Fox Forward Day 1 : Wish you were here!

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Do you want a behind the scenes impression of Fox Forward? If yes, then keep reading. If no, then it’s time to bail out. {grin} After a years worth of planning, Fox Forward became a reality today. I’m excited, exhausted, but overall pleased with how it has been turning out. How could it not be a cool experience though? I basically set this thing in motion and its now my job to just get out of the way. The speakers are so great. The attendees are just so cool and nice. It is up to me to not spoil that mix and just stay the heck out of the way.

Anyway, it’s about 1am on Saturday morning. I’ve just gotten back from Taco Mac (they don’t sell tacos at all. Go figure!) after spending hours talking Fox, technology, jobs, clients, employers, finances, the future, wives, and kids with some of the nicest people you could ever meet. Thats just a normal par for the course for a Fox conference, eh?

The day began at 6am. I won’t even talk about all of the packing, planning, printing and assembling that took place yesterday. I rolled out of bed and began taking care of last minute stuff, merged in with taking care of the normal tasks such as getting the dog some food, then getting me some breakfast too. Disassembling the printer, finding hubs, power strips, USB hard drives, and everything else that I’d be needing for the conference. I was hoping to to leave the house at 9am but didn’t leave until 9:45. The van was creaking under the weight of all of the attendee packets. The van always creaks. What am I talking about?

Larry is the banquet director and he is here to take care of me. I told him “I know you get to see the professional conference planners all of the time. Today, you get to see how the amateurs do it!” Larry is the best and really did his job to a “T” and I didn’t have to worry one bit about the food or drink aspect of the conference. I am so grateful. Heck if I know how many gallons of sweet tea that programmers will drink in the afternoon, compared to how many bottled waters, compared to cokes, compared to beer. I just guessed when I ordered all of this stuff. Believe it or not, there were some beer left over. This shocked me. I’m not a drinker but I figured all of these people would plow through the beer.

See. I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Back the truck up. Or, back the van up. To the front of the hotel, that is. I unloaded tons of boxes and bags. My father lives close by and he volunteered his time to help me with the conference operation. We were unloaded in no time and were well on our way of getting the registration process done.

Around 11am, Matt Clark (Fox developer and owner of RoomWide) who is providing our AV equipment showed up and we helped set up the screens, projectors, and audio equipment. Did someone say wireless microphones? Sweet! It’s starting to look like I know what I’m doing.

My wife, Kim, has arrived at this point and the registration preparation is quickly straightened out. We’re ready for the customers now.

A couple of Fox developers would wander by every once and a while and we’d talk for a bit. It’s nice to meet each person and put a name with the face. Dave Bernard arrived and wanted to run through his presentation which relies on speech recognition. He wanted to check out the acoustics of the room. I guess he didn’t want to pull a Microsoft on this one, eh? {bg} Bo Durban has also arrived at this point and he’s working on some last minute polishing of his presentation.
Bo and I have each brought a video camera that we’re setting up in the back of the room to video tape the presentation. We’re hoping that some of the presenters will also do the screencast capture of their presentation as well, onto external hard drives that we’ve brought.

I forgot my digital camera at home. I quick emailed Russell Campbell to see if I could catch him before he headed out. I did and he brought his camera. I’ll have Kim bring ours for Saturday and Sunday.

At 4pm things have really kicked into gear and the “Meet and Greet” is well underway already. It’s a beautiful thing when there’s a room full of Fox developers and there are smiles on their faces talking technology.

Just before 5pm, I make a little speech from the stairs in the common area, welcoming all of the attendees. I can’t thank enough the sponsors (RoomWide, Moxie Data, The Intellection Group, Conarc, and System Software & Design) for their support. Without their support, the conference literally wouldn’t have been possible. I then thank the speakers. They are sacrificing so much to come down to the conference with little or no compensation. Amazing. Thank you to the speakers. What would happen if you threw a conference and no one showed up? No conference, that’s what. I thanked each and every attendee. It’s all got to come together to make a successful conference: sponsors, speakers, attendees, and organizers. Pretty exciting stuff to see it come to life after a year of talking about it.

So the attendees then got a last fill of cookies, fruit, and cheese and headed down to see the first presentations. Dave Bernard and Bo Durban were first up. I was running around during the presentations taking care of some administrative tasks but I made sure to sneak into both presentations.

Dave presented on “English Query With VFP”. I’ve seen this presentation at the AFUG meeting and a warmup meeting. Each time you see this presentation, your head swims with the possibilities of it. It allows people with no technical abilities whatsoever, to be able to retrieve meaningful results from a backend database. Astounding.

Bo Durban presented on “Custom report controls”. Not only was it well attended, but it was well received as well. I know lots of the people, by the way they were talking, were thinking of new ways of working with reports in their applications. Well done!

After a short break, it was time for the “VFP World Domination” presentation by Craig Boyd. This was the sole presentation for that slot. Craig has presented this session at several FUG meetings in the past but it is the first time that I had seen it. This presentation wasn’t fluff or a rah rah session. It was very much a “be proud of what you do”/”Don’t see limitations, break the barriers of what you thought were possible with Fox”. There were some tips on how to present Fox as your chosen primary development platform but there were many technical (practical) examples as well. The lesson to be learned is that if you thought that there is a limitation to what Fox can do, you’re probably mistaken. More than ever the barriers are being stripped away for the Fox community. Our ability to absorb and expose the best of complimentary technology is incredible. The possibilities of what we (as a community) to build in Fox alone is astonishing. So, where do we go from here? Well, Fox developers need to be their own best friend. Get off the pot. Start blogging, start talking up your favorite tool. Share your code snippets. Share your tools if you can. It’s up to us now. It has always been up to us. Always has and always will be.

That was the last session of the night. I made a suggestion that if people are interested in going out (common occurrence at Fox conferences) that we go to Taco Mac. They have outdoor seating, indoor seating, good food, and of course, a bar. I did a quick clean up. Took the video cameras, LCD projectors and some stuff up to the room for safe keeping and headed out. It was good to get to know many of my comrades in arms. In the end it turned out to be Craig Boyd, Bo Durban, Kevin Ragsale, Dave Bernard and John Lesesne in the end though.

So here I am at 2am typing up my thoughts. I wonder if they’ll make sense in the morning? One thing that will disappoint non-attendees is that, so far, the presenters haven’t opted to do the screencast capture. There just hasn’t been a lot of time for them to be able to test the screen capturing software to see what kind of load it places on their laptops as they are presenting their subject. As an example, Dave Bernard is running Windows, plus IIS, plus SQLServer, plus the natural language stuff, plus Foxpro, plus IE all on his laptop. To add screencast software on top of that load is a risk. I’m not sure if I’d take that risk in front of a live audience either. We’ll have to see how tomorrow goes. Perhaps it would be better to have set up a quick network and VNC into their computer to capture the screencasts. Even with that as a solution, we would have introduced an unknown into their sessions. There’s got to be a better solution to screencast capture.

Anyway, it’s past my bedtime … times 10. I’m going to grab some Zs before it’s time to get set up again in the morning. I can’t wait. Wish you were here.

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