Windows Phone Coffee and Code

Logo: Windows Phone Coffee and CodeAs I write this, my Toronto Windows Phone “Coffee and Code” event is drawing to a close. Held at the big communal table in the back corner of the Starbucks at Toronto’s busy Yonge/King intersection, I announced it a mere two days prior, first on Twitter, and then on the Canadian Developer Connection and Global Nerdy blogs, so I was prepared for only a handful of people to show up. I was pleased by the outcome: in the end, we got about three dozen people to show, with twenty people crowding around our table at peak, and not counting the half-dozen people who wandered over saying “Did I hear you had a new Windows Phone?”

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What is Coffee and Code?

As a mobile worker, I’m not tied down to an office. As a product of late 1980s/early 1990s computer labs, I’m actually quite comfortable working in a noisy, busy environment like a café, and in the late ‘90s, when I ran my own consulting shop, I cranked out VB applications for a mid-sized company in Chicago out of a hip little café on Toronto’s Queen Street West. During that time, I met a number of interesting people, including folks from the local tech scene, which I enjoyed. So when I landed the job with Microsoft and returned to the mobile life, I thought, why not bring a little of that back?

So I started a little event I called “Coffee and Code” back in early 2009. The idea was simple: work out of a café, announce that I’ll be there and will be happy to take visitors, see who shows up. It worked out pretty well, and I hold them whenever my schedule allows. The attendance usually ranges from 6 to two dozen or so, and we talk about all sorts of things, from programming (.NET, open source and everything in between), the local tech scene, the industry in general and just about every other topic – the conversations aren’t always technical. It’s a great way for people to meet up with me, and a great way for me to know what’s on developers’ minds.

The idea has spread beyond Toronto; my coworkers and I have held Coffee and Code events in cities across Canada, Denny Cherry has held a couple in southern California and Cory Fowler holds them regularly in Guelph.

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Who Was There?

Luckily, I didn’t run this alone. I was backed up by a couple of great people:

  • Developer Mark Arteaga, a Microsoft MVP who’s forgotten more about mobile development with Microsoft tech than I will ever learn. You should catch his Windows Phone 7 sessions at TechDays.
  • Mobile telco expert Anthony Bartolo, who works with me a Microsoft as the phone infrastruicture expert guy with over a decade’s worth of experience in the mobile industry. He’ll also be speaking at TechDays about Windows Phone Marketplace.

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Among the people in attendance were:

  • Mobile tech bloggers: The guys from Mobile Syrup and The Cellular Guru, there to see a real-life Windows Phone 7 phone. As Anthony noted, they were impressed with the smoothness of the phone (yet more people saying that they love its touch responsiveness) and loved the features. Not bad for a beta OS running on prototype devices!
  • Kate Gregory: She’s one of Canada’s Microsoft Regional Directors, a select group of developers and architects who volunteer their time to share information about Microsoft tools and tech with their communities and give us feedback. She’s my C++ go-to person; I’m glad I have one! In addition to talking about Windows Phone, she told me some very enlightening stories about the industry and where C++ gets used as well as some hilarious tales from tech conferences. She’s creating the content for the TechDays session on the Windows API Code Pack and delivering that session at TechDays Toronto.
  • Developers, developers, developers! Guys from the Ryerson Digital Media zone (including Alexey Adamsky and Alex Yakobovich, who are working on a great 3-D version of Sudoku), local development shops, indie coders, SharePoint guys looking to build business apps, iPhone and Android developers wondering what Windows Phone 7 was like…and they all seemed pretty impressed. They chatted, ate, did some test deployments onto actual hardware and even did some coding. (By the way, if I didn’t mention your company or name and you want it mentioned here, let me know and I’ll update this article!)

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How About Cross-Country Coffee and Codes?

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In response to my quick announcements about this Coffee and Code, I got a number of questions via email, Twitter and Facebook asking me if I’m holding Coffee and Codes elsewhere in Canada (particularly from people in Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa). The answer is, I’d love to, and I’m working on ways to make that happen.

Firstly, I’m taking advantage of the fact that I’m already flying across the country to help run TechDays. I’ll be in six of the eight cities:

  • Vancouver
  • Edmonton
  • Toronto
  • Halifax
  • Ottawa
  • Montreal

…and I plan to be in those cities not just for TechDays, but a couple of days before and after the event as well. I’ll hold Coffee and Codes in those cities when I’m there, with a chance for you to see Windows Phone 7 devices up close and personal, try deploying an app to them, and ask questions.

Secondly, I’d like to see if Windows Phone Coffee and Code events can take place all over Canada, whether or not I’m there. I know it’s possible; Cory Fowler has held way more Coffee and Codes than I have in Guelph, and I’m sure that more of you would be interested in holding get-togethers would like to hold similar events in your area. If we made some kind of Coffee and Code “starter kit” to help you start a Coffee and Code in your town, would you do it? Let me know – email me if you’d be up for it!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.