Monthly Archives: July 2008

Inspired by…

17 Jul 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  2 Comments

Wow, so Josh called me out in his “Inspired by” post:-)  

When I first read his post and realized I needed to write about someone that inspires me, my first thought wasn’t anyone in the technology field.  As I read further I realized he asked that we talk about someone from the community that inspires us.  So, I’m going to go above and beyond in this post and talk about two people that inspire me.

Inspiration #1

The first person I thought of when I read Josh’s post is my long-time friend Wil (Wil doesn’t blog anymore which is a real shame).  I’ve known Wil close to 20 years; we were friends in high school, he was the best man at my wedding and he continues to be there for me when times are tough.  I can only hope I’m as good a friend to him as he is to me.

Right after high school graduation (1991) Wil fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming an infantryman in the United States Marine Corp.  While I was hanging out with my friends, going to college and having a good time, Wil was serving his country.  He was there when the United States closed our naval base in the Philippines.  He was in Somalia in 1993 (if I recall correctly, it was a few months before this) and Rwanda in 1994 to help evacuate American citizens.  When he returned home from active duty, he jumped straight into life as a student at MSU (James Madison College) and double majored in International Relations and Political Theory all while working some crappy jobs (management in restaurants, security, etc.)  Not only did he fulfill his dream of becoming a Marine, he came home and focused on his next goal and didn’t let the small things get in the way.  He also continued to serve as a Marine in a Reserve unit.  The discipline he displays has always been an inspiration to me.

In 2003, Wil’s Marine Corp Reserve unit was called up for duty in the Global War on Terrorism.  He put his life on hold and spent several months in the Horn of Africa performing counter-terrorist operations before coming home and resuming his life.  Honestly, when he was gone in the early 90′s, I never worried.  When he was gone in 2003, I never worried.  Wil is, was and always will be a good Marine.  In 2006, now a Gunnery Sergeant, Wil was once again called up to serve, although this time his destination was a bit scarier: Iraq.  Wil was the first person I know to serve in Iraq and I have to say it scared the hell out of me.  I know people who did everything they could to get out of serving after September 11.  I still get angry when I think about the lengths some people went to avoid having to go (close family relations actually), but Wil didn’t.  He knew he had an obligation to his country and to himself and he did his duty.  After 7 months in Iraq, Wil arrived safely back home in May 2007.  He takes his duty seriously and I am inspired by that.

After all that, I can add this: his loyalty to his Marines and to his friends inspires me.

What have they inspired you to do?

Wil has inspired me to stop worrying about the stuff that’s out of my control.  He has inspired me to focus on the things that are important and not complain when things get tough. 

Who else have they inspired?

I would hope that Wil has inspired all of his Marines in some way, shape or form as well as his other friends and co-workers.

Inspiration #2

The second person I thought of is part of our software development community: James Avery.  While I’ve never met James in person (soon to be remedied at Codestock), James is an inspiration to me because he is a doer.  He not only talks the talk, he walks the walk.  I can look at sites like and The Lounge or one of his two books on my bookshelf and see it. 

James has the focus required to bring products to market and that definitely inspires me.  He has told me many times that in the amount of time I’ve spent playing WoW, I could have easily knocked out some cool stuff. :-)   In fact, James inspired me to treat my side-projects more like real jobs and because of that, I have made more progress on my side projects in the first 6 months of this year than I ever have.

What have they inspired you to do?

James has inspired me to stop over-analyzing things.  He has inspired me to just “get things done” and to stop looking for excuses.

Who else have they inspired?

That’s tough to say, but I would hope other developers are inspired by his talks, his books and the sites he’s created. 

Call to action

To repeat Josh: I’m going to call out 5 people because I want to know who inspires them.

I’m calling out the following people:

Sarah D.

Dan Hounshell 

Mike Wood 

Jason Follas

Jim Holmes

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Ann Arbor Give Camp – Wrap-up

15 Jul 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  6 Comments

My pics

My original plan was to blog throughout the event, but due to lack of sleep, the days blended together and when I sat down Saturday night to write my post, I was in a daze and had no idea where to start. :-)

Now that the event is behind us and I’ve had some sleep, I’m struggling to put into words the amazing experience I had over the weekend.  I woke up today feeling energized and inspired.


This event was truly the event of the year.  I met so many awesome developers that gave up an entire weekend to help some really great charities.  They came together as small teams (who, for the most part had never worked together), figured out what had to be done and they did it.  They did it with NO complaining.  They did it with very little sleep.  They did it better than most teams I’ve seen in almost 15 years of software development experience.

A few weeks ago I was asked by Jennifer to help out with the “requirements” gathering / vetting of projects stage.  I jumped at the chance and enjoyed the chance to talk to four of the charities about their wants and needs.  Of those four, two were selected (the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum and the Washtenaw Chapter of the American Red Cross).  Shortly before the event, I was assigned to the Hands On Museum project.  My assignment was based on my strong feelings about that particular organization so Jennifer made sure that’s the team I was on.  My wife and kids have spent a lot of time at the Hands On Museum and unfortunately, places like that are pretty tough to come by so I really wanted to see this project be successful.

The project needed a team that was strong in PHP/mySQL.  I, on the other hand, have absolutely no skills with either of those technologies, so after the opening ceremony when the teams were talking to the non-profit representatives, I paid close attention to the three other developers who were assigned to the team.  I very quickly 100_1401realized that they had exactly what was needed for the project to be successful and I wouldn’t bring much to the table.  After a quick team meeting to make sure everyone else was cool with me stepping away, I let them get to work and found Jennifer and Josh.

For the week or so prior to the event, I had decided that I really wanted to be free from a single-team assignment and play the role of “roamer”.  I wanted to be free to roam around, talk to the other teams and offer my assistance where it was needed.  Luckily, Jennifer and Josh both gave me the green light to do just that.  Not too long after that meeting, Josh snagged me to do some video interviews with the charity representatives.  I was a bit nervous at first, but it was awesome talking to the charities and getting my first look at all the teams.

While I was walking around interviewing the charities, I ran into one team that looked…well…they looked like deer in the headlights.  That’s no criticism of them at all, because once I found out which project they were on, I understood immediately why they looked the way they did.  *sigh*  This is the short version: they were assigned to 100_1469the Red Cross project.  As luck would have it, I helped gather the requirements for this project so I already knew what the issues were.  Unfortunately, they didn’t know any of the backstory on the project so they were left wondering what they had gotten themselves into. :-)

They were actually packing up to leave for the night because they realized they couldn’t do anything without the Red Cross reps being there and they weren’t scheduled to be back until the next day.  After talking to them for a few minutes, I told them to get some rest and that we would have a meeting first thing in the morning to get things straightened out. 

At 9am, the Red Cross team had a meeting where it was decided that the team would push on with the code while I called the Red Cross to discuss options.  Before I called, one of the reps showed up (Jason – AWESOME guy) and we talked about the issues.  He hooked me up with a couple people to talk to.  Long story short, we ended up stopping the project early due to issues beyond our control, but the Red Cross reps that I talked to (Sherri and Julie) were amazing.  Julie (communications director) was super cool and even stopped by Saturday afternoon to talk and get a tour of the event (she also came to the closing ceremony and gave great praise to Give Camp)!  The team was a bit disappointed when the project ended, but I did what I could to let them know how important their participation was and we did find teams for most of them.

What I found myself doing during the weekend was hitting each and every team multiple times to see how they were doing.  I offered my assistance to everyone.  Most were good-to-go, but some took me up on my offer.  Granted, it wasn’t to write code, but I did offer guidance where I could (mostly on DotNetNuke) and provided my input on some issues that cropped up.  I was also the guy that went around to each room and took hundreds of pictures and a lot of video.  Hopefully the teams didn’t find me too annoying. :-)

During the day, I found out about the Knoxville team and how they had nothing to do. :-)   I knew other people were busy and since Nate Blevins and I had been following each other on twitter for quite some time, I volunteered to call him and try to get them hooked up with a project.  I have never talked to Nate on the phone, but I’ll tell you…it was like talking to an old friend.  He is an amazing guy.  We talked briefly, and since it was late, agreed to talk again Saturday morning.  As luck would have it, we found plenty of work for them to do and I can’t say enough good things about them (Josh did a great job praising them in his post).  I can’t wait to meet Nate and the rest of the devs when I head to Knoxville next month for Codestock.  We also had a great team working from Columbus!

During a good portion of the event, if you saw Josh, you saw me close by.  Over the past few months he has not only been a mentor, he has become a good friend as well.  I enjoyed working with him and being his “go to” guy during the IMG_1095event.  At one point during a 1am status meeting with Josh and Jennifer, Josh looked at me and said, “you and Jennifer are the foreman tonight”.  Of course, as he was leaving to get some sleep, he also said, “I want you to get some good video around 4:30am”. ;-)   Good times.

I didn’t sleep at all Friday night or all day Saturday.  In fact, it wasn’t until midnight on Saturday that my friend Chris and I headed to a nearby hotel to grab some Z’s.  I probably could have stayed up, but damn…as soon as my head hit that pillow, I was OUT.  It felt really good to get some sleep, but Chris and I were up and out the door headed back to the event by 8am.

Sunday was spent doing more of the same stuff: walking around talking to the teams, seeing if they needed anything, etc.  I took some more pics and some video.  To be perfectly honest, I was getting pretty down on myself because I realized I hadn’t written a line of code…that all I had done was take some pictures and talk.  I’m still struggling with it, but after talking to a lot of people including Josh, Jennifer and some of the other organizers (as well as Sarah and Chris), I’m slowly coming to the realization that I *did* help.DSC_0034

The closing ceremony was actually pretty emotional, but that’s probably due to the lack of sleep. :-)   The results of the weekend were shown to the other devs as well as all the charities!  It’s all on tape, so hopefully it gets posted soon.

Overall, I had a great time and I think the organizers of the event did an absolutely amazing job at putting this thing together.  Huge thanks to John, Jennifer, Patrick, Greg and Todd.  Wow. 

I also want to thank all the great sponsors we had — especially Verio!  Anyone that was there knows that the Verio rep (Matt) was super cool.  I think he definitely went above and beyond.

I made some new friends over the weekend and got to hang with some old friends. 

I was gonna do a “shout out” section but I realized I’d forget someone, so just know this: my respect has increased for every single developer that showed up this past weekend.  They kicked ass and I hope to see them at future events.

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Great posts on public speaking

14 Jul 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  Comments Off

A couple months ago, Josh Holmes started writing a great series on public speaking.  While you can click the “Speaking” category in the sidebar of his blog, the current series is intermixed with other posts, making it difficult to pinpoint what you want.  I figured I’d create one post (for my own reference) on my blog and update it when he adds new posts to this fantastic series. :-)

Public speaking and movement onstage

Words as Filler when Public Speaking

Prepare Yourself To Give a Great Talk

Doing a Demo while Public Speaking

Public Speaking – Great Beginnings

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Ann Arbor Give Camp – First night

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

Wow!  We have had a great turnout for the first night of the Ann Arbor Give Camp!

My friend Chris and I got to Ann Arbor around 3:30 this afternoon and stopped by one of the non-profits: the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.  I took the point on this project a couple weeks ago and really looked forward to checking the museum on in person.  My wife and kids have been there numerous times, but this was my first time.  The museum rocks!

After 30 minutes touring the museum and playing with a lot of the exhibits, Chris and I headed for Washtenaw Community College.  Upon arrival, we helped Josh and a couple others put together the name tags and then made our way to the break room to hang out before the event started at 6.

It’s pretty much been a blur since then.  I’ve been “floating” around the event, offering help and doing some video interviews with some of the non-profits (a job given to me by Josh after I said I didn’t have much to do). :-)  

I’m blown away by the number of great developers that made it to the event.  If it wasn’t so late right now, I’d actually list them. :-)

More tomorrow!

My software dev post has taken on a life of its own

09 Jul 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  3 Comments

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that was aimed at my “tweeps” asking them how they got started in software development.  A bunch of people answered and you can see a list of those answers here, unfortunately only those people that linked back to the original post will be listed.  This Google search lists a lot of them as well.

I’m totally blown away by how this simple post has spread across the net.  I mean, c’mon….Charles Petzold answered it after being tagged by Julia Lerman! :-)   How cool is that?  Joe Stagner from Microsoft answered it and his post showed up on the front page of (screenshot)!

Thanks to everyone that answered!  If you have a blog and haven’t been tagged yet…well, consider yourself tagged!  Answer the questions and link back here!  If you don’t have a blog, feel free to answer them in the comments for this post.

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Some great blogs – sharing my opml

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

A few months ago I made the move *back* to FeedDemon after giving Google Reader a try.  I liked Google Reader mainly because I could view my feeds from any computer that had a net connection.  Unfortunately, I think the performance sucked, so I decided to switch back to my desktop feed reader.  For those keeping score, yes I am still working on LightReader (my Silverlight-based feed reader) and an update will be coming soon. :-)

When I moved back to FeedDemon, I decided to do a better job of organizing my feeds.  Prior to the reorganization, I had one big folder with a few hundred feeds in in.  After the reorganization (and removal of a few dozen feeds), I ended up with 5 folders (individual OPML files are linked for each folder).  I thought I’d share the OPML files for anyone that’s interested.  I’ll try to keep them updated as things change. Feeds

Dead feeds contains feeds that have either given me errors or that have had no activity for a long-ass time.

Link Blogs currently contains only three feeds: Alvin Ashcraft’s Morning Dew, Arjan’s World and Christopher Steen’s Link Listings.  While there is some obvious overlap, these three link blogs give me a great summary of what’s going on in the tech area and they’ve also introduced me to some great blogs.

Non-Tech contains mostly business-related blogs such as Web Worker Daily, Zen Habits, Freelance Switch, LifeHacker and Get Rich Slowly.  It also contains the feed for Arlo and Janis – I love this comic because author Jimmy Johnson really nails what married life is like (here’s one of my favorite strips). :-)   The other non-business feeds are Kevin Smiths’ “My Boring Ass Life” and the “News Askew” feed.  If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith (Clerks, Clerks 2, Dogma, etc.), both of these feeds are required reading.

People I Know contains feeds for my friends with blogs.  I have met almost every one of the people in this folder and these are the feeds I pay the most attention to.

The Tech folder contains all the rest.  It includes the likes of Hanselman, Haack, ScottGu and many other great bloggers.


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The ASP.NET MVC Information Portal

01 Jul 2008
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  2 Comments

A few days ago Dan Hounshell released his latest project: the ASP.NET MVC Information Portal.  This is a great resource for anyone wanting more information about this new framework from Microsoft.

The ASP.NET MVC (Model View Controller) framework is one of the most talked about and long awaited additions to the Microsoft world of web development. Find and follow all the news, announcements, blog posts, tutorials, tips, and other resources on

This is definitely a site I’ll be using as I dive into the MVC.NET Framework in the very near future.  I really like the “In Action” section of the website (notice The Lounge in that list?).  It’s cool to see live sites that are using the framework and hopefully we’ll see more and more sites being added to that section in the coming months.

Great work Dan!

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