Windows Phone Camp (Dublin)

In conjunction with the Dublin ALT.NET, we are going to hold a a Windows Phone Camp in Dublin on Feb 11, 2012.

Do you have an idea for a great mobile app that you’d like to build on Windows Phone?
Do you have a mobile app on anther platform and want to expand your platforms?
Are you lacking ideas but still want some experience on Windows Phone?
Are you a developer who’s excited about the coming Nokia Lumia soon announcement on the Vodafone site in Ireland (

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, this camp is for you.

We will have some lectures and some getting started advice going on but the goal is to give you as much time to sling code as possible with experts on hand to help you through issues.

The scheduled lectures are going to be:

9:00 – Welcome to the Windows Phone Camp and introductions
9:15 – Getting started with Windows Phone
        – Introduction to Metro Design
        – Monitizing your app…
10:15 – 4:00 – Coding and ad hoc lectures based on specific questions from the attendees
4:00 – 4:30 – How to submit to the marketplace
5:00 – 5:30 – Conclusion and show and tell

We will have a lunch (probably pizza or something) and drinks after.

Interested? Register at Windows Phone Camp in Dublin!


Architect Evangelist Position in Dublin

There’s a Architect Evangelist position open on the DPE team here in Ireland for someone with the right mix of passion, technical and commercial experience.

Wilbour CraddockWilbour Craddock is returning to the icy tundra that forged and hardened him in Regina, Saskatchewan (yeah, I had to look it up too). Wilbour has really set the bar for this role and has left a very big hole to fill.

Despite rumor’s to the contrary, you don’t have to be a bald ex-DJ with a North American accent to be on the team these days.

Here’s the high level job description from the Career’s site:

The Architect Evangelist role is a senior role within the Microsoft Ireland Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) Group. The Architect Evangelist’s role is to help mould and implement the DPE Group’s strategy to ensure Ireland is a world showcase for next generation app and service development on Microsoft technologies. To be successful in this role the right individual must have an insatiable appetite for staying ahead of the curve both technically and commercially, in order to ensure our partners and customers are successful in an era of unprecedented rapid change. You must be able to build open trusted-advisor relationships between team members and with the technical decision makers inside our customer and partner accounts. In addition, you will be expected to lead initiatives for the cloud and developer tools business within the Irish market. This role requires a high performance individual who can demonstrate all of the above as well as a blend of passion, agility, persistence, curiosity and creativity.

If you are interested in learning more, check out the full description here:

Also, I’d be happy to field questions at [my first name].[my last name] And let me know if you apply and I’ll put in a good word for you with the boss… 🙂

How People with Disabilities Use the Web

W3CWeb Accessibility initiativeI was doing some research for a project and ran across this bit on the W3C website titled How People with Disabilities Use the Web. I love this section as it goes into something I’m really a fan of in user stories as they not only crisply get across a set of requirements, it personalizes a cold sterile set of requirements that seem fairly arbitrary to a warm and living set of requirements that make sense.

The other great thing about this set of user stories is that it challenges people to think about a different set of disabilities than they would normally thing about. For example, most people immediately think of screen readers when thinking about accessibility but forget about things like color blindness, epilepsy, hand tremors, cognitive disorders, short term memory, dyslexia and the like.

For example, as a confession here, I’m ADHD and mildly dyslexic. Captcha’s drive me up a WALL!!!! It takes me a long time to work through them especially if they have a series lower case of Os and Es. I have other friends who are much more dyslexic than I am and I have no idea how they sign up for anything on today’s web…

But the really hard one for me is when there’s a lot of text with no paragraph breaks or other things to break up the text. It’s really tough to get through and I have to work through it sometimes 10-15 times to get it. If it’s important, I’ll copy it into a text editor and break up the text and then read it.

Here’s the list of user stories that they have put together to date:

I really like this list and am hoping that it continues to grow and refine over time.

My wife’s post

imageI don’t blog personal stuff all that often, that’s mostly the realm of my wife’s blog. There’s a lot of reasons that I don’t including that I like to separate my work and personal life to some degree. I live a fairly public life and am in the community all the time and I like for my family to have a little bit of privacy occasionally. But it’s my own rule so I get to break it occasionally and this is one of those times.

My wife, Phoebe Holmes, is a fantastic and prolific blogger. She recently posted a word that sometimes cuts deep in the Holmes household in a post titled “Being Retarded”. There are a lot of reasons that I decided to break my normal protocol and post about this.

  • She’s had well over half a million hits on this post
  • It’s attracted the attention of celebrities such as Pink, Alyssa Milano and more
  • It’s attracted the attention of some interesting press outlets such as CNN (article to be posted tomorrow sometime)
  • It’s a topic that resonates deeply with us here at the Holmes household
  • It’s obviously a topic that we thought we were more alone than we are on

She’s an amazing writer and captured the subject extremely well. My short recap of the post can’t do it justice but here it is.

People use the word “retarded” (and really many words) all the time in casual use not realizing the implications of the word on those around you. The word “retarded” has a clinical definition which accurately describes my daughter Maura. Maura is 8 years old but mentally she’s roughly 3. She’s got global delays and an seizure disorder but that’s as close to a diagnosis as we’ve got. She’s most likely going to live with us forever but that doesn’t get us down. She’s an amazing girl in her own way and makes me giggle and shine every day. We’re blessed to have her in our lives.

But casually using the word “retarded” as in “that’s so retarded” cuts deep as it trivializes her condition and the condition of millions of others.

The Special Olympics has a campaign about the proper use of the world. As some of you know, I’m a big supporter of the Special Olympics and will continue to be so. This is just one more reason to do so.

Please read Being Retarded and be considerate to all…

Missing Codemash this year

CaptureI’m really sorry to be missing CodeMash this year. This is the first CodeMash that I’m going to be missing. I was one of the founders before I joined Microsoft and it’s been on of the things that I’ve been extremely proud to be involved in in a small part and has grown far bigger and better than I could have ever imagined. The fantastic board (Jim Holmes, Jason Gilmore and Brian H. Prince) have been true visionaries and have done an amazing job of walking the balance beam between guiding and pushing CodeMash and letting it remain something of and from the community. It’s inspirational.

The meme with CodeMash is that people are to mash, not to bash. Developers of all sizes and religions are invited from .NET to PHP to Python to Ruby to Java. And everyone is pushed to learn something new. It’s where I learned, as a .NET guy, about Ruby, Python and PHP. That’s in the spirit of CodeMash. Get out of your comfort zone and learn something new. It doesn’t mean that you will be doing that new thing in your everyday job but learning something new will make you better at your full time job.

One of my favorite talks that I did at CodeMash was that I, as a .NET guy, did a talk on Dynamic Languages such as Ruby and Python. My demos were in Ruby. It didn’t matter if anyone in the crowd was ever going to do Ruby for the full time job, learning more about it will make them better C#, Java, PHP or whatever.

Some of the great outcomes of CodeMash were that all of the community has grown stronger and more inclusive throughout Michigan and Ohio in particular. The Ruby guys are going to the .NET user group and the .NET guys are going to the Ruby user groups and so on. 

imageOh yeah – and it was at the first CodeMash that I shaved my head (well, Jennifer Marsman did it actually) for the first time. I bet the audience that they couldn’t get 600 posts up on Technorati by the end of the conference and they not only did that but we crashed Technorati and were the number one topic for two weeks outranking the announcement of the new iPhone and Hillary Clinton announcing that she was running for president.

Oh yeah – and I met some of my best friends in the industry at CodeMash. I’ll miss all of you this year…

I’d love it if something like CodeMash started up here in Ireland.

Small poll on social networks

primaryImage[1]I’m working on a mobile app to take fun pictures. I’ve released a v1 of the app called Tiny Photo Fun – Christmas Edition. I’m planning to build a lot more with it including giving the option to upload the photos to social networks, new photo packs and much more. But as I’m trying to decide what to do first, I thought I’d put up a simple poll and asked this question:

Writing a mobile app to take photos and then share them on a social network and offload auth to that network. Which one should I do first?

It was interesting to see the responses. I first put it up on twitter and immediately, Daniel Cousineau spotted a flaw in the questioning.

@dcousineau: @joshholmes taking the poll on twitter leads me to believe the results are going to be biased towards twitter :P”

So I posted it on Facebook, Live and Linked In as well. I still thought that the results were interesting to watch unfold.


Twitter won out overall. Live only got 2 votes overall. But the more interesting bit was the geographic spread.


The US was 73% for Twitter and 25% for Facebook whereas Ireland was 50% for Facebook.

This doesn’t prove anything and I’m drawing no conclusions other than Twitter is probably my first social network integration.

Dublin Gamecraft

tumblr_lw9gj1MrmG1r2bsum[1]I’m looking forward to Dublin Gamecraft on Feb 25th. It’s not a traditional conference, it’s an 8 hour coding marathon. The idea is that you have 8 hours to build a game, either by yourself or on a team.

  • Yes, you have to start from scratch.
  • Yes, you can build for platform X (where X is XBox, PC, iPad, WP7, iPhone, Android, or any other platform that you can write games for).
  • Yes, you can bring a team.
  • Yes, you can join forces with someone on the day.
  • Yes, there’s a need for coders, designers, storyline folks and more.
  • Yes, it’s free.
  • Yes, you should come.
  • Yes, it’s being organized by cool folks like @roundcrisis

On hand will be some of the up and coming games studios in Dublin such as Open Emotion Studios.

If you’re interested in learning to write games, there’s not a whole lot better of a way to do it than jumping in the deep end. At the very least, you’ll get to meet and hang out with some of the most fun folks in all of Ireland’s tech scene.

Any question? Ask them at

Anyone can write games for Kinect with Scratch

imageThat’s a bold statement but it’s true – any kid even can write games for Kinect with Scratch. Scratch is a programming language for kids out of the MIT Media Labs. Steven Howell saw the potential of combining this with the Kinect and connected them together. Kids all over the world can now write natural user interface games with the Kinect.

This project is not for you to write XBox games at the moment but rather it works with the Microsoft Kinect SDK BETA 2. There are a lot of awesome projects that are using Kinect for the PC. I talked about the stuff that Von Bismark is doing the other day. I’ll dig into that more in an upcoming post.

imageI love this because it captures the imagination as to what’s possible if you can quickly and easily create a natural user interface by dragging and dropping code snippets.

Scratch and Kinect from Stephen Howell on Vimeo.

Full instructions on how to set it all up and get started writing games is on Steven’s site at

For lots of information about the Scratch project:

Educators – Information for educators using Scratch

News – Stories about Scratch in the media

Research – Papers and presentations about Scratch

Donate – Support the Scratch project

Voice Control with Amulet Devices

logoOne of the things that gets me excited is working with new forms of user interaction. Or rather old forms of user interaction that humans use being used with our users.

Amulet devices are doing just that. They are a BizSpark startup based in Dublin, Ireland. They are a device and software company. The software does voice control of Windows Media Center which can be the hub of your home entertainment.

Amulet_Detail_0246[1]Their remote is a universal remote that has a very clever microphone that is activated by a gyroscope. When you tip up the remote, it activates and allows you to control your media center by voice. It means that the remote won’t accidently pick up your voice and start changing channels on you right before the winning goal or the bad guy gets the bad guy. It also means that it’s you can use it in a crowded and noisy room as the mic is right next to you.

They are, unfortunately not available for sale in Europe but they are available all over North America.

Glancing ahead in 2012…

Welcome to 2012! This is the time of year that everyone sets new resolutions and prognosticates about the future. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what 2012 brings. I’m excited about the promise of the year though and I’ve got a few things that I’m looking forward to.

We are at an interesting juncture in technology where truly the only limits are our imagination.

kinect[1]I look at movies like Minority Report and how advanced we thought the technology was when he was traversing the computer with his glove. Here we are less than 10 years later and the Minority Report is old school because he had to wear a glove. Technologies like the Kinect are revolutionizing how we interact with technology. There are some companies doing some remarkable things with it. For example, VonBismark is one of my great Irish startups and is doing amazing things with Kinect. They have been working on a prototype. They placed their prototype at Liffey Valley Mall and had 15k interactions in the first 3 days.

Nobody needed instructions or to be pushed into trying it. It was just there and people interacted with it. I’m looking forward to a near term future where I walk into my living room and my computer not only recognizes me but sees that I’m in a good mood so puts on a little progressive rock or that I’m in a bad mood so fires up the metal.

What I love about this is that technology is disappearing into the background and just working for us rather than us working for it. I really hope that this is a glimpse into the future.

And then combine that with the ability to launch a startup with global reach and the ability to scale to all size customers in practically no time.

zartis_tag[1]For example, take a look at a Zartis – another great Irish startup. They went from concept to customers in 10 weeks. They are 6 months in and they have 500+ customers and the vast majority are not from Ireland. They were able to do that with almost no capital investment due to technologies such as Azure. Through BizSpark they were able to start on Azure for free and then as they scale, with revenue tied directly to traffic, they pay for overages when they go beyond the free benefits.

So unlimited computing power combined with unhindered and amazing user experiences speaks to a very bright future to me.

Happy New Year!