Microsoft MVP Award Nomination

Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Logo I am extremely honored to announce that I have been nominated to receive the Microsoft MVP Award for my contributions in C#! Hold on; I have not won the award yet. But to be nominated is really humbling. Thank you very much!

For those of you who may not know, here is a high-level summary of the MVP award:

The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Program recognizes and thanks outstanding members of technical communities for their community participation and willingness to help others. The program celebrates the most active community members from around the world who provide invaluable online and offline expertise that enriches the community experience and makes a difference in technical communities featuring Microsoft products.

MVPs are credible, technology experts from around the world who inspire others to learn and grow through active technical community participation. While MVPs come from many backgrounds and a wide range of technical communities, they share a passion for technology and a demonstrated willingness to help others. MVPs do this through the books and articles they author, the Web sites they manage, the blogs they maintain, the user groups they participate in, the chats they host or contribute to, the events and training sessions where they present, as well as through the questions they answer in technical newsgroups or message boards.

– Microsoft MVP Award Nomination Email

I guess I should start my nomination acceptance speech by profusely thanking Microsoft as well as everyone who nominated me. Unfortunately, I’m not completely certain who those people are. While I could guess (in no particular order: Bill J., Brian H., Glen G., and/or Rob Z.), I would much rather update this post accordingly after I know for certain who to properly thank. I certainly don’t want to leave anyone out!

Please Help

My next task is to provide the MVP Award committee with information and descriptions of my contributions during the past 12 months. For someone who has difficulty remembering what they did just last week, trying to remember something that I did 12 months ago is going to be a real challenge. (Yes, I should do a better job blogging about my activities. I’m just so busy!) Since this is an award about community, I invite and encourage you to participate. Please leave a comment below or send me an email. Help jog my memory by listing anything and everything that you can think of that would apply and/or be important to include in my reply back to the committee. I welcome advice on what to say and how to say it from previous award winners. Again, I greatly appreciate the nomination and welcome any assistance you can provide.


User Group Website Feature List

MousetrapLast week, I talked about the need and desire to build a better mousetrap. And by mousetrap, I mean user group website. If you think about it, a website is a good kind of mousetrap. You want people to easily find it. You want it to be enticing so that they want to learn more and get involved. And you want it to provide quality information so that they keep coming back.

Of course, having a good website alone will not guarantee the success of the user group. That requires a strong leadership team putting on interesting and challenging meetings and events every month. If you build upon this foundation month after month, the world will beat a path to your door. And a quality user group website helps accomplish this.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what features our user group website requires. As I mentioned previously, there are five very basic yet critical goals that I think are a must:

  1. Showcase who, what, where, when.
  2. Build a membership list containing names and email addresses.
  3. Easily communicate with members.
  4. Track meeting registration so you know how many people to expect.
  5. Build an online history.

These goals require the following high-level features:

  1. Clean, minimal site design viewable on “three screens”.
  2. Search engine friendly.
  3. Reduced user interface friction.
  4. Member management.
  5. Communication management.
  6. Event management.
  7. Event registration including both tracking attendance as well as support for cancellations.
  8. Searchable event archive.

I invite you to leave a comment if there is a feature you would like to add to the list above. The next step will be to design a database schema capable of supporting the data required for these features. And as always, leave a comment if you would like to participate.

Building a Better Mousetrap

I think it’s time to build a better mousetrap. And by mousetrap, I mean user group website. Every user group needs a website that they can personalize. Very basic information like who, what, where, when needs to be front and center so that new visitors can easily learn about the group. While the focus should be on upcoming meetings/events, it is equally important to showcase the group’s history. This history helps to create an online community and attract new members as well as retain existing members.

Southeast User Group Leadership Summit (SEUGLS) 2009Let me take a step back and explain how I came to this decision. On Saturday, October 24, 2009, Microsoft (Glen Gordon) and O’Reilly (Marsee Henon) hosted the first, of what will hopefully become annual, Southeast User Group Leadership Summit (SEUGLS) 2009 at the Microsoft offices in Alpharetta, GA. The purpose of the event was for technology-based user and community groups in the Southeast to gather, share tips, and discuss the issues and challenges facing technology groups regardless of the actual technology the group is focused on. While your first impression might be a total snooze fest, you would be very wrong. Everyone came with a story to tell and a desire to learn how others manage their user groups. The result was very lively breakout session discussions. All too quickly, the day was over but I think I can safely say that everyone had a lot of fun, learned at lot, and hopefully made some new friends in the process. I personally can’t wait for the next summit!

At one of the breakout sessions that I attended, we discussed the “tools of the trade”. More specifically, how we communicate and collaborate with our members and manage the user group we are active in. We made a very long list of websites and applications that every group is or has used. The one thing that surprised me was that virtually every group used a different set of tools. The obvious reason why is because no one tool had all the features that user groups needed to be successful.

In my opinion, four things are critical in managing a user group:

  1. You have to be able to build a membership list containing names and email addresses.
  2. You have to be able to send members updates via email.
  3. You have to be able to track meeting registration so you know how many people to expect.
  4. You have to be able to build an online history.

You can easily argue there are more things that could be added to this list. However, without accomplishing the first three tasks successfully, I’d argue you probably won’t be around for very long. Granted, there are several free event registration websites that are capable of doing the three tasks. However, very few give you the ability to link events together to show the history of the group much less give you a way to promote that very basic information (the who, what, where, when) front and center so that new visitors can easily learn about the group.

Thus, I think it’s time to build a better mousetrap. This is one way I can give back to the user group community that has given me so much. I plan to keep everyone updated on the progress of this project. Once I have built a solid foundation, I’ll post the solution to the community so that others can contribute. Leave a comment if you would like to participate.

Congratulations WNC .NET Developers Guild

1st Birthday Cake Hearty congratulations go out to Dave Kolb and everyone at the WNC .NET Developers Guild. They are celebrating their first anniversary tonight! Happy Birthday Dave!

The WNC .NET Developers Guild is an independent, all volunteer organization, dedicated to promoting Microsoft .NET technology and education to the software developer community of Asheville, NC and the surrounding areas.

Meeting on the second Tuesday of every month, Dave has had a very impressive start over the past twelve months. Their meeting have covered a wide range of developer-centric topics and have been given by some very big name presenters. Tonight’s meeting topic is cloud computing and how you can leverage the knowledge you have about .NET to take advantage of the various cloud technologies including offerings from Microsoft, Google and Amazon. While I can’t be there to help celebrate, I wish Dave and everyone best wishes and best of luck with years of continued success!

Mark A. Wilson

Mark A. Wilson

Hello. My name is Mark and this is my first blog entry.

I took my first steps in the early 1980s when my father brought home the Commodore 64 followed very shortly by the Osborne Executive. I was hooked. Since then, I have never been without at least one computer. As a result, I pursued a career in Information Technology with the explicit focus of building software applications that help–not hinder–people. After all, computers are overly complicated and generally unfriendly enough. Let’s strive to make things better.

So what exactly is Developer Infra? It is my search to identify what it takes to enable software development. The key word being enable:

transitive verb

  1. to provide with the means or opportunity
  2. to make possible, practical, or easy
  3. to cause to operate
  4. to give legal power, capacity, or sanction to

-Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of ‘enable‘.

Like computers, software development is often overly complicated and generally viewed unfriendly. It does not need to be that way. In my opinion, we need to utilize things that will allow us to focus exclusively on business logic. After all, that is what brings real value to the business and that is our ultimate goal. Right?

I invite you to join me on this journey. Along the way, I hope to collect useful developer infra – articles and links that refer a reader to things that enable software development. I do not pretend to be an expert on all things nor a self-proclaimed computer guru. Even I recognize I have much to learn. So I also invite you to leave a comment. Please do not hesitate to share your knowledge or provide constructive criticism. Together, we can keep moving forward.

Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things – because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We’re always exploring and experimenting.
-Walt Disney