Sunday, October 26, 2008

Southwest Fox, Day 3

I started the last day of the conference by presenting the second instance of my Creating Explorer Interfaces in Visual FoxPro session.I really enjoy doing this session; I get a lot of positive feedback and a ton of appreciative comments afterward. I think this session really hit a sweet spot.

I then attended Rick Borup's Automating QuickBooks with QODBC session. Although I haven't done any work with QuickBooks (either as a user or a developer), there's a possibility I may in the future, so I wanted to see how the QODBC driver can be used to retrieve and update information using normal SQL statements. Once again, a great, thorough presentation by Rick.

I finished the regular sessions of the conference by watching Cathy Pountney present her Customizing Your Vertical Market Application session. Rick Schummer told me it was a don't-miss session for several reasons, and he was right. Cathy started by relaying the bad news (for her) of last night's racing results. She then discussed a strategy for customizing vertical market applications for specific customers that allows you to leave the core code alone (creating a custom EXE for each client would definitely be bad) yet satisfy almost every request for customization. The secret lies in creating hook points throughout your application and using a special customization manager class to handle customized (or new) forms, reports, menus, and other components. However, rather than showing how to customize the vertical market app she works on, she showed a simpler version: a core application with a simple menu, a few forms, and a couple of reports. She then showed customized versions of that application for Tamar, Rick, and I. Of course, part of the core application involved racing results. Since Tamar didn't race, those components were removed from the menu in her version but had customized forms in Rick's and my versions. Throughout the presentation, Cathy threw out little digs, making it clear she's already gearing up for next year's race.

After giving the conference center staff a few minutes to convert the smaller breakout rooms into one larger one, we started the closing session. We thanked the speakers, attendees, and conference center staff, announced the dates for Southwest Fox 2009 (October 15-18, 2009, once again at the Arizona Golf Resort), and gave away the rest of the raffle prizes. We then drew the names of three people who turned in their evaluation forms and awarded them MSDN Premium Subscriptions, each worth almost $11,000.

The last day of a conference is always bittersweet. I'm exhausted from all the work of putting on the conference (and averaging 4-5 hours sleep a night for the past week), energized from the cool sessions I saw and ideas they generated, happy to have spent time hanging out with people I like and respect but only see a couple of times a year, and glad to have met and chatted with some new folks.

After spending an hour or so tidying up the conference center, Rick, Tamar, Marshal, Therese, and I met with conference center staff for a debriefing. Things went very smoothly again this year thanks to the hard work and "get it done" attitude of every staff member. There were even fewer complaints than last year (one being that lunch was a little slow on Friday) and they immediately come up with ideas on how to take care of those for next year. Kudos once again to the Arizona Golf Resort for making us look good.

We then had a planning session of our own to discuss what things worked and what we need to tweak for next year. This meeting was a lot shorter than last year's because we have another year of experience under our belts. Most of what we discussed was fine-tuning little details. We were then going to hang out at the pool for an hour or so before dinner, but I found Craig Boyd, Bo Durban, and Jody Tooley hanging out on the patio for Toni and Mike Feltman's room, so I decided to hang out with them instead. Others showed up as well, including Christof Wollenhaupt and Alan Stevens.

A bunch of us went to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner (thanks, Joel) while others had a bratwurst cookout (there are BBQs set up between groups of rooms). When we returned, we went back to Toni and Mike's room/patio. By this time, a lot more people showed up. Toni told us later that was actually the highlight of the conference for her and suggested we consider doing something similar on a larger scale next year.

Thanks to everyone who made Southwest Fox 2008 one of the best conferences I've ever attended (and there have been a LOT of them over the past nearly twenty years). See you all next year!

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