Tag Archives: Day of .NET

My Love for Local & Regional Conferences

Recently, I was talking with a local guy who wanted to get more involved with the community, as he wants to eventually go the MVP route with hopes of one day working for Microsoft.  He mentioned that some people told him about conferences like TechEd and VSLive.  While those are great conferences, they’re also expensive – not just the ticket price but also accommodations and other incidentals.  In my reply back, I had to recommend looking at local conferences.  Here are a few reasons why I recommend local and regional conferences over the big conferences.

Quality of Speakers

Something to keep in mind is that speakers have some place they call home, even though they may travel a lot for work.  Here in the Heartland District, we have all sorts of speakers who’ve spoken at the bigger conferences (TechEd, VSLive, etc.) who call Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, or Tennessee home.  Even here in Cleveland, we have quite a few hometown greats who have spoken at national conferences.  So just because we’re in the Midwest and not on either coast does not mean that we’re exempt from having awesome speakers.  What’s nice about having these speakers calling this home is that it’s easy to woo them to speak at a conference close to home – not travelling far from family, giving them time with both the community and their own families.

Cost of Attendance

Looking at TechEd, the student rate is $995.  The student rate – as in a discounted rate –  is close to $1000, which is expensive for a typical student’s budget.  While I may be out of college for almost 10 years now, I remember what it was like to live on a student’s meager budget.  There’s no way I could have afforded going to something like that.  The professional rate is $2195 or that and an additional $400 for the pre-con.  While the “big names” are presenting there, it’s quite a bit of money to see content that we can find online, perhaps by the big name or someone else.  Add to it that this rate doesn’t include travel or hotel accommodations.  All of these numbers add up.

Now let’s look at some of the local conferences that can attract the big names at a fraction of the cost.  Take a look at conferences like CodeMash (in Sandusky, Ohio in January) and devLink (in Tennessee in August).  These conferences have attracted well-known speakers including Steve Smith, Scott Hanselman, Eric Meyer, and Mary Poppendieck.  These are multi-day regional conferences that are typically more affordable – both in terms of conference costs and accommodations.  They offer typically conference talks, workshops, and open spaces, amongst other networking opportunities for their attendees.  These are the two closest to my home and held here in the Heartland District.  Similar conferences include MADExpo and That Conference.  Other conferences that attract similar caliber of speakers include Stir Trek,  CodePaLOUsa, CodeStock, and Kalamazoo X.  The ticket price of these, even at the professional level, aren’t much greater than $300 for multi-day events – much more affordable than even the student rate of TechEd.

Networking on a Local Scale

While you may be wanting to network with people throughout the world, it might be even more helpful to network with those in nearby communities to achieve whatever goal you’re trying to achieve.  Local and regional events are greater for reaching the local audience (as opposed to the larger conferences that target a wide network).  Other local and regional events in this area that are great to check out include  DevDays, Days of .NET, SQL Saturdays, PowerShell Saturday,  TechNet Events, and MSDN Events.  The costs for these tend to be minimal – usually to cover food.  Some of these events may also be free.

Conclusion

In an economy where employers may not necessarily pay their developers well or even cover their training, events like TechEd and VSLive become even less of an option for training.  However, besides going to user groups where you usually hear about one topic and network with the locals, there are other options.  When budgets are tight but you still want to get a great quality of presented content, take a look at local and regional conferences.  Once you look at them, you’ll find a great way for growing your career perhaps in your own backyard!

Ann Arbor Day of .NET 2011 Recap

Yesterday, I was up in Ann Arbor, Michigan for their Day of .NET event at Washtenaw Community College.  I wanted to thank some of the organizers – Jason Follas, Jay Harris, and Scott Zischerk – for making this happen.  I know how much work it takes to get one of these together, and without them, we wouldn’t have had an event in the first place.  Also thanks to the sponsors – Telerik, TechSmith, ComponentOne, and Applied Innovations – as they also made contributions to help make this a great event.

It was great to see so many of my friends yesterday, and it was great to see at least one speaker outside of the Heartland District.  I was glad to see David Hoerster made it out from Pittsburgh!  For me, I wanted to catch sessions that I’ve been meaning to catch for awhile or sessions that I could learn from to apply to my current projects.  Here’s what I caught yesterday.

Dealing with Data in a Mobile Application, presented by Jeff Fansler

In this presentation, Jeff talked about consuming data, storing data, and caching data.  We looked at sync vs. async and how those worked.  When it comes to storing data, Jeff mentioned three options – isolated storage, Sterling DB, and – now with Mango – SQL CE!  I was already familiar with isolated storage, since I’ve used it in my Silverlight apps.  However, I hadn’t seen examples of Sterling, and his example would have been a good guide for that.  I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a SQL CE example, as I have an app that I’m working on that would benefit from SQL CE.  But alas, I’ve got something new to learn!  The last thing Jeff covered was saving data – both on demand and as a background task.  Overall, I really enjoyed this talk and have a lot to take away from it.  If you were at AADODN and didn’t catch this, you can catch it again at CodeMash!

Going Independent, presented by Michael Eaton

As you may know, I have gone independent, as of August.  I’ve got a couple clients that I’m working on now, and I’m learning to balance my work demands and my life demands.  I caught this session at devLink this past August, and although I had already asked Mike for advice before this, I still learned a bit from it.  As he mentions – when you go independent, you typically aren’t 100% billable – you can’t really bill for invoicing, other accounting business, and other administrivia.  He also mentioned a bunch of other helpful tidbits for those getting started on going on their own.  Like he said in his presentation, the ideas he covers in his presentation are based on what he has experienced in this past decade, and each indie has a different story.  If you didn’t catch this session, it will be done as a PreCompiler at CodeMash!

Develop IT: Intro to PowerShell, presented by Sarah Dutkiewicz

I was asked by Jay Harris awhile back if I would consider submitting this talk to Ann Arbor Day of .NET, and since it’s my favorite talk to give, I was happy to oblige.  Once again, this session was for a packed room, with an interesting audience.  This time around, I didn’t speak to my help files as much as I have in the past.  However, I did continue to keep this slideless and work from a custom module.  You can download the module from http://qtlil.me/aadond2011ps.

I also managed to cut a little bit out so that I could mention Jim Christopher‘s StudioShell.  As a developer with a little bit of PowerShell background, you can make this tool work for you in ways you couldn’t imagine.  For example, we have a client who stored error messages in a class, but our business analysts wanted to maintain those messages.  Rather than manually creating the XML file that we had envisioned, I had one of my teammates show me what he was looking for format-wise, and I got it for him in a matter of minutes.  Most of the minutes were me waiting to install StudioShell in my VM – otherwise, with one line of code, I was able to extract the constant string variables’ names and values and put them into an XML file.

If you haven’t caught this presentation yet, I’ll be giving it in the Detroit, MI-area at MIGANG on February 15.  If you’re interested in hearing it at your user group, please contact me at sarah at codinggeekette dot com.

Stone Soup or Creating a Culture of Change, presented by James Bender

It was great to wind down from the conference with this session. Throughout this session, James talks of how to deal with change in a company.  One of my recent favorite phrases was near the beginning of this presentation – Change where you work or change where you work.  If things aren’t going the way you like, you can try implementing change in the workplace to  make things better.  For example, maybe you work at a company that seems to hesitate with developer training.  Rather than letting them slack in that department, you could encourage your teammates to learn by doing lunch’n’learns.  But let’s say that the company seems to be lacking in ways that you can’t change.  Then maybe it’s to change your work in terms of finding a new place to work.  This is one of many phrases and stories that James’ presentation suggests.  Unfortunately, he is retiring this talk for now.  But if you find yourself trying to initiate change in the workplace and have troubles, James is a good guy to talk with about that.

Conclusion

I unfortunately didn’t stay for the closing ceremony, as I needed to get on the road for a 3 hour ride back to Cleveland.  However, from what I’ve been able to experience, Ann Arbor Day of .NET once again turned out to be a great event, well worth the 6-hour total travel time.  I’m glad I drove up for it!  Thanks again to those who organized the event and made the event happen!

If you, my readers, haven’t had the chance to attend a Day of .NET event, you’re missing quite a bit.  Typically, for a small fee (approximately $10 nowadays), you can get a day’s worth of training from regional experts on a variety of topics.  It’s a great event to learn something new.  It’s also a great event for networking with those in the community, finding other people who have the same problems as you or who have had your problem and may have a solution.  You can always find more on Days of .NET at http://dayofdotnet.org/.  Hope to see you at one in the future!