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.

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.

VFPX Administrator’s Outstanding Service Award

At the keynote presentation for Southwest Fox 2008, the administrators of VFPX (Craig Boyd, Rick Schummer, and Doug Hennig) presented Bo Durban with the first VFPX Administrator’s Outstanding Service Award. Bo has been one of the driving forces in GDIPlusX, a key project in VFPX that not only brings amazing graphics functionality to VFP but is also the foundation for several other very cool projects such as the Themed Controls project. Congratulations, Bo; very well deserved!

Southwest Fox Videos Available

Thanks to Steve Bodnar, videos of the keynote presentation and the VFPX meeting at Southwest Fox 2008 are available for viewing at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/swfoxtv. Among the items things shown in the keynote are an update on the VFP Studio project by Craig Boyd and Bo Durban.

As far as we know, this is the first VFP conference that had live streaming video of sessions for people who could not attend the conference.

Southwest Fox 2008 is almost here

I want to take a moment and make a quick post for some last minute things about the conference.

  1. All people registered for the conference should get the fourth and final email update on Monday. If you have not received the first three please email us as soon as you are done reading this post so we can resend.
  2. Monday’s email will have the link, user name, and password to the session downloads so you can get a head start on the materials.
  3. The Geek Gatherings World Headquarters is being abandoned on Tuesday morning. Email is the best way to get in touch. We are headed to Mesa to get the all the materials organized and assembled.
  4. Yes, there is still time to register. If you are planning on just showing up at the conference to register, please let us know in advance so we can adjust our final numbers with the conference center. This happens on Tuesday.
  5. Can’t make it to Mesa this year? Hope you can watch the keynote live on Thursday evening 7:00 PM MST and PDT, 10:00PM EDT. Go to SWFoxTV! We will have it posted if the live time is too late or very early where you live.

The three organizers are really excited about this year’s event and look forward to seeing everyone this week.

Only 4 days until we all gather in Mesa!

Still time to register

October is here. Southwest Fox is this month. Holy cow, Southwest Fox is THIS month? Already.

Okay, I should have realized this before based on the flurry of emails between Doug, Tamar and I, but last week it hit me that we are weeks away from heading to Mesa. Decisions on the food, finalizing the conference booklet (already over 40 pages this year) and eval forms, sending in the speaker and t-shirt orders, figuring out when we will hold drawings for over US$100,000 in prizes, and getting things like the badge materials organized. Seems like there is still a million things to do, but I feel more organized this time around, and there are still a couple of surprises up our sleeves.

So I think I will take one more opportunity to let you know we still have time to register. So join the other 140 attendees and speakers from 31 states, 7 countries on two continents in Mesa in just two short weeks.

Those registered for the conference will get several emails between now and the beginning of the conference with all kinds of details. If you have not received the first update email please let me know at info AT swfox.net.

Only 15 days until we meet in Mesa!

Southwest Fox News

The Southwest Fox 2008 session schedule is now available. One thing you might note is that we’ve planned a dinner party for Friday night this year. Also, vendor sessions are held concurrently with other sessions rather than in the evenings as they were last year.

I posted a new video demoing one of the cool features I’m showing in my session on Advantage Database Server: full text search capabilities, even against VFP tables.

Former VFP Product Manager Ken Levy will be at Southwest Fox, hanging out at the VFPConversion booth and showing a new utility he’s created and releasing into the public domain.

One of the bonus sessions this year is "Show Us Your Apps", an opportunity to show the crowd what cool things you’ve done in VFP. Because there’s a limited amount of time available, presenters are limited to 10-15 minutes each. Please email info@swfox.net to let us know what you’d like to show.

Southwest Fox Rehearsals

If you do the math with respect to 15 slots and 32 sessions you quickly realize you cannot see all the sessions at Southwest Fox 2008. Impossible, and one of the main reasons the organizers demand the speakers do a white paper for the sessions.

So you might be asking: short of cloning or a time machine, how can I see more than 15 sessions offered at Southwest Fox? Simple, go to more sessions. {g}

One way to do this is to head to one of the many rehearsals offered at various user groups around the USA. Here is a partial list I was able to dig up on the Visual Fox Wiki:

Chicago FUDG

  • September 9, 2008 – Toni Feltman, “Leveraging .NET Technology in Visual FoxPro Using .NET Extender from eTechnologia.net”
  • September 9, 2008 – Mike Feltman, “Java Script for FoxPro Developers”

Philadelphia VFP User Group

  • September 9, 2008 – Tamar Granor, “We Used to Do it That Way, But …”

Detroit Area Fox User Group

  • September 11, 2008 – Cathy Pountney, “Customizing Vertical Market Apps”
  • October 9, 2008 – Rick Schummer – “Extending the Sedna Data Explorer”

Grand Rapids Area Fox User Group

  • September 13, 2008 – Rick Schummer – “Extending the Sedna Data Explorer”

FoxPro Developers Network San Diego

  • September 11, 2008 – Barbara Peisch, “Understanding Scope”
  • October 9, 2008 – Barbara Peisch, “Overview of WMI”

Los Angeles FoxPro Users Group

  • September 16, 2008 – Barbara Peisch, “Overview of WMI”

Please support the FoxPro related user groups around the world. They are a terrific resource for VFP developers.

I personally get great feedback from user group rehearsals to refine the sessions before I present them to at a conference. The VFPX session I am giving this year bubbled out of some less informal session I presented at the Chicago, Grand Rapids and Detroit groups earlier this year. As an organizer I get to see sessions in advance, and offer suggestions to the speakers. It is a huge advantage to me because I rarely get to sit in on sessions at Southwest Fox. Thanks to all the speakers who have time to share their knowledge in advance of the conference.

Only 41 days until we meet in Mesa! (no wonder rehearsals are getting scheduled fast and furiously)

VFP Boot Camp Held Immediately Following Southwest Fox

Visionpace is presenting the highly-acclaimed VFP Boot Camp immediately following Southwest Fox. This event delivers three jam-packed days of solid, hands-on learning. From the fundamentals of VFP development through the very latest VFP 9.0 features, this boot camp is designed to quickly get your VFP skills up to speed. Attendees will receive a 500 page manual in both print and electronic format.

The three-day boot camp begins on Sunday, October 19th from 2:30 – 6:00 following the closing session of Southwest Fox. On Monday and Tuesday, October 20th and 21st, the class runs from 8:30 to 4:30 and on Wednesday, October 22nd the schedule is 8:30 to 2:30.

Registration ends on October 1, 2008. For more information visit http://visionpace.com/developereducation.html or email info@visionpace.com. To register call 888-904-7900.