Session Proposals due this Friday, March 21

Just a reminder that session proposals for Southwest Fox 2014 and Southwest Xbase++ 2014 are due by 8 AM EDT this Friday, March 21. If you’re interested in speaking, please download the Call for Speakers (http://swfox.net/CallForSpeakers.aspx) and submit your proposals using our online application at www.geekgatherings.com/submission. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Call for Speakers 2014

We’ve issued the Call for Speakers for Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++ 2014. If you are interested in presenting at either conference, please check out http://www.swfox.net/callforspeakers.aspx.

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Why doesn’t Southwest Fox/Xbase++ move around?

Every year, at least one person writes on the conference evaluation that we should move the conference to a new location. This year, one attendee wrote “MUST CHANGE LOCATIONS! There are so many other possibilities.”

So why don’t we do it? Personally, there are still about a dozen states I haven’t visited, and I’d love to use the trip to Southwest Fox to work on that list.

But there are a number of good business reasons why we stay put.

First and perhaps most important is that moving would be very expensive for us, both in time and money. In order to move the conference, first, we’d have to decide where to go, or make a short list of possible locations. Then, we’d have to identify hotels in those locations that have the appropriate facilities for us.

Then, one or more of us would have to visit whatever city (or cities) we were considering, and inspect the possible sites. Assuming we found what we needed, we’d then have to negotiate a deal that keeps the conference affordable.

In fact, finding appropriate facilities isn’t that simple. One of the great things about our current location is that we are a “big fish” there. We’re one of the largest conferences they hold every year, and the last two years, we’ve pretty much filled the hotel. Being able to do that makes us really valued customers, and gets us some very nice price breaks. (As we’ve written in the past, food is the single largest expense for any conference.)

Finding a hotel small enough that our group would be VIPs, but with a large enough conference facility to host our group is a non-trivial task. We know that because we’ve done it twice before.

When we first took over Southwest Fox, Rick spent about 80 hours identifying and visiting hotels. Then, when our original location went under in 2010 and we needed a new location fast, he spent about 60 more. In addition, Rick spent a week in Texas a few years ago, looking at options.

Once we chose a new facility and negotiated a contract, we’d still have to put in more hours to ensure that the facility understood our needs. That leads to the second big reason for not moving.

We’ve developed a strong relationship with the DoubleTree/Elegante personnel and we’ve worked with them to make things better each year. Both little things and big things.

The first year we were there, I was very unhappy because all the carafes used to provide hot water for tea had previously been used to serve coffee. As any tea drinker knows, that’s no way to make a cup of tea; the coffee flavor seeps into the carafe and the hot water pulls that flavor out. The water is brownish and tastes like coffee. At our closing meeting with the hotel (yes, we sit down with hotel representatives before the conference to preview what will happen and make sure they have it all right, and afterward, to review and discuss any issues), we reported the problem, and they promised to fix it. Sure enough, they bought a set of carafes in a different color that are used only for hot water.

They’ve worked with us on bigger problems, too. One of them is WiFi. Not surprisingly, our group taxes the hotel’s and conference center’s WiFi like pretty much no other group. We’ve worked with them each year to resolve the problem, but it kept getting harder, as more and more of us came with multiple devices that wanted WiFi. Finally, this year, they replaced the entire WiFi set-up for both buildings with a new one, with much greater capacity. For the first time since we’ve been running Southwest Fox, there were no complaints about WiFi capacity.

No question that this year’s biggest issue was the temperature in the meeting rooms. It swung wildly between way too cold and unpleasantly warm. Many people commented on it, both at the event and on their evaluations. We were glad to hear at our closing meeting that this is a planned focus for the coming year. The system will be reviewed and changes made as needed.

If we move, we start all over, dealing with issues like these. And if we move every year, as some would like, we have no leverage to solve this kind of problem. While moving would solve whatever problems one facility has, we’d have no way of knowing what problems the next facility would have.

There are other, less significant, reasons we don’t move. If we move out of the southwestern US, we have two issues. First, we’d have to re-brand the conferences. It’s hard to call a conference “Southwest” anything if you hold it in Boston or Atlanta.

On a related note, weather in other parts of the US is somewhat unpredictable in October. The Northeast and Midwest can be rainy and cold, while the Southeast is still in hurricane season. Frankly, the three of us all live in places where winter is dark and cold and we enjoy the chance to visit the desert before that kicks in.

The ease of getting to Phoenix is also a consideration. For almost everyone, it’s no more than two flights, and prices tend to be reasonable.

The bottom line is that we already put hundreds of non-billable hours into Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++, and there would have to be a real benefit to moving, for us to invest the additional time and money it would cost. We know that disappoints some of you, but we hope it won’t keep you from joining us next year.

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We’re streaming the keynote … and PolarFox

Once again this year, Geek Gatherings is streaming the Southwest Fox/Xbase++ keynote presentation, Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time (Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time). In addition, we are streaming the Project PolarFox: Sneak Preview session, Saturday at 5:15 p.m. Go to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/swfoxtv to watch the videos.

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We’ve gone mobile!

Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++ have gone mobile! We’ve created a conference schedule on Guidebook, a popular mobile guide for events. Simply install the Guidebook app on your mobile device, then load the Southwest Fox/Xbase++ 2013 guide. You’ll be able to see complete session descriptions, view the conference schedule, see speaker photos and biographies, create to-do items, and best of all, create a customized schedule of sessions.

See http://swfox.net/Guidebook.aspx for details on how to set up our guide on your mobile device.

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Early-Bird Registration deadline is August 31

One last quick reminder: you can save $50 by registering with the early-bird registration discount. The deadline is this Saturday, August 31st. Every registered attendee gets admission and white papers to all regular conference sessions.
Here’s what a couple of our speakers have to say about their session.

A few words from Doug Hennig about his session “Fix Problems Fast with Advanced Error Handling and Instrumentation Techniques”:
“My company’s main product is unusual for a VFP application: it doesn’t have a fixed database structure that it works with or even a fixed database engine. It may have to work with a SQL Server accounting database, a MySQL customer relationship management database, or a VFP medical billing database. When a problem occurs, we sometimes ask the customer to send us a copy of their configuration files and application database so we can reproduce the problem, but that isn’t always possible. So, many times, all we have to go on is what we can log at the time the error occurred. As a result, we’ve had to become very good at generating detailed log information and analyzing that information to determine and fix the problem. Thanks to these techniques, there are very few problems we can’t track down quickly.
This session discusses the code we use for error handling and instrumentation as well as techniques for quickly tracking down and solving problems. feel free to use this code as is or adapt it to your own applications as you see fit. ”

A few words from Eric Selje about his “Unit Testing 201: Testing Our SQL Server Backends”
“I have received so much positive response from this session in the various SQL Saturdays and User Groups where I’ve presented it. The timing is really right for database developers to start exercising the same discipline of unit testing they’ve been doing for their code to their databases as well. What does this mean? Come to my session at Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++ in October and find out! ”
Don’t miss this chance to learn from the best and mix with your peers.

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Super-saver deadline approaches

Thanks to those of you who responded promptly to our message about the future of Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++. Registration has picked up, but we still need to hear from more of you before the Super-saver deadline.

June 30th is just a few days away and we thought we would pass along a reminder just in case you forgot to type it into your task list, or put a yellow sticky note on your monitor. We still need people to register to make the conferences happen.

The conferences take place October 17-20, 2013 in Gilbert, Arizona and we really hope you can be there. We would hate to see you miss out on the $125 discount and the free pre-conference session. The pre-conference sessions are quite popular this year.

Head over to the registration Web site today: http://geekgatherings.com/Registration. As promised, we are not cashing checks or processing credit cards for new registrations until the middle of July.

Already registered? Thanks. Can you help us remind your fellow developers who have been procrastinating about the looming deadline?

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Help save Southwest Fox!

Putting on a conference is a risky endeavor. Conference centers require a guaranteed minimum income to block the dates of a conference; for a conference like Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++, that minimum is in the tens of thousands of dollars.

As of today, we have 14 people registered for Southwest Fox and Southwest Xbase++ 2013. That’s about half the number of people who were registered at this time last year, and last year’s number took a big leap of faith on our part to carry on. See, our break-even point is about 75 people, and according to our contract with the hotel, we have until July 2 to cancel or we’re on the hook for our guaranteed minimum whether there’s a conference or not.

Southwest Fox is one of the highlights of the year for the three of us. A ton of planning and work goes into organizing it, but we are happy to do it because we feel it’s an important way to keep our community going. We’re realistic enough to know that it won’t go on forever and each year could be the last. So, was 2012 the last year? You can help us make that decision. If you were thinking about going this year, vote to continue the conference by registering now. If you know others thinking of attending, share this message with them.

If we do end up cancelling, everyone who registered will get their money back in full, so you can’t lose out. (Just don’t make your flight reservation right way.)

The FoxShow #77 features an interview with us discussing this and other SWFox-related issues, so be sure to check it out. Andrew MacNeill also has a blog post about this.

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2013 Ceil Silver Ambassador is Luis Maria Guayan

Geek Gatherings is pleased to announce that the 2013 Ceil Silver Ambassador is Luis Maria Guayan. Luis is a well-known member of the Spanish FoxPro community, is one of the founders of PortalFox, is the project manager of the FoxBarcode VFPX project, and was a long-time MVP.

The Ceil Silver Ambassador Fund raises money from the VFP community to bring a developer to the Southwest Fox conference as an ambassador for the developers in his or her country. This gives the recipient the opportunity to meet and share experiences with developers attending Southwest Fox and gives other attendees the opportunity to learn about VFP development in the recipient’s country.

The Fund is named in memory of Ceil Silver, a long-time member of the Visual FoxPro community, who passed away in January, 2009. Ceil served as Editor of FoxPro Advisor’s Tips and Tricks column for many years and was the founder of the Westchester County FoxPro chapter of PADD, the Professional Association of Database Developers. She was also a contributing author to Special Edition Using Visual FoxPro 6. Ceil understood the value of attending professional conferences, and continued to attend them until her failing health prevented it.

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Ceil Silver Ambassador nominations due by May 31

The Ceil Silver Ambassador Fund raises money from the VFP community to bring a developer to the Southwest Fox conference as an ambassador for the developers in his or her country. This gives the recipient the opportunity to meet and share experiences with developers attending Southwest Fox and gives other attendees the opportunity to learn about VFP development in the recipient’s country.

We are looking for nominations from the VFP community for the 2013 recipient. To nominate someone you think deserves to be selected, please email their name and a brief list of their contributions to the VFP community to ambassadorfund@swfox.net. Names must be submitted no later than May 31, 2013.

In addition, we are looking for donations to allow us to pay for the travel costs for the ambassador. We urge you to consider donating any amount you see fit, small or large, to this fund. See http://www.swfox.net/ambassador.aspx for details. 100% of donated money goes to the travel costs for the ambassador. Not a single penny is used to cover administrative costs. All time managing the fund and working through the selection process is donated. No one is paid for their time.

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