Demo Night in Canada

01 demo night in canada

The TechDays conferences that we’ve been holding across Canada span two days and have no evening events. This means that the venues are “lying fallow”, with plenty of A/V, presentation and demo equipment doing nothing on the evening of the first day. That seemed like a waste.

“Why not,” we thought, “open up our venues to community events on the evenings of Day 1?”

We were able to do this in four out of the seven TechDays cities this year:

We put together each event with local people in order to make sure that each one had its own “local flavour” and fit the needs of the local audience. For Ottawa, we decided to approach two very different groups: the Ottawa IT Community, which comprises a number of .NET user groups, and Startup Ottawa, who are the Ottawa analogue of DemoCamp Toronto.

The event had two hosts: Glenn Schmelzle, from Startup Ottawa:

02 glenn schmelzle

and Colin Melia, representing Ottawa IT Community:

03 colin melia

The first presentation of the evening was This is My Language by Charles Wiebe and John Hansen, who showed us their programming language, Jetfire, which is built on top of the .NET Dynamic Language Runtime:

04 jetfire

Next up were Scott Lake:

05 scott lake

…and Craig Fitzpatrick:

06 swix

…who presented Swix, their social media marketing metrics system. It looks both useful and beautiful (its UI shows the sort of rich interfaces you can build with jQuery), and Christian Beauclair and I both agreed that we could make us of it in our developer evangelism work.

09 swix

After the Swix presentation came Islam Gomaa, who took us into the land of enterprise IT by talking about implementing ISO 27001 security:

10 islam

The event went smoothly thanks to Christian, who once again provided invaluable assistance by helping the presenters get their machines hooked up to our A/V setup quickly:

11 techdrifters

Scott Annan talked about Techdrifters, a system for road warriors, cafe coders and people who work in coworking spaces to find an interact with each other. I must admit that it’s a topic close to my heart:

13 techdrifters

Jean-Rene Roy did the final presentation, a look at Microsoft’s Sync Framework – nope, not the car audio system, but the file synchronization system that bears the same name:

14 jean-rene

With the presentations wrapped up, we made our way to the Clock Tower brew pub on Clarence Street, where we enjoyed good conversation and a few drinks, including a round bought on my corporate card.

I’d like to thank Colin Melia, Scott Lake and Glenn Schmelzle for providing all the local help in getting Demo Night in Canada together, the presenters and the attendees who made it out to the event, in spite of all the snow. Let’s do this again soon!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Scenes from TechDays Ottawa

Annoyances Beyond Our Control

No matter how much planning you put into a conference, there will always be things that you just have to roll with. For starters, when you’ve got an event in December in Canada, there’s always a chance that the first major snowstorm of the year will happen on the very same day.

Here’s what the parking lot of the Hampton Inn Conference Centre looked like at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Day 1 of TechDays Ottawa:

01 snowy parking lot

Here’s a look at Coventry Road, on which the Conference Centre is located. Even at 7:00 a.m., it’s already pretty busy, thanks to the combination of snow and “In too early, out too early” working style of government towns. The building in the background is the RCMP headquarters:

02 snow traffic

In addition to the snowstorm, there was another little problem that fell outside of our contingency planning. I’ll let the video below explain:

Someone in the crew of workers in the garage accidentally knocked out a sprinkler valve, setting off the fire alarms. The staff did the right thing by leading an orderly evacuation of the centre…and into the snowstorm. Luckily, we found out that there was no fire very quickly and the evacuees didn’t have to stand outside for longer than a couple of minutes.

With the annoyances out of the way, it was time for Day 1 to start in earnest.

Day 1

The first speaker in the track for which I am lead, Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform, was Colin Melia, who did the What’s New in Silverlight 3 session:

03 colin melia

He spoke to a packed room and an attentive crowd:

05 audience

With the first sessions safely under way, Damir and I made a quick run to get some cables, a replacement keyboard and some much-needed Starbucks. I decided to shoot some video during our run:

Next up was Peter Henry, whose session was Expression Blend for Developers:

06 peter henry

The lunch session featured Rick Claus (in the hat, on the right) acting as referee between Pierre Roman (representing IT pros in the Montreal Canadiens jersey) and Christian Beauclair (representing developers in the Ottawa Senators jersey) having a showdown to see who can do the better Windows 7 demos. Christian, as the representative of developers, won handily:

08 pierre christian rick

According to the feedback forms, the lunchtime demo showdown was a popular event:

09 lunchroom

The afternoon sessions featured Daniel Crenna (shown in the photo below) on Building Composite Applications with WPF and Silverlight, followed by Colin Melia talking about Optimizing Your Applications for the Windows 7 User Experience:

10 daniel crenna

The day closed with a set of bonus sessions. Rodney Buike and I did one on IIS/PHP interoperability. Rodney’s been promising revenge on me since I farted during our session in Calgary, nearly messing up his concentration and forcing him to stifle his laughter.

I’m still getting static about that incident. I swear, you “cut the cheese” once on stage, and you’re branded for life…

Day 2

I’m pleased to see that ASP.NET MVC has turned out to be a very popular topic at this conference. The demand for the MVC sessions is such that we’ve been switching to a larger room for them:

12 audience

The first session, Introducing ASP.NET MVC, was given by Maxime Rouiller, who once again wowed everyone with his snazzy Alienware laptop (which I featured in an earlier blog entry):

11 maxime rouiller

Daniel Crenna’s session covered the SOLID principles as applied to ASP.NET MVC:

13 daniel crenna

“Dependency injection”: you’d better get used to that phrase:

14 daniel crenna

Here are Christian and Rick, preparing to do some announcements over lunch:

15 christian rick

I really enjoyed Mario Cardinal’s rendition of the Building RESTful Applications with WCF:

16 mario cardinal

My original plan was to just catch the first ten minutes of his presentation, but I got drawn into it. Just another ten minutes, I thought to myself, and in that ten minutes, he and I did a little back-and-forth about open source and Microsoft approaches to protocols, after which I thought Okay, maybe another ten minutes. Christian, with whom I was supposed to catch up and take care of some stuff, ended up phoning me to remind me that I couldn’t stay for all of Mario’s session.

17 mario cardinal

The final session was Francis Beaudet’s, which was on Developing and Consuming Services for SharePoint. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good shots from that session.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Setting Up TechDays Ottawa

Ottawa was the sixth of the seven cities in the TechDays cross-Canada tour. We’ve settled into a pretty good groove and the setup process for the conference has become second nature; I’m sure that we can all do it in our sleep now.

The Hampton Inn Conference Centre is a pretty nice venue, with lots of balconies for overhead shots like this one:

01 overhead

Here’s one of the larger rooms, which met with Christian Beauclair’s approval:

02 118A

This is one of the smaller lecture halls, featuring a more classroom-like setting, as seen from the lectern. You can see:

  • The presentation machine, a laptop with a large screen on which the PowerPoint presentations are run. The large screen makes it easy to read any speaker notes.
  • The “confidence monitor”, which shows the speaker what’s being displayed on the big screen. That way, you know what the audience sees without having to break eye contact with them.
  • The countdown timer, which displays the time remaining for the presentation, along with three lights: “Go on”, “Wrap up” and “Enough already”.

03 110

Here’s the dining hall, where breakfast and lunch are served. In the far corner, you can see the Windows 7 lounge:

04 dining hall

Here are IT Pro Evangelists Rick Claus and Rodney Buike, along with speaker Steve Syfuhs, getting ready to set up the internet access stations:

05 rick steve rodney

…and here are the fruits of their labour. It’s our dream to be able to provide wifi access to attendees, but with conference venues typically asking for hundreds of dollars per wifi user per day, it’s prohibitively expensive. We’d rather keep the cost of admission to TechDays low – a mere $299 for early-bird registrants – which is why we decided to provide internet access at the conference this way:

06 internet stations

Here are Christian and Rick setting up the Windows 7 Lounge. In case it was unclear, they’ve taken steps to let you know that they indeed are geeks:

07 geeks

Every TechDays attendee gets a “lunchbox” full of swag, literature and promo material. Here’s the stack of lunchboxes behind the registration desk:

08 lunchboxes

One of the ways we show our appreciation for the TechDays speakers is by taking them out to a nice dinner. In Ottawa, the speaker dinner was at In Fusion Bistro in Glebe, where the food and service were fantastic. I had the squash and maple soup to start, the rack of lamb for dinner and the chocolate-and-berry empanada for dessert – it was one of my favourite meals of the tour. Thanks to Rick for choosing this restaurant!

09 speaker dinner

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Ottawa Road Trip Diary, Part 2: The Flying J Truck Stop

When we got to Napanee, it was time to fuel up both the car and ourselves, and we did both at the Flying J Truck Stop. We thought that it would be a nice change from the usual fast food joints: a real-life honest-to-goodness place that catered to truckers, without whom our stores, from the most indie retailer in Kensington Market to the biggest of the “big boxes”, would go unstocked.

Here’s a photo of our booth:

01 flying j table

The folks who the the Flying J know a marketing opportunity when they see one. That’s why the placemat doubles as advertising for their store specials, which naturally are for accoutrements that one would need on the road: jumper cables, Bluetooth headsets, ratchet wrench sets and energy drinks…

02 flying j matClick the photo to see it at full size.

I remember old restaurants having jukeboxes in the booths. If you’re living on the road, being able to get in touch with your loved ones trumps having music, which is why these booths sport phones instead. I haven’t used a pay phone in a very long time, so I was surprised to find out that local calls are now 50 cents.

03 flying j booth phone

Damir went for the chopped steak and mashed potatoes, but I went for the real down-home option: the buffet. I picked out what I thought might be an authentic road meal, based on all those episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives I’ve seen:

  • Shepherd’s pie (featuring cut-up beef, not ground meat)
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • “Oven-baked chicken”
  • Sausage and peppers

04 flying j buffet lunch

They’re not going to win any Michelin stars soon, but it was filling.

After lunch, I decided to check out the store. I spotted the audiobook aisle:

05 flying j audiobooksClick the photo to see it at full size.

The “Mark Dalton: Trucker/Detective” series caught my eye. Should I buy this on the way back? Let me know in the comments!

06 mark dalton trucker detective

There’s no escaping this guy! That smug know-nothing face really needs a solid pimp-slapping:

07 glenn beck

Of L. Ron Hubbard’s books, I’ve read only two: Battlefield Earth (I considered it so-so at age 14) and Dianetics (ridiculous). My guess is that his pulp titles shown below – Spy Killer, The Great Secret and Under the Black Ensign – aren’t anything to write home about:

08 l ron hubbard

Nothing spruces up the cab of an 18-wheeler like a plush white tiger:

09 tiger

And if you’re pressed for space and your truck can’t accommodate the body of a giant cat, you can always opt for the head:

10 lion tigers heads

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Ottawa Road Trip Diary, Part 1: Slow Going

Once again, Damir and I are road-tripping to a TechDays conference. This week, the destination city is our nation’s capital, Ottawa. With the wet snow and being boxed in by trucks (see the photo below), the going’s a little slow:

02 boxed in

Here’s a trucker who’s a big fan of just-in-time compilers. Or is it just-in-time manufacturing?

01 go jit

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Demo Night in Canada: Wednesday Night!

demo night in canadaIf you’re a techie in the Ottawa area and want to meet fellow techies and see what projects they’re working on and what tech they’re using, you’ll want to check out Demo Night in Canada, which takes place this Wednesday night at 7:00 at the Hampton Inn Conference Centre (200 Coventry Road). It’ll be an evening of demos and presentations by Ottawa-area developers, organized by Ottawa IT Community and Startup Ottawa.

It’s also a chance to get your geek party on! After the demos, we’re heading down to the Market to have a little celebration.

Come to Demo Night in Canada! It’s free to attend – all you have to do is register.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


This Week: Ottawa!


Last week, I was in Montreal, this week I’m in Ottawa. Once again, I’ll be road-tripping with my coworker, Damir Bersinic, IT Pro Evangelist and supreme field commander for the TechDays Canada cross-country conference. Watch this space for reports from both Ottawa and the road!

If you’re on the Toronto-Ottawa route and would like to join us for a coffee, let us know, either via email or in the comments!