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Southwest Fox: Day 2

Friday is the start of the full day of sessions. People are walking around the center with high energy levels and are generally excited for the start of the conference.

As an organizer I make a pass through each session room to ensure the projectors are working and the room is set up properly for the speakers and those attending the sessions. There are always a couple of tweaks I have to make on Friday because the walls were put in place late the night before. Our facilities people are right on any changes we need, and normally things are all set by 7:30 or so. I also make sure the session signs are set up for each of the rooms. This year we added the fifth room for vendor sessions so I have to remember to set this one out each day too.

Someone else handled the remaining registrations from folks arriving later Thursday. As I mentioned in discussions with someone during the conference, it runs mostly on auto-pilot once things get rolling. When I say auto-pilot, I mean things happen and they get taken care of by our staff or the facilities people.

Off the breakfast which was one of the bonuses we offered again this year. We state up front we will provide lunch on Friday and Saturday, but based on attendance this year we were able to offer the breakfast and afternoon snacks again this year. I know people really appreciate it because they noted on evals and in feedback that they did not like the “bagels only” Sunday morning offering {g}. Breakfast was good. I love scrambled eggs. I also enjoyed the discussion at the table I briefly sat down to wolf it down.

Back to the registration booth where I rehearsed my Using VFPX Components in Production Apps session one last time. Determining the length of this session was nearly impossible because of the variety of questions I got during the user group rehearsals. This session also was one of the most difficult to prepare because all of the components are still being developed. I always wondered how the speakers at the Microsoft DevCon in 1995 pulled off their materials for VFP 3.0 when it was still under development. First they had to learn all new material and then had to work with an ever changing target. I have always had a high level of admiration for those speakers. I know my VFPX session was not to the level of the VFP 3.0 beta difficulty wise, but in many ways there are parallels.

I had to skip all the morning sessions unfortunately because of my duties at the conference, and the last minute prep for the session.

Lunch was Deli Meats and Cheeses, salad bar, and Italian pasta salad. Desert was brownies and cookies. We also introduced Birds of a Feather topics for some of the tables. I sat at the Future of VFP table and really enjoyed the discussion, and offering my perspective on the subject. People should not be surprised by my positive outlook on the future with respect to VFP and VFP projects in light of tools like Guineu, the eTecnologia compiler and extender, and VFP Studio.

I left lunch a little early because I had to print out my slides for my session. I had a heck of a time printing them for some reason (most likely Murphy’s Law). It took close to 20 minutes to print them to a PDF file so I could print them on the kiosk computer. I almost ran out of time and the stress of the situation gave me a killer headache just before my session started at 1:15. I definitely should have planned better.

Normally I am not nervous for my sessions, but with the headache going I kidded with the audience that I wanted to set the expectations lower. Fortunately I completely feed off the energy in the room and the room filled to capacity with people standing in the back. I was hoping this session was going to attract a lot of people and thought it was going to be one of the more popular session attendance wise. It was the driving force behind my decision earlier this summer to do this session instead of the session on the Upsizing Wizard. 40 people showed up and was the most attended session on Friday! My headache disappeared about 20 minutes into the discussion. I brought some White Light Computing “ninja” mousepads to pass out to some of the folks who asked really good questions. You see, I love interactive sessions and try to make all my sessions have audience participation. Some speakers understandably don’t like overly interactive sessions because it is hard to gauge how much material you can cover. I prefer to adjust my material on-the-fly to get other people involved and gain their perspective as well. The session went well and I have had a lot of positive feedback from those who came, including some emails from a couple people in the room before the next session started. Talk about instant feedback. Very cool, and thanks.

Snack break in the afternoon was titled “At the Movies” and included popcorn and lots of candy. I made sure to deliver chocolate candy bars to Cathy Pountney because of her obvious addiction to the stuff, and as a kind gesture before we kick her butt on the go-kart track Saturday night. {g}

During the afternoon I got a chance to briefly sit in on Rick Borup’s Hidden Treasures of the FFC, and Cathy Pountney’s Customizing Your Vertical Market Application, and Rick Strahl’s Using .NET with VFP for Reliable Web Services. I enjoyed the parts I was able to listen to. Each of these speakers are always well prepared and their materials are top notch. I am looking forward to reading their white papers.

Friday evening was filled with new things. First up was the Dinner Party. One of the things we got in the evals last year was to have a dinner to help people network more, and to give people additional opportunity to meet with vendors. The plan was to host the dinner outside in the courtyard and for people to eventually mingle into the vendor area if they felt compelled to do so. During our pre-con meeting with the conference center we got the news that the dinner was going to be inside because a wedding party wanted to use the courtyard. I think it worked out well. The food was really good (NY Strip Steak, Atlantic Salmon, baked potatoes with the fixings, fresh vegetables, rolls, and desert) and the discussions at the table was fun. We also pulled more names for door prizes. Ken Levy showed up with some old copies of FoxPro and Visual class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_27">FoxPro to give away. Boudewijn Luterink won a FoxPro for PowerMac which he turned around to auction for the “Bring a FoxPro Ambassador to Southwest Fox.” Thanks to Andrew MacNeill for being a good sport when he “accidentally” raised his hand when the price went to $30. Overall the feedback is overwhelming “do the dinner again next year.” I have no doubt this will be the case.

One problem with the dinner we did get feedback on is the cost for a spouse/SO/friend to attend. We charged $50, which I agree is outrageous. Unfortunately we actually lost a few bucks on each additional person. People might not understand, but this is hotel catering, and as Whil and Bob were kind enough to tell us a couple years ago – “hotel catering” is Latin for “thief.” I am not sure what we can do about this next year, but some people have made some suggestions. If you have some ideas, please let me know.

After dinner was the bonus sessions. The Show Us Your App session was the overwhelming favorite followed by the VFPX Meeting (recorded live and available on http://ustream.com/channel/SWFoxTV). The user group meetings for Stonefield Query and Visual MaxFrame (VMP) were well attended by the dedicated user base too. I did not get a chance to peek into the EPS VFP to .NET Migration strategies meeting. I do know that the VMP meeting has the most legs though as I had to kick them out after 2.5 hours so the hotel staff could go home. {g}

It was a long day, but I made a quick pass through the patio area where the gang was hanging out for a quick lemonade before heading back to my room.


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