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.

Conference Hotel Room Feedback

In general we get a lot of positive comments on the hotel rooms for the conference, but this year there were a few people who suggested we look into a new location because there were problems with their rooms. Your feedback is real important to us. Last year (based on positive attendee feedback and our experience) we locked into the Arizona Golf Resort and Conference Center for 2008 and 2009. After next year’s conference we have an option to look at other locations if it makes sense to do so.

I would like to address some of the trends in the comments:

1) Free wireless not available in the rooms, only the conference center. True, and it is one of the reasons we pay close to $400 a day ($1600 for the four days) for connectivity to the Internet in the conference center. I agree that spending $10 a day per person for the “facility wireless” is a bit of a hassle, but fortunately it is available if you needed it. We tried to negotiate this last year, but the wireless is provided by an outside provider and it was non-negotiable. Good news for next year: free wireless should be available throughout the conference center including hotel rooms. The conference center started testing it at this year’s conference. Unfortunately it was not quite ready when I tried to use it.

2) Golf course is not open. True and very intentional. While we are sure there are golfers who attend the conference, you actually get a discount while the golf course is closed. I don’t have the exact numbers, but if I recall correctly we are saving more than $20 a night by booking our conference when the course is closed. Last year they surprised us by opening the course early, and this year they opened the course the day after we finished. If you are an avid golfer, the front desk is more than happy to book you some time on other courses in the area and I am sure they would shuttle you if necessary.

3) Hotel Rooms are far from conference meeting rooms. Obviously true for some people. Last year my room was out in the middle of the golf course and I liked the walk. I can see some people don’t and that is understandable. What you might not know is the facility has people standing by 24 hours a day to take you to and from your room by golf cart. We probably need to mention this in our materials and communicate to the hotel desk to make this known when you check-in.

4) Sounds like some of the hotel rooms had issues with appliances, shower heads, and a couple with insects and one with a mouse. The feedback also indicated the hotel staff resolved the issues, which does not surprise me. Others reported the rooms were outdated. Unfortunately we don’t know what rooms had problems because you did not mention it in the evals. If you would not mind letting us know which rooms (send an email: INFO at SWFOX dot NET, or give me a call at 586.254.2530) we certainly will provide these details to the hotel and express our concerns for next year.

We are sending the conference center your feedback as part of our feedback to them. I can tell you that they listen to us (and you too), and have done their best to respond to our needs and to our constructive criticism. We certainly hope you also took an opportunity to do the same.