Archive for April, 2012


Each year I look for a new conference to attend. I do this for a couple of reasons. First is to experience a different group of topics and speakers. Second is to look for ideas that are different from the way we put on conferences. This year I decided on KalamazooX. I picked it based on buzz I heard on Twitter the past couple of years. I was not disappointed.

The conference is on “soft skill” topics, not hard technical topics you find at most software conferences. It is very unique in this regard. It is a single-day conference with ten 30-minute sessions with 5 minute breaks in between. I registered for the conference before even knowing the speakers and the topics, purely based on the reputation of the organizers and the good experiences past attendees talked about.

KalamazooX is inexpensive. I registered as an early-bird for $20 (normally $25 for professionals and $15 for students). Add to that a hotel night for $100, a tank of gas for $45, and a couple of meals around $40. Total expenses around $200. I probably could have driven out in the morning and returned the same day, but I wanted to relax a bit so Therese and I went out Friday afternoon.

I arrived a little after 8:00am for registration and found a seat in the back. Nice deep tables and lots of room between attendees. The room was good except for the morning sunlight on the screen which washed out many of the speaker’s slides in the first half of the day. Fruit and continental breakfast style food in the morning, and various beverages available all day. Conference also included a boxed lunch for everyone.

The speakers were good, topics were good, food was good, room was good, and networking/discussions were good. After the conference I noted to the lead organizer that KalamazooX had the same effect on me as the Business of Software (BoS) conference at a fraction of the cost. I walk away with ideas and thoughts I might not have considered without listening to the speakers. I was surprised at the comparison.

If you are interested in the Twitter stream, take a little time to read posts using the conference hashtag  #KalX12.

The thing I noticed throughout the day and probably the reason people kept tweeting it was one good session after another: speakers were prepared, well prepared.

Here are some thoughts on the best-of-the-best sessions (all five out of five stars):

  • Best session of the day content-wise was Joe O’Brien’s People Patterns. Smooth speaker who packed my notes. Best idea from this session is the concept of a “Conversation Rolodex”, which means you prepare discussion topics so you do not go down the route of “so how about them Red Wings…”  This is one thing that seriously expands the conference after-hours sessions and likely has the biggest return on investment for a conference attendee. It works in business as well with your customers. I also liked his point about “Assume the positive”, which really rings home as business owners often worry about what happens if things go wrong. Thinking and believing good things result from your decision making helps drive success.
  • Best  session of the day to listen to was Justin Searls’ The Mythical Team-Month. Noticeably the most nervous speaker, but his ideas and slides flowed well. All common sense and reaffirming concepts. He was a high energy speaker. His point about there not being any place to hide in small teams is something I really believe in as it forces no-fat productivity. I am glad the organizers went with their gut and picked this one.
  • Best surprise session of the day was Suzan Bond’s Intuition. Past the basic business skills, successful business owners rely on their gut and intuition, sprinkled in with a little luck. Most people avoid talking about this. My favorite point: Good decisions get better, bad decisions get worse. This is so true. I have lived through both. This session had to be the softest of the “soft skills” presented and was the session I looked forward to the most before the conference started. Suzan hit home a couple of points that made my day.
  • Best stab in the neck came during Jeff Blankenburg’s session How to Learn session. His point about not having enough time to learn everything you want or need to learn is an excuse. Watch a little less TV, sleep a little less, just do what it takes to learn. Time is the thing I cannot buy or create more of, and have always struggled on balance and optimizing my use of time. But he was right, I need to use time better for learning. I disagree with his point on not reading books as did several speakers who followed him, but I know people learn differently. I wish he would have had more concrete examples, but as I learned more and more through the day, it was a day more about inspiration than hard take-aways.
  • And Alan Stevens did not push me over the edge once during his Making a Difference talk. Shocking. Although he did push at least one other person’s buttons on a religious argument so his session was deemed a success.  {g}

Strangely, a couple of the sessions actually spawned ideas for the approach I am going to take for my sessions at Southwest Fox and German DevCon later this year. I was not expecting that to happen.

One thing to note, from the get go, each of the speakers were fairly liberal with the use of swearing. If this bothers you the day probably would have been a bit frustrating. Some of it was humorous, and some of it was unnecessary. It definitely did not add to the conference experience.

As is normal for any conference I attend, I added a book to my Kindle and a couple more to the wish list. You are welcome Amazon. If you are interested, the book I added is The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, by Ken Robinson, Ph.D.

I wondered how the 30-minute sessions were going to work. Most conference sessions are 60-75 minute. For a technical topic that seems to work. Someone proposed making some of the session slots for our conference to include some two 30-minute sessions with a 15 minute break inside a normal 75-minute slot. I am skeptical on how well this might work, but plan to give it more thought based on how well these sessions worked at KalamazooX. Shorter sessions kept my attention better. What I am not sure of is if this is better for the soft skill or business topics, or if technical topics can benefit from this format too.

I expect to be back for KalamazooX 2013 and return as a sponsor too. A terrific way to spend my Saturday.


The Ceil Silver Ambassador Fund brings a developer to the Southwest Fox conference in the United States as an ambassador for the developers in his or her country. This gives the recipient the opportunity to meet and share experiences with developers attending Southwest Fox and gives other attendees the opportunity to learn about VFP development in the recipient’s country. For more information on the Ambassador Fund or to learn how to contribute to it, please see

The Ambassador selection committee consists of Southwest Fox organizers Rick Schummer, Tamar Granor, and Doug Hennig, former Ambassadors Emerson Santon Reed, Cesar Chalom, Bernard Bout, and Borislav Borissov, and VFP community members Christof Wollenhaupt and Rick Bean.

We are looking for nominations from the VFP community for the 2012 recipient. To nominate someone you think is deserving to be selected, please email their name and a brief list of their contributions to the VFP community to Names must be submitted no later than April 30, 2012.


The FoxPro Lifetime Achievement Award honors those individuals who have contributed a great deal to the FoxPro community over the years. See the Visual FoxPro Wiki topic for previous award recipients. These recipients wish to continue the award and have created a committee to select a recipient for 2012. The committee consists of all 11 living previous recipients, Alan Griver (yag) of EC:Wise (formerly of Microsoft), and one person from the FoxPro community.

If you wish to be considered for inclusion on the committee, please email Doug Hennig ( by April 30, 2012. The existing committee will select the community member and announce their selection in early May. The committee will then issue a call for nominations for the 2012 recipient and will make their selection from the nominees.