Saturday, October 23, 2010

Southwest Fox 2010: Pre-Conference

We had an early start on Thursday because registration opened at 7:45 and pre-conference sessions started at 9:00. Thanks to a streamlined registration process we came up with last year, registration was fast and easy. This year, in addition to the conference bag, sponsor materials, conference t-shirt, and other goodies, attendees could take any or all of three books generously provided by Hentzenwerke Publishing: Debugging Visual FoxPro Applications, The Software Developer's Guide, 3rd Edition, and FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software. Registration is a fun time for me, as it’s a chance to meet new attendees and renew acquaintances with previous attendees and friends. We spent most of the day in the registration center, catching up on emails or chatting during slow times. Our first taste of the conference center food was a simple lunch of build-your-own sandwiches and salad, which was very tasty.

After the last pre-conference session ended, we met all the speakers at 4:30 for an orientation meeting. Many people were wondering how I was going to get even with Craig Boyd after his only mildly provoked Nerf gun assault on me last year (if you haven’t see it, look for “hennig swfox” on YouTube for one of the several videos available). For a variety of reasons, including the fact that he and I have both had a fairly challenging year personally and that his was about as close to the perfect prank as it comes and would be tough to top, I decided not to do much to him this year. In fact, he was quite concerned about what he thought I had planned, and that by itself seemed like fun. However, one surprise I had for him regarded the speaker shirt. Rick told him that due to his getting on board as the keynote speaker after we’d submitted the order for shirts, we didn’t have one for him. That, of course, was not true. We placed a special order of pink t-shirts for the female speakers this year, and included one for him in the order (we also ordered a regular shirt for him). It was fun seeing his face when I handed him his pink “speaker shirt”. Fortunately, Craig is a great sport and immediately agreed to wear it at the keynote.

After a quick bite to eat, it was time to get the conference started. We started the keynote thanking attendees for coming and pointing out that there were 99 attendees from 16 different countries this year, about a 15% increase from last year’s 87 from 7 countries. We then introduced the speakers and thanked sponsors and other folks who helped us out. After going over some logistics for the conference, I invited Cathy Pountney up to the front, where she presented Rick with the trophy for being the #1 ranked speaker last year. Even better, she filled the trophy with Rick’s favorite snack, Ding Dongs. Rick is a very humble person, so he was embarrassed and immediately pointed out that the difference between first and last is fractions of a point, sort of like the hundredths of a second that separates the fastest runners in the world at the Olympics.

After a few more logistical things, Rick presented the VFPX Administrators Award to Jim Nelson and Francis Faure for their contributions to the VFP community through their projects on VFPX. We then introduced the 2010 Ceil Silver Ambassadors, Bernard Bout and Cesar Chalom. As I’m sure is the case for many others, I was thrilled to meet them both, Cesar for the first time (Rick and I had previously met Bernard at OzFox 2007 in Sydney, Australia).

Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for: Craig Boyd’s keynote. Rick introduced Craig while a couple of funny pictures of Craig, one in bunny ears and the other in a headdress, showed on the screens. In fact, here they are in case you missed them:

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Craig did not disappoint. He was his usual manic, hilarious self, showing doctored photos of Tamar as a warrior princess and Rick as an astronaut. However, he saved his best stuff for me, doing a twisted “This is Your Life” presentation. Rather than trying to describe it, it’s probably better if you just watch it: He then got into the real meat of his presentation: the value proposition of VFP. As a vivid demonstration of “value”, Craig and several volunteers blasted the room with thousands of pieces of paper, some of which had prizes written on them. The prizes ranged from an MSDN subscription worth almost $12,000 to “hug from Doug”, which several people did collect on and many of which are hoarding for future reimbursement. Craig did this to point out that although the paper was worthless, there was enough value in the prizes that everyone scrambled to pick them all up. He went on to discuss that although there are alternatives to VFP, you can still make a great living and create great solutions for your clients using this product we know and love. Thanks, Craig, for the best and most entertaining Southwest Fox keynote ever!

Afterward, we all congregated in the adjacent ballroom for the trade show reception. It gave everyone a chance to chat with the exhibitors, a couple of which (Christoph with his Guineu and AFP and Thierry Nivelet of FoxInCloud) were new this year, and hang out with new and old friends. A good-sized group then moved to the bar and pool area for the first of several nights of socializing. I packed it in about midnight after a very long day.

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