This past weekend, about 200 geeks, developers, and other techies converged on the Parham Road campus of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA for Richmond Code Camp X. I think it’s great when an event has been around long enough to begin using Roman Numerals.
Planning and Organization
Regular readers already know I am a huge fan of Code Camps and #RichCC is as good as they come. Of course, you could claim that I am a little biased: I’ve been on the planning committee for the event for the last two installments. But believe me, this was a great event long before I got here!
In fact, one of the things I wanted to address today was how the Richmond Planning Committee is a great model for others to adopt. Andy Leonard wrote about some of this on his blog:
There’s a lot that goes into planning an event of this magnitude. I commend the Code Camp Leadership Team for their hard work, but the team possesses a quality that will ensure many more Richmond Code Camps to come: absence of ego.
There’s no penalty for stepping up or down on our team. Life happens, people move, get more and less busy, change jobs, and just have other plans. Why punish people for that? Especially in a volunteer organization? The on-point person doesn’t try to "edge out" previous leaders. That’s because we’re all pretty secure individuals. It’s a great group to be part of, and I love every member of our team.
I think he really hit the nail on the head when he used the phrase “absence of ego.” In the spring, Kevin Griffin and I were invited to join the committee for RCC2010.1. This was/is a serious group of community activists: Kevin Hazzard, Justin Etheredge, Darrell Norton, Robin Edwards, Susan Lennon, Frank La Vigne, Andy Leonard, Kevin Israel, and please forgive me if I left anyone out.
Each of these folks is a super star in their own right, so it would shock no one to find politics, backstabbing, prima donnas, or any of those other things that happens with a group this size of seriously accomplished folks. The truth, however, is more shocking: there isn’t a territorial attitude in the bunch. Kevin and I were immediately welcomed and assigned tasks that obviously others had done before we came along.
The best thing of all: no one “owns” anything. If you need to jump tasks to make sure something happens, do it. If you need to ask for help you get it. And best of all, if you can’t do something, someone else will. When something goes wrong or contrary to plan, there is always someone there to fill in the gap and address the problem. Since everyone is empowered, this committee is the epitome of the “high functioning team”: it is truly Agile.
In short, this committee ROCKS, and the result is an event that consistently raises the bar. I just wanted to share some of that and say “Thanks” for letting me be a part.
Community Megaphone Podcast
I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with the Community Megaphone Podcast on more than one occasion since its inception: I was the 2nd guest and the 1st guest co-host. I also got to sit in on the Speaker Horror Stories panel in CodeStock earlier this year. I have an absolute blast every time I get to participate on this show.
One unfortunate thing about this weekend is that Philly Code Camp (another favorite) was scheduled the same day. One of the show hosts, Dane Morgridge, lives in Philly and so he went there instead of coming to Richmond. With Andrew Duthie, aka The Devhammer, going to Richmond, they decided to do live recordings at both events, another first for the podcast. Of course, this meant Andrew was on his own, so I was really pleased to sit in again as guest co-host.
We did two sessions with Frank La Vigne, one of the original founders of Richmond Code Camp. During one of those sessions I came dangerously close to ensuring I’ll never be invited back: it turns out some people are a little sensitive when you make jokes about VB (who knew!?) The good natured ribbing aside, we had a great time talking with Frank about the early days of RCC, his community work since moving to Northern Virginia, Windows Phone 7, and even his infant son Jake who made an appearance at the event and was the hit of the Speaker’s Dinner.
We had a great chat with Jim Pendarvis, founder and organizer extraordinaire of Southern Maryland Give Camp. The 2nd installment of SOMDGC is scheduled for March 25-27th and they have a new goal this year of 150 developers and 25 non-profits. Jim talked about the National Day of Give Camp coming up on Martin Luther King day, saying the reason for moving SOMDGC back is the unpredictability of the weather. I just think he doesn’t want to shave his head in a snow storm!
And speaking of last year’s show, this year we have TWO new items of interest. First, if they meet their goal of 150 developers, not only will Andrew Duthie get a mohawk, he will get it dyed in a color of our choosing! There is also talk of a henna tatoo…
Secondly, we have a challenge going now between Jim, Kevin Griffin, and myself. To paraphrase the immortal words of Tommy Callihan from the movie Tommy Boy, the three of us have “what the doctors refer to as a little bit of a weight problem.” So here is the deal: whichever one of us who loses the largest percentage of his body weight by Give Camp will be determined the victor. The two losers will be required to dress up on the last day of Give Camp as a character from Harry Potter. The characters will be chosen by the attendees, and I’m sure hilarity will ensue.
“Van” Van Lowe
“Van” Van Lowe is a community organizer, blogger, and speaker from Northern Virginia. He spoke with us about making the transi
tion from attendee, to speaker, to organizer within the community. We also talked about attending Code Camps versus the larger national conferences like PDC and MIX. And in a CMP Exclusive, he revealed his real name and told us the story of how he started going by “Van” as a result of his speaking activities. Sorry – I’m not going to tell you the story here, you’ll just have to listen to the podcast yourself!
And don’t forget the others…
There were some other interviews as well that I wasn’t in on: Kevin Griffin took the co-host seat for a session and interviewed Rob Zelt, President of INETA. And then later, new Azure MVP David Makogon filled in while I went to give my presentation and they interviewed up and coming community speaker Stuart Leitch from Charlottesville. Stuart is a friend of mine and I can’t wait hear that session for myself!
A New Presentation
I did have the chance to unveil a new presentation during the last session of the day: Expression Blend and the Visual State Manager: A Deep Dive. I’m never sure how a session is really going to go over until I give it for the first time. Recognizing that Blend is still unfortunately a niche topic, I’m also never sure how well attended a session will be, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a packed room: there were even a couple of people standing in the back for a little while!
This one was a lot of fun: I wanted to show some Blend coolness that I don’t typically get to cover in the introductory sessions. We spent some time going over Templating basics and then used the VSM to solve some problems with Templates. The second half of the presentation was all about creating Custom Visual States and how to use them in creative ways. We covered Transitions, Effects, and Multiple Custom States, and it was very well received. My thanks to everyone who sat in and for all the nice comments afterwards.
A Brief Respite
Without question we can add Richmond Code Camp X to the history books as an extremely successful event. We’ll take a very brief hiatus, but before long we’ll start the process all over again for Richmond Code Camp XI. You can go ahead and put it in your calendar now for May 21st, 2011, I hope to see you there!
Hey folks! I just wanted to take a quick moment to announce that Richmond Code Camp 2010.2 has been scheduled and is only 2 months away! On Oct. 9th, .Net, SQL Server, SharePoint and other IT Professionals will once again converge on the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Massey campus in Richmond, VA, for one of the best Code Camps going. RCC consistently gets rave reviews and I am proud to be associated with this event.
Registration is open now and there may be limited space available this time so don’t hesitate. You can also click on the banner in the right sidebar –>
Ever thought about Speaking?
The call for speakers is also open but will close on September 10th. Have you ever presented? If not, would you like to? Code Camps are the perfect venue for getting your feet wet. Don’t get hung up on not being “an expert” at something. I’ll tell you a secret: most of us aren’t! We are, however, passionate about the technology we use and we have a sincere desire to share our passions and help our fellow developers. If that sounds like you, then you should give it a try, it is a truly rewarding experience.
For you Blend fans out there, I have submitted a couple of new talks for the event: Advanced Topics in Expression Blend and Expression Blend and the Visual State Manager: A Deep Dive. I’ll be sure to announce it if they get selected.
I hope to see you there!
I had the pleasure of being interviewed in December by Dane Morgridge and G. Andrew Duthie for my first podcast. My interview is the second installment of their new Community Megaphone Podcast (the first episode featured my good buddy Kevin Griffin).
The topics in my interview range all over, from WPF and Blend to Community, Mentoring, and more. It was a great experience and I want to thank them both for including me. I’m especially thankful for the great editing work that made me sound good!
Listen to the full interview and be sure to subscribe to the podcast. As always I’d love to hear your feedback.
I can’t believe that September has come and gone so quickly. After my most recent post, I expected my season to be winding down about now. Little did I know that the most exciting things were yet to come.
Raleigh Code Camp
I’ve had the pleasure to participate in a couple great events since my last post. In September I presented at Raleigh Code Camp, also known as RDU Code Camp. Not that geography has much to do with it, but this was my first time speaking out of state. I was really impressed by what a great community Raleigh has, and a special kudos to Dug Wilson who headed up the event. I also had the chance to catch up with an old friend, Michael Marshall. If you ever need SEO training or consulting, Mike is the genuine article and I highly recommend him.
Richmond Code Camp
Two weeks later we converged on the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College campus for Richmond Code Camp 2009.2. Richmond also has a great community, chock full of .NET heavyweights like Kevin Hazzard, Kevin Israel, Andy Leonard, and Justin Etheredge. And let me tell you, they know how to throw an event! Great facilities, fellowship, and first-class organization. Kudos to the entire staff. One of the speakers had to cancel last minute, so I got to fill in and give a second presentation. This was my first time giving two, and I loved it! For the first time I *almost* felt like I had enough time to speak. <grin>
As always, I cannot stress how wonderful it is to be part of such an active and awesome community. The community presenters, organizers, and attendees all volunteer their time and knowledge – not a lot of other communities can say that. If you have never been to a Code Camp or User Group, what are you waiting for?!?
Philly Code Camp
Oct. 17th I will be journeying out of state again, this time to present at my first Philly Code Camp. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this event, and it will be different heading north for a change. I will be presenting on one of my favorite topics, “Data Binding in Blend”.
CapArea Silverlight SIG – Expression Blend 3 Launch
Roanoke Valley Silverlight 3/Expression 3 Launch
Nov. 5th I will be back at my home group, RVNUG, to present at the Silverlight 3 and Expression 3 Launch.
CMAP Code Camp
Nov. 7th is Central Maryland Association of .NET Professionals (CMAP). I have submitted two presentations, naturally on Blend, so I may be presenting there. I will update when I know for sure.
I’ve heard it said that everyone developing on the Microsoft stack needs to attend PDC at least once in their careers. Well, fortune has smiled upon me and I will be attending PDC09 this year in Los Angeles, Nov 17-19. The session lineup looks incredible and I am very excited to be attending. The only thing I already regret is that I will not be able to attend the FREE Win7 Workshop on the 16th. I plan on blogging a lot while I’m there and sharing a lot when I get back. I’m sure I won’t want this to be my only trip to PDC!
I never intended this year to be so jam packed, but what a great year it has been for community events. I also never intended this blog to have so many posts about myself, but don’t worry: I’ve got some exciting stuff in the pipeline, so I plan to return to more technical content once the event season calms down a bit. Thanks for reading, hope to see you out in the Community!
I recently posted my fall community schedule. Since then there have been a couple of confirmations and additions.
RDU Code Camp
This will be my first year going to Raleigh for RDU Code Camp. RDU Code Camp is September 19th at ECPI in Raleigh, NC. I’ve heard nothing but great things, so I am really looking forward to it.
I will be presenting on “Templating and Data Binding in Expression Blend.” I really enjoy speaking on this topic. I find Templating and Data Binding to be the crown jewels of WPF, and as always Blend is there to smooth the way.
Richmond Code Camp
Richmond Code Camp, aka RCC2009.2, will be held October 3rd at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. This is a great venue and one of my favorite events of the year.
I will be giving my presentation “Using Visual Studio and Blend to Develop WPF Applications.” If you are new to WPF/Silverlight and or Blend, this is the presentation for you! I will cover the basics of setting up an application, using Blend to develop the user interface, and how to use the two products simultaneously.
I will be retiring this presentation after RCC, so if you haven’t seen it yet this is your last chance! If you have seen it, I promise it is a little different every time I give it, and of course it has been updated for Blend 3.
CapArea Silverlight Special Interest Group
I am slated to speak at the CapArea Silverlight Special Interest Group (SIG) at their October 28th meeting. We have not decided on a topic yet, but rest assured it will be Blend and Silverlight oriented!
Get out there!
As always, I really want to encourage you to get out into the community. I promise that somewhere not so far away from you is a User Group, Code Camp, or other great event that you can take attend.
You can always find more events all over the country at Community Megaphone, so do yourself a favor and get yourself to an event! I hope to see you around the community.
Justin Etheredge at CodeThinked has asked for people to post some tips and tricks for giving Technical Presentations. His idea is great: provide a repository of Best Practices for technical presenters written by the presenters themselves. The following is my contribution to the cause.
Confidence is King
One thing that keeps never-before presenters from becoming first-time presenters is the misconception that we (the presenters) are all experts on our given topic. The term expert is pretty specious these days, and as such has lost some of its value. [Digression: If you aren’t sure what I mean, check out The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris. It includes a simple checklist on how to become an ‘Expert’.] Yes, most of us select topics we feel pretty comfortable about, but I know some presenters who intentionally select topics they aren’t familiar with just so they have some motivation to dig in and learn the topic.
Unless you are watching a presentation from a known authority, like ScottGu, take the presenter and the material with a grain of salt. Yes, you should rightfully expect that they know what they are talking about, but understand that this is largely because they spent the time preparing the material. They have invested the time necessary to research, learn, test, and try the particular techniques involved. They have developed a presentation with an eye towards organization, clarity, and delivery. And they have practiced giving the presentation, probably more than once. They appear to know what they are talking about because, well, after all that they probably do!
My point is, if you did this kind of leg work on a particular topic, you would be just as qualified to present. It’s not that presenters have some special power or ability, or that they have been anointed by Microsoft, it’s just that they have put in the time and learned the material. And a funny thing happens when you know the material: you have confidence, and in public speaking Confidence is King.
Be Humble: No B.S.
If you’ve ever seen a presenter try to B.S. his way out of something, then you know exactly what I mean. An audience can tell right away if you don’t know something, and it can get ugly if not handled properly. Fortunately, yours truly is here to share with you the magic phrase that will get you out of this jam. Ready? OK, repeat after me: “I… don’t… know.” You might want to practice it a few times to make sure it rolls off the tongue naturally.
All kidding aside, don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know an answer. It is OK to make an educated guess, but if you are guessing or are not completely sure of the answer, say so! I promise that everyone in the room will understand and appreciate your honesty, which will only serve to increase your credibility.
How you handle it is up to you. A lot of presenters will promise to find the answer and post it or email it. You could give suggestions for where the questioner can look, or what other person to ask. You can even volunteer to meet with the questioner after the presentation. However you choose to handle it is fine, just be prepared because it will happen. Don’t let it derail your presentation, just handle it and get back to your material.
Assuming you know your material, there is another thing that will boost your confidence: you must realize that they are there listening to you for a reason. Hopefully, the reason is that you know something they want to learn. Coming to grips with this can itself generate confidence and improve the presentation. But, don’t get cocky! Stay humble and remember the presentation is not about you, it is about the exchange of information. You are simply a conduit for that exchange.
To sum it up, have confidence in your knowledge and your presentation. If you have done your preparation properly, then you’ll do fine. But don’t let it go to your head: remain humble and don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. Now, say it with me…
The NoVa Code Camp schedule of speakers is officially posted, and yours truly will be presenting on “Using Blend and Visual Studio Together.” I’ve given this presentation several times and people really seem to respond. In fact, the most frequent response I get is “I didn’t know Blend could do that!”
The slate of presenters and topics looks great, and as always it is FREE! The slate of presentations looks great, there just isn’t a better deal for expanding your knowledge of Microsoft technologies. If you are going to be within driving distance of Reston, VA this Saturday, then you owe it to yourself to come spend the day with the coolest crowd this side of Redmond!
When you come, be sure to say ‘Hi’. I hope to see you there!
Read the Code Camp Manifesto.