Tweets at Southwest Fox

Twitter is one of many social networking tools where friends/followers read posts about what someone is working on, something happened in their life they want to share, debate world events, get advice personal and professionally, and generally interact or converse with each other. Twitter is known as micro-blogging and each post is limited to 140 characters. Each post is known as a tweet.

One of the uses of Twitter that has bubbled up in the technical community is getting a feeling of what is going on at conferences as they happen. People at the conference post comments about sessions they attend, what they learned, who they talked to, and problems solved. These tweets can help other people at the conference to alter their schedule to make sure they catch the next offering of a great session, or find a meet-up that is happening later in the evening. Those who could not make it to the conference can live vicariously through the posts too. There have been several non-VFP conferences I have followed through Twitter this summer and fall. It is an interesting experiment for the social networking community.

I have lived on both sides of this. During the Prague conference this year I read terrific posts from Olaf Doschke (VFP MVP from Germany) who posted tweets throughout the conference. I read each post wishing I was there. During Southwest Fox I did not get to tweet at all because I was busy speaking and helping run the show. At the recent German DevCon I tweeted throughout the conference, but not as much as Olaf did in Prague. I found my tweeting experience to be fun. The key to tweeting at a conference is to include a hashtag in each tweet/post. Hashtags are a keyword you can use later for searching. At SWFox the tweeters settled on #SWFox.

So how can this hashtag be used now? Twitter has a search site you can enter in keywords or hashtags to read posts with those keywords. So if you want to read what people were tweeting about during Southwest Fox 2008 all you have to do is go here:

http://search.twitter.com/

and enter in #SWFox in the search text box. You will find many posts and see what sessions people were going to and what they learned. I went through them this morning and re-read some of the posts. Made me almost feel like I was back in Mesa.

Since the conference several new people who were at the conference have joined Twitter and are following others they met at Southwest Fox this year. You may think Twitter is a time sink and I am not going to pretend I don’t spend time reading posts, but I learn stuff from the posts and have fun interacting with friends. Best part of Twitter is you are in full control of who’s posts you track and who tracks your posts. You also control when you read and when you skip reading.

It will be interesting to see how this develops at Southwest Fox 2009. There are already a lot more people who are on Twitter so I expect next year’s tweet volume to be much higher than this year.

Ambassador Fund – Update

The Ambassador Fund for Southwest Fox is progressing on a couple of fronts. The first part is the donations are continuing to arrive. We currently have US$2371 in the bank and another US$625 pledged. This is an amazing number and shows the generosity of the community.

Last week we also invited a few people in the Fox Community to serve on a committee that will define the process for selecting the Ambassador(s) brought to the conference in 2009. This group of people will be announced once we get confirmation from everyone.

I am not sure exactly how much time it is going to take to define the selection process. We all have full-time jobs and this is a voluntary position. We expect to start out by brainstorming ideas, figure out what makes sense, and then publish the process. We will be blogging the progress of the fund, and naturally the selection process. Projecting out, I think it would be terrific if we have the process decided near the end of January. This would give us a few months to implement the process before registrations start in May for the conference.

Where in the world?!?

Or should I say: Where on the Virtual Earth…

I wanted to have some coding fun this past weekend after working really hard on a problem in an app I am enhancing in FoxPro for DOS. I needed some serious time inside of VFP and at the same time I wanted to learn something new. Then I find Craig Boyd’s Thanksgiving Day (USA holiday) gift to the Fox Community: Virtual Earth Class Library for VFP.

The first thing I thought of was plotting the locations of all the people who came to Southwest Fox 2008. I downloaded Craig’s classes and ran his example. Cool. I deconstructed it and figured out what I had to do to get it to work with my data. After about 30 minutes I starting writing code. Dropped the map control on a form, dropped a command button on a form, and wrote 70 lines of code (the button click has 40 lines and the map control CallBackFind method has 30 lines – including comments) and I have the following picture (click to get the full size):

Here is the close up of the USA main land and Canada:

It took me about an hour to get the basics working, and a little longer to revise and improve my code, and 5 more minutes chatting with Craig to tell him how cool these classes are for Fox developers.

I think there are some interesting observations to be made:

  1. More people came from the east coast of the USA than the southwest. This is completely unexpected since conferences normally pull more people from the region they are hosted. Southwest Fox is now a national conference by default of being the only one in the USA, but this is still a surprise.
  2. Two pushpins are missing. One from Mexico and one from the South Pacific. I am not exactly sure why these did not post, but suspect it is something I did as opposed to Virtual Earth.
  3. Multiple people at the same address did not post. It appears that Virtual Earth only allows one pushpin per address. So companies that registered more than one person at the same address only get one pushpin. This also showed me a flaw in my data as I had transposed digits of the address for Mike Feltman so he and Toni both showed up on the map.

One of the things I commented on to Doug and Tamar is something I find an interesting coincidence that is hard to ignore. Pushpins are clustered in areas around user groups. You can see southern California (LA and San Diego) the Midwest (Chicago, MadFox, Grand Rapids, Mid-Michigan, and DAFUG), and the east coast with Philly and PAFox have lots of pushpins located nearby.

We know people who attend conferences are more likely to be online on forums, and are more likely to attend user groups. But is there more to this than just a coincidence? Could it be that our speakers did rehearsals at these groups and it enticed people to register for the conference? Could it be the user groups marketed the conference to their membership? Or is it just a coincidence?

Please let us know if this is the case so we can encourage our speakers to get out to more groups. We already know our #1 rated speaker (Cathy Pountney in case you have not heard {g}) did the most public rehearsals of any of our speakers so it really does help make for better sessions at the conference.

Another point made in the discussions amongst the organizers is this: since it appears that a majority of our attendees come from the east coast, should we consider moving the conference to this side of the country in 2010? Or should we consider a second conference on the east side of the country? Or should we just do a better job of marketing in the Southwest?

Please feel free to comment below.

Anyway, thanks Craig for these cool classes! It really made the creation of the map a piece of cake. I did not realize how powerful Virtual Earth has become over the years, especially the “bird’s eye” view. Impressive, and now if you have customers who could use mapping features in their application you pretty much have the base classes to make it happen – easily.