New Day .. New Role @ Telerik!

April 2013. After years of being a consultant and having seen some of the best/worst that enterprise software development entails, it was time to see how’s life in a product company. And having already used/advocated Telerik products for years, I didn’t have to look around much either. Thus started work as a Senior Technical Trainer for the Telerik Services team. Now, trainer is an interesting word. If you already develop cool software, like to play with & talk about new technologies, and have a big involvement in the developer community, you’ll be surprised how easy training comes to you. It’s no more than dev to dev straight talk! Now, don’t get me wrong – training is plenty challenging. If you’re teaching a group of 30 enterprise developers for a week, you better know your stuff inside out, for the utter fear of humiliation. Prep, practice & repeat, no shortcuts! The past year has been a lot of fun – I travelled & stayed at home; did offsite, onsite & remote training on a whole slew of Telerik products suites. It’s always great to see what clients are actually building with your dev tools; and you grow with every new experience. But all good things come to an end .. I’m starting in a new role inside Telerik today!

Now, I can’t move on without mentioning what’s been the biggest influence on me for the past year. Steve & Michelle Smith, and the whole Telerik Services gang (ex-NimblePros) at the Hudson office. I’ve worked with many dev teams before, but no where else have I seen so many software craftsmen under one roof. Folks like Steve, Brendan, Jimmy, Kevin, Todd, Jeff, Chris, Craig, Weston, Caitlin, JoLene, Molly and others – are just crazy smart; and I’ve learnt a lot from each. Not only are they some of the best developers/designers I’ve seen around, but the whole team is like a family that values each other. Cheers to everyone at the Hudson office; it has truely been a pleasure!

Now, on to what’s next. When you find a position that’s a perfect fit, but challenges you with new work – you dive in. Starting today, I’m a Developer Advocate for Telerik in the Developer Relations team, lead by the awesome Rey Bango. My partners in crime? Glad you asked – how about a team with Michael Crump, Jeff Fritz, Burke Holland, John Bristowe, TJ Vantoll, Brian Rinaldi, Jim CowartDhananjay Kumar, Lohith Nagaraj & other super smart folks. Humbling for sure with the kind of reputation each have in our community, but exciting because we’ll get to do awesome stuff together!

Is .NET/Microsoft and Telerik DevTools your bread & butter? Do Windows apps excite you or the ubiquitousness of the web? Have you embraced JavaScript as the assembly language of the web? And off course, you are into all things mobile & the cloud/backend services. And cross-platform development isn’t for the cool kids any more; you cannot afford to not reach every potential user across any technology stack. Just like you my polyglot friend, I love it all! Let’s bridge the gap between the enterprise & hipster world. Using or considering Telerik products? Hit me up & let’s talk.



Road to Microsoft MVP, Craftsmanship & beyond …

2013 has been a busy year. We all have had our ups & downs and worked on products/technologies that we are passionate about. And it is particularly rewarding when others recognize your passion, efforts to grow our craft, technical prowess & community involvement. I am really honored and humbled to be named a Microsoft MVP in Client Development for 2014.

Now, it is customary to share some feelings/experiences along the road & what it all means. This is, at times tricky, since the subject does bring out our sentiments. This in no way, is a check-off list towards your goals; quite simply, my ramblings on the recent past & some common sense.

The pursuit of craftsmanship & not labels ..

  • The meaning — First, what does it mean to be a Microsoft MVP? It is a recognition of one’s passion around a Microsoft product/platform, technical knowledge & willingness to share/stir community excitement around MSFT technologies. MVP is an award system, with no definitive way to the goal .. and that is the point. We all have our passions & there needs to be flexibility to chart one’s own course. For more information, please visit the the MVP support site or the official blog.
  • The meaning, again — So, let’s rephrase. Since we cannot know everything about everything, the MVP award acknowledges one’s technical knowledge in a specific platform/product/domain. Now, this does not mean that all MVPs are technical rockstars; they definitely know their stuff .. but more importantly, are willing to actively share their knowledge. MVP is a a community award, recognizing significant community contributions around a MSFT platform & helping others. There are no shortcut & one has to be in it for the long haul.
  • The Showmanship — Someone recently said “We’re beyond writing software, we just talk about it” .. this a little funny & sometimes true. In our constant zeal to leave a footprint for other developers & make ourselves known in the community, we could sometimes get in the mode of blogging/speaking about every cool piece of code we write. While this is an extreme example, you should see the value of putting yourself out there. Every developer needs to have a blog .. yes, writing can be painstaking; but there has to be something interesting you worked on recently, something you would like to share. It does not hurt to put out your thoughts and content to contribute on a topic, and it slowly establishes you as a knowledge resource.
  • The Volunteer Army — MVPs often are the public face of Microsoft on a certain technology/product/platform. So, you can see why MSFT would be careful about which volunteers represent them. And that is partly the reason behind choosing folks who are vocal about their passion in the developer ecosystem.
  • The Guilt — This is purely my stance; MVP awards come a little guilt. I personally know way too many awesome developers around, many of whom are much smarter than I am. These developers silently do their awesome work in cubicles & are well respected in their respective teams; but may not be well-known in the community because they are not vocal about what they are up to. This is where comes my next urge ..
  • The step-out — If you are a developer, I honestly urge you to come out of the shell & start interacting with the developer community. I can vouch you will find the experience very enriching. For one, it opens our avenues to learn from like-minded people; developers just like you, who are trying improve their craft every day. Second, it helps you market yourself as a professional & establish your expertise, in ways your resume could never do. So, start by going to your nearest User Group or developer community meeting. Write & speak about what you’re passionate about. Take up writing a book or author a Pluralsight course or be active on a developer forum. I can promise that the tiny guilt of being a showman will vanish in the face of how much you are learning from other developers.
  • Are you social? — Well, this is an ironic question for developers, when we IM our buddy across the cube wall, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what form of social media you use, as long as you interact with the right folks & getting your information from the right sources. This is pivotal in staying up to date as a developer. Twitter has quickly become one of the best ways to keep up on what’s latest in any technology & engage in conversations with your fellow developers. Bottomline, be social in any way you want, but make sure you are engaged & learning from other developers.
  • Learn, Learn, Learn — This goes without saying, right? The nature of our industry demands us to be in an always-learning mode & there are plenty of free materials to go by. So, voraciously consume anything you can get your hands on – MSDN, StackOverflow, Twitter, eBooks, developer blogs etc. If you think you are the smartest person in a room or in your team, it is time to jump out of the windows & run, so we can keep on learning 🙂
  • Community Investments — Give plenty & you shall receive. Investing in developer community helps us grow as professionals .. network with as many folks as you can & help in whatever you can. Keep the good faith that your efforts are being noticed.
  • The Help — Microsoft has a DPE (Developer Platform Evangelism) program which puts ‘field agents’ closer to developer communities across the world, as well as wonderful MVP Program leads. These are some of the smartest folks you’ll work with .. make sure to get in touch with them in your developer community. I promise – they’ll help.
  • The DON’Ts — Some of this is common sense, but common sense is not that common & we all make mistakes. Let us try to stay away from being rude, vulgar & disrespectful to others – this is plain uncalled for & leaves bad taste amidst a community of sharp brains. Off course, we will have strong opinions about technology; but we can agree to disagree in a respectful manner.
  • The Respect — We can sometimes forget in the Microsoft realm that the world does not spin around us; there are plenty of brilliant developers working on non-Microsoft or Open-Source technologies or projects. And the least we can do is be respectful to all the good work outside our domain of expertise. This shows maturity & professionalism; and gets you respect from the other folks.
  • Believe — Lastly, be confident in your abilities as a developer & genuine in your efforts. MVP or other recognitions may be the goal; but it is the journey that is more important, since it puts your career on a great track. Decide if a label is more important than respect from your peers .. and make peace with it. Be truly passionate about the technology, there is no way to fake this. Believe patiently in folks around you & your good deeds will not go in vain. Best wishes for your journey ..

Truly believe that software craftsmanship is a lifelong journey .. rewards will come along the way.

Cheers for a wonderful 2014!

Thoughts on BUILD 2013 & Windows 8.1

I was amongst the thousands who spent much of last week at MSFT’s BUILD conference, this time in sunny San Francisco. Here’s what stood out for me:

  • A developer conference of the size of BUILD takes a lot of logistics planning. Microsoft, along with the 3rd party event management company that you see at all MSFT events now, pulled it off successfully. The event, organization, meals, attendee party, buses, registration etc. all seemed to go without any major glitches. Kudos.
  • BUILD keynotes did not disappoint. Executives including Ballmer, Nadella, Guthrie and other keynote speakers seemed to exude in instilling developer enthusiasm in the MSFT ecosystem. Windows 8.1 & several major announcements were made during the keynotes. Some were disappointed with lack of Windows Phone or XBoxOne news; but there are a whole lot of factors & product life cycle stages that contribute towards what’s being shared. I felt MSFT shared what they could and enticed developers with the opportunities that the ecosystem offers now.
  • As for the giveaways, surely the MSFT Surface Pro with Type cover and the new 8″ Acer Iconia W3 should have impressed attendees. Other goodies included 100 GB of SkyDrive storage (although it expires in a year) and an Office 365 license, along with gift cards towards the Windows Phone store. The Surface Pro is a great machine with near perfect balance of portability & productivity. I can also see the lure of the newer breed of 8″ or smaller tablets running Windows 8. The form factor lends itself wonderfully to reading books or consuming media content, but it would be another device to carry around. Sticking happily to my Surface RT for now ..
  • One of my biggest takeaways from any such big conference is the networking with peers; off course BUILD did not disappoint. Last minute hotel reservation meant that I was stuck in a shady San Francisco neighborhood; but that did not matter much given most of the time was spent with some very smart folks. From hanging out with my homies at the Telerik booth to friends like Brian Lagunas, Micheal Collier, Brent Schooley, Iris Classon, Matt Hidinger, Jeff Blankenburg, James Bender, Phil Japikse, Steve Bohlen & others., it was good times indeed. The Xamarin & DeepFriedBytes parties were awesome – thank you!

Sessions & APIs:

Between spending time at the super busy Telerik booth and offline conversations, I tried attending as many BUILD sessions as I could. There were some great ones, and ones were speakers struggled with technicalities; but that is normal at any conference and specially when showing off Preview software. If you were not at BUILD or missed sessions, almost all of them are now online @

Not surprisingly, lot of sessions focused on new APIs in Windows 8.1 for Store Apps and Azure Mobile Services integration. Amongst the new APIs or features, ones that really piqued my interest were the new native HTTP Client with caching/filtering/OAuth support, Pre-fetch data support for Windows 8.1 apps, POS support with Barcode/magnetic strip credit card reader, people/contacts integration, 3D printing support, Mobile Service integration wizards etc. Here are some of my top sessions picks; highly recommend watching, if you need to catch up:

One of best parts of BUILD is the opportunity to hang out with engineers who actually build the APIs we developers use. I was in several closed door sessions with Windows 8 engineers talking through what’s working and what’s not. And getting to pick the brains of the likes of Tim Heuer, Damian Edwards, Shawn Oster etc. – priceless.

Windows 8.1:

Off course BUILD kicked off the Windows 8.1 Preview and the update was made available for immediate download. The actual polished update would come later in the year through the Windows Store and it looks rather promising. You can get the preview now @

Now, Windows 8.1 Preview is plenty solid and you do not risk your PC crashing all over the place. However, it is still very much a Preview and lacks polish, along with being jittery on several fronts. So, evaluate the risks before putting this on your dev machine. As far as I understand, if running Windows RT like on a Surface RT device, you cannot go back to Windows 8, but eventually can move forward once 8.1 becomes ready for GA. If running Windows 8 Pro, you are more likely to have to begin with a clean slate once Windows 8.1 gets ready to ship. So again, weigh your options as to where you want to install Windows 8.1; you pay a little price, but it’s worth it to have a taste of the new features and definitely as a developer if you need to consume the new APIs.

As for me, I put on Windows 8.1 Preview on my Surface RT the very first evening and not repenting it. But please make sure to create a recovery USB stick if you feel you might need to go back to how your Surface was with Windows 8 RT. Here’s the good & bad:

  • It’s the little things, but I love having the Desktop wallpaper as a background on my Start screen. Yes, the Start button is back on the desktop and it overlays the tiles on top of your desktop background, leading to a slightly less jarring difference between the desktop & touch world.
  • Win81_Screenshot4

  • If you had not noticed this yet, Windows 8.1 Preview ships with a preview version of Outlook 2013. Granted the Windows Mail app is being heavily redesigned, Outlook will serve your needs of having enterprise & other emails in one application in the desktop world; makes the Surface RT more friendly for work stuff.
  • Win81_Screenshot7

  • Now, you must have heard about the windowing support for the new Windows 8.1 apps. The fact that you can be on the Mail app and have several IE windows open up side by side as you tap on links is pretty cool, specially on high DPI/resolution monitors. The magic number is 500px for window width; the Windows engineers told me that they had labored a lot to come to this number.  So, this means that the old Windows 8 apps being in Full, Filled & Snapped modes is gone; instead apps can go from 500 px till as wide as needed and the developer gets to control the experience if desired. On lower resolution screens like that of the Surface RT, you will most likely see two/three windows side by side; but it is handy.
  • One after-effect of the window re-sizing is prioritization. Envision this: you have two apps running side by side in Windows 8 in a 80-20 split. The app having the wider screen real estate kinda has priority; so as you swipe from left and bring in another app, it slides into the 80% area. Now, with the new windowing support, there is no clear priority between windows and as a result, new apps trying to get to focus kind of hover on top of existing apps, waiting for the user to snap it in place. Kind of hit or miss in my opinion, but what else could they have done?
  • Win81_Screenshot6

  • One of the best noted Windows 8.1 features is the All-Apps list. Swipe up from the Start screen and voila, you have the list of All Apps. Newly installed apps do no longer clutter your start screen; instead they silently show up in this list. There is a handy sorting mechanism in All Apps list; set it to show the newly installed apps first and you will always know where to find apps in the order in which you installed.
  • Win81_Screenshot5

  • Other cool features of Windows 8.1 include the deferred Reading List available through the Share charm, Bing integration, hands-free mode inside apps, IE 11 with tabs at the bottom and baby/super large tile sizes. The last really contributes towards better organization of your Start screen as per your priorities.
  • Win81_Screenshot1

  • Now for the somewhat ugly after-effects. Windows 8.1 Preview has shipped with a really bad virtualization bug that affects XAML apps which use ListView/GridView etc; scrolling is really choppy and the whole screen stutters. You can see this in any Windows 8 XAML app that has not been upgraded yet, for example the Twitter app. I was told that the engineers have already fixed this and it should become available in the next iteration.
  • Here’s the other little awkward thing. Windows 8 apps used to support Snapped mode with 320px width; now suddenly the preferred width is 500px. So what happens in between? Yep, letter boxing. Until a Windows 8 app has been upgraded to 8.1, the gap between 320 & 500 px will simply be filled with black space. This almost looks as bad as iPhone apps running inside an iPad and I wish they would simply restrict Windows 8 snapped apps from stretching to 500 px. But it is what it is and hopefully major apps will all be upgraded to 8.1 before it hits GA.
  • Win81_Screenshot2

Overall, a great BUILD experience. Awesome times & good food with friends. Lots to learn & re-energize our brains for the next few months. Really looking forward to Windows 8.1 & starting to build Store apps right away. Cheers!

Joining Telerik …

It was the day before Christmas 2007. My then girlfriend & I packed up all belongings of my single life in a U-Haul and headed out for the long drive down from Minneapolis. Destination? – Columbus OH! After making the airlines plenty rich by flying between the cities, it was time for me to relocate to Ohio.

And so began a new chapter in the very happening Columbus. I joined Sogeti USA as a Consultant in January 2008 and embarked on a 5+ year journey. I must have been a complete tech newbie at the time; so I soaked it all in, delivering work on Microsoft technology stack to various clients around town. We got married & settled down, and my career grew inside Sogeti. The expectation of consultants to always be on top of the technology curve is a major enticement to stay cutting edge; learn like there is no tomorrow. And the experience one earns by architecting software solutions for clients across variety of industries and with varying levels of IT maturity – is priceless, in the life of a software craftsman.

My biggest gain in Columbus however, was the developer community involvement. Starting out with User Group participations, I soon found a group of like-minded developers to fall back on for networking & continuous learning. Along came the passion for speaking and the travelling to regional software developer conferences; the depth and breadth of knowledge to be gained from fellow developers from varied backgrounds is extraordinary. Even now, as we run User Groups or organize big conferences with relative ease, the committment of the developer community in Columbus amazes me. This is the reason why, even after moving out to PA last year for wife’s job, I am still involved with the developer community in OH and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

The two last years in Sogeti have been super interesting. We created a national group focused on MSFT Mobility, in particular app development for Windows Phone & Windows 8 platforms. I had the pleasure of leading the group, and in the process, got to work with some of the sharpest developers/designers I have known; together we churned out many internal/LOB/B2C apps with a whole lot more in the works this year. And while I am reminiscing, let me be open to mention my present client – Safelite Autoglass. This is possibly the best MSFT-tech based shop I have worked at, with a superb understanding manager and a genuinely awesome team of developers. I have learnt much and had a whole lot fun. Relaxed environment with cutting-edge work – isn’t that what we all seek?

But as they say, change is what is continuous. My alternate weeks of travel from PA is taking a toll and I lose precious time on the road every week. And as fun as it is to be in consulting, the desire for solutions work often means piling on more on our already-full work plates. I have often desired to work for a pure software products company to have a taste of what it is like on the other side, and some developments recently may have clicked to provide that opportunity. Sadly, that means it is the end of the road for me in Sogeti after 5+ years. There is no love lost and I step out with cautiousness. I wish my talented colleagues at Sogeti all the very best, specially in the mobility front. If our hectic transitioning is any indication, excellent leadership will ensure our continued success.

Now, that brings us to the next chapter in my life. I am very very excited to join the Telerik team next week. My long term adoration of Telerik as a company, its excellent control suites and unwavering support for the developer community provided the zeal when an opportunity opened up in the Hudson OH based Services division. Several interviews and a day spent with the energetic Telerik team made me firmly believe that this was a great fit. Thankfully, folks at the helm agreed – the simply excellent Steve Smith & Michelle Smith. My immediate partner in crime – the distinguished Chris Woodruff. Actually I owe a huge thank you to Woody for making the connections, starting way back in Codemash this year. Networking and putting in your dues in our software community truly pays dividends.

My immediate goals – focus on enterprise/developer training & evangelism for the Devtools division; but in time, I am sure we will end up touching just about everything in the Telerik stack. My passion for the XAML stack should come handy with Telerik’s generous offerings in the DevCraft space; but I am eager to dip my feet into other technology areas like cross-platform mobile, CMS, productivity & testing. My developer community involvement gets added boost; just might be more easy to spot in bright green Telerik shirts at conferences. In short, I am super excited to start working in a position that demands passion for latest technology and join the impressive Telerik team studded with rockstars. Using or considering Telerik products and have questions? – let’s bring it on.

Cheers everyone!

Tips for Passing Microsoft Certification Exam 70-484: Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps

So, you develop Windows 8 Store Apps? Awesome – you are already a step ahead of other developers on Microsoft stack and dabbling into the latest in development paradigms. If you’re on the XAML/C# stack, you’re already dealing with latest language advancements in C# 5.0, framework features in .NET 4.5, asynchronous programming, security, application life-cycle & data management. May be you are even using or considering leveraging cloud infrastructure for your App’s backend. To top it all, you have mastery over the Modern UI design principles to make your App feel at home in Windows 8.

All the above skills needed to be a successful Windows 8 App developer necessitate a broad knowledge base, along with grasp of architectural patterns to keep your codebase clean. Now, if you are already doing all of that, kudos to you! Apart from having your Apps shine in the Windows 8 Store or impressive LOB Apps for Enterprises, there is another way to “let them know that you know” – yup, Certifications. Additionally certification tests validate your knowledge & give you confidence in your abilities on a development platform.

For Windows Store App developers, an MCSD certification takes two routes – HTML/CSS/Jscript or C#/XAML. For those of us inclined towards C#, the MCSD path includes the C# Fundamentals test in 70-483 and then two tests focused on developing Windows Store Apps. Exam 70-484 [Essentials of Developing Windows Store Apps Using C#] is the one of them and is the first obstacle towards establishing your certification klout for Windows 8 App development. I recently cleared this test & can share a few tips for my fellow developers. So, here goes my top 21 list:

Read the whole article on the SilverlightShow site HERE.

Thanks for reading & Best of luck!

It pays to do community ..

I am incredibly honored to be the recipient of the INETA Community Champion Award – the annual recognition for those who contribute notably to the Microsoft developer community. While the recognition from INETA is definitely rewarding, I have actually gotten much more back from our wonderful community compared to what I have given and have to share this recognition with my cohorts. It takes effort, persistence & contributions from a lot of folks to build a truly rewarding developer community that benefits everyone involved. This will be a quick post thanking several people that I truly respect & enjoy working with, along with thoughts on running a technical User Group.

First, INETA is the mothership for most Microsoft/.NET based developer communities that we have worldwide. If you are a community member or leader, make sure you know all about INETA and the resources available to you. The INETA Community Champion program is wonderful way of recognizing those who stand out in their contributions .. find out more details @ If you are a community lead, make sure to record your contributions with INETA. See someone doing a lot for your local developer community? Nominate them for the INETA Community Champion Award or ping me & I’ll be happy to. Like they say – you already do a lot, why not get recognized for it? Here’s a quick view of the wonderful certificate INETA sends your way!









Check out the 2012 Q3 INETA Community Award Winners page HERE – a stellar group of folks indeed. Not sure how worthy I am to be on the list, but thanks anyways INETA :). What’s important to note is that community leaders have a support system to fall back on which helps build developer communities. Communities cannot operate in a silo; it has to be a consolidated effort from folks without vested interests. And technical communities need to be fun & engaging for volunteers to happily contribute. Every community has its story .. here’s a short version of ours!

June 2011. Windows Phone has been out for a little over 6 months. In Central Ohio, just like in many other cities, we have the .NET User Group as CONDG – Central Ohio .NET Developers Group and few other User Groups focused on Microsoft technology stack. While these groups were great & had regular meetups, we also had a bunch of passionate Windows Phone developers in town. We used to talk at other meetups on how we could use a dedicated forum just to focus on the mobile technologies; Mobile is a different beast after all. After a lot of planning, cross-checking on resources & advice from other community leaders, we started the Central Ohio Windows Phone User Group. A small group of passionate developers to begin with, we soon found out that we could easily talk about the Windows Phone ecosystem once a month, if not more often – the dedicated forum was absolutely worth it. And the shiny gadgets that we brought along did not hurt. In fact, my most enjoyable times at our UG Meetups was often the hangouts after the technical talks – the sharing of what’s new on our phones, the next big App idea, the banter! Even though we were a little late getting back to our spouses, the geek talk was pure fun.

Then, Windows 8 came along. What we were so passionate about in Windows Phone – the Modern UI design, the fast & fluid UX – that was all suddenly mainstream & bigger than ever. We quickly adapted and finally regrouped as The Windows Developer User Group. We now embrace a wider technology stack, starting from XAML with C#/VB.NET, C++, HTML/CSS/JScript & game development in XNA/DirectX. The wider reach paid dividends and our little User Group grew to 70+ members. We have a long way to go, but we’re excited to see the passion in the new Microsoft ecosystem grow – that was the primary reason why we wanted the forum. Our meetups offer terrific speakers sharing their technical knowledge, as well as serving as a networking tool to increase awareness & learn from each other. We have our group of regular patrons & the trickle of new faces every month. This is what technical community should be – for developers & by developers.

Now, a little something about our locals. Here in Columbus OH, we have an absolutely rocking developer community – developers from all platforms who just need a forum to come share war stories & learn from each other. We are able to pull off conferences/events sheerly due to the passion that the developer community has towards improving our craft – this is truly amazing, and I hope folks in this town realize how wonderful it is to be ensconced amidst so much talent. On the Microsoft stack, we have involvement from the northern Heartland DPE folks – Jeff Blankenburg, Brian Prince, Jennifer Marsman, Clark Sell, Dave Bost & David Isbitski – I don’t think I need to tell you how superbly awesome every one of them is. Jeff deserves a special thanks for helping our UG get off the ground & providing support throughout. Doug Mair and Chris Ellis are truly the pillars of our User Group now – they have stepped up selflessly and make sure that our group has a long life ahead. Doug & Chris – Thank you for what you do; this recognition is as much yours as mine. Michael Collier, who runs our sister User Group – Central Ohio Cloud Computing User Group, deserves a big thanks for helping us spread the word. Cheers to patrons like Craig Blazakis & Rylin Slotterbeck. Also, our UG quickly found a solid support system in our awesome sponsors, who make sure we are never short on logistic supplies & raffle prizes – thank you for your involvement. And lastly, I circle back to our wonderful UG Members who come to our meetups with so much energy to share & learn – it makes for a truly delightful community.

Still with me? Because now comes the good part :). We, at the Windows Developer User Group, have had a good run in growing our little group with the help of passionate individuals. In no way can we claim success, but only a little pride in what we love doing. Running a technical User Group and slowly building up a community is not for the faint-hearted; here are some personal tips that I have seen working. Most community leaders will tell you the same things and it is common sense. But here goes:

  • Again, running a User Group is not easy – there are a thousand things to take care of. So, be in it for the long run & without a vested goal in mind.
  • The focus of the User Group needs to something that you are truly passionate about. Otherwise, volunteering is just not fun and you will see interest fall off the peak.
  • Too much of anything might cause fatigue – applies for developer interest. If you already have local User Groups with similar focus, do not create another UG just to target a very small technological area. Try to invest your time & energy towards growing into a leadership role within your existing developer community.
  • Be wary of time and always be conscious of the fact that folks are coming to User Group meetups sacrificing family/personal time. What value are you providing in return of their precious time? Stick to announced meeting times.
  • A user group is a community offering; it can never be about one or two people. Even though you may have started a group yourself, give up control – it shows leadership & contributes to the life of the user group. Create leadership teams within the user group, so that the group can function fine even if one/two of the owners move out. Delegate work, since it provides volunteers with a sense of ownership & stake in the success of a user group meeting. If your group becomes big enough, consider democratizing the board through elections.
  • There is no easy pill towards spreading the word – try everything. Social & web presence is big, but so is reminding folks at other UG meetups about your group’s existence & upcoming meetings.
  • Seeing the same faces every month isn’t a bad thing – it starts with a small group of passionate developers. Ask every one to try to bring a friend each month. Keep spreading the word through networks.
  • Get some really good speakers, as their klout draws attendance. Tap into INETA’s Speaker Program if your group is Microsoft focused. Encourage locals to come share knowledge.
  • Pizza is the glue :). Food is optional, but matters when done right. At the end of a long day’s work, wouldn’t you want some refreshments before gearing up for some learning? Food helps in networking as well. Celebrate milestones & seasonal events if your budget permits.
  • Get sponsors – lots of them. Knock on doors & remember to not feel bad – you’re not doing this for yourself & people will see your big heart.
  • Giveaways is again optional, but a big draw if you have junior developers & University students in attendance. The Microsoft stack has plenty of vendors, partners & publishers to make sure your group is well-stocked with raffle prizes. Pace yourself with the prizes so that you don’t ask your sponsors too often.
  • Give your group some identity & members some sense of belonging. A strong logo, focused social presence & the occasional custom-printed UG shirt does not hurt.
  • Plan on few hackathon-type events throughout the year, if your group is development focused. We developers love to get hands-on.
  • Give up your ego and truly listen to members about what’s working & what’s not. Seek feedback from other community leaders.
  • Network & build bridges.
  • Listen, host, embrace & enjoy. Repeat.

That’s all from me. Thank you once again INETA for your support infrastructure & the recognition.  Cheers to our User Group & the awesome folks who make it worth it!


2012 M3 Conference – A retrospective!

January 2012. M3 Conference has had it’s inaugural run in Nov of 2011. After a few months break from the planning madness, the M3 crew was back at it. The goal was to make M3Conf truly a hallmark mobile conference in the midwest & increase the value proposition for attendees. Oct 25-26 of 2012, and we’ve just wrapped up the second year of the conference. Only attendee feedback will say how successful we were, but at least, there were no major hiccups.

Here are some things that stood out for me from this year’s M3 Conference:

  • We started the year re-evaluating the core promise of M3 Conference – an all-out mobile conference, catering the midwest with some of the best brains in the industry. Focus on not just one, but all aspects & all major platforms of the mobile ecosystem. Thankfully, we were still golden; an unique offering for a town full of passionate developers.
  • However, there was plenty of feedback to improve upon – the need for more hands-on experience, the big no-no of lunch boxes etc. So, months of planning ensued.
  • Quick tip for fellow conference organizers: If budget permits, get a solid event organizer on the team. Since we’re forgetful geeks, the event organizer role does immediately take a lot of pressure off our shoulders. Smaller details and on-the-day logistics can be nicely delegated to. Thanks Cindy Groeniger for all the help!
  • We had really pushed COSI to it’s capacity last year; so a short venue search followed. There really aren’t a whole lot of choices for such event hosting in Columbus and the Ohio Union was a natural fit. Boy, it did not disappoint on M3 day. I would admiringly take photos of the Archie Griffin ballroom chandeliers & wooden flooring; glad that most attendees I talked to said the venue worked out perfect.
  • We talked at length about extending the conference to 2 days to provide for an intimate learning experience through workshops. There were, off course, challenges like finding the right tracks for the workshops, folks to run it, finances and so on; but in the end, it was a go. Feedback & high interest in learning mobile development hands-on was hard to ignore; we took the plunge and experts in our awesome developer community stepped forward to help.
  • Unless a conference makes a huge name for itself & is guaranteed a sell-out, there is always the guessing game of attendee count. Despite a sold out M3 Conference in 2011, we’re not sure of hitting the projected headcount and spent several nervous weeks wondering about our bottomline and commitments. IT, business & local media blood streams help a lot, as do alumni of the conference .. we finally proudly sold out our Day 1 workshop day & reached near full Day 2 headcount targets.
  • One of the things we were most proud of was the kind of speaker talent we attracted this year. The speaker line-up was simply stellar –
  • I have always had much to learn from & proud of my primary partners in crime – Tim Hibner & Phil Wilson. Tim’s superb organizational skills holds the conference planning together. And I’m convinced that Phil and his folks @ Fine Citizens have a magic wand to make just about anything look good.
  • An event of the size of M3 Conference now takes a lot of orchestration to pull off. And we would not get much going without the help of our awesome volunteers. True champions of selfless help, hats off to my dear friends for your volunteering spirit – Travis Smith, Matthew Noggle, Matthew Middendorf, Bob Reid, Troy GIbson, Brenda Hibner, Chris Judd, Carl Brack & others. Honest thank you from the bottom of my heart.
  • While we got praise for serving steak @ lunch, the parking scenario left a bad taste. Essentially, there were big misunderstandings between the parking ramp operator & the Ohio Union; rest assured, we’re consolidating records and reimbursements.
  • Clash of the Titans – this was an curious experiment and ended up being one the high-points for me during M3 Conference. I was to be the anchor for a panel discussion involving 3 rockstars in the mobile space: Jeff Blankenburg for Windows Phone, Ben Von Handorf for Android & Leon Gersing for iOS. With greek mythical references & audience tweet-up questions, we tried our best to harass our esteemed panelists, without success. It ended up being a energetic discussion about mobile strategies from MSFT/Apple/Google and developer polyglotism. Thanks guys!
  • Surface giveaways – Now, we had built the tradition of M3Conf raffle prizes to be the latest & greatest. With Windows 8 launch on the same day, and the MSFT Surface selling like hot cakes, what better way to top off our raffle prizes with 2 of the shiny tablets.

In all, M3 Conference was a great experience for us, the second consecutive year. Just like last year, we’ll send out a little survey trying to gauge what attendees/speakers felt about it. Please give us honest feedback so we could improve upon it.


Control.Location (ToLake) => Shift (Priorities)

[This is purely a personal post .. not to be held accountable for 5 mins of your lost time if you continue reading :)]

Mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve 2011: We are headed to NYC to enjoy some time off. My wife’s on the phone, even though we’re driving through the WV mountains with spotty connectivity. On the call is the Dean of a Graduate School, negotiating the details of an impending job offer. Wife hangs up with a big smile, having bagged exactly the terms she was hoping for. She was just finishing up her long-winded road to a PhD in Psychology @ The Ohio State University. Surely bagging just about every Teaching award at OSU had to count for something. Yes, a coveted Assistant Professor position @ The Allegheny College was now guaranteed. I am a very proud hubby indeed ..

So, it was apparent that 2012 would bring on a family move. After considerations of commute time & city amenities, we decided on Erie, PA. Yep, right by the lake. Let’s break down a little what this means, with few photos to end …

  • It’s a step closer to nature & a quieter life. Hard to get deers in your backyard and a bustling mall 3 minutes from home.
  • We have gotten ourselves a small condo amidst lush settings.
  • The gorgeous beaches & outdoor life offered by Presque Isle State Park are a stones throw away.
  • The other day, we decided to go for a little drive after lunch. 1.5 hours later, we’re on the Maid of the Mist @ Niagara Falls!
  • Now, to be fair, we might get the brunt of lake-effect snow; but we’ll take it in our stride!
  • More precious family time …

Now, what happens to my work & community involvement? No, I’m not giving up coding to open a restaurant just yet! I’ll continue to work for Sogeti, since my client has graciously agreed to some remote work. So, I’m in the process of building my ultimate home office where no sunlight shall enter; yet bytes shall sustain through 360 degrees of LCD! With some work from home time, I would have more energy & opportunity to devote myself to driving our MSFT Mobility efforts, which takes no trivial time. So, hopefully a lot more fun times coming up in Windows Phone & Windows 8 development with my rather talented colleagues! And more blogging, writing or arguing on Twitter :).

Now, as for Columbus OH, I guess I love our local developer community & being around some of the sharpest folks. So, I will be driving down twice a month for the weekdays .. yep, Extended Stay it is. No cleaning – get that? Most months, it will possibly be the odd weeks, so that we can keep organizing The Windows Developer User Group meetups/hackathons and the mad dash to end for M3Conference. So, if you are hacking stuff or playing games or need a hand moving? – Give me a holler when I’m lonely here in Columbus!


Sleepless in Seattle …

Delta Force Rangers – Just like in combat, this is an elite group in the software industry when it comes to the Microsoft technology stack. It is the group of some of MSFT’s closest & best partner companies, believed to be the most influential in advising/delivering on MSFT technologies to our customers. Sogeti USA is a part of that elite group and we were invited to a Delta Force Rangers special event on Windows 8 @ the MSFT Redmond campus. And I was fortunate to be able to attend! Here’s the little story of four days of awesomeness ..

  • Got no qualms in accepting that this was the first time I got invited to Seattle/MSFT campus purely for work. So, I was really looking forward to soaking it all up, and it turned out to be an enlightening experience. Best part was catching up with folks that I talk to often, but have not met in person. The Hyatt House, MSFT campus & specially the cafeterias did not disappoint. Hopefully, more folks from our Mobility practice get to attend these Ranger events in future.
  • Day 1 & Day 2 were all sessions on Windows 8. It was great to hear from candid experts on a variety of development areas, hardware & what Windows 8 meant for enterprises/mobility. A lot of the sessions were under strict NDA for obvious reasons .. so my lips are sealed :). All I can say is you may want to really watch for news around Oct 26 – the Windows 8 GA date!
  • An evening reception on second night may have seemed bland compared to the Seattle Mariner’s game on first night. But boy, we were in for a little surprise after dinner – yep, Samsung Series 7 slates for all !! Complete with dock & bluetooth keyboard/mouse.
  • To sweeten the deal, our Global MSFT Business Development Lead, Darren Baker, personally dropped off a kickstand case for my slate .. how cool is that. Using the slate as a daily device now for Windows 8 development & showing the UX to clients.
  • Now, surely there would something wanted in return, right? Yes, MSFT wanted us Rangers to code a little, all in the fun to gain some experience. So, we were paired up based on our skills – 10 teams of 4 members each. And one day to dream & code up a working Windows 8 application, complete with all sorts of OS integrations & leveraging Cloud services. Go!
  • Guess I lucked out to be in an awesome team – Scott Newsome [Planet Tech], Hardeep Meen [CDW] & the awesome developer in Adam Grocholski [RBA]. We set our sights on a FDA product recall app, complete with Live Connect personalization, social integration & Azure services feeding Push Notifications. Between Thursday 8AM and the Friday 8AM deadline, our team slept for 1 hour only !! Hardcore effort to prove ourselves ..
  • Now, in all fairness, there was a little incentive for us as well. So, Friday had all the teams show off their Windows 8 apps. And while others were impressive, our team won .. woot! What’s the prize – the MSFT Surface tablets gets shipped to all members of the winning team the day it is publicly available. Heck yeah! 🙂
  • Oh, and not to be forgotten, we all got our customized traditional Delta Ranger Tilley hats – arguably the best hats in the world. And no Redmond trip is complete without a visit to the MSFT Company Store, where money simply knows to walk out of a geek’s wallet.

In all, a truly wonderful week of learning, networking & coding with peers. Windows 8 is going to big – the whole PC landscape is changing. Let’s gear up!


CodeMash V2.0.1.2

1200 tickets sold in under 20 minutes! That’s the kind of excitement & passion the CodeMash conference generates during the 3 days of geekdom every January. Where else would you be in shorts in the middle of a blizzard in frigid northern Ohio! Where else would you find so many stars under one roof! This year was simply bigger & better at the newly-expanded Kalahari resort in Sandusky OH. CodeMash 2012 was an enormous success, thanks to the untiring work of a small group of volunteers .. kudos geeks & geekettes.

While there were the usual stellar sessions & world-changing conversations, here are some of my personal high points:

  • For folks heading up to CodeMash from Columbus OH, there just isn’t an easy way to get to Sandusky without stepping off the highways onto small country/rural roads. The last couple of trips have always been in the middle of snowstorms, making the drive tricky. This year, we had a little respite with unusually warm weather & no snow. So, the drive up wasn’t bad; the drive back — not so much, with a few inches of snow! Guess it’s part of the Codemash culture!
  • The renovated Kalahari looked quite nice, with the expanded Convention Center easily offering more room for close to 1400 folks to stretch legs.
  • I know we are supposed to create & give back, rather than consume. However, I wasn’t speaking .. so why not throw repentance away for a few days, eat/drink & take it all in. Have some fun!
  • First evening: Sat in a corner bar with the two flamboyant Azure MVPs Michael Collier (@MichaelCollier) & Brent Stineman (@brentcodemonkey), and we just chatted for hours over unending beer. Good times!
  • I was staying at an offsite hotel (yeah, don’t ask) and really liked the Shuttle setup, so we didn’t have to drive & dash across the cold parking lot. Thanks organizers.
  • Bacon — plenty of it everywhere, breakfast or other times.
  • I thought Ted Neward’s (@tedneward) keynote was entertaining. Yes, some folks didn’t like the profanity; but c’mon, we’re adults & sometimes you know what you getting into. It was interesting.
  • Really enjoyed the fact that so many Microsofties made the trip across to attend CodeMash. Pretty darn AWESOME to meet & talk to Scott Hanselmann (@shanselman) .. what a smooth operator. The other time, almost bumped into a skinny guy .. ahem, Jon Skeet (@jonskeet).
  • Always nice to meet fellow Windows Phone developers & share war stories. And there was plenty of WPDev love .. sign of times changing. Also, you may have noticed using mobility with Azure makes me a happy camper .. so specially nice to meet THE Wade Wegner (@wadewegner).
  • The Breakfast, Lunch & Dinners served were quite nice .. thanks to Kalahari’s catering. They mostly managed to keep up with hundreds of hungry geeks. And the dessert bar on Day 1 — awesome! It’s ok steak-loving gents; ok to like some sugar once in a while.
  • The WiFi — yes it worked, unbelievable.
  • The Pecha Kucha — had my reservations at first, but it turned out great. Between Scott Hanselman’s coordination & sheer brilliance from Leon Gersing (@rubybuddha) and Mel Grubb (@melgrubb), it was quite entertaining. Reminded us of humility, passion, fun & enthusiasm that keeps us on the path of software craftsmanship.
  • Lock-picking training from Gabrielle Sempf (@gabriellesempf). Yeah, she showed us how we live in our little bubble of safety called locks in our homes.
  • Hanging out with fellow Sogetians, especially Nihar Shah (@niharshah), Susan Yount (@susaninfj) & Mike Yotive (@myotive), who somehow know how to make me laugh.
  • Seeing the usual rockstars — David Giard, Bill Sempf, Sarah Dutkiewicz, Chris Woodruff, Keith Elder, Jeff Blankenburg, Clark Sell, Mike Lutton, Rich Dudley, Brian Prince etc. Always lots to learn from them, as well as scores of friends that I got to catch up with.
  • Favorite session: SignalR talk by Brady Gaster (@bradygaster).
  • Drinks & plenty of it .. let’s not go there ok?

Now, my one little contribution to this year’s CodeMash was a small article in the conference magazine, called the Mashed Code Magazine (@mashedcodemag). Cheers to Nick Watts (@thewonggei) and the editorial team for pulling off a polished magazine for 2012. I wrote a rather fanboyish Windows Phone Mango article for your reading pleasure .. you owe it to yourself to try a Windows Phone, if you haven’t already :). Link below .. download as pdf or in eBook format & enjoy!

In all, another GREAT CodeMash. Cheers to all & we shall meet again next year!