Home » Uncategorized » CodeStock 2009: Day 2, Part 1

The second day of CodeStock was the day I was really focusing on since seeing the schedule.

Josh Holmes, Microsoft

“Simply” great. I have seen Josh present elsewhere and came in with low expectations for this keynote. In fact, when I went to bed the night before I told myself I would not be disappointed if I overslept and missed this session. I am glad I did not. This was a keynote about common sense and being thought provoking. It succeeded. Josh was well prepared and it was obvious to me this was not the first time he ran through this session. A little of my faith was restored in the Microsoft Developer Evangelist contingent at the conference.

ASP.NET MVC – Soup to Nuts
Peter Mourfield

This is one of two sessions I spent $300 to see. I am in the process of deciding whether we are going to use ASP.NET or something else for one of our customer projects. MVC is a Microsoft technology add-on to ASP.NET to help speed up Web development based on Model-View-Controller pattern. If I had not done some homework beforehand I would not have even learned what MVC stands for.

Peter was obviously unprepared and unrehearsed. He told us about the Julia Childs cut and paste approach to presentation, which is a seriously sound approach to successful presentations. One key though, the code you cut and paste must work. It did not. Honestly, Peter was one of the worse presenters I have seen at any conference and I have been to dozens over the years. If I could rate this session on the eval a zero I would because that is the value of what I got from it. Terrible, terrible, terrible. I am guessing more than 60% of the people left before it was a quarter over. The session took up two slots. I tried to stick it out, but eventually bailed at the half way point because it was just too painful to watch. No takeaways from this session, just in case this was no obvious.

Starting a Software Company
(Panel Discussion)

On the plus side, the benefit of bailing from the MVC session allowed me to sit in on this session and it was terrific. I am normally not a fan of panel discussions as they usually get derailed to off-topic discussions and often are controlled by a “loud mouth complainer” in the audience or a dominant speaker on the panel. Neither of these happened. I have started three software companies in my career. It was good listening to others talk about the approaches and what they think is formula for success. It confirmed some of the approaches I have taken over the years and made me think about other things to consider as White Light Computing tracks on positive growth for the foreseeable future.

There are a couple of things I like in this session. First is the discussion of the current economic times referred to as a nuclear winter. Several pundits declare these are the worst times seen by our generation. But successful companies like Hewlett Packard, Coke, GE, Adobe and Microsoft were all created during down times, so the panel speakers were encouraging people to start new businesses during these times. Honestly, I have started two businesses in Michigan during the current 9 year recession the state is suffering through. It is not easy and is fraught with risks. Yes, there are times when I reconsidered joining a company as a W2 employee, but I really love my job where I report to customers instead of the pointy-haired-boss.

Some key common sense points:
1) Luck is important.
2) Surround yourself with smart people.
3) Don’t develop in a vacuum.
4) Break vision into manageable chunks (having a vision is also important {g}).

One of the attendees is a young man who probably was 12 or 13 years old. He asked an insightful question if it was okay to start a business today that would fund what he really wants to do: game development. After the session I ran into him and passed along some advice: follow your heart, believe in what you want to do, and trust your instincts. Someday we will see this young man doing some great things in the gaming industry.

This session also lead to some terrific conversations at Alan Steven’s after party. I met someone who is considering starting his own company in the Knoxville area. I passed along as much advice as I could. The key to starting any business is knowing it is not easy and it is not all peaches and cream.

Open Spaces – Marketing yourself and your company
(not rated)

Marketing to me is a dark art. I read in Whil Hentzen’s The Software Developer Guide how nothing works. I definitely understood the point in Whil’s book, but the reality is: doing nothing will give you the same results. Several people offered the moderator some suggestions. I looked at this session as something of a brainstorming opportunity. In a brainstorming session there are no bad ideas, but instead of taking it all in, I felt like we were more in a debate about what works and what does not work. It was unfortunate because there were a number of terrific ideas thrown out and I am not sure any of them were absorbed. Several of the ideas thrown out take time and effort. I believe the moderator was looking for something easy and finding the silver bullet. Unfortunately it is not always easy.

The thing with marketing is building brand recognition and getting people to call to do business with you or your company. With the Internet available we have more avenues available to get brand recognition than ever before, and many of these avenues cost very little to try.

I think coming up with marketing ideas is way easier than figuring out if they work. I am not sure I can measure any one thing I have done as working, but one thing is for sure, the entire approach I have taken over the years is working.

I shared as much wisdom and experience I could, but most of my ideas do take time and effort. They have worked for me and White Light Computing. Hopefully the moderator and others in the room will benefit from them.

More to come on the second half of day 2, and my final thoughts…

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