First talk retrospective

I made it through my first lightning talk at the May meeting of the Nashville .NET user group. If you want some background you can check out this post on my preparation for the talk.

This post is going to be mostly for me to look back on in the future in case I decided to attempt another talk, but I am sure if someone is a new speaking it could be a useful as well.

Retro

Overall the talk went OK. There was no huge epic failure, but it far from a good talk. I was extremely nervous which lead to me be locked to the podium and flying through the talk way faster than I should have. I am pretty soft spoken and didn’t project as much as I really needed to. As a result of that is my points weren’t as clear as I would have liked.

David Neal was right that the audience does want you to succeed. There were a couple of questions at the end of my talk which made me feel that my point wasn’t totally lost. I got feedback for some of the audience members and other speakers which I included in the previous paragraph. All the feedback was presented to me in a kind manner which I greatly appreciated.

The future

In the future, if I try speaking again I have a lot of things I can improve on. I know that sounds negative, but I am looking at it as an opportunity to grow. I now know that I will need more time during the prepping stage to practice out loud and in front of people.

I love technology and sharing what I learn with others. That is one of the reasons I write this blog every week. Speaking may or may not be part of the future way I get to share with other, but I am happy to now know it is something I can do. It would require a ton of work, but it is no longer something I can’t ever see myself doing.

Preparing for my first talk

I will be doing an intro lightning talk on JavaScriptServices at the May meeting of the Nashville .NET user group. The meeting will be over by the time this post comes out, but I wanted to share my outlook on it before hand.

Background

This will be the first time I have done any sort of talk since the required speeches I did in grammar and high school. In college, all the required speaking was attached to some sort of group work in which I was happy to do some extra legwork if another group member was willing to do the presentation.

Based on what I have written so far I am sure you have picked up on the fact that speaking is terrifying to me. Although I have forced myself into more social situations in the last few years it has done nothing to alleviate my fear of speaking to a group of people.

Motivation

Trying speaking is something that has been in the back of my mind for a few years. Speaking is an area I have always shied away from, but over the last few years listening to people like Scott Hanselman, Cory House, Jeremy Clark and David Neal among others and their take on speaking/giving back to the community planted a seed that speaking is something I need to try at least once.

David Neal’s talk on Public Speaking without Barfing on Your Shoes was especially encouraging to me. Here is a recording of the talk from the last Nodevember.

Preparation

I decided on JavaScriptServices because it has provided a great amount of value to personally and I want more people to be aware of it. With the topic in hand, I moved on to making an outline of what I want to cover. Since this talk should max out at 10 minutes my initial outline ended up needing to be scaled back.

The next thing I did was to create a checklist of all the thing I need to do before the talk. The following is an example of where it stands at the moment.

  • Flesh out the outline
  • Add important items for each point in the outline
  • Create and test demo
  • Test demo offline
  • Create a couple of slides
  • Practice out loud

Of the above having to practice out loud is the one I dread the most. I am not sure what it is about hearing one’s own voice, but it is always disconcerting.

 Wrapping up

I am still in the prepping stages and ever day that the talk gets closer the more nervous I get. There is also a level of excitement to see if this could be something I enjoy. It would be fun to have a new way to share my enjoyment and lessons learned outside of this blog.

I will post an update here or a full new post after the talk with how I felt it went. I will also hopefully have the feedback of a few others as well.

Two Years of Blogging

Wednesday will mark two years for this blog. This post is going to be a bit of a retrospective on my blogging journey so far.

Positives

A number of positive things have come out of maintaining this blog some of them I expected other were surprises.

  • Driver for learning new things
  • Opportunity to use new/different technology outside of my normal work
  • Helping people learn a new concept or get past a sticking point
  • New connections with people outside of my normal circles
  • Improvements to my written communication skills
  • Improvements in picking up new technology

Challenges

In addition to the above, the following is a list of things that challenged me. Some of them have helped me grow and others continue to give me problems.

  • Learning new things on a deadline
  • Self-applied pressure to meet my goal of a post a week
  • Not focusing on stats, shares, comment, etc.
  • Picking the right things to learn
  • Losing focus

Hosting challenges

I hit quite a few issues with my host this year. The biggest being multiple multi-day downtimes, high site load times, and difficult to implement SSL support.

In an attempt to address the second two problems I started using Cloudflare which worked well, but the lack of SSL support from my host cause some quirky issues.

All this led to me switching to NodeHost last month. That is a referral link that will give you a $5 credit when you sign up. NodeHost does all their hosting on SSDs and has built-in support for Let’s Encrypt which took care of my SSL problems. Getting a site setup initially was harder that on my old host, but it was totally worth the switch and ended up costing less.

Even with the hosting change I still recommend using Cloudflare. By using Cloudflare my host is having to handle around 50% few requests thanks to Cloudflare’s caching.

Top post of the year

It is interesting to look back and see which post have done the best over time. It is surprising to me that my first post is still in the top 5 post for the last year. One of my top posts was featured on ASP.NET community spotlight which always pushes way more traffic.

The next year

From where it stands now I see more than enough things in the ASP.NET Core/Aurelia/Angular areas to learn and they will continue to be my focus over the next year. I am especially excited that ASP.NET Core tooling to be complete and for Visual Studio 2017 to be released this year. I am also really looking forward to the .NET Standard 2 support to be released. With those two items taken care of, I will feel completely comfortable recommending ASP.NET Core it a much wider range of scenarios.

As always I am open to topic suggestions for topics and happy to answer questions. Thank you for the support of the last couple of years.

Conference Retro

The last few weeks have been extremely busy for me. I had the pleasure of attending both Code on the Beach and Music City Code over the last couple of weekends.

Code on the Beach

My employer was very kind and sent my whole team to Jacksonville, FL for this event. One of the neat thing about this event is that is fairly small number of attendees. There were less than 300 or so people present. The speakers were awesome with surprising number of them who speak on a national level. Just to name a few I got to see Scott Hunter, Jon Galloway, Jeff Fritz, Kathleen Dollard, Stacey Mulcahy and David Neal.

I have not been to a ton of conferences, but Code on the Beach had the best schedule I have seen by far. There were four sessions to choose from in each time slot and the number of time slots didn’t exceed six. For me this was great as it didn’t overload me with choices. There was also couple hour break in the middle of the day for lunch and a little beach time. The break really help give my brain a rest and made it easier to stay engaged for the afternoon sessions.

If you can work it out I highly recommend getting your whole team out of town for a conference. I feel like the team getting to spend time with each other outside of our normal environments was a huge benefit. The team building aspects this trip were well worth the cost.

Music City Code

This year was Music City Code’s (MCC) second year and it takes place in my home area of Nashville, TN. The event has expanded a lot since last year going from a single day event to three days and from 250 attendees to 500. Since this event is only in its second year I was expecting to see mostly speakers from the areas around Nashville, but the speaker pool was much more diverse than I was expecting. Some of the people I got to see speak include Christina AldanHeather Wilde, David Neal, Jeremy ClarkJoel Tosi, Paul Jones, and Scott Drake.

MCC had a schedule more like I was used to with a lot of choices per time slot. The downside of that of course is that a lot of times I wanted to be in multiple places at once. One of the really neat things about this conference is during lunch they have a band playing and want attendees to get on stage and play or sing with the band.

This was something I choose to attend myself and only one other person from my company was there. Since I was not there with a team I met more people than I would have otherwise. I know above I recommend going to a conference with your teams, but I am also going to recommend going to a conference without your team in order to get to know people you wouldn’t be interacting with if you were surrounded by your teammates.

Positives

Conferences have tons of positives. Leaning about new technology is a lot of peoples top reason for attending and it is a great benefit, but not the top one in my option. For me the best part is the interactions with my teammates and people from the broader community. Not only does the interactions with people open the door to new friendships, but it also means getting to hear about the gritty parts of actual implementations of different technology. That is not to say that speakers only tell you about the good parts, but talks have time restrictions and don’t leave enough time to cover all the potholes a particular technology has.

Exhaustion

As great as both conferences were I am happy to have a weekend back with my family. Two weekends away from them was hard. I am not used to travelling which that added to my exhaustion. I have more empathy for how much of a challenge it is for people who are required to travel a lot.

Thank You

I am going to end this post with an open thank you to conference organizers, speakers, volunteers and attendees. Without every ones time and effort great events like Code on the Beach and Music City Code would not happen.

Books, Podcasts and Other Resources

It is time for another experiment. This week I am going provide a list of some of the resources I use to keep myself up to date in the development world. Please leave feedback on if you feel like this is helpful or with some of your own resources. I am intentionally keeping the list short to give a good starting point without being overwhelming.

Books

Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual by John Sonmez – This is the book that finally got me motivated to create this blog.
Clean Code Collection by Rober C. Martin
The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

Podcast

.NET Rocks hosted by Carl Franklin and Richard Cambell – .NET plus other topics
Hanselminutes hosted by Scott Hanselman – Great mix of people and technology
nashdev check out the website for a host list – Programming related topics by local Nashville developers

YouTube Channels

Simple Programmer by John Sonmez – Soft Skills & general life advice for programmers
ProCoder by Jerrie Pelser – Web tech and tools
ASP.NET Community Standup by Scott Hanselman, Damian Edwards and Jon Galloway – Latest information straight from the team doing the work

Twitter

Scott Hanselman
Damian Edwards
Jon Galloway
Steve Smith
Rick Anderson
David Fowler
Jerrie Pelser
Scott Allen
Seth Juarez

Twitter tends to be the place I find interesting articles to read, but I often don’t have time to read them at the time I find them. It combat this problem I used pocket along with IFTTT so that anytime I like a tweet with a link in it the link get saved to pocket. Then when I have time I can go through pocket and read the articles saved from Twitter. This is the IFTTT recipe I am using for this functionality.

A Year of Blogging

Tuesday will mark one year since I made my first post on this blog. I don’t normally do a lot of nontechnical posts, but this will be one of the exceptions.

The Build Up

Over the years I had heard numerous people such as Scott Hanselman  and Cory House recommend blogging and community involvement in general. As I mentioned in this post I have been making an effort to be move involved with the community in the Nashville area over the last couple of years, but had up until this point ignored the advice to start a blog.

This started to change when I read John Sonmez’s book Soft Skills. John’s book really started make me feel the push to create content not just consume it. After reading Soft Skills I signed up for John’s free blogging course which I read, but didn’t take action on. After the course was done John continued to send the occasional blog related email one of which I finally got me to take action.

The Beginning

My first challenge was deciding on a topic area to focus on and I decided to go with ASP.NET. My first post LocalDB v11.0 or MSSQLLocalDB came from an issue I faced when trying to get started with ASP.NET. I remember pushing publish on that first post and being worried about people might say or what mistake I might have made that someone would use rip me to pieces.

What actually happen was nothing. The first few months I basically got no traffic. I had told almost no one about this blog and was not doing post notifications to Twitter.

ASP.NET 5

As I got more in to the world of ASP.NET I came across the beta releases of ASP.NET 5 (now ASP.NET Core) and this became the source of a lot of my entries. I really enjoyed doing entries that provided a guide from one beta to the next. The migration entries are also when I started to feel that I was providing some value to the community.

Exploration of ASP.NET 5 lead me to try Aurelia and Angular 2. This also lead to some exploration of gulp, systemjs, jspm, etc. There is so much to learn, but that is the great thing about being in software.

The Next Year

I am excited to see what the next year brings. ASP.NET Core will hopefully get updated release dates soon and along with that will come the .NET CLI. Both Aurelia and Angular 2 are moving forward toward release. There is never a shortage of things to learn!

If anyone has an topics they would like to see covered drop me a comment. Thanks for all the support over the last year!

Community

This is a departure from the types of post I normally do so please bear with me.

Early in my career I followed some bad advice that steered me away from the great development community that Nashville has to offer. Following that advice is the thing I regret most in my career. That advice is what lead me down the path of the dark matter developer that I mention in the about page for this site.

I spent a lot of years working very hard at my job with my only interaction with other developers being my co-workers. It was comfortable and the easy thing to do. I did not realize how much I was limiting myself. Limiting my growth as a developer, but more so limiting my personal development.

Thankfully this is not where the story ends. A lot of life happened and I ended up being exposed to a group of people who loved being involved with the Nashville development community. They were excited by what they do and involved at levels I had never seen. It was a breath of fresh air and a turning point for me. I am a shy and introverted person but exposure to the community helped me to start getting passed my shyness.

To start I began attending the local .Net User Group. For me this user group was a great place to start. I could listen to the speaker and slip out after the talk was over without too much interaction with others. Over time interactions got easier and I met a ton of great people. User groups are a great for learning new things, but I have come to realize that the connections made with other people are by far the most valuable benefit. I have even expanded to some social only events like the Geek Social.

If you are not involved with the community in your area I encourage you to start. Get to know your fellow developers. They are the greatest resource to be found.

If you need more convincing check out this content from Scott Hanselman and Rob Conery.