Friday, October 26, 2007

Southwest Fox 2007 Day 1

Tamar Granor and her husband Marshal, Rick Schummer and his wife Therese, and I arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday, October 16, to finish the final preparations for Southwest Fox 2007.

The hotel and conference buildings are beautiful. Since it's laid out in a resort style, every hotel room has an outside entrance, meaning we get to spend more time outdoors instead of never leaving the hotel building. The hotel intertwines with the golf course, so some of the room buildings are a bit of a hike from the main building and the conference center (mine was about a five minute walk) but a little exercise, especially after sitting all day in sessions, is a good thing. For those who didn't feel like walking, the hotel staff would provide "limo" service using golf carts. The conference buildings are nicely sized for a conference like Southwest Fox, with a couple of courtyards right outside, the perfect place to congregate between sessions for networking. Meals and snacks were served outside, although you could also eat in one of the buildings if it was too hot or windy.

Wednesday was the big day: meeting with Arizona Golf Resort staff, assembling conference binders and bags, helping staff set up the session rooms, setting up the wireless routers, moving everything to the conference center, and so on.

Here are Marshal (left) and Rick after we assembled the binders:

Here are Therese (left) and Tamar surrounded by binders:

Thursday was registration and pre-con day. We manned the registration table starting just before 7 a.m. because attendees taking Andy Kramek's pre-conference session needed to register before his session started at 8. Since we're anal-retentive geeks, we pretty quickly worked out a mechanism to optimize registration (and even documented the process!) so lineups were a minimum. The conference bag was jammed full of goodies: binder, conference T-shirt, drink koozie (courtesy of Servoy, who also provided enough bags for most of the attendees), demo CDs, brochures, wireless Internet information, note pad, pen (courtesy of Tech Smith), CodePlex T-shirt (while they lasted, courtesy Alan Griver), and squishy fun ball. Although we had created a schedule of who would be at the table when, we pretty much all hung around there all day because it was the best place to greet attendees, meet old friends, and be introduced to new people.

Based on the comments I heard from attendees, the pre-cons went very well. We provided lunch to those who registered for two pre-cons. Alan Stevens, one of our talented new speakers, pointed out that we didn't have any coffee put out for the pre-cons, and in fact told his attendees to remind us, which they did several times. I personally delivered a cup of coffee to Alan in the middle of his session, but he took it as a kind gesture rather than the prank that was intended.

Late afternoon, vendors started setting up their tables and booths. We had nine exhibitors this year, three times as many as last year. Right after the last pre-con session ended, we held a short meeting to go over logistics with all the speakers.

Just before the keynote presentation started, Ken Levy surprised us by popping in. He was in town visiting family and decided to stay for the keynote.

The keynote started at 7:00. Rick thanked all the attendees for coming and mentioned these statistics:
  • Attendees came from 7 countries and 35 U.S. states (when he pointed out that he'd forgotten to count the number of Canadian provinces, I said there were attendees from at least 15 provinces).
  • There were 148 attendees, not counting speakers and vendors. (We actually got three more registrations the next day, for a total of 151, more than double last year's attendance.)
  • With 16 speakers, 12 exhibitors, and 2 staff (Marshal and Therese), there were 178 people at the conference in total (181 by the next morning).

Rick went on to thank other people who helped us, including Bob Kocher (who previously ran the conference and graciously helped us with ideas and suppliers), Dave Aring (who created the logos and Kokopelli application), Mike and Toni Feltman (for their VFE offer to all attendees), other conference organizers (Whil Hentzen, Rainer Becker, Kevin Cully, Igor Vit, and others), DBI (for creating the conference CDs), Craig Boyd (who hosts, bloggers and podcasters (who helped get the word out), speakers (who were all introduced by name), Andy Kramek and Marcia Akins (for creating a "how to speak good" video), Southwest Fox staff (Marshal and Therese), and our sponsors.

Tamar went over conference logistics: what's in the binder, where the session rooms are, using Kokopelli, where meals are, and so on. I then discussed the trade show, going over the hours and urging attendees to visit the booths and talk to the vendors about their wares, and the two developer meeting at the conference, once for Visual MaxFrame Professional and one for Stonefield Query.

Rick spent a few minutes discussing VFP 9 SP2, including what's in it and the fact that there are two releases of it (which he called SP2 and SP2A for fun). He then talked about Sedna: what it is, what components are in it, and when it may be released.

I then had the honor of announcing the recipient of the 2007 FoxPro Community Lifetime Achievement Award. During all of the conference planning, Rick and I told Tamar that the award was for someone else. I did up PowerPoint slides with that person's biography, Rick (who designed the physical award) created a design with that person's name, and we even practiced the keynote earlier that day with the other person as the recipient. So, when I announced that Tamar was the recipient, she jumped liked she'd touched a 20,000 volt power line. I went over the things Tamar has done in her career and why she so rightly deserved the award. I was especially pleased that her husband Marshal could be in the room to watch the announcement. Rick presented her with the award and then, to my surprise, also presented awards to the previous recipients--Whil Hentzen, Rick Strahl, and I--who hadn't actually received anything physical before. It was great that all of the recipients were actually at the conference.

While Christof Wollenhaupt was setting up for the next part of the keynote, we did some drawings for raffle prizes, including several Hentzenwerke books. Christof then amazed the audience with his demo of Guineu, a .NET runtime for VFP applications. He started by telling is that FoxPro was dead and it was really a shame that you can't run VFP applications on Windows Mobile devices while he proceded to do exactly that. He then showed the same VFP app running as a .NET WinForm application and a browser application, all the while saying it was too bad that it wasn't possible to do that. It was a great presentation that really fired up the crowd!

We gave our some more prizes while Toni Feltman set up for her presentation on .NET Extender for VFP and VFP Compiler for .NET from Although it has a similar purpose as Guineu (running VFP applications in .NET), it has a completely different technology. Toni demoed some of the current capabilities of these products and mentioned that there are new releases every month with additional features added. She also suggested that at just $120, it was worth buying just to see where it's going to go.

We gave away a few more prizes while Craig Boyd and Alan Stevens prepared to show their "super secret project". They're using extensibility in Visual Studio to create something they call VFP Studio, which gives Visual Studio the ability to compile and generate VFP DLLs when you build a .NET solution. This saves jumping back and forth between different IDEs.

I then wound up the keynote with a call to action: download SP2 and Sedna, join VFPX, start your own blog, join (or start, as Cathy Pountney pointed out) a user group, and tell the world about VFP.

We then adjourned to the courtyard and trade show area for a welcome reception. It was supposed to only last until 9:30 but attendees were still talking to vendors as late as 10:30, and it appeared that everyone had a great time.

Whew! Thursday was a great kickoff for Southwest Fox!

1 comment:

Eric Selje said...

Doug, thanks for writing. Those of us who couldn't make it really appreciate your in depth recount of the days' activities.