What has The Next Generation User Group ever done for us?

Recent months have seen significant changes in The Next Generation User Group. The Next Generation User Group is de-centralising and to a certain extent rebranding as multiple independent user groups. Everything changes and an end to the existing structure was always going to happen as it does with all ventures. But it is not right that it just happens and we let them move on without recognising the difference that the NxtGen founders (Richard Costall, Dave McMahon and John Price) have made.

Although their community activity today is lower than it used to be Rich, Dave and John made a huge difference to our world. Their model for running a user group worked exceptionally well for longer than most. Enthusiasm is infectious and Rich, Dave and John have it in abundance. They inspired people to start speaking in manageable chunks with nuggets (aka grok talks) and gave them the chance to move onwards and upwards to bigger talks (look around the UK community today and see how many people started speaking because of NxtGen). Their obsession with pizza and swag made their meetings fun to be at. Listen to their podcasts and you'll hear them laughing and giggling along as they just have a whole bunch of fun being infectious.

The recent changes to The Next Generation User Group aren't especially surprising though. Keeping up that level of enthusiasm, that level of consistency, that amount of organisation and that amount of time month after month is tough. Seven years is a long time. Eventually you have other things to do and you simply want to go to a user group like any other attendee without having to do all of the organisation that goes with running it. And it would be nice to win some of the swag that you spend years giving away to everyone else. Anyone care to calculate the cash equivalent of all of the swag The Next Generation User Group has ever given away?

So apart from the swag and the pizza and the socialising and the technical presentations and the nuggets and the podcasts and the Fests and the micro-presentations and The ReadyBoost Song and the game shows (that sometimes worked) and the Swagometer (that never really did) what has The Next Generation User Group ever done for us? They made it all fun. Thanks, guys, you really made a difference.

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Posted on: Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:29 PM
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Globalization: Know Your Enemy

I'm delighted to say that I will be delivering a new presentation at Gloucestershire .NET User Group on Wednesday 8th May 2013 and at DevTeach in Toronto on 28/29/30th May 2013. It is a presentation I have been wanting to put together for a few years but until recently I hadn't had the time. In the immortal words of Sun Tzu in The Art Of War 2500 years ago (translated from the original Chinese) "Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a thousand battles without disaster".

  • Globalization: Know Your Enemy
    Metaphorically speaking, the world is shrinking every day. Ironically this means that it is getting less acceptable to brush aside cultural differences and pretend that all cultures are essentially English but with different words. Appreciating globalization is about achieving humility, understanding that the world is a lot bigger than most developers give it credit for. Most developers understand that different cultures use different date formats, number formats and currencies. However, how many developers do not know that postal code formats, phone number formats, address formats and person name formats also differ. Not to mention the issues of localizing for gender-based languages or languages with less simplistic plural forms. What about ordinal subscripts, ordinal words, alphabet character sets ? The intention of this session is to open eyes, provide globalization enlightenment and with luck it will scare the living bejeezus out of you enough to make you question every line of code you write.

See you there.

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Posted on: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:36 PM
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NDC Oslo 2012

This week I spoke at the NDC Oslo conference for the first time. This post is about this conference.

The Norwegian Developers Conference, now in its fifth year, is run by Jakob Bradford, Henriette Holmen and Kjersti Sandberg of ProgramUtvikling, a Norwegian training company with a UK arm (called Developer Focus) in London.

NDC has ~1500 attendees, 9 simultaneous tracks, 106 speakers, 40+ sponsors (with ~20 stands) and lasts 3 days. Logistically this is a very significant event. The speakers are chosen from ProgramUtvikling trainers, major industry players and anyone else who chooses to submit papers that are interesting enough. The selection committee is made up of 3 or 4 developers and as such you get an agenda full of really interesting subjects.

The opening keynote was by Aral Balkan who started NDC with a song. But that doesn't really do it justice. It was a full blooded rock opera performance of Pity The Child from Chess The Musical complete with laser lighting. Clearly Aral is hoping to start/revive a significant singing career.

There were a number of interesting features about NDC that I thought worth noting:-

  • The conference staff all wear conference shirts with their given names printed in large letters on their backs. This is really helpful when you don't know the organisers.
  • The attendee badges have QR codes to allow vendors (and attendees) to scan you and get your contact details immediately.
  • Food is available throughout the conference. There are no set meal times. The queues for food at lunchtime were quite long but once you understood you could eat at anytime it meant you could plan around it.
  • Food is only available in the sponsor area. There are many separate food stations serving drinks, curry, hot dogs, noodles, ribs and a salad bar. Unlike US and UK conferences where sugar is unfortunately very evident there are no snacks like ice creams, chocolate bars and granola bars.
  • Attendees evaluate speakers by walking past a table just outside the presentation room and dropping either a green, yellow or red card into a box. The speaker's rating is therefore the ratio of green to yellow to red cards. There are pieces of paper next to the cards where attendees could write comments if they wanted to but I didn't see any attendees ever writing comments. I confess I'm really not a fan of the green/yellow/red card system. Nearly all attendees simply drop a green card in the box. The distinction between a good presentation with no complaints and nothing wrong with it and a great presentation brilliantly delivered with profound content is completely lost.
  • The speaker hotels are between 1 and 5 minutes walk from the venue. This is exactly how it should be. Unlike the 30 (minimum) minutes travel from hotel to venue at TechEd Berlin.
  • All sessions at NDC are recorded and then made available to everyone (regardless of whether you attended NDC) for free.
  • One of the great innovations at NDC is the Overflow Room. This is a large area with 8 screens showing all of the sessions except for the workshop session. Prior to arriving in the Overflow Room you get a set of headphones attached to a radio device (your badge is scanned so they know who to come to if you don't give it back). You then switch between any one of the 8 channels to listen to the audio of the screen you are looking at. This is of course only possible because all sessions at NDC are already being recorded (and then live streamed to the Overflow Room). The benefit of this feature for the attendee is that you are not committed to any one session and can switch between sessions as easily as flicking a switch.
  • I saw two presentations where the speakers used Visual Basic.NET. I can't remember the last year I saw someone present using Visual Basic.NET.
  • Sponsorship costs between 59000 and 70000 Norwegian krone depending on when you purchase sponsorship (that's between 6300 UKP and 7500 UKP). The early bird All Access Pass for attendees for all 3 days plus workshops is 14900 Norwegian krone (1600 GBP). The early bird price for 1 day is 6900 Norwegian krone (740 UKP). So at a guess the minimum revenue for NDC 2012 is 1,362,000 UKP (40 sponsors * 6300 UKP plus 1500 attendees * 740 UKP).

The speaker event on the first evening was a boat trip with beers and prawns. I had some good conversations (and an especially dodgy one involving cats and bats). Carl Franklin provided the musical entertainment. As he confirmed at the Attendee Party the next evening Carl has a great voice, smooth and gritty in all the right places.

The attendee party was on the second night and was held in the exhibition area. Entertainment was provided by Carl Franklin, Donkeyboy and LoveShack. It was notable for Microsoft's dancing girls and developer song.

My one and only session at NDC was "Mind Control Your Computer In C#". It went well and I was very happy with it. You can download the slides and source code. Thanks to everyone who attended.

Scattered around the exhibition area were various forms of entertainment including an AC/DC pinball machine which always pulls me in. I had to play. I was very pleased to get the high score and win a pair of Beat Solo HD Monster headphones from Experis Manpower Group - thanks, guys.

So I have to say I was really impressed with NDC. A very professional, large scale event. Well done, Jakob and Henriette, you've done a grand job.

NDC 2013 will be from 12th to 14th June 2013. You also might like to know that an NDC UK event is a possibility for the future.

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Internationalizing ASP.NET MVC Around The UK

I will be presenting "Internationalizing ASP.NET MVC" (aka "How To Achieve World(-Ready) Domination In ASP.NET MVC") at the following venues over the next few months:-

Here's the session abstract:-

So you've written your ASP.NET MVC application and you want it to work in another language ? Then this session is for you. World-Readiness is all of the work that a developer needs to do to globalize an application and make it localizable (i.e. capable of being localized). In this session we will cover localizing HTML and HTML Helpers, localizing and globalizing Data Annotations, the importance of Resource Manager abstraction, localizing and globalizing JavaScript and localizing URLs. No previous experience of ASP.NET localization is required.

Do come along and bring your internationalization problems and questions. This is my favourite subject so getting me talking on it isn't difficult. It's getting me to shut up that's special.

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Posted by: guysmithferrier
Posted on: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 3:43 PM
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DDD South West 3 Sticker Photo Competition Winner

At DDD South West 3 we ran a competition to find the best photo of an "I Was There" sticker. The competition is closed now and out of the 28 entries The DDD South West Team chose this entry from @surlydev as the winner:-

Congratulations and tanks for the excellent pic. Honourable mentions (but no actual prize) go to John Albrecht for the buoy on Normandy beach on D Day:-

And to Paul Stack for this Welcome sign in Ireland:-

And finally to this PhotoShopped (so we couldn't include it) picture from @surlydev of one of our speakers:-

Thanks to everyone for all of your photos. See you at DDD South West 4.

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Posted by: guysmithferrier
Posted on: Tuesday, August 09, 2011 at 9:03 PM
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DDD South West 3 On The Day

DDD South West 3 was held on Saturday 11th June 2011 in Bristol and I think it went fairly well. There were 257 attendees, 6 simultaneous tracks and 25 speakers. You can see the full set of statistics here. The day went mostly without problems. We learnt some lessons from last year and the queues for food and drink were much shorter this time and the wifi worked much better (but not perfectly). The feedback we received was invaluable as always. For the question on "What did you like most about DDD South West 3 ?" the top answers were:-

  • the food
  • the speakers and the sessions
  • it was free

For the questions on "What did you like least about DDD South West 3 ?" the top answers were:-

  • some rooms were hot and did not have air-conditioning
  • the food
  • the wifi

Another statistic I find interesting is that 27% of attendees had not been to a DDD event previously. This means after 3 years of DDD South West (not to mention the 9 DDD Events in Reading) we are still reaching developers that are new to this format.

The last statistic I think is worth highlight is the increase in word-of-mouth recommendations over the last 3 years. In the question "How did you find out about DDD South West ?" the answer "Friend/Colleague" was 11% at DDD South West 1, 16% at DDD South West 2 and now 26% at DDD South West 3. That's a lot of people spreading a lot of good information on our behalf - thanks, everyone!

Like previous years the highlight of the day was the speakers and the quality of their sessions. I would like to say a huge thanks to all of our speakers and congratulations to our Top Speakers By Knowledge of Subject:-

  1. Steve Sanderson (Getting Started In ASP.NET MVC) 8.88
  2. Richard Campbell (Why Web Performance Matters) 8.85
  3. Richard Parker (Getting Started In The .NET Framework) 8.56

and to our Top Speakers By Presentation Skills:-

  1. Richard Campbell (Why Web Performance Matters) 8.73
  2. Richard Parker (Getting Started In The .NET Framework) 8.33
  3. Steve Sanderson (Getting Started In ASP.NET MVC) 8.30

One of the features of 'regional' DDDs is that they allow the different DDD teams to innovate and try out new ideas. One of the ideas we tried out at DDD South West 3 was lunchtime micro-presentations. It is a long running theme of DDD events that the lunchtime is spent listening to grok talks (10 minute presentations). We followed this approach at DDD South West 3 as we did at previous DDD South West events but this year we asked presenters to give micro-presentations instead of grok talks. Micro-presentations (aka pecha kucha, aka 20/20, aka lightning talks) are 20 slides of 20 seconds each. They are a particularly tough presentation format but I think it can be safely said that our speakers took the challenge and were superb. You can watch videos (slides with the live audio) of these presentations:-

Another idea we tried out was the "+1" Repeat Track wherein the most popular sessions get repeated. This is an attempt to mitigate the 'problem' of having so many great sessions. The repeated sessions were determined by the public voting on which sessions to repeat after seeing the agenda for the other 5 tracks. The feedback on this track was that it was a good idea and much welcomed. Thanks to all of the speakers who repeated their sessions (not only for repeating them but also for missing out on seeing other presenters sessions twice).

Yet another idea was the re-interpretation of the Speaker Room. In general the idea that attendees had a place where they could find the speakers and could sit and chat worked quite well. I think we still need to do a bit more in terms of breaking down attendees' resistance that speakers 'should not be disturbed' but it is something to work on.

At DDD South West 2 we introduced the "Getting Started In .NET" track which was an attempt to help non-.NET developers get into the community and get started in .NET for free. It was back again this year and like last year it was well attended and well liked. Thanks to the trainers who provided their services for free again.

You can catch up with what others have blogged about DDD South West 3 below:-

As I am sure you know DDD South West is a free event and I am sure people have heard me say many times before "free means someone else pays". And specifically this means our fabulous sponsors. Thank you to our platinum sponsors AspDotNetStoreFront, UWE, Microsoft and Telerik and to all of the sponsors who made this event possible and who gave us such great swag to give away to attendees (60+ quality pieces of swag valued at over £9000). And the swag fest isn't over yet. If you attended DDD South West 3 you will have found in your attendee bag a DDD South West 3 "I Was There" sticker. We are running a competition to find the best photo of this sticker stuck somewhere. The winner wins a Kinect (thanks, Microsoft). Details are here. The competition ends at midnight on 31st July 2011.

So finally I would like to thank the army of people who made this event possible: room monitors, helpers, speakers, sponsors, catering staff, attendees, everyone. One of my enduring memories of DDD South West 3 and previous DDD South West events is the large number of people who came up to me throughout the whole day and said "can I do anything to help ?". The UK .NET community does indeed rock.

And very finally DDD South west is run by a team of people: Martyn Fewtrell, Chris Myhill, Ross Scott, Jose Simas and myself. A massive thanks to my team mates who don't stand centre stage but nonetheless do a ton of work that doesn't typically get seen but has to happen somehow.

You can see photos of DDD South West 3 from Jose Simas here and Craig Murphy here.

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Mind Control Your Computer In C#

This coming Wednesday (22nd June 2011) and next Friday (1st July 2011) I will presenting a new session at VBUG Bristol and Fest '11 respectively:-

  • Mind Control Your Computer In C#
    No, really. This isn't some clever session title. I'm really talking about controlling your computer with your mind. I'm not making this stuff up. This is real. Today. You put on a headset, you use a C# SDK and you control your computer with your thoughts. Yes, you are reading this right - you mind control your computer. It is a reality and it is possible today. Once you've gotten over your disbelief consider the applications. Applications for the physically impaired alone are a whole revolution. Not to mention the possibilities for gaming. Want to be shocked and amazed ? Come and see this session.

This session uses the Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset to control a PC by thought. I am delighted that I live in a world where it is possible to do this and where it is within an individual's affordable price range.

Please note: for the record, this presentation is all about the Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset. I do not work for Emotiv, nor do I have any financial interest in this company or any of its associates. I present this subject solely because I am delighted that it is possible to do this.

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Posted by: GuySmithFerrier
Posted on: Monday, June 20, 2011 at 11:55 AM
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DDD South West 3 Sticker Photo Competition – Win a Kinect

Going to DDD South West 3 on Saturday ? In your attendee bag you will find an "I Was There" sticker. We are running a competition to find the best photo of a DDD South West 3 sticker stuck on to something. Travelling somewhere ? Take the sticker with you and photograph the sticker stuck on a famous place. Going to DDD Sydney on 3rd July ? Take the sticker with you and photograph it stuck on a DDD Sydney banner. Here's what you need to know:-

  • You must be a DDD South West 3 attendee.
  • Either Tweet your photo using the hashtag #dddswpic or email it to admin at dddsouthwest.com.
  • The competition closes at midnight (GMT) on Sunday 31st July 2011.
  • The judges decision is final.
  • The winner will be notified by Friday 5th August 2011.
  • The winner will receive an XBox Kinect (postage paid inside the UK only).

Thanks to Microsoft for donating the Kinect to a very worthy cause.

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Posted by: guysmithferrier
Posted on: Tuesday, June 07, 2011 at 2:27 PM
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DDD South West 3 Speaker Room

Even if you are not a speaker you may be aware that most conferences have a Speaker Room. The purpose of a Speaker Room is a matter for some debate. Most speakers will explain to anyone naive enough to listen that it is absolutely essential that speakers have somewhere to go, away from the attendees so that they may prepare their session. Of course, this is simply a facade. It is nothing of the sort. Instead most people think that the Speaker Room is a place where speakers can hang out with other speakers safe in the knowledge that the attendees cannot just come up to them and ask them a question or engage them in conversation. At the first two DDD South Wests we did not provide a Speaker Room because DDD events are community events and having a place where speakers can hide from the very people who have come there to meet them is anti-community. Instead we provided counselling services and darkened rooms where speakers could retire if an attendee had approached them, talked directly at them and even touched them in the guise of "shaking hands" (I'll stop now as speakers of a more nervous persuasion might stop reading). But for DDD South West 3 we are going to do something different. For DDD South West 3 we are going to use a Speaker Room for the one true purpose which all Speaker Rooms should be used for: to meet the speakers. Room 3Q83 is the Speakers Room at DDD South West 3. Speakers will go there specifically to talk to attendees. We encourage all attendees to go there to and avail themselves of the speakers therein. Also we might put some chocolate bars in that room.

One final point of note: we have reached an agreement with all conference organisers the whole world over that from here on all Speaker Rooms will be places where you can go and meet speakers and we would encourage you to forcefully resist security staff everywhere and stand up for your rights as attendees to engage speakers in conversations wherever they may be.

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Posted by: guysmithferrier
Posted on: Monday, June 06, 2011 at 4:58 PM
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DDD South West 3 Mobile Phone Apps

DDD South West 3 (Saturday 11th June 2011) is blessed in having not one but two apps for mobile phones.

  • For Windows Phone 7 you can download the free app (including the agenda) from the MarketPlace on your phone. Search on "DDD". Thanks to Chris Myhill for his excellent creation and to Mike Hole for publishing it. (If you have downloaded the first version you need to do a refresh to get the agenda).
  • For Android, iOS, FireFox 4, IE 9 (not IE 8), Chrome 11 and Safari you can download the free app (including the agenda) from http://www.pocketddd.com/dddsw3. Thanks to Ross Scott for his excellent creation.
See you there.

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Posted by: guysmithferrier
Posted on: Thursday, June 02, 2011 at 9:24 AM
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