, 2008, and was a huge success. We will definitely have the conference again next year, and are already brainstorming ways to make the event even better.

Three weeks after LDODN, on July 11-13, was Ann Arbor Give Camp. Give Camp was an event for charity, where area developers volunteered their weekend to code for charity. The Heartland District truly displayed their selflessness and passion with their willingness to endure three days of Ninjas-On-Fire coding, often sacrificing sleep to accomplish deadlines, to help out not-for-profits that likely would never have the budget for a high-quality, professionally developed web site. I was also impressed by the event sponsors for their donations and contributions; Washtenaw Community College provided the venue for no cost, Verio provided free hosting for each charity's site until 2010, and Microsoft provided to each of the charities free copies of all of the software needed to support and maintain the new applications. The planning staff should be commended for this event, too; they went to no end to enable the development teams, and to meet our every desire. There was plenty of food, plenty of snacks, plenty of fluids, and plenty of games for when we needed to occasionally decompress. We requested ice cream; we got ice cream. Someone on my team even requested a Cherry Coke, and one of the organizers made a midnight run to the local gas station to pick up a bottle. The event was great, and we had a blast. I will be there next year, maybe even running a team of my own.

Another four weeks brought CodeStock, August 9, in Knoxville, TN. Dave Redding, The Wife, and I hopped in Dave's Charger and cruised the nine hours from Brighton, MI to Knoxville on Friday night, arriving at about 3:30am for the 7:30am registration. Michael Neel and crew put on a great show. I finally got to see the Joe O'Brian / Amanda Laucher presentation on DSLs and Brian H. Prince's 'Soft Skillz ' talk. (I highly recommend both.) But what really made the event were the Open Spaces, organized by Alan Stevens. We had some enlightening discussions, such as improving User Group participation, and developing in .Net on a Mac. The after party at Alan's house included a time for socializing outside of a technical setting, and included a friendly game of Texas Hold'em. Dennis Burton was the big winner, and graciously donated his winnings to the Hands On Museum in Ann Arbor, the charity that Michael Eaton worked on during Give Camp.

In the shortest gap of the summer, I only had to wait two more weeks for devLink, August 22-23, in Murfreesboro, TN. However, there was no 9 hour drive, as The Wife and I hitched a ride on the devLink Bus. Organized by Amanda Laucher (and others)--my employer, Latitude Consulting Group, was also one of the sponsors--we chartered a coach for the weekend to take some of the local developers down to devLink. The bus started in Grand Rapids, and made pick-up stops in Lansing, Detroit, Toledo, Columbus, and Cincinnati. We made some "detours" along the way, and the seats were a little uncomfortable for sleeping, but we all had a great time; we had some great discussion, we watched some movies, and Mike Eaton, The Wife, Eric Vogel , and I even played a few rounds of euchre. We had one minor glitch on the return trip, as one of the right rear tires blew out at about 1:30am while traveling at 65mph up I-71, but we even had fun on the 3 1/2 hour delay, as we took over a Waffle House in Carrollton, Kentucky, were entertained by "The Great Pork Chop Incident," and a few riders extended the Open Spaces discussions from the conference.

As for devLink itself, I went to focus on the Open Spaces. Four different Open Space discussions were on hand for each of the session blocks throughout the two-day conference. I attended sessions on Developing the Developer Community; on why Comments are Evil; on How "Should" Changed My Life (a discussion on BDD , and creating effective tests); on Microsoft, Open Source, and CodePlex; and I facilitated a discussion on Continuous Integration. I only went to one session throughout the conference: Jeff Blankenburg's talk on Silverlight. I challenged him to show me a reason to use Silverlight that didn't include gradients, spinning ghost animations, or anything else that I have been able to do in Flash since version 4. After his talk, I'm actually motivated to dig in. Over the years, I have created a few Flash games--nothing too special, as they were primarily about learning a specific component, like collision detection--and I plan on starting with converting them to Silverlight. It should give me a good opportunity to grok the space.

But to me, the best part about this summer isn't the things I have learned, or the code I've produced, but the relationships and bonds that have formed. I have made many new connections this summer, and made some great new friendships, and I look forward to many more. The list is made up of people all smarter than I am, yet I am treated as an equal. Every time we connect, I learn a lot, professionally and personally. I have grown a lot over this past year, and I owe every bit of it to them (and to the kick in the pants from Dennis Burton that pushed me to get involved in the first place).

Here's to what's next.

Thursday, August 28, 2008 4:33:32 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback

Filed under: Business
A question was posed on LinkedIn asking readers if they used Twitter, and if so, how and why? Because of the impact that Twitter has had on my life, I felt compelled to answer.

Twitter is a phenomenal tool that I feel should be included in any developer's toolset. I use Twitter for both business and personal reasons, including socializing with friends, scheduling lunch, and also for networking with business associates. There is a lot of value in having a consolidated service through which I can plan both happy hour and a business meeting. I have also made many new business contacts through the service, and the personal nature of Twitter communications have created relationships that are much more solid than those from other services, such as LinkedIn. When I travel to a conference such as devLink or Codestock, I often meet these twitter contacts for the first time, yet the bond that has matured on Twitter makes it seem like we have been friends for a long time.

In addition to networking, Twitter is effective with asking questions and getting quick responses (similar to what was on LinkedIn), or for driving traffic to my blog by promoting when there is a new post.

I access Twitter four different ways: through Witty on my primary computer, directly through the web when not at my primary computer, through Twitterific on my iPod Touch, or through SMS on my phone. The possibilities allow me to stay connected wherever I go. I have a presence on many of the social networks, too, such a Pownce, Jaiku, and Identi.ca, but I rely on Twitter. I can't live without it.

Do you Twitter? How do you use Twitter? How has it had an impact on you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 3:22:08 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Comments [0] - Trackback