Monthly Archives: June 2009

3 Days, 3 Events before the Holiday

Holiday week? Lots to do before fireworks on the weekend.

Tomorrow night is Ignite Ann Arbor.  If you haven't attending Ignite talks before, check them out! If you have, I'm sure that you'll be there. Format is 5 minutes per speaker, 20 slides that autoscroll every 15 seconds. No time to get off track. No opportunity to go over. People stay on track, on message, and then they're off the stage.  Talks can be on anything, as long as it's something that the speaker is passionate about.  I'll be talking about the Under-representation of Women in Computer Science (the number of women getting CS degrees peaked the year I graduated from college in 1986, and has been in a steady decline since).  

Ignite Ann Arbor starts at 7 pm, and will be held at the Neutral Zone, 310 E. Washington (yes, that's just down the street from SRT's office!).  Register at

Wednesday, July 1 is the monthly Ann Arbor Computer Society meeting.  I'm not sure about the topic, but it's election month, so it's really important that members attend.  Meeting starts at 6 pm, at SRT Solutions, 206 S. Fifth Avenue, Suite 200, Ann Arbor.  Pizza will be served.

Thursday, July 2 is the monthly Michigan Python User Group meeting.  The group is still deciding on a topic, but it never disappoints.  Meeting starts at 7 pm at SRT Solutions, 206 S. Fifth Ave, Suite 200, Ann Arbor.

And on Friday, it will be time to rest.

Lightning talks all over the region!

After a year or so of hosting public lightning talks on Fridays, we're finding that it's no longer necessary for us to continue to do so.  We're happy to say that other groups have introduced lightning talks and are holding them in the evenings (of note: Ann Arbor .NET Developer Group, Detroit Java User Group), so there are plenty of opportunities to join in on these talks.  With summer upon us, schedules (and art fair) make Friday afternoon events challenging anyhow, but stay tuned.  We'll announce a replacement for Friday afternoon lightning talks in the fall.

How I spent my software stimulus …

A few months ago, Bill Wagner (my business partner at SRT Solutions) and I were talking about how companies were really pulling together in this economy and doing what they could to help others. I was really impressed with the brillant marketing of Atlassian when they rolled out several of their enterprise tools for $5 for 5 days for 5 users.  Nice.  And so we started to think about what we could do, how we could contribute.  The result of that was the SRT Software Stimulus Lab, which we held last Monday at Automation Alley in Troy.  We held a low-cost, no-frills event.  We told people to bring bag lunches and their own coffee.  We made it cheap for employed developers ($50 early bird) and free for those who are unemployed.  And it was … fun, interesting, and productive.  During the registration process, we asked registrants what they wanted to learn and we found that C#, Silverlight, WPF, and Scala were high on the list, as were version control, unit testing, and functional testing.

We started out the day talking one of the most fundamental and, in my opinon, essential tools: version control.  While most people had used version control in one form or another, many of them had only used tools like Visual Source Safe (which, you will likely recall mainly led to annoyance with your coworkers for leaving files locked).  We talked about tools like subversion as today's tools and looked forward a bit toward distributed version control, like bazaar and mercurial.  We set up a repository for the attendees to access and made sure that everyone was able to do so.

After that, we broke into mainly 2 groups.  One attendee, who I know from the Detroit Java User Group, came to learn more about Scala.  He's a Java developer with a significant amount of experience in Groovy.  I enjoyed my time with him, ane he seemed to have fun too.  I don't think that I sold him on Scala (that wasn't my objective), but I believe he left knowing enough about it to decide if he wants to pursue it further or to determine if he wants to stick with Groovy.  We compared and contrasted some features of the languages, and it was fun for both of us (I think!). People from the other group filtered in and out.  One guy teaches C++ on the side, and he was interested,  Another was a PHP developer who was popping in periodically.  We spent some time looking at unit testing in Scala as well as at a lot of the language features, and the preview of what's to come.  Fun stuff!

The other group worked mainly on WPF and Silverlight. The attendees seemed to really appreciate Silverlight (as well as the demos and tutorials that they worked on with the SRT staff).  The attendees also wanted to delve into multithreaded programming a bit, so the SRT staff came up with some demos and an impromptu discussion on that topic.

All in all, the day was what a Jam session should be: a group of people self-organizing into groups to work on things that they enjoy, free to move on if they changed their minds. I really enjoyed spending time with the attendees and I think that we'll probably do the Lab again sometime.  I know that I won't always get to do Scala.  And that's just fine.  I wouldn't have minded learning more about Silverlight myself!

The continuum of social media

A friend was complaining today that he didn't get Facebook. I mentioned that I didn't either.  That's not actually true.  I do get it; it just serves a different purpose than twitter.  Or LinkedIn.  So I thought that I would write a bit about how I see all of these pieces fitting together.

Twitter is truly emerging as a business tool.  And a political tool.   And social as well, of course.  But for business, it offers a great opportunity to engage your customers (and they, you) in a conversation.  Of 140 characters or less.  So, sure, it's not a meaningful long-lasting relationship conversation. But it's an interaction that you probably weren't having otherwise, so it's a good converation.  It's fleeting.  You "tweet" something and it's out there.  Then it's gone (except for the fact that the web has a long memory.  But for the most part it's fleeting.  It's difficult to carry on a conversation over time, particularly between more than 2 people.  Oh, and it's pretty open.  By default, your updates are available to the world at large. Sure, you can secure them, but then you lose a bit of the charm of twitter (the rapid web-like growth from friends and from sharing a common interest).  So, in short, twitter offers you a way to meet people through friends of friends (and through following threads of interest).  This is extreme networking, and quite effective.

Facebook fits a different need.  It's not open, by default.  You choose your friends, approve them.  With that, in my mind, comes responsibility.  I have to choose who I want to include and who I want to exclude. From a business standpoint, a personal facebook account can collide in an awkward way with your business interests.  Facebook is just that … personal.  People post photos of their families, and their high school friends connect with them.  It can be a bit awkward to have people 20+ years in your past posting side-by-side with your business associates.  I'm reminded of the friend who happily left a family nickname behind when he went to college.  Finally he was free.  Until some high school friends went to visit him at college and unwittingly revealed the decades-old nickname that he had been so happy to shed.  Ugh. 

What Facebook does nicely is promote events to your friends.  When one of them signs up for an event through Facebook, others learn about the event (presuming that they may have similar interests).  That's compelling, but for me, the awkwardness remains.  Facebook is adding some controls to allow you to partition updates to different people.  No matter.  I use Facebook for what I see as its strengths: communicating with friends. So while I see twitter as a way to meet new people and carry on very casual conversations with people I may or may not already know but share an interest, I see Facebook as a way to carry on a longer, more persistent conversation with people I already know (or used to, way back when).  I won't likely meet new people through Facebook, unless we happen to join the same "group",  But even so, I'm probably not going to carry on much of a conversation with them,

So where does LinkedIn fit it?  Good question.  LinkedIn is a referral network.  While they too seem to want to support group-based conversations, I don't see many people using it that way.  You don't "hang out" on LinkedIn like you might on Facebook and probably do on twitter.  You go there to see if you can get an introduction to someone, or to find someone with a particular area of expertise.

So, I see all of these as useful social media tools.  They really do just fit different needs. And I like it that way. 


So follow me: dmarsh on twitter.  But please don't feel offended if I don't add you as a friend on facebook.  It really isn't anything personal. I just don't spend much time there, and I don't particularly want to be reminded of my awkward teenage years.  My adult years are awkward enough!

AADND, Software Stimulus Lab, Agile Groupies: oh my!

Tomorrow is the 2nd Wedneday of the month, which means that the Ann Arbor .NET Developer group is meeting at SRT.  If, like me, you're still bummed that you missed last month's meeting with Michael Wood on PLINQ, you probably will want to make an extra effort tomorrow night, when Steve Smith is in town and speaking on ASP.NET MVC.  Steve will be presenting Robert Martin’s SOLID principles of Object Oriented Programming, with examples of violations of these principles in a simple ASP.NET MVC application. The principles are then applied, resulting in a much more elegant and maintainable application.  This is a free meeting, open to the public.

SRT Solutions is inviting all developers to join them at Automation Alley in Troy for a day of software development at the SRT Stimulus Lab. This is a jam format, not a lecture format (which means that it's very hands-on).  We'll start off with some fundamentals: version control (bazaar), continuous integration, unit testing and functional testing. The format is open; you can work on your problems (with encouragement, advice, and help from others) or on our examples, if you just want a flavor of some new languages.  This is a low cost event ($75 for the full day), and it's free for unemployed software developers (limited seats available).  Sign up at  If you use the discount code SRTUSER, you can still get the early bird price of $50 for a few more days. 

The Agile Groupies in Ann Arbor will meet at SRT Solutions on June 16, from 6-7:30 or so.  Cost: $10 for food.  Joe Hershey will be pairing and speaking, and the talk is entitled, "TDD is Nonsense".

The Detroit Java User Group will meet on June 17 at Compuware, during the Eclipse DemoCamp and IT Exchange Forum, from 5-8 pm. 

The next Ann Arbor Java User Group meeting is scheduled for June 24.  I'm still waiting to hear what the topic is.

SRT’s software stimulus lab at Automation Alley on June 15


SRT Solutions decided that we wanted to join in and provide a little stimulus ourselves, for software developers in our area.  So, we're hosting an event at Automation Alley, geared toward developers. Next Monday, on June 15, our "Software Stimulus Lab" will provide an opportunity for developers to get together and learn from one another.  Software experts from SRT will be on hand to help out with languages and technologies, as well as giving some real-world experience in subversion and bazaar, unit testing and continuous integration.  This low-cost event ($75) is all day long and should be both informative and fun.  So far, registrants have indicated interest in Java, C#, Scala, F#, Python, and GWT.  We'll bring some lab exercises for people to  work on, and of course, you're free to bring your own projects as well.

Oh, and the stimulus part: it's free for unemployed developers. 

Registration is at:

I hope that you will join us.