Category Archives: User Groups

PHP/Ruby on Azure World Tour

I’m thrilled and honored to be doing another speaking tour through Europe. I’m getting to visit a number of countries that I haven’t visited before and some old favorites. I’ll be speaking on PHP, Ruby and other non .NET technologies on Azure.

The talk that I’m going to be doing in most places is PHP/Ruby on Azure or Leveraging Azure with Non-Microsoft Languages:

Windows Azure is Microsoft’s Cloud Computing offering. It is more than a simple scalable hosting option as it is truly a platform as a service offering. This allows you to focus on your application rather than the configuring and managing your infrastructure whether you are writing C# or VB.NET or even languages such as PHP or Ruby which are first class citizens in Windows Azure. The Windows Azure Platform includes Windows Azure, which is the OS and hosting environment for web and background services, as well as non-relational storage, queues, and a blob storage for everything from videos to mountable virtual drives. Additionally, the Windows Azure Platform includes SQL Azure, a fully relational database as a service, and Windows Azure AppFabric for industry standards compliant identity management and a service bus for message passing.

But there remain the questions around why, when and how you should move to the cloud, especially if you are using PHP or Ruby. Should I put everything in Windows Azure? Do you have to convert everything you have to ASP.NET? Do you have to write code specifically for Windows Azure? What if my current applications depend on MySQL and/or memcached?

There’s a lot of good news here as it is relatively straight forward to get running in Windows Azure. Once your application is running, however, now you need to look at how to fully leverage the platform offerings architecting for the best usage of the different roles and the various aspects of the Windows Azure offerings such as the AppFabric and SQL Azure. This will help your application make the most efficient usage of CPU, bandwidth, storage and all of the things that cost in a cloud hosting scenario.

In this half day session, we will begin with the why of Windows Azure talking about when it makes sense to make a move and what the prudent migration paths are for your organization.  During this time we will tour the various aspects of Windows Azure. Then we’ll delve into the technical aspects of how to run your PHP/Ruby code on Windows Azure. Once we have that mastered, we will move onto leveraging the Windows Azure platform to its fullest.

The full schedule is as follows (and yes, this is a lot of countries in not very many days)

Feb. 21 – Dublin Ireland –

I love Ireland. I hope to someday live there. I spoke there about a year and a half ago on RIA and got to meet a few of the folk but mostly worked with Martha Rotter. I got to make a number of friends last time and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again.  

Feb 23 – Lisbon, Portugal – 

This is my first time to Portugal. I’m really looking forward to meeting the local DPE team (Luis Alves Martins and Sergio Martinho). I’m speaking at the university. it looks like a beautiful venue – I just wish that I had more time here to explore the local culture.

Feb 24 – Vienna, Austria – 

My brother has spent a lot of time in Austria but I’ve never been. I have met Mario Szpuszta back when he and I both spoke at JAOO in 2008 in Denmark. That was an awesome conference. I’ll also get to met Rolf Mistelbacher. Another thing I’m really excited about is that I’m going to spend enough time to actually see some of the city.

Feb 26 – London, UK – Keynoting PHPUK –

At PHP UK, I’m actually not talking about Azure. Rather I’m doing a keynote titled The Lost Art of Simplicity (Full slides on slideshare). This is actually the original reason that I’m coming to Europe in the first place. I’m honored to be asked to do the keynote and am beholden to Scott MacVicar for the invitation and to Johanna Cherry for making everything work smoothly.

March 2 – Stockholm, Sweden –

Check out this awesome venue – – it’s a 17th century building in downtown Stockholm. Really looking forward to hanging out in this space.

March 3 – Oslo, Norway – registration information coming soon

I’ve never been to Norway. I should have more information about this trip in the next day or so and I’ll update this post.


I’ve got all of the registration information for my Oslo stop.

Auditorium (ground floor)

Lysaker Torg 45

Lysaker Akershus 1366

Norge for all of the registration information.

Also, as a side note I’ve met a bunch of people from Norway while at the PHPUK conference and they’ve assured me that the polar plunge was decent training for my visit but I’d enjoy it regardless.

March 4 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands – PHP User Group

I haven’t actually met Bram Veenhof in person but  have been working with him over the past couple of years on a couple of things.I’ve been to Amsterdam several times but mostly just to the Airport and the Microsoft offices there, both of which are awesome. I’m thrilled this time to actually have a little time to explore the city.

March 5 – Brussels, Belgium –

I’ve been to Brussels once before and I’m really looking forward to going back. I’ve not get Katrien De Graeve and Rudy Van Hoe but are two of the other people that I’ve been working with closely over the past couple of years.

March 6,7 – Kilkenny, Ireland – hanging out and speaking at Wordcamp Ireland

Again, I love Ireland and hope to live there someday. I’ll be in Kilkenny at Wordcamp Ireland.

It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m really hoping that there’s lots of good conversation. Please let me know via comments or via twitter if you’re able to make it to one of the sessions.

If you tweet about this – please use the hash tag #phpazuretour and #cityyourecomingto!

Organizing A Conference like Day of .Net

John Hopkins (who needs to blog more) wrote a fantastic article on how to run a community based conference. John is speaking from experience as he’s successfully run the Day of .NET two years in a row and he’s been on the board at CodeMash. I was on the organizing committee for both of these as well and can tell you that what John speaks is gospel.

I’m not going to rehash his whole article but to sum up a few points.

              • You can’t be too organized.
              • You can’t do it alone – you need as many volunteers as possible.
              • Venue is critical.

I will say that there are one or two tricks that you can employ that he didn’t think of. One of them is that there are a ton of registration services out there that run from a simple RSVP system to a full blown event engine. You really need some idea of how many people are coming so that you order the right amount of food, satisfy venders, stay safe on the fire codes and more. On the low end, you could just do a Upcoming, Facebook event or something like it with RSVPs. On the high end, you could go with an event company like EventBrite to do that for you. Or you could do what most of us morons do (And I’m including myself in this) and write your own registration engine for the show. This can come in handy if you actually include things like picking sessions that you’re interested in and the like.

He also didn’t talk about communications and such before the event. It was invaluable to have a collaboration site to stick notes, speaker abstracts, vendor contact and all that type of stuff. I’d recommend looking at BaseCampHQ and Sharepoint as possible collaboration implementations.

John’s advice has helped start and successfully run several conferences. It’s worth a read to go check out Organizing A Conference, especially if you’re planning to host a conference yourself.

Day of .Net in Ann Arbor Fall 2007

 Day of .Net May 5, 2007 - See You there!This past weekend I was privileged to attend and speak at the third iteration of the Day of .NET. I was one of the original organizers of the Day of .NET along with John Hopkins and Jason Follas a year and a half ago. They have far surpassed the original vision which was to just do a cool event for South-Eastern Michigan. The Ann Arbor Day of .NET is now one of the staple events in SE Michigan and they have moved it up to an every 6 month cadence.It’s even being exported to a number of other locations including Grand Rapids and Memphis.

The basic tenets are that:
A. Content is king. Over glitz and sponsors and everything else, this conference makes it’s mark by delivering rock solid content year after year. There were talks about .NET 3.0, WCF, LINQ, Astoria, Story Driven Design and Fitness, the Dynamic Language Runtime (my talk 🙂 – more on this topic coming soon), and even XNA. 20 sessions in all + 5 vendor driven half sessions. That’s a lot of fantastic content.

B. See rule A. 🙂

C. Leverage sponsors to cover the costs of the venue, food, T-shirts and more. I know that there’s been talk of requiring some type of registration fee of all the attendees. So far that’s not happened. There are a lot of benefits to the fee based attendance. It means that the variable costs (food, T-shirts and the like0 are covered based on the number of attendees rather that coming out of the flat fees that the sponsors have put in. There’s about 30-40% drop off from registration on free events. That’s because the people registered don’t have any skin in the game and decide that they don’t feel like it or it’s not a priority to show up. This is frustrating to all the organizers because it makes capacity planning really hard and it’s a slap in the face with all of the hard work that they’ve done to make this event amazing.

D. Nobody makes any money off of this. At different points, we discussed paying for different speakers to come in but we keep getting such great speakers that we haven’t ever resorted to that. I’m really hoping that we never have to. in the

E. Maintain your independence. While sponsored in part by Microsoft, there are many sponsors and none of them control the content or anything else – just get their name on the web site and other publicity. The independence of this conference and others like it is crucial. It means that they are able to take chances on “non-approved” content, maintain some level of credibility and attract an audience that would not be interested in a Microsoft or other sponsor driven marketing style event.

All of that being said – the community run aspect of this means a lot of work for the guys that are running the event and it really requires a good committee to do it right. John Hopkins and Jason Follas do a fabulous job year after year and should be proud of their work. I helped out the first year but was too busy with new job to help out last spring so Darrell Hawley stepped up, responsibilities were shifted and they pulled off an amazing event. This year Darrell Hawley was busy so they pulled in Patrick Steele, Chris Woodruff and Jeff McWherter to help out. At this point, there are parts of the event that were really hard that are on autopilot such as the registration system. The first two years were interesting because they didn’t have a registration engine and had to scrounge for one. Now they have one written that is just flicking a switch on and off to control the registration. That’s cool and needed. The web site was really hard the first year and now it’s pretty much writing itself when they add in the speakers, sessions and assignments. The giveaways were really hard the first couple of years but there have been a lot of great strides making that as automated as possible. I’m really impressed by the organizational and leadership abilities demonstrated by John Hopkins and Jason Follas to really make this a repeatable and sustainable event.

Thanks guys!

Day of .Net in Ann Arbor Fall 2007

Community Rocks!

It’s been a long but fun month.

9/30/2007 – 10/3/2007 Adobe Max

This was the first Adobe Max that I’ve attended. It was a lot of fun to catch up with James Ward and Ryan Stewart. Even though we are evangelists for different (and even opposing) companies – they are great guys and I enjoy hanging out with them. Actually, I got to meet a lot of the Adobe employees and they were all pretty nice even if they were nervous/suspicious/confused about why I was there. I saw a lot of cool technology there. Obviously, Thermo was the prettiest girl at the dance but some of the ‘Sneaks’ were pretty slick. My favorite technology that I saw was called seaming. The short version is that this guy figured out how to remove seams from pictures rather than crushing them during a resize. His app will, as the picture is resizing, remove areas of low “energy” rather than squishing all of the figures in the picture. This means that he’s not resizing the people, cars and the like and does remove things like part of the sky or beach or building and so on. It was very cool. He can also “paint” an object in the picture and remove enough other seams to pull the rest of the picture in to cover that object and it completely vanishes. As it was a “Sneak”, Adobe has not committed to releasing it but it’s on the horizon and it’s very cool technology.

10/8/2007 – 10/9/2007 Boston Remix

I really wasn’t sure exactly what to expect with Boston Remix. This was a recreation of the developer parts of MIX, which happened in Vegas in the spring. I was really impressed with how smooth the event went, the quality of the presenters from the keynotes to the regular sessions. I was privileged enough to pick up one of the sessions where the presenter bailed. I did the Web 2.0 talk that we’ve been doing with ArcReady. I really enjoy that talk these days. I leverage it as a conversation to see what everyone in the room things of Web 2.0, how they are doing their development and more.

I met Mark Frydenberg who is a professor at a Bentley University. He is leveraging Web 2.0 to teach his classes. By this I mean that he’s leveraging Wiki’s to do class notes, allow the users to contribute possible test questions and more. He’s looking at Popfly to do teach the class the basics of mashups and programming. It’s a very cool idea and I’m looking tracking his progress through-out the semester. I’ve also caught part of this for a future Code to Live show.

10/12/2007 – 10/13-2007 Devlink

This was an amazing event. John Kellar started off in Little Rock, AR (in fact he went to high school at on of the big rivals to my old high school and we know some of the same people from high school… 🙂 ) and started the Little Rock Techfest. He grew this to be a very successful event and then took a job in Nashville (or Nashvegas as Rob Foster puts it). This is the second year for DevLink and it surpassed expectations for the second year in a row. There were 350 people that paid $50 a head coming together for 2 days worth of rock star material. It was an honor to be listed among the speakers that we had here. You probably already saw my post on Brad Abrams, but I didn’t talk in depth about Ron Jacobs, Rocky Lhotka, Billy Hollis, Tim Huckabee, David Laribee, Wally McClure, David Silverlight, Rob Foster, Mark Dunn, Todd Fine, Jon Box, Kathleen Dollard, Keith Elder, Rob Howard, Ted Neward, Alan Stevens, Rob Winsor and I’m probably (almost definitely) forgetting someone else important. The buzz and conversations at the event were fabulous.

10/13/2007 – Indy Techfest

Code to Live DPEThis event was organized by the user group in Indianapolis run by Brad Jones. Brad and I go back to an MVP summit 3 or 4 years ago. The Indy Techfest cut off registration at 563 and they had a large waiting list on top of that. Damn the space constraints. I showed up during the last session of the day. I did my pitch for Code to Live. It was pretty cool because we got to actually bring the bike inside the venue. You can see in the picture Dave Bost, Bill Steele, Larry Clarkin and me. Notice the DevLink jersey… 🙂

After the event I went to dinner with Brad Jones, Steven Fultcher and the rest of the organizers and some of the speakers. It was a fun time.



Day of .Net in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids in 2007

Day of .Net May 5, 2007 - I'll be there!WM Day of .Net May 19, 2007 - I'll be there!

 Were you at Day of .NET last year? Couldn’t get enough? This year there will be two Day of .NET events in Michigan! That’s right, you read it right – two Day of .NET events in Michigan! The first will be in Ann Arbor at the Washtinaw Community College on May 5th and the second will be in Grand Rapids at Davenport University on May 19th. These are two distinct events with different speakers and agendas. I’m fortunate enough to have been chosen to speak at both.

I’m talking about Architecting the User Experience and a joint session on Mobility with Dan Hibbitts in Ann Arbor. I’m repeating part of the ArcReady content on What do Architects Do Anyway and Architecture Assets – an Introduction to Patterns and Practices Group.

You should plan on coming to at least one of these events if not both!

Registration for the Ann Arbor Day of .NET

Registration for the Grand Rapids Day of .NET

Martin Shoemaker speaking at the West Michigan .NET User Group

Martin Shoemaker is speaking on April 17th at the West Michigan .NET User Group. His topic is Dee Jay: A voice-controlled Juke Box for Windows Vista. This is an application that Martin is working on. For those of you that don’t know Martin, he is one of the greatest advocate for a lot of the new human interface technologoes that are coming our of Microsoft in the Ink and Voice areas. He is the creator of Tablet UML and a lot of other tools that work well on tablets. He has called me on many nights cursing the speach recognition engines in Windows XP. However, he’s been absolutely thrilled with the voice recognition in Vista. I’ve actually heard that from a couple of different sources. It should be, as most of Martin’s talks are, an entertaining talk with a lot of content. For a preview of some of the content, you should read Martin’s posts on the subject here –

BTW: Martin also wrote these books.


Link to West Michigan .NET User Group


Grok Talk for GANG – 10 Dev Tools in 10 Minutes

Here’s the list of ten tools that I covered in my session:


  1. CodeRush/Refactor
    2. Mark Miller (
    3. Dustin Campbell (
  2. GhostDoc
  3. cr Documentor
    1. 0 1 0 C
  4. SandCastle
    2. GUI for SandCastle –
  5. Reflector and Add-Ins
  6. CopySourceAsHTML
    1. studio a.html
  7. ZoomIt
  8. Camtasia/Snagit
  9. Process Explorer
  10. Snippet Compiler


There are a lot of tools that didn’t make the list that really easily could have.



  1. Tablet UML
    1. – the UML tool that you don’t need to learn. It was created by Martin Shoemaker out of Hopkins Michigan.
  2. CodeKeep
    1. – online Snippet Library and collaboration. It’s was created by Dave Donaldson out of Columbus Ohio.
  3. CodeSmith
    1. – template based code generation. One of the great uses of this is to generate business objects based on database tables
  4. Too many others to name at the moment…

Download: GrokTalk-10DevToolsIn10Minutes.ppt

News from Rockford…

Rockford has a great group. It’s a young but enthusiastic group. They had just outgrown their old venue and moved to Hamilton Sundstrand. It was a good location, but we had to sign in at security and there was a list that you had to be on to get in. Other than that, I really liked the facility.

They are working out some of the logistics of growing. We spent quite a bit of time after the meeting hanging out and talking about best practices on running a .NET group.

I’ll post some of the thoughts that I shared with them in the upcoming days.