Monthly Archives: October 2007

Lightning talks again this Friday

To avoid Thanksgiving week and some other conflicts, we "resequenced" the lightning talks for Novermber. We're doing another set of lightning talks this Friday, November 2, from 3-5 pm (and then the 16th and 30th as well).  We hope that we will have as much fun this week as we have in the previous two weeks.  

Last week, we had talks ranging from a Simple English parser to Boo  BoxerP to Braille and how it relates to computer codes. We also saw a code compare collaboration for a simple web app, comparing ASP.NET and Java with Hibernate and GWT.  Visual Studio's tooling is quite impressive and we all learned a lot.  We also had an interesting talk on SQL Reporting Services.

Lightning talks are short (5-10 minute) talks, presented by any attendee, for the purpose of disseminating some information to the community.  We think it's a great way to end the work week, and we hope that you will join us.  As always, lightning talks are free and open to the public (both for attending and presenting).  If you want to make sure that you get on the schedule, post at  There's no absolute need to sign up ahead of time (most people haven't and our schedule has been packed from 3-5 anyhow), but we wanted to offer this as an option.


ArbCamp 2007 was awesome!

Today, I had the pleasure to attend ArbCamp, an Open Spaces event that was held in the Ann Arbor area (at Washtenaw Community College).  Over 100 people showed up.  This event was incredibly well organized and, as with all of the Open Spaces events I've attended to date, an amazing learning experience.  This time, I definitely talked myself into going. I wasn't sure I wanted to go … it was on a Saturday.  It's time away from my kids.  The topic of the event was "social networks and social media", so this a little outside of my area of interest as a developer, but heck.  It was an Open Spaces event.  I was confident that it would be cool and my husband encouraged me to go, that he and the kids would have a fun day without me (which they did at a cool indoor playground).

I'm SO glad that I went. As I've experienced in the past, it's hard to go to an open spaces event and NOT participate. Even when the topics are a bit outside of your interest, there's often SOMETHING that you would like to learn or experience or even contribute.  This experience was no exception.

SRT is considering providing some space for coworking (allowing people to use our space, toward the idea of building collaborations, camaraderie, and broadening communication in the Ann Arbor area).  We're running into a little pushback from our insurance company, who, to be comfortable with the idea, wants some cold hard cash. I had other questions that I wanted to ask so in spite of not having any answers, I convened (*) a session on Coworking: Opportunities and Challenges.  It was great.  I learned more about the way that people are coworking in Ann Arbor and elsewhere, and I got a lot of useful suggestions.  And the other participants learned that there is more interest in coworking in Ann Arbor than they thought.  I know about this: we've been getting inquiries.

 (* Convening a session means that you add it to the schedule and take responsibility for showing up at the prescribed time and location and get things started, then get out of the way.  And it's OK to convene a session about which you know nothing, toward the idea of getting answers!)

I went to several other sessions that others convened, including one on setting up a similar 1-day event for the ArborParent group.  That's an interesting idea. I also went to one on B2B networking, where I learned a lot of things and hopefully provided some insight to others about the local community as well. The largest session that I attended was "Social Networking 101", where the topic was nominally LinkedIn, FaceBook, Twitter, etc., but the group moved in several directions, including the cool features of other software, about which I know NOTHING (but will likely learn).  Some examples include: Jaiku and Pownce and Yahoo! Mash (which is WAY cool, according to the 20-somethings in attendance). We also talked about privacy online and how we all balance that (there was a separate session about balancing work and personal information while blogging, but I didn't attend that one).

Late in the day,I convened a session on "Dynamics of Online Communities".  We talked about our experiences with flame wars, moderating, meeting people in real life (IRL), building trust, acknowledging the "Grand Unseen Audience" (thanks Larry!), hot topics, sock puppets (I didn't know previously that this was the term for people who create a secondary identity for the purposes of criticizing others in an online community without "endangering" their "real" online persona!).  Anyhow, it was an absolutely fascinating discussion, I thought.

Joseph Jaffe did a keynote at the end of the day (separate ticket, not necessary to pay for that to attend ArbCamp).  I didn't go.  The discussion sounded somewhat interesting but not interesting enough to me to miss dinner with my family and to encounter post Michigan football game traffic in Ann Arbor (100,000 people leaving the stadium all at the same time is definitely something to avoid!).   There was an after-event gathering at Arbor Brewing Company, which may still be going on as I type this from my kitchen table.

I hope that people continue to organize open spaces events in Ann Arbor.  I was warned by Bruce Eckel a few years ago that people often become spoiled by Open Spaces events and don't like to go back to traditional conferences.  This definitely happened in my case, and we're adding a more significant open spaces component to CodeMash this year.  As a member of the organizing committee, I would prefer to go 100% to open spaces, but we're not there yet (sigh). But today, with the speaker deadline past for CodeMash, I was at least happy to know that many of the very cool and interesting people who I met at ArbCamp will be welcome to speak at CodeMash, in the Open Spaces sessions!

 I'll stop writing now in spite of still feeling excited about my day, and encourage everyone to go to Open Spaces events, even when they only seem like they might be marginally relevant to your life.  When it comes right down to it, when you put interesting people in a room together and encourage them to TALK to one another, interesting things happen.  You, too, may be spoiled for traditional conferences.

NetBeans 6, Beta 2 ….

Has been released.  Josh Marinacci says he's dumped all old versions of NetBeans AND Eclipse from his system.  Hmm, interesting.  I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far, but I *do* think it's time to give NetBeans another look (I downloaded Beta 1 and played around with that, and it looks pretty nice).  And I'm pretty jealous of all of the disk space Josh was able to free up with his bold move.

So, I was trying to think what I would miss about Eclipse. I thought maybe I would miss the GWT Designer, which does graphical layout for GWT apps.  No, I don't do a lot of GWT development, but it's nice to have the flexibility to do so easily (and I happen to be doing some GWT work now).  But alas, it appears that NetBeans offers such a thing as well.  I'll have to check it out (and I won't feel at all bad about having spent $39 for a year of the GWT designer; it was totally worth it!).

Early Bird Deadline for Suits & Geeks is today!

If you're planning to attend our Suits & Geeks event, today is the early bird deadline.  To get the $99 rate, you must be registered today.  Tomorrow, the price goes up to $125.  I'm really hoping that people sign up well before the last minute, so that catering is easier, since the registration fee includes both a continental breakfast and lunch.

Suits & Geeks is an open spaces event designed to get business people and technologists talking to one another in a way that leads us all to write and deliver great software that meets our customers' needs.  The content will be decided by the participants, so bring your questions and your expertise. In my experience, open space events are very interesting in that you both learn more and contribute more than you thought you would. 

Here's a link to my previous blog post about the event.

Here's a link to the registration page for the event.

Hope to see you there.

More Lightning Talks!

Nearly 2 weeks ago, we started our lightning talks at SRT on a Friday afternoon.  About 10 people showed up and we had some entertaining and interesting talks, including one by Andrew Turner on geolocation and another from Mark Ramm comparing Javascript libraries.  Catherine Devlin showed up from Dayton was in town on other business and gave her talk on Microformats. Rick Harding talked about Zend Studio and PHP. Jay Wren talked about BoxerP.  It seems that a fun time was had by all.  I got email from several participants who said that they found the talks interesting and informative.

As promised, we're doing it again this week.  Bill Heitzeg has proposed a simple problem that people are invited to implement in their language of their choice.  It's a simple web app, which includes things that almost all web apps need.  It's simply a login page, that allows you to stay logged in for 7 days (or logout) and, once logged in, allows you to add name/value pairs, and display them at subsequent logins.  Bill's more detailed description is available here.  We're hoping people choose to implement this in the language of their choice so that we can compare implementations.

At one point, there was discussion of session cookies and such, but we decided that's an implementation detail.  Have at it.  Just do it in the language of your choice and demonstrate (fully complete) at this week's or a subsequent lightning talk.

 Regardless of your interest in playing along with this comparative collaboration, I hope that you'll join us on Friday at 3:00 pm at our office:206 S. Fifth Ave, Suite 200 in Ann Arbor.  You're welcome to present the topic of your choice (limit: 10 minute talks) or just listen.

Hope to see you Friday!

Lightning Talks at SRT Tomorrow …

Don't forget to show up at our office (206 S. Fifth Ave, Suite 200, Ann Arbor) tomorrow!  Our series of Lightning Talks start tomorrow, and continue biweekly after that.  We'll start around 3 and go til around 5 or whenever people stop talking about cool stuff, whichever comes first (I do have to leave to get the kids at 5!).

I don't know yet who will come, but that's part of the interest.  Having experienced these in the past, all I can say is, I have high hopes for interesting content that is both informative and entertaining.

I haven't planned ahead much (it's a 10 minute lightning talk!), but I may demonstrate some of the rich interfaces that you can do in Java, such as those that can be found in the awesome book that recently came out by Chet Haase and Romain Guy: Filthy Rich Clients (I finally bought a copy last week).   Java does NOT have to equal ugly.  And tell me, have you EVER heard a better name for a book?

Bill has an interesting talk in his back pocket as well. I think it will be fun!  See you there? 


Boo! (Programming language with Python-inspired syntax)

I wonder if Jay planned it this way.  Was he really saving his talk on Boo for October so that I could make Halloween jokes/references?  Pretty suspicious. 

Anyhow, tonight, at the Python User Group meeting (held at the SRT Solutions office at 206 S. Fifth Ave, Suite 200, corner of Fifth and Washington), Jay Wren will be talking about Boo, a statically typed language, which has taken some cues from Python.

Check it out: 

I'm looking forward to the talk.  See you there at 7:00.

SRT hosting Suits & Geeks event

SRT is hosting an Open Spaces event at Automation Alley in Troy next month.  Suits & Geeks; Bridging the Business/Technology Gap, will be held on Tuesday, November 6 from 9 am-4:30 at Automation Alley headquarters.  Postcards to Automation Alley members went out today and we're already getting some interest (including one person who confessed to having grinned at the flyer). The event is open to everyone, so please join us!

From our registration page:

Suits and Geeks is designed to help bridge the communication divide between management and technologists in order to create technology solutions that drive business forward. This open spaces event will help technologists learn how to convince business managers why new hardware and software is actually good for business. Business managers will learn how to convince technologists to be more receptive to market timing and positioning.

Suits and Geeks includes a continental breakfast, sponsored by Summit Mobile Solutions, and a catered box lunch. Space for this event is limited and registration is required.

Cost of the event is $99 for attendees who pre-register by October 23, $125 for registration between October 24-November 5, and $150 at the door.

Suits and Geeks 

The Automation Alley space is well configured for an open spaces event, although one has never been held there before.  We will have several separate areas for meeting, and a space big enough for everyone to get together for a quick intro in the morning and a wrap-up in the afternoon (and for lunch, of course).  I hope that you will join us, whether you are a suit or a geek!

CodeMash: Speaker submissions and registration

CodeMash is a very cool conference that I helped to organize last year, and am again involved with this year. The concept is to bring together developers from different languages, platforms, technologies, to learn from one another.  Like last year's event, CodeMash version will be held at the Kalahari Resort and Indoor Water Park in Sandusky, OH.  Like last year, the cost is minimal to attend (and like last year, we're working like crazy to get generous sponsorship to make that possible).

But what YOU need to know is that if you would like to speak, please submit talks by October 15 at And, as of this morning, registration is now open as well.  The crowd last year was so fun that we decided to offer an alumni discount to last year's attendees, so check your email for that if you attended last year.  If you are submitting a talk, please wait to register until after the speakers have been announced (that will simplify the accounting, since speakers get free conference registration).


New Month, New User Group Meetings

It's the first of the month, do you know which user group meetings you're going to yet?  Here are some to choose from.

I believe that tonight is the Ruby MI user group meeting, but their website doesn't seem to be responding, so I can't check for sure.

You may recall that the Java User Group is moving its meeting to later in the month to avoid the first week, when so many meetings get our attention.  Keep an eye on their website for an announcement (and here, too).  Instead, hit High Tech Tuesday at SPARK, where Scott Johnston (product manager for JotSpot) will talk about the future of Google apps.  That event costs $25 for non-members and is held at Ann Arbor SPARK, 330 E. Liberty (lower level).  More information and registration at

Wednesday is the Ann Arbor Computer Society, where we will once again here a "non-Microsoft related talk".  For those of you who thought the group was Microsoft-centric, pay attention!  Now that there is a .NET developer group in Ann Arbor, many of the Microsoft talks are featured there and Jay Wren has been working hard to attract speakers from other languages, platforms, technologies.  This month (Wednesday) features "Experiences in  Wireless and Network Access Control @ Oakland University", by Chris Chamberlain of Oakland University.  November's talk is from John Hickey (of Apple) on the Mac OSX 10.5 Leopard release, what is new, what is old, and general mac desktop AND server things.  And December's talk is on Ubuntu Linux, the new release, what is new, what is old and general linux desktop things, presented by Kevin DuBois.  See, no Microsoft in sight!

Thursday's Michigan Python User Group (MichiPUG) meeting brings out Jay Wren, talking about the Boo programming language.  Boo, in case you don't know, is a statically typed language built with Python-like syntax (for .NET). 

The following Wednesday (October 10) is where you will find Microsoft content at the Ann Arbor Dot Net Developer group meeting (AADND).  Martin Shoemaker is going to talk about "Dee Jay: A Voice-Controlled Juke Box for Windows Vista".  Sounds interesting, but that's NEXT week.

The Ann Arbor Computer Society, MichiPUG, and Ann Arbor Dot Net Developer Group meetings are all at SRT's offices.  That's at 206 S. Fifth Avenue, Suite 200.  It's at the corner of Fifth and Washington in downtown Ann Arbor, across the street from the Blue Nile and directly above the Linux Box.  Entrance is from Fifth, take elevator to 2R or stairs to floor 2.