Archive for the ‘Community’ Category


Please go listen to the recent “FoxShow #77: Southwest Fox 2013″ produced by Andrew MacNeill for some important news concerning Southwest Fox 2013.

I’ll wait here while you listen….Done?

OK, now go read the official written word from the organizers on the same subject on Doug Hennig’s blog post “You can save Southwest Fox.”

I’ll wait here while you read….Done?

Great, thanks for taking the time to listen and read. The Fox Communitgy has done a terrific job supporting this conference for the last nine years. We really want to do it for a tenth.

We want you to hear our voices so it was loud and clear, and not misinterpreted. The conference needs your support. If you plan to come to the conference, please, please get registered. It has never been more important!

Geek Gatherings Registration Page

Only 122 days until we (hopefully) gather in Gilbert.


The Ceil Silver Ambassador Fund raises money from the VFP community to bring a developer to the Southwest Fox conference 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.

We are looking for nominations from the VFP community for the 2013 recipient. To nominate someone you think deserves 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 May 31, 2013.

In addition, we are looking for donations to allow us to pay for the travel costs for the ambassador. We urge you to consider donating any amount you see fit, small or large, to this fund. See for details. 100% of donated money goes to the travel costs for the ambassador. Not a single penny is used to cover administrative costs. All time managing the fund and working through the selection process is donated. No one is paid for their time.


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.


One of the things I did at the Microsoft MVP Summit earlier in March was take part in an discussion about the FoxPro Community along with Alan Griver, Tamar Granor, Doug Hennig, and the co-hosts of the Community Megaphone podcast Andrew Duthie and Dane Morgridge.

This discussion boiled out of several discussions where Andrew and Dane kept running into former FoxPro people in the .NET community. They wanted to hear more about Fox Community and later found out that the root of the Microsoft MVP program was founded in the Fox Community as well. Our discussion covers a number of topics about developer communities and is what we find common and unique among them, as well as characteristics you find in people who are actively participating in a developer community. It was a fun hour.

The interview/discussion was recorded in the Microsoft Commons in a cafeteria. In the background was lots of MVPs eating and socializing so I am really impressed with the quality of the audio. I enjoyed participating. The only wish I have is that some of the other former Fox MVPs who have turned to the “dark-side” (Rod Paddock, Rick Strahl, Jim Duffy, Julie Lerman, Kevin McNeish, Markus Egger, Cathi Gero, and Craig Berntson to name a few) and other Fox people who are now .NET MVPs (Alan Stevens, Bonnie Berent, and David Giard) were not there. Although with that many people it would have been out-of-control. The list of people here is only part of the crowd though that have helped the .NET Community actually become more of community in the sense the Fox Community has known for more than two decades.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Thanks to Dane and Andrew for taking the time to talk with us.


Speechless is not a term often associated with me, but during the closing session at Southwest Fox 2010 I found the state unbreakable when Doug announced me as the seventh recipient of the FoxPro Lifetime Achievement Award.

Even as I sit down to write this blog entry I find myself a bit shocked at how the closing session revealed the award. Doug let me know before the conference that Lisa Slater Nicholls was being awarded, only because he knew I would figure it out when I saw Lisa and Colin roaming the grounds at the Legado and Elegante.

So let’s first start with Lisa. Lisa is very deserving and I am happy she got the award this year. As several others have said, it was long overdue. Listening to Doug’s introduction was chilling to me especially when he talked about the moment in time when Lisa stepped up to take the position of FoxTalk Editor when Glenn Hart passed away. Doug pointed out how that one moment in time impacted so many people in our community. If Lisa had not stepped up there might not be a FoxTalk, and that means a lot of writers might not have had the chance to write about FoxPro. I was one of the people who got my start writing in FoxTalk, which lead to conference speaking, book writing, and other contributions I have made to the community. If you want to read Lisa’s first editorial in FoxTalk head here.

I really enjoyed Lisa’s short video too. Well done. You can read Lisa’s reaction on her blog here: “Legacy” is a good thing

2010 FoxPro Lifetime Achievement Award

Then I see Doug change to the “But wait…. there is more” slide. If you know me you know I like to be prepared and this slide was not covered during the “rehearsal.” You may have noticed I am a bit confused at this point. In the next few seconds I was running through the list of people I thought might be announced and wondering if they were in the room. I am barely listening to Doug as he introduces the second recipient of the afternoon. Me. Me?!?

The moment I heard my name announced the space time continuum skipped a beat. I literally had no words in my head (all the voices stopped {g}). I completely “spaced” out. And yes, it was an emotional moment. It was a good thing I did not make eye contact with Therese and I did not see my parents in the front row. I heard later that my mom was crying and that probably would have thrown me over the edge. I was, and to this day, stunned. I am also honored, and extremely grateful for the recognition.

Tamar was kind enough to point out to me that the next slide was mine and I had to pull myself together to announce that we are already planning Southwest Fox 2011. Unfortunately we do not have the dates or location to announce at this point. I had a reasonable plan of what I wanted to say, but I lost those words as well. We will have more to come in the next month on Southwest Fox 2011.

After the closing session I realized I thanked no one. You know, the academy, all the people who helped me so I could help others, etc. No music to cut me off and tell me to get off the stage. No Kayne West to jump up on stage to explain how Rick Strahl is the best Lifetime Achievement Award winner named Rick. So here it is… Thanks!

First of all there is Therese. She is the Best.Wife.Ever. She is the woman who allows me to be successful by supporting the crazy ideas I come up with. She supports me to follow my dreams, even when I am not sure they are the right dreams to follow. Without her I am unable to do all the things I do. People often ask me how I am able to do everything I do, the answer is one word: Therese. She is my rock, and my biggest supporter. I fell in love with her nearly 30 years ago, and because of it I am one of the luckiest people on the planet.

My kids think their dad is a dork. That is fine, as long as I am their dork and they are okay with me attempting to mold them into the fine adults they have become.

Next up are my parents, who coincidentally came to Phoenix this year to vacation with us after the conference. Amazing coincidence and timing they were there, and it brings me great joy they were in the room to see their son go speechless. They would not have believed it if they had not witnessed it. They gave me the foundation that helping others is something you just do. Kudos to Doug for seeing the opportunity and making it happen. Priceless.

Next up are the people who nominated me. Wow. I am so honored by your recognition. I say this without reservation: it would have been an honor just to be nominated. I think of all the people who I hope someday will get this award, and I am amazed that you feel I deserve the recognition this year. I still get chocked up thinking about this. Thanks.

The past recipients who made the selection: Whil Hentzen, Rick Strahl, Doug Hennig, Tamar Granor, Rainer Becker are all personal heroes of mine and friends. Alan Griver is another hero of mine and also a friend. I also appreciate that Naomi stepped up when no one else wanted to and participated in the selection. Thanks for selecting me for this award. And thanks for shocking me. Well done.

Doug, even though I did not comprehend your announcement and the kind words you had to say about me at the time, I really appreciate them. I am so glad I have video (BTW, thanks Kevin Cully for recording it for me). I especially appreciated the “love you as a brother” comment and feel the exact same way.

To the Fox Community: there is so much good and generosity in our community. Being part of this group and being able to share and learn from this group is such an easy thing to do. Thanks for letting me be a part of it for so many years.

Thanks to everyone who was at Southwest Fox and for all the kind words since the conference. To know I am having a positive impact on other developers, on other human beings, is more than enough for me. To be recognized this way is mind-boggling.



For the last four years White Light Computing has supported the efforts of Southwest Fox and the Fox Community with a scholarship to one person who registers for the conference. You can read all about the scholarships for the 2010 conference on the Southwest Fox Scholarships page.

The first year I did it to help Bob Kocher as an incentive to get some people to register for the conference. It is hard to measure what marketing gimmicks work and which ones are less successful, but Bob noticed an uptick in the registrations after I made the offer. During that experience I realized that it was more than getting people to register for the conference, it was about giving back to the community. I fully understand the importance of education in one’s career and good conferences are an excellent approach in the grand scheme of advancing and pushing the technology learning curve. The conversations with the winners is enjoyable because the winners are first surprised and second, appreciative that someone would help with the costs of going to the conference.

This year I mixed it up and decided to offer two US$150 scholarships, which turns out to be double the fun. The Director of Marketing at White Light Computing (my oldest daughter, and yes the title is not real because she will expect some sort of salary) picks the winners each year. This year she first picked the top 10, and then picked the final two. The winners this year are:

  1. Prentiss Berry of Pensacola, Florida: last year was Prentiss’ first Southwest Fox.
  2. Allan Gordon of Littleton, Colorado: this is Allan’s third year coming to Southwest Fox.

Both gentlemen are looking forward to this year’s conference and are excited by the sessions and presenters we have on the schedule.

Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN

White Light Computing also contributed a copy of Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN which retails at US$11,899. Now I see myself as a generous person, but even a company as successful as White Light Computing is not going to plop down close to twelve thousand dollars to give away to someone in the Fox Community. Not this year.  The Microsoft Developer Division provided each MVP with three licenses to share with other developers. I decided to offer one of these to give away to one person who registered for the Southwest Fox Super-Saver discount.

The winner of the Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN is: (drum roll please….)

  1. Mary Pilon of Farmington, Michigan: this is Mary’s fourth year coming to Southwest Fox and she is a fellow officer of the Detroit Area Fox User Group!

Congratulation to everyone who won!

Thanks to Microsoft and in particular S. Somasegar, who is the Senior Vice-President from the Microsoft Developer Division and provided the license for me to give away.

And thanks to all who have registered for Southwest Fox 2010. Your support for our conference is truly appreciated and critical to making the conference a success each year.

This is a fairly long blog post with a single point: Continue to support the Fox Community, or some day you may wake up and notice it has disappeared. If you already do this, and plan on doing this you probably really don’t need to read the rest. {g}

One of the definitions of “community” from

“a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists”

Software development communities have been around for a while. They are a grass roots processes driven by human instinct to learn and to share. I believe it is not something that can be formed out of an idea by a single individual and it cannot be created because a company wants it to be, it has to form out of the community’s desire to participate in the greater good of the group. I think this is obvious with the different social networking ecosystems. The fact remains that Twitter and Facebook, despite their magnificent technical achievements would disappear if the people decided it was no longer worth participating in. They are vehicles that support the community, not the actual community.

The first technical community I remember belonging to was the TI-99/4A community. The TI-99/4A was the first computer I owned. I subscribed to the industry magazine, I belonged to the local user group here in southeastern Michigan, and I found other people on bulletin board systems locally and nationally. It is where I probably learned of the importance of a technical community and how well people can help each other.

In college you form study groups to help each other. I began to understand the old story about a raising tide lifts all boats. In college it was part of the survival instinct that kicks in. Each person was learning at their own pace until we decided to study together. Some of us also learned the lesson that you can learn more by teaching. There is no question that some of us became leaders/teachers, and some people fell into the learners side of the group, but as a whole I believe it helped us all get grades better than what we would have gotten on our own, and eventually the learners started teaching.

Flash forward just a few years to when I was talking with some friends about PC-File, which is a shareware database from Buttonware. Through one friend I was introduced to FoxBase+ and how a modern and way more sophisticated database with multiple workareas could work. I started playing with it and found a couple of other people who knew Dbase. Together we sort of helped each other in the evenings. Eventually I found a new job that needed FoxBase+ experience. I felt I was learning a lot, but the firehose needed to open up and I needed to learn at a faster pace. I eventually subscribed to magazines like Database Advisor and FoxTalk. But the reality of when the learning curve smoothed out was when I stumbled on to CompuServe and the FoxForum. Questions and answers to some trivial and complex problems. I read everything I could get my hands on. What a gold mine! I also started meeting people and establishing friendships from around the globe. The Fox Community

CompuServe lead to conferences, starting the Detroit Area Fox User Group, more connections, more friends, and more knowledge. I move to a different team because I had outgrown the challenge and needed something bigger. At the same time I felt the need to start giving back once I was confident in my FoxPro skills. I started sharing developer tools that I had written for my self and my team (Project Lister was the first of many). This lead to writing for FoxTalk (thanks to Bob Grommes for giving me that first chance), writing for FoxPro Advisor (thanks to Tamar Granor for sticking with me), and eventually writing for Hentzenwerke Publishing (thanks to Whil Hentzen, Andy Kramek, and Marcia Akins for trusting my report designer skills) and FoxRockX (kudos for Rainer Becker for his continued publication). I gave back on CompuServe, and later on other forums like All that lead to speaking at conferences around the world, being awarded the Most Valuable Professional from Microsoft, working on projects like VFPX, and eventually running Southwest Fox. I literally have personal friends from all parts of the world who I know I can count on when I need help with Visual FoxPro or software development. Participating in the Fox Community is very rewarding because you know you are contributing to a greater good. You get so much more than you give.

I believe my story is similar to others who participate in the Fox Community in one way or another, at similar and different levels. You learn and for the most part you give something back when you can. This is what drives and grows a community.

If you want to learn more about the whole history of the Fox Community  the story has been documented as part of The History of FoxPro Web site.

I do want to share with you a couple of thoughts on why the Fox Community needs your continued support for the long term success of the community.

Supporting Community: VFPX (and other open source initiatives)

I recently was instant messaging Emerson Santon Reed who was the Ceil Silver Ambassador at Southwest Fox 2009. We were chatting about his Themed Controls project on VFPX. I have used some of his magnificent controls in my applications and have written about them in FoxRockX. One of my customers asked me to help spruce up their vertical market application so it looks fresh and up to date. One of the controls we talked about using is the Ribbon control. I knew Emerson was working on it so I asked him about it and where it was in the development cycle. He mentioned that the Ribbon control is a complex beast and to get it done requires the community to help through VFPX. He told me he posted his thoughts on this control and asked for help on his blog: Ribbon in ThemedControls suite?. He has the basics working, but the full spec is very wide and he needs people to help finish all the missing features, test, create builders, build samples, document, and figure out how to make it easier to integrate into an application. He is one man who like others has a full-time job and a family to take care of. If you read through the comments of this post you will see numerous people who give him kudos for a job well done and even some people who said they would love to help out, but in the end no one contacted him at the time the two of us talked. So the Ribbon control has been effectively shelved because Emerson is a busy person. Fortunately he was kind enough to point me to the Arg Ribbon control and I can go support another part of the Fox Community.

I have talked with other project managers on VFPX who pretty much have similar stories. Everyone is willing to benefit from the sacrifice and long hours put in by the developers on VFPX, some hand out a few kudos, several complain when something does not work, and move along. Some people don’t even hand out a kudo or word of encouragement. Some complain in a forum outside of VFPX, but don’t spend a few minutes posting the problem in the Issue Tracker so the project team can jump on it. I know some people are afraid they are not good enough seeing the quality of the work on VFPX. Let me assure you, you can test and provide feedback if you have looked into using anything on VFPX. You can learn to be better too. Some people claim they don’t have the time. I understand, it is a limiting factor as we cannot get more time. But if you could give a few hours a month you will make a significant contribution to the projects. Another key thing to remember is that no one gets fired for volunteering so it is a perfect place to get outside of your normal skill set and learn to do something new.

I can tell you that some of the projects on VFPX have gotten a tremendous amount of support. The most visible one today is probably the PEM Editor. I know Jim Nelson has a large group of people who do beta testing for him and this has helped the project tremendously. Jim also gets feedback, code fixes and suggestions from several people, help with documentation, and even has Matt Slay posting releases and doing the marketing to let the Fox Community know about releases. This project is fantastic from a perspective of the Fox Community working together and should be the role model for projects on VFPX. No project should be a single person unless that person wants to be flying solo.

The GDIPlusX project also had several people committed to the cause with people like Bo Durban, Craig Boyd, Cesar Chalom and others. This project went from nothing to production ready in relatively short order with numerous examples to help the Fox Community adapt this tool into their applications. GDIPlusX is also the foundation of several projects on VFPX and out in other parts of the Fox Community.

I can tell you that the party is more fun when more people help put it on and come to it. Developers who get feedback are more inspired to deliver updates to existing projects and others to propose more because they know they will not be doing it alone.

My recommendation is to get involved if you want to see VFPX grow in the future.

Supporting Community: User Groups

I helped form the Detroit Area Fox User Group back in 1994 with 5 other FoxPro developers more than 16 years ago. I also am a member in the Grand Rapids Fox User Group and I have done presentations at user groups across the United States. I find them valuable from a educational experience and from a social experience. From what I can tell the groups change in size and direction, but from what I am observing, they all have a small core group of people who come to most meetings, and a few people who come occasionally. These tight knit groups work because they they too feed off human instinct to learn and share.

At the core these groups survive by members participating. At the same time the membership have to get something out of it. Learning and sharing your knowledge, just like I mentioned back in college with study groups, raises all boats. In fact, when you think about it, user groups are exactly like college study groups. I have also noticed over the years that Fox user groups also like to dabble in other software development concepts and processes, and even other platforms and languages. It is how one grows and how one is able to offer the best solutions to your customers.

My recommendation is to join your local group, or start one if it makes sense. If you are part of one, volunteer to do a presentation, or pick up a leadership role. You will get 10x what you put into it.

FYI: I have also written about my thoughts on the important interdependency of user groups and conferences in a blog post last year titled: User Group Dependency on Conferences.

Supporting Community: Forums

I am kind of surprising myself by even mentioning forums in a post about community as the Fox Community started online and continues to thrive online. Whether you visit Foxite, FoxForum, ProFox (yes a list server, but still an active online discussion area), one of the Tek-Tip FoxPro forums, UniversalThread, or the Visual FoxPro Wiki (yes not a forum, but another online knowledgebase with un-threaded discussions), you will find lots of other people with common characteristics and interests willing to help you out. They each have their own pros and cons, and you really need to find one or more that fit your personality. Please take the time to answer a few questions too. I guarantee you that you will find it exhilarating when you help others with a problem. You may even find it addicting.

Supporting Community: Commercial Activities

How can one consider commercial activities part of the community since they are in the business of making money? Reading this post one might think the Fox Community is all about learning and sharing. There are a number of commercial ventures that support the Fox Community and your ability to make money as well.

For instance, FoxRockX is a journal you can get for an online subscription for US$99/Eur€75. I write for Rainer’s publication and I even get paid for the writing thanks to the fact people subscribe. If people stop supporting the journal it would cease to exist and Rainer would remove my deadlines. Would I stop writing. OK, not completely as I would continue to share posts on Twitter and an occasional article here on my blog, but without a deadline I will probably write less because there will be other customer priorities. Less articles means less sharing and fewer opportunities to learn for others.

The same principle applies to framework vendors, book vendors, tool vendors, and conferences. If you get value from them continue to support them so they continue to support you. I am not saying you should blindly throw your money at the products. They should provide you value. You should demand they provide you value. But if the value is there, and they help you be profitable or more marketable, or enhance your career, you should make sure to show your support by giving them incentive to keep on going. Otherwise the vendors will disappear. If you tell yourself I can subscribe next year when I might need an upgrade to the framework to support Windows 7 features, the framework vendor might not have the resources to write the functionality. If you note you can push that book purchase off until next budget year you might find the publisher no longer has stock. Anyone who believes you can skip a conference this year and go next year might find others who did the same and forced the organizers into a position where they cannot offer it the next time around. Don’t count on someone else supporting the future of the vendors.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Community is important, whether it is the physical community you live in, or a virtual technical community like the Fox Community. Communities survive and thrive based on the members contributing, participating, and supporting others. Please continue to support the Fox Community, or some day you may wake up and notice it has disappeared.