Monthly Archives: April 2008

Indy Code Camp wrap-up

28 Apr 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  4 Comments

I made the 2 1/2 hour drive down to Indianapolis Saturday morning for the Indy Code Camp.  I arrived about 8:30 and after registering, made my way to the speaker table where I found Dan Rigsby, Aaron Lerch, Jeff Moser, Dan Hounshell, Mike Wood and Joe Wirtley.  I eventually ran into Jeff McWherter and Jennifer Griffin (not a speaker, but a twitter peep).

The sessions

While I’ve seen his slide deck before, I finally got the chance to see Dan give his “SEO for ASP.NET Developers” talk and really enjoyed it.  SEO is really not something most developers think about and Dan is doing a good job of telling developers why it’s important as well as discussing the things we can do to make our sites rise to the top of the search engines.  Because they were scheduled at the same time, I had to miss Joe’s “WPF for Developers” talk, but hopefully I’ll get to see it at an upcoming event.

After Dan’s talk, it was time for my first session of the day.  Overall, I think my “Introduction to Castle ActiveRecord, or Stop Writing CRUD!” talk went pretty well.  The room layout was funky and I felt a bit disconnected during my code demos, but overall, I had some really good questions thrown at me and hope at least a few people walked away wanting to check out ActiveRecord.

After eating some pizza (thank God it wasn’t box lunches), Dan, Joe, Mike, Jeff, Alan and I hung out and talked until Alan’s first session started.  He delivered a great introduction to MVC.NET and TDD.  In fact, as his session ended and he was describing what was to come in his second session, I wished I could have bailed out of my “Lessons Learned” talk to attend. :-)

I was really surprised to see 20-25 people in my “Ouch that hurt!  Lessons learned from an agile project” session. :-)   This was my first time delivering this particular talk, but it was based on my “Lessons Learned” blog posts from last summer.  There was some difficulty with the video camera at the beginning of the session, so the first 5-10 minutes didn’t make it to tape, but overall, the talk went pretty well.  I did feel like I rambled on a bit more than I should have so I’ll be re-working things a bit before I give it again in Cleveland. :-)   I did get a very nice message on twitter after the session letting me know I did a good job and I also had someone tell me it was the best session he attended all day!

I skipped out on the final session to sit at the speakers table and BS with a bunch of the speakers.


While I enjoyed the whole day, I think the highlight was finally meeting Alan Stevens in person.  We’ve followed each other on twitter for quite some time and even IM’d once or twice, but to sit and talk to him both during and after the event was a real treat. :-)   Alan is a great guy and excellent speaker…very dynamic, engaging and humorous.  If you get a chance to see him speak, do it.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

I really have to thank Dan for sucking it up and sitting through both my sessions to video tape them for me. :-)   I know you really wanted to see Alan’s second session, but I really do appreciate it.  :-)   I owe you a beer when we’re in Grand Rapids in a couple of weeks!

I actually won a licensed copy of VisualSVN and can’t wait to check it out.  I almost never win anything at these events (unlike Joe Wirtley) and was glad to hear my name called. :-)  

While I wasn’t looking forward to driving home in the dark, it’s hard to pass up hanging out with really smart people over dinner and drinks, so I decided to go to the after-party for a while.  Someone actually blogged about it while we were there. ;-)   Gotta love geeks.

I’m not sure how many people showed up for the event, but the guys from Indy did a great job.  Hopefully there will be enough demand to do it again next year.  If so, I’ll definitely be there!

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I will be speaking at the Cleveland Day of .NET

25 Apr 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  Comments Off

I will be speaking at the Cleveland Day of .NET on May 17.  I’m looking forward to giving my “Ouch that hurt! Lessons learned from an agile project” talk, seeing all my friends from Ohio, meeting new people and having a great time.

Here is the abstract for my talk:

“Ever been on a project where everything that could go wrong did? Successful projects are great, but some of the best and most valuable lessons are learned from our failures. In this talk, Michael Eaton will lay it all on the line and discuss the mistakes he made and the lessons he learned on an agile project where Murphy’s Law was in full effect.”

There is still time to register, so head over to the event site, check things out and hopefully I’ll see you on May 17th!

Again, I’ll repeat what I’ve said in previous posts:

“These are not your typical vendor-sponsored conferences with lots of marketing fluff.  Code Camps and the Days of .NET are jam-packed with technical content from top to bottom.  The talks are almost always given by local developers that have no agenda other than to help make the world of software development a better place. :-)

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Central Ohio Day of .NET – slide deck and demo code

23 Apr 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  4 Comments

Since I don’t know when these files will be posted to the event site, I figured I’d upload them myself for anyone that wants to check them out.  I changed my “about me” slide mainly because it won’t make sense to those that weren’t at the event. :-)

Direct link:

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Central Ohio Day of .NET – another great event!

21 Apr 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  6 Comments

After a long, boring 4-hour drive on Friday, I arrived at Dan’s house just after 8.  After stretching my legs for a few, we poured some drinks (thanks Dan for the Captain Morgan’s and Coke), set up our laptops on his deck and walked through our presentations.  It was amazing how nervous I was walking through my slides, but between Dan and I, several improvements were made to both the slides and the demo code. 

Around 11pm, we headed inside to play some Xbox.  I discovered pretty quickly that I suck at Rock Band.  When I say I suck, I mean it.  The best way to describe my attempt is, well, pure suckage. ;-)   While I sucked, Dan did a pretty good job on vocals and his oldest son did really well on percussion. :-D   After Rock Band, we played a bit of head-to-head COD, but decided we needed to work on our slides a bit more.  I think I finished around 1:30 or so and finally went to bed sometime around 2.  I’m not sure how late Dan stayed up working on his stuff.

The Event

Nothing sucks more than hearing my alarm go off at 6:30 on a Saturday morning, but Dan and I were ready and out the door by 7:15.  We drove separately so to calm my nerves during the 40 minute drive I had the music (metal of course) cranked!  Nothing like some Iron Maiden, Saxon and Metallica first thing in the morning.

Once we arrived at the event we checked in and started running into people we knew.  The craziest thing is that when people were introducing themselves, it always ended up with something like, “oh, I’m on twitter” at which point we’d be like, “ahhhh!  Ok!”  A few people ended up writing their twitter name on their name tag (or flipping the name tag over and writing it on the back).

I finally met Sarah who introduced herself to me by handing me a picture (photoshopped image of me courtesy of James Avery) that’s been bandied about on twitter.  I won’t link to it here, but I’m sure one of my tweeps will do it at some point.  I confiscated the picture and for the rest of the day made my best effort to let everyone know of Sarah’s God-like VBA skillz. ;-)   I actually ended up hanging out with Sarah (and several other Cleveland people) much of the day.

My Session

My session (An Introduction to Castle ActiveRecord, or Stop Writing CRUD!) was in the first time slot so after checking out the speaker room with Dan, I started setting up my laptop and making sure the projector worked.  A huge thanks goes to Joe Wirtley for loaning me a presentation mouse!  I’m definitely gonna invest in one soon (unless Jeff, Brian or Josh wants to hook me up with one). ;-)   I think my session had about 20 people including Sarah, Jay and Leon.

I was extremely nervous until the exact moment I started talking. :-)   I’ve done this talk once before but have made a lot of changes since then.  I spent a lot of time over the past week working on my slides and demo code and really feel like I nailed it this time.  I definitely feel like I hit everything I wanted during my 70-minute talk.  I loved looking out at the audience and seeing people nodding their heads as I made some of my points.  Sarah gave me some great feedback later in the day which I’m going to integrate before I give the talk again this coming Saturday in Indianapolis.

Talking, Talking, Talking

After my session, I sat in on Jay’s talk about Boo and DSLs.  While it was a good talk, about midway through I had to get up and walk around.  I ran into Jim Holmes and had a great conversation.  Jim is a great guy.  He’s very easy to talk to and has a wealth of knowledge about a lot of things. 

Before lunch, a bunch of us hit the F# session given by Amanda Laucher and James Bender.  I’ll bet at least half the room was twittering during the session.  The talk was good but I haven’t really spent any time at all looking into F#.

After lunch, I scheduled an open spaces event to talk about “Beyond Bullet Points”.  At first it was just me, Dan and Sarah, but soon enough we had a lot of really great people join in!  When I say really great, I’m talking about Joe O’Brien, Leon Gersing, Matt Casto, Joe Fiorini, Jim Holmes, Alexei, Joe Wirtley, Josh Holmes and a few others!  Holy cow!  We actually talked more about presenting in general than BBP, but that was fine by me.  If I hadn’t attended any other sessions during the day and only done this one open spaces, it would have been worth my drive down!

The last session I attended was Brian Prince’s ‘Soft Skillz’ talk.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about this talk and it definitely did not disappoint.  Brian is a great speaker and this session was both informative and entertaining.

Food, drinks and more talking

After the giveaways at the end of the day, a big group of us headed to Max and Erma’s for dinner and drinks.  I hadn’t eaten since 5pm on Friday (my hatred of box lunches in well known), so I decided to grab a table with Sarah and the Cleveland crew.  It was nice to talk to MichaelDotNet (ok…fine, TheProkrammer) and the Cleveland crew.  It’ll be nice to see them all at the upcoming Cleveland Day of .Net.

After dinner a bunch of us headed to Jeff’s room for a poker tournament.  While I didn’t actually play, I was enlisted to help poker n00b Sarah who actually lasted quite a long time (mainly due to folding lots of hands).  She won a couple of big “all in” bets but ended up being the 3rd eliminated at her table.

Heading home

As much as I hated to leave, I finally pulled myself away from the party around 10:30 and started my 4 hour drive home.  Even though I hate night driving, it wasn’t too bad.  I cranked the music and just focused on the drive.  I even managed to get a couple of tweets off during the drive.

Meeting People

During the day I met a lot of great people — some I’ve mentioned already but I don’t want to forget Dan Rigsby, Jennifer Marsman, Jeff Hunsaker, Nino Benvenuti, Justin Kohnen, Leon Gersing, Joe O’Brien, Joe Fiorini and Mike Slade.  It was great meeting everyone!


Finally, I want to say thank you to several people:

Thanks Dan (and family) for having me Friday night.  You made me feel right at home and I had a great time hanging out, drinking and talking (and trying Rock Band for the first time). 

Thanks to Jim, Carey and Mike (and everyone else involved) for running another outstanding event and for selecting me as one of the speakers. :-)   You guys did an great job putting this thing together!

Thanks to Jeff for letting us all hang in his room after the event and for offering up a place for me to stay.  The poker games looked like a lot of fun and maybe next time I’ll give it a try.

Thanks to Jason Follas for being sociable…oh wait, that’s right.  You weren’t. ;-)

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The Central Ohio Day of .NET schedule

12 Apr 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  Comments Off

The session schedule has been published –

I’m a bit bummed that I’m scheduled at the same time as Joe Wirtley and Joe O’Brien, but hopefully I’ll be able to catch their talks at other events. :-)

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I will be speaking at the West Michigan Day of .NET

07 Apr 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  2 Comments

It’s gonna be a busy couple of months because I just received this via email:

“I am pleased to inform you that your session LightReader – The Anatomy of a Silverlight Application has been accepted for inclusion in the West Michigan Day of .NET 2008, on May 10th.  We look forward to welcoming you to the event and learning from your presentation.”

I missed the West Michigan DoDN last year because Wil’s homecoming party was that day.  I’m really looking forward to attending the event this year, not only as an attendee but as a speaker.  I’ll repeat what I said in a previous post:

“If you’ve never been to a Code Camp and are within a few hours of Indy, I really suggest you check it out.  These are not your typical vendor-sponsored conferences with lots of marketing fluff.  Code Camps and the Days of .NET are jam-packed with technical content from top to bottom.  The talks are almost always given by local developers that have no agenda other than to help make the world of software development a better place. :-)

LightReader – my foray into the world of open source software development

01 Apr 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  4 Comments

A few weeks ago, some of us were chatting about RSS readers in twitter.  I used FeedDemon for a long time before switching to Google Reader.  That switch lasted a couple months before the number of feeds made, IMO, Google Reader unusable.   Chris Woodruff made the comment that we should write one in Silverlight to which I replied, “I’m in!  Let’s do it!”  Another tweep jumped in as well, but he’s had to bail due to real life and work getting in the way. :-)

Shortly after that, I created a CodePlex project, added a description and uploaded a placeholder project.  Because things have been really slow for me lately, I dove in and started cranking out xaml and getting a very basic application running. :-)   I’ve since made the switch back to FeedDemon, but plan on dogfooding LightReader as I get the subscription feature completed (hopefully later today – 4/1/2008).

xaml I’m doing all of my development a virtual machine that has all of the latest beta bits of Silverlight 2 and Expression Blend.  I have noticed some small performance issues, but nothing too bad.  So far I’m very impressed with Silverlight.  I created most of the UI by hand-writing the xaml, but once I got the hang of using Expression Blend, the design work for the app (not really apparent from the screenshot) became much simpler.

As we continue to flesh in the features and functionality, I’ll be blogging about it because there are some gotchas that kept/keep biting me in the ass.  I’ve found some great resources out there, mainly ScottGu’s Digg seriesShawn Wildermuth’s blog saved me from a couple issues that were getting on my nerves.  BTW, my biggest complaint about using CodePlex is that using the svnbridge app sucks.  Of course, it does suck a lot less than the Team Explorer client, so I’ll survive. ;-)

I don’t think LightReader will be a FeedDemon or Google Reader killer, but it’s a great way to dive in and learn Silverlight.  Check out the code if you get some time.  If you have any suggestions or if you have better ways to accomplish things within LightReader, let me know! 



See what happens when geeks socialize?

01 Apr 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  7 Comments

The seeds of knowledge may be planted in solitude, but must be cultivated in public.Samuel Johnson

Something clicked with me at the beginning of this year.  After a couple years of attending local code camps, Days of .NET, launch events and both CodeMashes I realized the events aren’t about the sessions – the events are about the people.  I remember Jason saying that very thing at the Ann Arbor Day of .NET last October, but it didn’t really click with me until my second CodeMash this past January.  I spent a lot most of my time talking to other developers – in the halls, in the bar, in the main conference room.  I absolutely loved the Open Spaces I participated in.  It had been a long time since I was able to sit in a room with a bunch of developers and just talk.  Hell, I can learn about technology X anywhere, right?

Some background

Since starting my career as a software developer in the early-to-mid 90s, I’ve worked on some absolutely fantastic teams, especially at Spartan Stores and Sequoia (aka, Sequoia Services, Analysts International Sequoia Services, Sequoia Diversified Products).  The people I’d worked with were, for the most part, super smart with an abundance of passion for software development and technology.  The thing that really set those teams apart was the fact that we (the developers) talked to each other a lot.  We would hold lunch and learn sessions, BS about the latest “thing” around the conference table (or in the case of Spartan, on a mountain bike trail) or pass around a book about technology X and then discuss it.  If someone had a problem on a project, it was simple enough to look to the left or right and find someone willing to listen and help.

When I decided to jump from Sequoia in 2000 and become an independent developer, things changed.  I was on my own when it came to learning and I no longer had a room full of developers to bounce ideas off of.  If I had questions about something I was implementing for myself or a client, I’d more than likely IM or call one of my friends.  The sad fact is that at the time I only had a couple friends who had the skills and knowledge to help me when things got tough but there was no guarantee they’d be around.  Outside of reading blogs, magazines, books and occasionally BS’ing with one of my friends on the phone or IM, I had no real contact with other developers between 2000 and 2005. 

In 2005 I took a W2 position because I was tired of being an indy and trying to keep the pipeline full.  Unfortunately, that gig lasted less than a year.  During that year, I didn’t really work with other developers on a consistent basis.  I was the 4th developer on the team, but two of the developers worked remotely almost exclusively and the 3rd (my boss) worked remotely for a good chunk of my time there.  I would talk to my boss (and the other devs) a couple times a week, but it wasn’t the “BS’ing with another dev” kind of talk…it was the “here’s my status” kind of talk. :-)   Don’t get me wrong, when my boss was in the office, we would have the occasional tech talk, but he was pretty busy with other stuff (he was, after all, the CIO).  If I talked tech with anyone, it was the network guys or the help desk people.

Talking to a rock star

In 2006, something changed.  About a week before leaving that W2 position, I attended my very first code camp and loved it.  Up to that point, I was reading a lot of blogs and “knew” a lot of the speakers, but these guys were all “rock stars” to me.  As much as they’ll laugh about it, James and Dave were in that “rock star” group. ;-)   I remember seeing Dave out in the hall between sessions and God was I nervous….almost too nervous to approach him and ask him a question about a project I had been working on.  I’m glad I did because a year later he was interviewing me and I used that silly story as the icebreaker. :-)   I didn’t really talk to anyone that day other than Dave, but I remember thinking how cool the event was.  It turns out my first face-to-face meeting with Dan almost happened that day, but neither of us had pictures on our blogs at the time, so as Maxwell Smart would say, we “missed it by that much.:-)  

When I joined Pillar in early 2007, I did it for a couple of reasons: Reason #1 – I needed the money.  Reason #2 – I wanted to work for the same company that, at the time, employed people like Dave and James.  While I knew I wouldn’t be working with them on my first project, I hoped at some point I’d be able to work with them..hell, even talking to them would have been great.  I missed talking to other devs and those guys were exactly the type of developers I wanted to associate with.  My story on that gig has been pretty well documented, but I will say that when things were at their worst, those guys offered up a lot of support (along with Jayme) and all are on my short list when I need to bounce ideas off someone.

Expanding my network of friends

Since CodeMash, I’ve really come to realize how important it is for me to talk to other developers.  Because I work on so many projects by myself, it’s nice to get some validation that I’m doing things the right way.  It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one having a hard time learning the latest technology.  There have been a few occasions since January where I’ve had an idea or a problem, but being unsure of myself, have ended up emailing or IM’ing some of my friends to get some input.  An IM chat with James has inspired at least one blog post, but more than that, he’s helped me realize how much I *needed* to talk to other developers.

I’ve started using the resources I have to maintain an on-going dialog with a wide variety of developers.  Twitter has introduced me to more developers in the past few months than anything else I’ve done over the years.  With twitter, there’s none of the awkwardness of IM – just because you follow someone doesn’t necessarily mean they will follow you back.  Honestly I never expect people to follow me back, but if they do, cool!  I love being at an event (like the Detroit Launch Event) when people come up and say, “hey!  I follow you on twitter.” :-)   I’m really looking forward to the next couple of months.  I’m hoping to not only meet new people at the upcoming events, but I’m excited to meet some of my twitter friends in person (Sarah, Alan, Nate, Matt, John, Joel…you all know who you are)!

Strangely enough, while IM is important, it has taken a backseat to twitter.  It’s so much more intrusive than twitter, and truthfully, IM is reserved for those times when twitter’s 140 character limitation won’t cut it and I need to have an extended conversation with someone.  I will admit though that looking at my IM list (or even my twitter follower list), I sometimes feel like Wayne and Garth and want to bow down and say, “I’m not worthy!” because there are some scary smart people on both lists. :-)

Besides twitter and IM, I’ve also taken to hanging out in both the and #graffiticms channels (IRC) when I have time.  There are days where is really slow, but other days it’s like drinking from a firehose.  I hang out in #graffiticms because it’s normally me, James and Jayme.  Occasionally there are others…sometimes even ScottW or JasonA (although it has been a while since either of them has been around). :-)   Some of my friends and I have even given ooVoo a try.

Taking the next step

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I feel like something clicked this year.  The one word that keeps echoing through my head is “community”.  It’s less about me as an individual and more about being part of the community…an awesome community full of some great people who only want to make the world of software development better. 

One of the things I’m doing this year is making an effort to get out in front of developers and speak.  I’ve always enjoyed getting up in front of people, but haven’t done it since I stopped teaching at LCC in 2002.  All it took to get me off my ass was Dustin calling me a p***** at Codemash. :-p  I’ve already done one talk at NWNUG and am now booked to speak at several upcoming events.  Seriously, anything I can do to talk to more developers I’ll do.  I feel like I’m making up for lost time.

I’ve also put the wheels in motion to produce a bi-monthly podcast with a few of my friends.  We’re still working things out and recorded one episode already, but unfortunately, it won’t see the light of day because none of us thought it was very good.  :-)  

Oh, and before I forget, I also started an open source project with a couple of my tweeps. :-)   Look for more about that project in the coming weeks.

So, what’s the point of all this?  I don’t know if I have one other than to get off your ass and talk to other developers as much as you can. :-)   Seriously, make the effort.  Seek out other developers and talk to them.  Get involved, you won’t regret it.  Go to code camps and user groups.  You’ll meet lots of great people, make some friends and to top it all off, you’ll become a better developer because there’s always someone out there smarter than you. ;-)   I don’t think I’d be doing half the things I’m currently doing if it weren’t for the simple fact that I’ve been talking to more and more super-smart developers.  It’s motivation for me.  Hell, just today I had a 90+ minute phone call with Keith Elder…talking about all sorts of development-related topics.  Every time I talk to Keith, whether it’s in a bar, at a conference, in IM or on the phone, I learn something new.  Granted, it might be about something about bologna, but no matter what…I learn something from him.  I love it! 

BTW, thanks to Sarah for proof-reading this post and for suggesting the title. :-)

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