PHP Benelux 2012

Last weekend I was at PHP Benelux (@phpbenelux). This is the third year that they have run the conference but the first time that I’ve been able to make it, definitely an advantage of living in Ireland… It was a really fun conference for a number of reasons.

First, we had a PHP on Azure Hackathon where we had a number of PHP devs working on getting a project up onto Azure. There were definitely some learnings around the setup and preparation side of the hackathon but once people got setup, it was pretty good. In the three hours with setup problems and the like we actually had 3 people get a project up and running. I was fairly pleased with that as an outcome given the first time nature of this exercise.

IMG_0490First of all, the people are fantastic. That includes everyone from the other speakers, to the attendees to the conference organizers. To be fair, I’ve got a lot of friends that were there and it was great to just hang out with some of them. But I also met a ton of new people there. The speaker’s themselves range from international PHP celebrities, such as David Zülke and Derick Rethans, to local Belgian and Dutch speakers getting their first breaks. Microsoft’s own Craig Kitterman from the Azure product team was one of the speakers as well.

Second, the content, across the board, was top notch. I really enjoyed a number of the talks from Matthew Weier O’Phinney’s VIM talk to David Coallier’s closing keynote on taking PHP to the next level.

Third, the conference organization is on par with a number of pro-conferences that I attend. The tremendous number of little touches, like the fact that they track your flights and pick you up from the airport and arrange travel back for you as well, is what really puts it over the top. One of the things that I particularly liked is that they, at the end of the conferences in the closing bits called out each of the sponsors and talked about why that sponsor was important. This is something that not nearly enough conferences do. The sponsors invest quite a bit of resources ranging from cash to people to many types of resources. It was great to hear how some of the sponsors who had a small amount of cash were deeply involved in other ways while some others simply wrote a check. Both are valid sponsorships and are needed but it was really interesting to see how the different sponsors were involved. I also liked that at the end they called up all of the speakers. that line of speakers filled the stage. For anyone who thought this was a small conference, it’s amazing to see all of the bodies on stage that were involved from the staff to speakers and see how many people it takes to pull it off.

Looking forward to next year…

Startupbootcamp Day 1

One of the most fun things that I get to do in my job here at Microsoft Ireland is work with all of the great startups here in Ireland. I manage the Bizspark program for Ireland, North and South. Through that work, I get to work both with startups directly as well as working with the startup accelerators and incubators here in Ireland. That’s great fun as we’ve got some really good ones. TechCrunch did an article last year where they highlighted the top incubators in Europe and they specifically highlighted the top 8 which includes NDRC Launchpad at #6, DCU Propeller at #7 and Startupbootcamp Dublin at #8. That’s some heavy hitting for such as small island and I’m right in the middle of it.

Eoghan Jennings runs Startupbootcamp Dublin. I met him back in March 2011 when I had the pleasure to speak at a startup thing he was running for Dublin Web Summit. He’s a crazy Irish man who was largely raised in the US (Boston if I remember right) so he really brings the best of the Irish and the American together in a fantastic motivational package of intelligence, perseverance and going huge… It’s that unique blend of personality that make him a great guy to get Startupbootcamp Dublin off the ground and attract some great startups, mentors and investors into a great win-win-win…

Today, I spent the full day down at Startupbootcamp Dublin mentoring potential startups who have all pitched for the program. It was a brutally intense day where we, the 25ish (I didn’t actually count) mentors that were onsite interviewed and gave advice to the startups in a speed dating style day. In this way, we got to mentor 10-12 of the 16 startups that were in for the day.

Patrick de Zeeuw and I were paired up as mentors the whole day. Patrick runs the Startupbootcamp Amsterdam and is a co-founder of Startupbootcamp. I’ll be honest, I’ve been working with startups for a long time and I learned a ton co-grilling startups with him. His business acumen and sense for what startups need was outstanding. If I am ever to do a startup, I’m going to seek him out as a mentor and advisor. It was impressive to see him cut through all of the clutter and spin to get to the base of the business in a short few moments.

There were some of the startups that we pushed pretty hard. There were some that really wowed us. There were some that really disappointed us. All of them, I hope, walked away better for the experience and will take the advice that we gave forward.

Some tips that we ended up giving a lot of companies and things that you should know…

  1. Focus. Many of the startups were giving their pitch and it had several ands, alsos and the like in the pitch or they were talking about going live in a thousand different countries. The best possible thing that you can do is focus. Get down to the one thing that’s going to matter and trial it in a sandbox – then go BIG. We applauded the companies for thinking big but pushed them to get down to the nitty and gritty “minimal viable product” and to knock out a specific market and then go big.
  2. Commit. It’s imperative that if you’re really going for it with a startup that you commit to it. That means that it’s not your part time job or your hobby but rather your full time gig. That’s tough but it makes a difference. We saw several startups that had been in theory mode for a couple of years and in every case it was because they had been working on it part time rather than committing full time and risking everything. Honestly and on a personal note, it’s why I’m not actively working on a startup – I can’t currently take the risk with the family and I need to put food on the table on a day to day basis rather than risking my kid’s college funds on a company that might not take off.
  3. It’s all about the team. Patrick said it well. They don’t invest in products, they invest in people. More than once, Patrick chased down the team dynamics and found glaring issues. Sometimes that was in areas where people hadn’t or can’t commit full time. Sometimes it was that they had business folks and no tech folks. More often, it was that someone had a great idea and tech but didn’t have someone to really carry them on the commercial and business side. That was a huge issue that I don’t think that everyone got when he said it. There was a bit of, “well, we’ve carried it this far so what’s the problem?” and they couldn’t see how much of a difference the right MD/CEO would and could make to their startup.
  4. Demos matter. We only got 4 demos today out of all of the startups that we saw. That was a problem especially with a handful where we really didn’t get the product. A demo, wireframe, sketch, pretty pictures, ugly pictures or some type of visual would make a huge difference. There was one that I was all set to dismiss until I saw their short demo and was wowed. All of the sudden, I got it. The pitch might or might not be perfect but sometimes, like in this case, I was not familiar with the industry involved and the demo all of the sudden crystalized things for me.
  5. Mentor up. It was amazing to watch how things worked today. Every person who came and sat down with us were smart people who had been thinking about their business far longer than we had been. Yet, in 5-10 minutes, we were able to push every one of them to think about things that they hadn’t though of before. This wasn’t about us trying to be mean, just bringing our fairly vast experience to bear to help them think in different directions. It doesn’t matter how well you know your business, your product, your market, your team and all the rest of it, mentors can push you to think in new directions.

It was a fantastic day and I wish all of the startups the very best of luck!!! I’m looking forward to tomorrow as well…

Oh, and I’ve got a new camera and took a bunch of pictures of the day which I posted at – http://www.flickr.com/photos/joshholmes/sets/72157629032625343/

Some cool Windows Phone Controls

imageThere are a lot of very cool metro design controls that are out there that can a lot of the work and though process off of your plate if you just know where to look. For example, I just ran across this set of controls from the Coding4Fun guys that includes a duration picker, a number of different message boxes and notifications, several different colour pickers, helper classes for converting from Boolean to Visibility and the like and a whole lot more.

They’ve even done the hard work of optimizing for GPU acceleration and the like.

It’s released under the MS-PL which gives you a lot of flexibility to do what you need with it.

Check it out at – Coding4Fun Tools…

Using Windows Azure Storage from the Windows Phone

If you haven’t found Cloud Cover, it’s a great series on Channel9 that covers a lot of great Azure topics. What I particularly like is that it’s shows a lot of very practical knowledge things and doesn’t assume a tremendous amount of knowledge.

I found this one particularly useful with the amount of mobile development that I’ve been doing recently.

Join Wade and Steve each week as they cover the Windows Azure Platform. You can follow and interact with the show at @CloudCoverShow.

In this episode, Wade walks through the NuGet packages for Windows Azure storage and Windows Phone, highlighting how easy it is to interact with blobs, tables, and queues, both directly against storage and securely through proxy services.

Windows Phone Camp Online

The Denmark guys had a full two day conference staffed by corp speakers that they recorded and put on Channel 9. There’s a ton of great content here that you can check out.

Dev01 - Windows Phone 7.5 Overview for Developers

Dev01 – Windows Phone 7.5 Overview for Developers

Windows Phone 7.5 Overview for Developers

by Ben Riga

 

Dev02 - Building Windows Phone 7.5 Applications with Visual Studio 2010

Dev02 – Building Windows Phone 7.5 Applications with Visual Studio 2010

Building Windows Phone 7.5 Applications with Visual Studio 2010

by Ben Riga

Dev03 - Building Windows Phone 7.5 Apps with Silverlight

Dev03 – Building Windows Phone 7.5 Apps with Silverlight

Building Windows Phone 7.5 Apps with Silverlight

by Ben Riga

 

Dev04 - Windows Phone 7.5 Fast Application Switching, Tombstoning and Multitasking

Dev04 – Windows Phone 7.5 Fast Application Switching, Tombstoning and Multitasking

Windows Phone 7.5 Fast Application Switching, Tombstoning and Multitasking

by Ben Riga

Dev05 - Live Tiles and Push Notifications

Dev05 – Live Tiles and Push Notifications

Live Tiles and Push Notifications

by Ben Riga

 

 

Dev06 - Building Games for Windows Phone 7.5 with Farseer Physics Engine

Dev06 – Building Games for Windows Phone 7.5 with Farseer Physics Engine

Building Games for Windows Phone 7.5 with Farseer Physics Engineby Ian Qvist, project manager of Farseer Physics EngineGet the slides and demo code from Ian’s blog here:http://ianqvist.blogspot.com/2011/12/xna-and-farseer-physics-engine-33.html Get more samples and the framework at…

Dev07 - Monetizing a Windows Phone 7.5 Application

Dev07 – Monetizing a Windows Phone 7.5 Application

Monetizing a Windows Phone 7.5 Application

by Ben Riga

 

UX01 - METRO | the foundation

UX01 – METRO | the foundation

METRO | the foundationby Arturo Toledounderstanding Metrolayout, typography and motionembracing the phone experienceNote!The screen capture video feed got interrupted and therefore we only have the "in person" video available for this recording.We apologize for the inconvenience!

UX02 - Think | sketch, wireframe, prototype

UX02 – Think | sketch, wireframe, prototype

Think | sketch, wireframe, prototypeby Arturo Toledo,creative brainstormingsketching and wireframing techniquesexploring potential with prototypes Note!The screen capture video feed got interrupted and therefore we only have the "in person" video available for this recording.We…

UX03 - Design | Visual, interaction, motion

UX03 – Design | Visual, interaction, motion

Design | Visual, interaction, motion

by Arturo Toledo, visual language and inspiration application patterns, controls and interaction design adding motion to reinforce function

UX04 - Refine | best practices

UX04 – Refine | best practices

Jared-Potter

Refine | best practicesby Jared Potter,application design best practicesenhancing percevied performanceleveraging Windows Phone goodness (Tiles, Maps…)

 

UX05 - build | make it XAML

UX05 – build | make it XAML

Jared-Potter

build | make it XAMLby Jared Potter,importing assets into Expression Blendlayout, text and animationUI controls, data binding and code

 

There’s a ton of great content there – enjoy!!!

Visiting Norway

I had a blast visiting Oslo, Norway for Wordcamp Norway (#wcnorge). The last time that I went to Norway, it was just for a few hours as I flew in, did my talk and flew out. This time I made sure that I took an extra day to see part of the city.

I started off at the Thon Hotel next to the Central Station and walked up to the palace and on to Vigeland Park which is amazing. Then I walked back down to the water and through the Akershus Castle. It was a long walk and I was sore but I’d do it all again.

Oslo, despite being code in January, is a beautiful city. One of the things that I really appreciated is that there is art almost literally on every corner. I took a few (349) photos as I was walked around.

Some of that art was quite striking. However not all of that art was “pretty”. Some of it had some rather graphic depictions of violence and demons but it was all magnificent. It wasn’t gory or out of taste but it (at least to me) spoke to the human trial against our sins and frailty. It wasn’t censored as in there was nudity. It wasn’t pornographic in nature, just naked.

Being a I also appreciate the focus on theatre as I passed at least 6 theatres including the National Theatre which is a magnificent building.

I’m not moving there anytime soon, it gets even darker there during the winter than it does here in Dublin. But I’m definitely going back when I get a chance.

That said, next time I go back, I need to do it in the summer. It was cold. Not a ton of snow this time but cold. Also next time I want to get out of Oslo and see some of the rest of the country as I understand that the rest of the country is at least as beautiful at the city of Oslo.

I recommend that you, if you get a chance regardless of the time of year, go to Norway and do some site seeing.

WordPress on Windows at Wordcamp Norway

imageI just got done speaking at Wordcamp Norway (#wcnorge) on the topic of running WordPress on Windows. The talk seemed to be well received despite the powers that be on the demo side not being kind to me. My first install of WordPress had an port conflict with a previous version and failed. ARG!

IMG_2419Regardless, it’s been a while since I spoke at a Wordcamp but I always have a lot of fun doing so. The talk was well received, especially some of the stuff that’s not in the slides such as the web testing in Visual Studio 2010. It allows you to record a browsing session and then turn it into a load test very quickly.

The deck is a compilation (greatest hits really) of some of my previous talks. I didn’t drain all the slides but rather they are here for reference for folks.

It was also cool that Zé Fontainhas from Automattic was in the audience and liked the talk. Actually, we had a couple of people in the audience who were already running WordPress on Windows who provided unprompted testimonials. 🙂 It was fun.

Thanks for the hospitality of the folks in Norway – next time I have to come back in the summer!!!

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 (http://comingsoon.vodafone.ie/register/lumia/)?

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!

#wpcamp

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:

https://careers.microsoft.com/jobdetails.aspx?ss=&pg=0&so=&rw=8&jid=71749&jlang=EN

Also, I’d be happy to field questions at [my first name].[my last name]@microsoft.com. 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.