Monthly Archives: April 2009

The Kalamazoo X Conference – Event Wrap-up

29 Apr 2009
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  1 Comments

Sarah’s Pictures
Alan’s Pictures
Dave’s Pictures

On Saturday, April 25, the first Kalamazoo X Conference was held at the Anna Whitten Hall in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan.  I can only describe the day as a huge success.  It exceeded my expectations in every way.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday than watching 13 of my friends give some of the best talks I’ve ever seen.  The speakers KICKED ASS!  I have come away from this event energized and ready to tackle anything. 

The energy of the day was incredible.  As the MC of the event, I had the chance to do something I’ve been looking forward to since    we changed the format to a single track: introduce the speakers – my friends – to the audience.  I actually didn’t prepare any of the introductions ahead of time, instead coming up with stuff on the fly.  Whether that was the best decision is another story. ;-)  

While I enjoyed every talk, there were some definite standouts.

Soft Skills in 25 Minutes

It was very cool to see Brian boil his 2+ hour “Soft Skills” talk down to 20 minutes.  When I first created the schedule for the single-track event, I gave Brian 2 back-to-back slots because I knew this particular talk could go long.  Brian told me he really wanted to stick with the short format like everyone else, so I cut him back to the single slot.  I was very surprised when he ended a couple minutes early! 

I am Ammal!

Dave’s “Effective Communication” talk was good if for no other reason than I am/was “Ammal”. :-)   What really sucked is that because of the sun, most of Dave’s slides were washed out and you couldn’t really see the pictures.

A Scary Black Man

Clovis did an outstanding job with his “Branding 101” talk.  There were some technical difficulties at the last minute, so he did his entire talk without slides.  He actively engaged the audience and held a very entertaining conversation.  At one point, he jokingly described himself as the “scary black man”.  Good stuff.  It was one of the few talks I wish could have gone on for another hour.

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!

Josh’sLost Art of Simplicity” was a bit more polished than when he did it at the Central Ohio Day of .NET.  His pacing was dead-on and the graphics he used in his presentation were very, very cool.

Stepping up

I have to point out that about halfway through Andy Van Solkema’s talk, I realized that I wasn’t sure if Brian knew he was supposed to do the “What is an Architect” talk. :-)   He and I had talked about it early on in the X Conference planning, but somehow it fell off the radar.  Immediately after Andy’s talk, I mentioned it to him.  He said he was wondering who was going to do it, but luckily he jumped at the chance to get back in front of the audience.  Instead of doing “What is an architect”, he decided to do his “5 Ways to be more Agile” talk.  It was a great decision!

Without change, there would be no butterflies

I have to say, the standout session for me was Leon’s “Change”.  This talk was EXACTLY why I wanted Leon at the conference.  It was a very powerful, personal talk given in Leon’s engaging, comedic style.  He ended his talk with an amazing quote by Deming: “It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory”.  Wow.

A Community Leader on Leadership

Jim’s “Leadership 101” talk started out in a very intense way as he described how soldiers in World War I went “over the top” of the trenches into almost certain death.  He talked about why they did what they did and then transitioned into a short, but amazing talk about leadership.  When I first asked Jim to speak and he pitched this particular talk, I jumped at it.  In my opinion, there is NO ONE in the development community I’d rather have talk about leadership.


A few weeks before the event, I asked Mike to do a talk on Community knowing he’d kick ass.  The talk that capped off the day almost had me in tears because it was THE PERFECT ending for the day.  Mike Wood did an awesome job explaining what community meant to him.  His final slide (which stayed up during our short group conversation) asked the very simple question, “What does community mean to you?”  Good stuff. :-)


I have to thank all of the speakers for making this such a great event.  Without their willingness to travel (some drove several hundred miles) to this small first time conference, seemingly out in the sticks, we would have not been able to pull this off.

Thanks to all our great sponsors for providing monetary support and giving us all sorts of great stuff to give away.  Thanks to the others on the planning team who helped make this event the success it was. 

Will there be a Kalamazoo X Conference in 2010?  Based on the feedback we’ve gotten, it’s almost certainly YES. :-)

* Pictures by Dave Giard, Sarah Dutkiewicz and Alan Barber used with permission.

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My CODODN Presentation: Small changes can have a big (negative) impact

19 Apr 2009
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  1 Comments

To those that attended my talk at the Central Ohio Day of .NET on the 18th: I apologize.  It was not meant to be a “tool” talk.  At the last minute, I decided to change the order of my slides hoping a *short* discussion of tools would help when I got to the “meat” of the talk.  BIG MISTAKE.  It really changed the whole tone and direction of my talk, especially since I got a late start due to projector issues.

I am re-working the talk for the Indy Code Camp so it is what I intended it to be: a session heavy on architectural guidance.

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Upcoming events – April and May

16 Apr 2009
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  1 Comments

This coming Friday I’ll be heading down to Wilmington, Ohio for the Central Ohio Day of .NET on Saturday.  This was one of the first events in the region when it started out as the Dayton-Cinci Code Camp a few years ago.  I always look forward to it and this year is no different.  The session lineup looks pretty damn good, even with mine included. :-)   Yes, I will be presenting at this years event on “Developing Solid WPF Applications”.

I’ve been on the planning team for the Kalamazoo X Conference (register here) since late last year, so when I head to Kalamazoo on April 25th, I’ll be looking forward to listening to all the amazing speakers we have lined up.  Since we changed the format of the event to a single track, attendees and staff will be able to see every session!  Good stuff.

May is a busy month for me, both personally and professionally.  Between my anniversary (12th), my wife’s birthday and Mother’s Day, the month would be busy enough, but on top of that, I’ll be heading to Columbus on Friday, May 8th to present on “What’s New in WPF 4.0” at Stir Trek.  This will be a very cool event, especially if you’re a Star Trek fan because there will be a private screening of the new Star Trek movie at 4PM for all attendees.  To be perfectly honest, I’ll probably be leaving at 4 because I haven’t been able to sit through a Star Trek movie since Wrath of Khan (the best of the movies). :-)

On May 16th, I’ll be at the Indy Code Camp in Indianapolis.  For the second year running, I’ll be presenting two sessions: “Writing Solid WPF Applications” and “Improving our Craft: A Discussion on Software Estimation”.

On May 30th, I hope to be at the Chicago Code Camp whether I’m speaking or not.  I did submit some abstracts, but haven’t heard back yet.

The Kalamazoo X Conference – Major Announcement

06 Apr 2009
by mjeaton, posted in Uncategorized   |  6 Comments

When we first started talking about having an event in Kalamazoo in October of 2008, we wanted to do something different.  This region has plenty of Day of .NET events, so our idea of “different” was to focus on soft skills and stay clear of hardcore technical topics.  In the past month or so, we have lined up an extraordinary group of speakers who are bringing over a dozen amazing sessions to the Kalamazoo X Conference (register here).

As the person responsible for putting together the schedule, I immediately realized how difficult that particular job is.  All these great speakers (almost all of them good friends) and all the great topics made the task almost impossible.  I did my best to put together a 4-track event with each session coming in at about 70 minutes.  As I began updating the website with the session information, something didn’t feel right.

A couple weeks ago, the planning team (me, John, Mark and Michael) had lunch in Kalamazoo (Fat Tony’s Grille & Sports Bar is really good BTW) and started talking about the schedule.  Everyone at the table voiced the same opinion: multi-track conferences suck because you always end up having to make decisions and end up missing out on sessions you want to see.  We began discussing how we could alleviate this problem.  The most obvious idea was to change the format of the event. 

One of my concerns with this idea is that almost all of the speakers are good friends, many from Ohio, and I hated the idea of screwing with the format with only 3-4 weeks until the event.  I mean, if we changed it too much, maybe some of them wouldn’t want to make the 4+ hour drive to Kalamazoo.  In the end though, we had two choices: do nothing and force attendees (including ourselves) to choose between some amazing sessions OR we could make a drastic change and hope the speakers would go for it. :-)  

After a lot of deliberation, the X Conference planning team  has decided to make a major change to the format of the event:  We are now a single-track conference! 

Instead of 4 tracks with 5 sessions each, we have asked all the speakers to adjust their talks to fit within a 20-30 minute session.  This means everyone will get to see all of the sessions and all the speakers will be able to present in front of the entire crowd.  While I’m still waiting to hear back from all the speakers, the ones that have responded have done so in a very positive way.  One of the speakers responded with this:

“On a personal note, Mike, I’m really looking forward to this event now that you’ve changed the format. It’s different, fast, exciting, I’m VERY interested to see how this format shapes the conversations of the day. I simply can’t wait to be there.”

I’m really excited about this change too and hope, if you’re within a few hours of Kalamazoo, that you’ll be there!  I will be posting updated speaker / session information to the website over the next couple of days.  

Register here