26 Jul 2011

Community night in August

Important Notice for August 2011

Community night is normally the second Tuesday of the month, however since that is a public holiday it has been moved to Monday the 15th of August!

What is community night?

For those who do not know this is a FREE event that happens monthly where a variety of user groups get together at Microsoft's offices. User groups are not influenced by Microsoft, they just use the facilities. User groups that are there on a regular basis:

  • Information Worker: Technical focused SharePoint & Office
  • Business User Workshops: User group that looks at the issues that face power users in enterprises. This month the understanding where a portal ends and CRM begins.
  • Game Dev: One of the biggest with plenty of game developers & artists getting together.
  • JavaScript: For all you JS fixes
  • Mobi: My good friend Rudi Grobler hosts this group focused on mobile (iPhone, Android, Symbian and Windows Phone)
  • UX: For those who understand there is more than 16 colours
  • Architecture: For architects of any IT systems!
  • Languages: For developers who are interested in learning the pros & cons of other languages.
  • SQL: The fantastic Gail Shaw runs the best SQL user group anywhere!

There is also FREE beer, cool drinks & pizza!

Where is Microsoft’s offices?

Microsoft Bryanston Office
3012 William Nicol Drive
Bryanston
2191 Johannesburg
South Africa

Click here for map and more details.

Times?

Various user groups starts at different times. I think the first UG kicks off at 16:00 and it can run to 21:00.
However depends if you attend multiple UG, stay for passage conversation, etc…

So up to you, I have nights where I arrived after 17:30 and other times left at 18:00, no pressure!

07 Apr 2011

DevDays - The event for Microsoft Developers

imageIt’s that time of year again, it is DevDays time again which is the premier conference from Microsoft for developers! This year it is a very different beast from previous years:

  • Cost: For the second year, you’ll need to pay. This year it is R350 and that is excellent value for the event.
  • Cape Town first: It kicks off in Cape Town this year on May 24th and then moves to Johannesburg after that on may 26th!
  • Johannesburg new venue: We are at Gallagher Estate this year! Very excited about the venue!
  • No Durban Sad smile 
  • Hash tag from day one! See complaining to Cliff on Twitter does work so now we can all hash with #DevDaysSA!
  • No SharePoint – I can’t remember a DevDays without SharePoint, but we have so many other awesome SharePoint options now (Information Worker, SharePoint Saturdays etc…) it is good to have some balance.

There is three tracks so you may want to brush up on how to pick good sessions (short answer, mine Winking smile) plus their is special slots for student & community sessions which really excites me to see new presenters getting big stage time!

I am also very glad that BBD Software (previously known as BB&D) is a major sponsor this year!

You can signup, get more details and engage on the official site at: http://www.microsoft.com/southafrica/devdays/

Agenda:

  • End-to-end software testing with Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio
    • Level: 200
      Speakers: Ahmed Salijee & Colin Dembovsky
      Visual Studio 2010 offers a wide range of software testing capabilities: manual testing, automated UI testing, database testing, low-level unit testing and even performance testing tools capable of simulating thousands of active users. It also provides support for test case management, defect tracking as well as configuring and running your tests in virtual and physical environments. But how do you know which tools to choose for your project? This session will, via a demo scenario, walk you through the various testing capabilities to assist you with the most effective use of Visual Studio 2010's testing capabilities. This session will be useful to developers as well as various tester roles including functional, performance and automation.
  • An end-to-end experience of Windows Phone 7 development
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Rudi Grobler
      An end-to-end walk through for developing Windows Phone 7 applications using Silverlight
  • Blend: Wiring it all together
    • Level: 400
      Speaker: Shane Morris
  • A lap around Internet Explorer 9 for web developers
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Simon Wilkinson
      Internet Explorer 9 adds new support for HTML5, CSS3 and many other new web standards, and this is the place to find out all about them. Not only will we learn about those, but we'll take a dive into the work the engineering team has done to make the browser faster through it's new JavaScript engine, the work they've done to ensure that the same mark-up works across all browsers and how hardware acceleration will make your site run faster, without any changes to your code!
  • Azure: Development from scratch
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Gareth Jane
      The Windows Azure platform is a flexible cloud-computing platform which allows developers to rapidly create highly scalable software applications. This session will introduce developers to the various services and components of the Windows Azure Platform. We will create a very simple application on this platform, especially focusing on the areas which distinguish development on Azure from traditional application development
  • ASP.NET web development with MVC
    • Level: 400
      Speaker: Brent Samodien
      Join us in this session and discover the new features in ASP.NET MVC3 and what scenarios you can target with it. Learn more about the improved HTML Helpers and the new updates to Controller/Action/Method that make your code cleaner. Also, explore the richer URL routing and URL route mapping. We will also show how you can use alternative View Engines, including Razor.
  • A website's life: From sketch to publishing
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Simon Wilkinson
      WebMatrix is a new, free, fully featured, easy to install web development tool that helps you build ASP.NET and PHP websites and perform validation, SEO optimization and one-click publishing. My favourite feature however is a new script syntax for ASP.NET called Razor, which will help you create dynamic websites incredibly easily. We will spend some time sketching/wireframing our website, doing visual design work in Expression Design and then experiencing the rich development toolset in WebMatrix.
  • Let's get ready for the cloud: Building your applications so they
    are cloud ready
    • Level: 400
      Speaker: Robert MacLean
      In a world where you hear people talking about the cloud, here are some guidelines on how to start building and structuring applications that will be easy to migrate to the Azure platform.
  • Code First in entity framework
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Brent Samodien
      Code First has been a great success with customers, and in this talk, we'll take a deep dive into how it works and talk about its upcoming RTM (Q1 2011). You'll see how Code First uses convention over configuration to improve developer productivity. Its flexibility allows for either automatic database provisioning or the ability to work with an existing database. We'll be demoing features beyond the initial RTM, such as Migrations support, and we'll also talk about the roadmap for Code First going forward
  • Silverlight 5: The Future
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Shane Morris
  • Exploring Windows Azure storage
    • Level: 400
      Speaker: Gary Hope
      Examine each of the foundation storage capabilities of Windows Azure, Blobs, Tables and Queues. Discover how to create storage accounts; upload and retrieve blobs and blob metadata; create, update and query tables; and create a simple service that uses a message queue for communication
  • LightSwitch basics: Building your first LightSwitch application
    • Level: 200
      Speaker: Robert MacLean
      Visual Studio LightSwitch is the simplest way to build business applications for the desktop and cloud. LightSwitch simplifies the development process by letting you concentrate on the business logic, while LightSwitch handles the common tasks for you. In this demo-heavy session, you will see, end to end, how to build and deploy a data-centric business application using LightSwitch. After that you will discover what is under the hood to better understand the architecture of a LightSwitch application. Finally you will learn how you can use Visual Studio 2010 Professional and Expression Blend 4 to customize and extend its UI and Data layers for when the application's requirements grow beyond what is supported by default
  • Kung Fu Silverlight: Tips and architectural patterns and practices
    • Level: 400
      Speaker: Dave Russell
      Learn about the rewards of using RIA Services together with development patterns, such as the Service Providers, Single Responsibility pattern, Commanding, user Interactions, Messaging, ChildWindows, Design Time Data, Testing, and developing using Model-View/View- Model (MVVM) pattern, to build Silverlight and Windows Phone apps. Hear the top tips you need to know for building data driven Silverlight apps that solve real world problems.
07 Mar 2011

[MVP Summit 2011] - On learning

MVP Summit is over for 2011 for me, in less than a few hours I board a plane and start the ~23 hour trip home. This was an awesome trip filled with learning both about Microsoft but also personally and the experiences had here rate among some of the best in my life:

  • Being able to attend a special dinner with various Microsoft technical fellows and vice presidents was amazing. My hero, Anders Hejlsberg was there and so were many other geek rock stars (Hanselman, The Gu and so on). What inspired me is the humility they all have. The whole dinner was amazing.
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  • Shooting real guns for the first time was ridiculously fun and I thank Martin, Mike & Chris for offering me that unique experience.
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  • Then heading to the snow (the real stuff this time, not the ice version Canada gave me) and snow boarding. I even threw snow balls!
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  • In South Africa we drink a piss we call beer and don’t think much about it – but here in America they do care. They have hundreds of micro breweries and so many technical terms for the beer. It is just staggering! It is also a lot of fun to go and sit in a brewery and drink the freshest of the fresh beer Smile
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  • Then the Museum of Flight was just geek paradise for someone like me who loves the idea of flying (I do not think of 23 hours in economy class as flying) and space. Even the 4d simulator where you can go inverted and upside down was awesome. I even found time to be President of America for a few seconds.
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  • But most amazing was the new friends I made and the old friends I met up with. It was just awesome in every aspect, but especial mention must go to Rudi Grobler, who left SA with me, shared rooms, and did all the awesome things above (except the special dinner, next year he will be there) and Rein Hillman who put me & Rudi up at his house, opened his family and shuttled us ALL round Seattle.
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Oh, and if you wanted to know how many Dr Pepper I consumed – 17, excluding how many I can get on the planes Winking smile

07 Mar 2011

[MVP Summit 2011] - Memories of Microsoft

As I sit on the couch of the place I have called home for the last 5 or so days with my bags packed, Rudi trying to cheat at chess and the children of the house going to bed, it is insane to think that it was almost 2 weeks ago I was in South Africa trying to find enough clothes to bring and now it is over Disappointed smile

The first rule of being a MVP is don’t talk about fight club NDA material and unfortunately a lot of amazing (and even some boring) news we learnt this week was NDA.

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So what can I share with you?

  • Microsoft is listening – I have mentioned this before but the sheer volume of input sources to Microsoft is staggering. Some of those sources don’t always have good things to say, but Microsoft does factor that in and it is important. If you want Microsoft to change, tell them – just don’t insult them when you do.
  • Microsoft is a business – It is there to make a profit. So when it pumps hundreds of millions of dollars into research, you can expect it wants a ROI. Being this is a technology blog, what does that mean? WATCH MICROSOFT RESEARCH.
  • MVP’s are smart – I have said before that being a MVP is an award for community work but it is not until you sit in a room with some of them you realise how smart they are, and how well they can shoot:28022011559

To everyone from Microsoft who made this week special and for trusting us with information on project double rainbow unicorn*, thank you for all of it – it has been AMAZING!  Smile


* If you have no sense of humour, project double rainbow unicorn is a joke – no such project exists or at least none I know of.

28 Feb 2011

[MVP Summit 2011] - It's cold

What I learnt at MVP Summit today?

27022011517

It’s COLD, really, really cold. It’s raining and windy, which makes it colder.

This explains a lot about Microsoft & Seattle:

  • Lot’s of micro breweries – cause beer helps with the cold
  • Lot’s of coding – cause it’s too cold to go outside
  • Lot’s of awesome friends – cause nothing rocks like chatting to a friend at a fire in Starbucks
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27 Feb 2011

[MVP Summit 2011] - Touring with the local

Day 2 of Summit has been a blast as Rudi Grobler (friend of The show) and I, spent the day seeing a different side of Seattle and surrounding as we were shepherded about by Rein Hillman, a local to these parts. Having a local with a car makes a huge difference – you eat and see things that no tour guide will ever tell you. Like:

  • The best Tereyaki: Yummy Tereyaki
  • The biggest geek shop: Fry’s
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  • Some awesome board game shop
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  • A few of the local bars – most were closed though, so no planning on our side.

All in all, a lot of fun and food Smile 

In the evening we headed down to Kent and the ShoWare Center to watch ICE HOCKEY! Which is an insane sport where I do not understand a thing that happened except goals – rest was just too fast and complex for my brain. I wish I had half the skills and reflexes those guys have.

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Time to hit the pillow, tomorrow is all starts and I need my energy!

26 Feb 2011

[MVP Summit 2011] - 3 Minutes & 23 hours

It is amazing how much can change in 3 minutes, this was the learning from the 1st day of MVP Summit 2011. I arrived in Seattle with Rudi Grobler for MVP summit after 23 hours of travelling which is frankly just ridiculous.

image 

During that time I did a lot of thinking and reading (thank god for my Kindle) but shortly after arriving in a VERY cold Seattle I had my first 3 minute mind change. I walked out the lovely SEATAC airport and saw SNOW! I get like a kid with snow, but within 3 minutes the cold was just too much and the appeal of the snow wore off Smile

One of things we did was head to the awesome Microsoft Store – this place is just fantastic. They have so much in there but so little feels like a store. It really feels like a place to go an experiment and play with Microsoft tech: There is Kinect stations, Microsoft Surfaces, tablets & laptops running Windows 7 and a variety of Windows Phone 7 devices.

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The 3 minute lesson here if from the store people – having super friendly and knowledgeable really means that it is so much better and easier to buy there. I hope that this fantastic learning in the consumer space is the start of something more at Microsoft.

Finally we hit a place called The Parlor for some beer & pool and run into a Microsoft Team (WinSE – suspect is second edition, since they had a service pack 1 disk "SE" = Sustained Engineering), just guessing but I think it was their ship party.

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After some pool, where Rudi kicked my ass until another friend Rein Hillman arrived (which is when I fought back fantastically) we left and I had my final 3 minute lesson: Walking with your hands in your pockets, cause it is cold, means you need to using something else to stop your fall and your face doesn’t work well.

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Update: Thanks to Chris Johnson to tell me what SE meant.
01 Dec 2010

What is an ALM MVP?

If you asked me 12 months ago what an ALM MVP was I would likely have told you something – unfortunately that something would have been completely wrong. One of the most important things I learnt this year from being an ALM MVP, is what an ALM MVP actually is.

What is an MVP?

First it is an award, this means you get it as recognition for doing something which benefits the community of people who use a Microsoft product (or products). It is also very important to note that the reason it is awarded to one person is seldom it is awarded to another person – no two people are alike, neither are their community contributions and so the awarding is unique per person.

I think it is safe to assume that if you going to so something which benefits many people using a specific product, you need to know something about that product Winking smile However being a MVP is not meant to indicate that this person is an expert in a certain product/s and they know everything about the product.

This doesn’t mean that a lot of MVP’s aren’t brilliant, many are scary smart, first two that jump to mind are Ed Blankenship ALM MVP and Jon Skeet C# MVP, but at the end of that day – all MVPs are people, like you, with limits and gaps in knowledge.

The ALM Stadium

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ALM MVP’s have an additional level of complexity since the community that they helped revolves around not one single product, like Zune MVP’s for instance, but is actually made up of many products and components. Above is the “stadium” picture which shows a lot of (most of?) the components which make up ALM.

A ALM MVP may know and work in one product/component and never see the other ones. An example of this is Zayd Kara ALM MVP, who is deeply IT Pro focused – so he understands installing the systems, build in TFS etc.. but he seldom opens or works in the Visual Studio IDE so he may not know as much about it as a other ALM MVPs.

As I stated above the reasons someone is awarded differ and so the area and skills in the ALM MVPs differ from person to person. 

Misconceptions

In the form of a Q&A:

  • Q: As an ALM MVP you must be a TFS expert?
  • A: While TFS is a major part of ALM, that simply is not true. I look at myself and while I know TFS, can do an install, understand the API and how to integrate – ask me to edit a process template and I have no idea where to start. However ask me about Visual Studio and I can talk your ear off!
  • Q: As an ALM MVP you must be a Microsoft fan boy and only promote their tools?
  • A: Not at all! MVP’s are not a Microsoft fan club.

    Yes, I am a fan of Microsoft tools but I am also critical of them. You want to see some of the most critical people of Microsoft is MVP’s – they care and fight on behalf the community. As most (all?) MVP’s we are matured to realise that these are just tools and you need to pick the right tool for the job, and that sometimes isn’t what Microsoft currently offers.

  • Q: Microsoft uses the MVP system as a way to find and hire staff?
  • A: While some MVP’s have moved to Microsoft, Willy-Peter Schaub previously a VSTS MVP and now working for Microsoft comes to mind, the hiring of MVPs is not common practise.

    Also worth thinking about, is that Microsoft wants the best of the best (which company doesn’t?), MVP’s are awarded for their community work – not being the best of the best C# programmer (for example) so sometimes that means that MVP’s are not the best fit and the final thing weighing against you (as told to me by a Microsoft employee) Most of the Microsoft employees do not even know of or understand the MVPs so there is not a lot of help in their.

    However being a MVP means you are likely following key people so when exciting jobs are announced ,like the way I knew about these cool jobs, you are first in with your CV. 

  • Q: You must blog/write a book/tweet/present at x or something else to be a MVP?
  • A: No, there is no formula to become a MVP. If you want to be a MVP, work hard for the community in any and as many ways as possible and the MVP maybe will follow.
  • Q: Becoming a community lead is the way to be a MVP?
  • A: This one has come up recently in the Information Worker user group where people have wanted to become leads so that they become MVP’s.

    First there is no single way to becoming a MVP – the IW user group leads are a good example of that we have a few MVP’s but we have more non-MVP’s as leads. Second if your motivation of helping the community is to become a MVP, then I doubt you will become a MVP because your motives are wrong. MVP’s do what they do for the community not because they want to be a MVP, but because they love the community.

Thanks

To make sure I wasn’t still wrong, I did ask for some feedback from fellow MVP’s and Microsoft staff and I thank you all for your contributions in particular Willy-Peter Schaub, Ruari Plint and Zayd Kara.

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