MVP Logo

My Microsoft MVP Journey Becoming a Visual Studio and Developer Technologies MVP

On November 1st I got a very nice surprise in my inbox from Microsoft. I was being awarded an MVP in the ‘Visual Studio and Development Technologies’ category. This is an achievement that I am extremely proud of and very excited about. It’s an honour and honestly quite daunting to join such an amazing group of talented community leaders and experts.

A few people have since asked me about the process of becoming and MVP so I thought it might be helpful to share my experience here.

My Background

Before diving into the specifics of the MVP process I thought it would be worth giving a little background of my career. I’ll try to keep this short by skipping to the salient points, however I think it’s helpful to share a little of my background, which has not always been in development.

I’ve worked in the IT industry since around 2000/2001 when I got my first job as a desktop technician for the NHS in my college (high school) holidays. Even before that I was “into computers”, building my own PC from components ordered online and dabbling in programming with QuickBasic and later VB6. I continued my IT career with a job as a desktop and server engineer for a manufacturing company. Whilst doing that role I suggested building an intranet for some of the internal documentation. I had some limited self-taught experience with HTML at the time so I learned what I could from books and online. Later I taught myself classic ASP in order to build a spare parts ordering system for use within the manufacturing company and its partners. Then ASP.NET was released and I started playing around and learning to work with that from books and online articles. Around the ASP.NET 2.0 timeframe my employer needed to improve an in-house Access database system for managing hydraulic test results for their products. I rebuilt that system using SQL Server with a web (WebForms) frontend. I think at this point I was still using VB.NET!

Later my role was outsourced and I was transferred to work for the outsource provider. There I continued as a desktop and server engineer but due to the stricter role boundaries I was no longer able to perform any development work. I kept my skills up with my own side projects, focusing on the current releases of ASP.NET at the time and starting to teach myself C#. I also took on a little bit of side work producing a bespoke website and CRM for a consulting firm in my own time.

I developed my career at the outsource provider over the years there, becoming a UK engineer lead and eventually moving into a role as a Service Delivery Executive, managing support in Europe and Africa for one of our large customers. This was a move away from the technical aspects and into management and customer relations. I enjoyed the challenges but as time went on the resources were stretched and the role became extremely stressful and unrewarding. I stopped enjoying what I was doing and found the 50+ hour work week was absorbing any spare time I had to relax and dabble with development.

I decided to make a change. I realised I was enjoying the experience of building sites with ASP.NET and learning as much as possible and so I applied for a few developer roles. I was very conscious that I had no idea how my self-taught developer skills would stack up in the real world. However I interviewed for Madgex (my current employer) who clearly found my answers suitable as I was offered a job there! I started at the level of “developer”, so between junior and senior. This reflected fairly my skill level at the time. I immediately loved the role and found my days were far more enjoyable. I was no longer stressed and was able to enjoy having some proper free time outside of work. It was a change in direction that I am very pleased I made.

I have now worked at Madgex for over 2 years and in that time have been constantly learning. For sure there was some elements of my developer skill set that were lacking, having been self-taught, but I quickly worked to fill those gaps in my knowledge. The team I joined was amazing and I learned so much from the experienced developers there. In my personal time I spent a lot of the free time I had learning more, watching videos and keeping up with the developments around the new ASP.NET Core framework. About a year or so ago I was lucky enough to be able to put that into practice as we started developing a new product at Madgex. I’ve since been promoted to senior developer and within the last month taken on some additional responsibilities as a developer community lead.

Nomination

The journey to becoming an MVP begins with a nomination at https://mvp.microsoft.com/. In my case I received my first nomination in January 2017 from MVP James Chambers whom I had worked with quite closely on the Humanitarian Toolbox allReady project. James was aware of my blog and activities contributing to OSS and felt I should be put forward for the MVP.

As a nominee, the first you hear about this is via an email from Microsoft, stating that you’ve been nominated. You are given a link to complete a profile in their system.

Recent contributions

As part of the profile completion process you are asked to provide a detailed list of your community contributions. This includes things like any events you have spoken at, blogging, videos you’ve shared and OSS contributions. Retrospectively working out what I’d done and when was no easy task. Had I been expecting a nomination it would have been helpful for me to have kept a record for the last year of activities. If you’re involved in community and hope to one day be nominated I would recommend that you keep a list of key dates for your community activities.

Once you have completed your profile and contributions you submit the form and get a confirmation email that it will go into a review process at Microsoft.

The long wait

In my case, after completing my profile it was a long wait before anything happened, many months in fact. During that time I assumed that the nomination and profile must be under scrutiny within Microsoft. Every now and again I went in to update the contributions against my profile. The process is a bit of a black box and I’m not really sure if my nomination was forgotten about or that it simply takes some time to get a response.

In August I happened to be at a Microsoft community event being run by the the UK Community Program Manager / MVP Lead, Claire Smyth. Since I had the opportunity I asked about the MVP process and mentioned my nomination. We followed up by email and Claire was able to locate the nomination in the system. At this point we arranged a brief call to discuss the MVP along with support Microsoft were offering to new user groups. I happened to have just setup my new user group, .NET South East at this time so Claire had kindly offered me some support and advice.

This was a useful chat and Claire was able to explain a little more about the things that the MVP team are looking for in nominees. It’s mostly that there is a varied and comprehensive range of contributions that show a positive community benefit. I was able to discuss my community activities in a little more detail. Claire also explained that after the nomination is approved it usually also goes to the respective product teams for them to review the contributions and give their feedback. In my case I’d had a little contact with some of the ASP.NET team and I let Claire know some of the people I’d previously interacted with.

At the end of the call Claire confirmed she would look over the information and see if the nomination should go forward.

Further nominations

During the weeks after our call I was fortunate enough to receive two further nominations for the MVP award, including one from Jon Galloway at Microsoft. This last one I feel had particular weight in tipping me over to get the award. Since the review process includes some input from the product teams as to which nominees are ready to the award, having a nomination from someone on the ASP.NET team was likely very helpful! If you receive additional nominations you seem to get a whole new profile to be completed. I dropped an email to Claire who I believe was able to link the nominations together in the system. Just to be sure, I completed the profile on the most recent nomination link. By this point I’d done some more talks so I was able to add some extra contributions to my list.

After this, things went quiet again while the process continued behind the scenes. It was a busy period and I forgot mostly about the nominations for a while. Then, on the 1st of November after an evening meal with some friends I happened to glance at my phone when heading to the car. I had a few emails and I scanned over the list. One particular subject line jumped out at me – “Congratulations 2018-2019 Microsoft MVP!” My excitement mounted further as I opened the email and read the first paragraph!

MVP Award Email

I was honestly shocked and very excited to read this email. I immediately showed it to my wife who was also very excited. I’d explained the MVP and mentioned my nominations for it to her earlier in the year and she was aware of what a big thing it was to be awarded the MVP.

What do you get?

In the congratulations email you are sent details of how to start accessing some of your MVP benefits via the MVP site. There’s a lot to take in. I started by ensuring my MVP profile was correct so that it would appear on the MVP site. I then looked at things such as the MSDN Visual Studio Enterprise subscription which is a very handy subscription to get! After agreeing to a Microsoft NDA you are also able to access special mailing lists that include members of the product teams. I joined the ASP.NET mailing list and the Azure one as those are most relevant to what I do day to day. You can also sign up for a Microsoft Yammer group that gives you access to chat with other MVPs and Microsoft personnel. There’s still lots of things I need to look into as MVP have access to various licenses and products as part of their benefit package. For me though, the access to the wider product teams and fellow MVPs is one of the best benefits.

As well as the access and licenses mentioned above the other thing you can expect as a new MVP is an award pack posted to you from Microsoft. I got an email stating that mine had been posted and would be with me in about one week. I’d seen photographs of the award pack from other MVPs via Twitter so knew roughly what to expect. Even so, on the day of its arrival to my home it was exciting to unbox the contents. Inside the award pack you get a very solid physical trophy made of glass. It’s much more substantial than I’d expected and looks really great. You also get a certificate, MVP ID card, lapel pin and some MVP stickers. It’s a really nice pack and it’s nice to have something physical to represent the award.

Microsoft MVP Award Pack

MVP Summit

The other very exciting opportunity for MVPs is the chance to register to attend the MVP Global Summit which is run annually out of the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Seattle. My MVP award was perfectly timed, just before the registration for this event opened. On the day of registration I was eager to sign up to attend. It’s a hugely valuable opportunity to visit the Microsoft campus and to meet and interact with the Microsoft product teams directly. The registration process itself was a bit of a nightmare as despite jumping on the minute it opened, the system was clearly unable to handle the load and was crashing. I spent nearly two hours trying to complete the hotel registration phase. During that time a number of MVPs were experiencing problems and tweeting about the issue. One MVP provided a couple of phone numbers we could try to get support. Not surprisingly the phone system also struggled under the load but eventually I was able to get through to someone. They were very helpful and in very little time managed to get me registered for the event and the hotel of my choice. I’m looking forward to my first trip to the US and the chance to meet many of the MVPs and Microsoft staff I follow on Twitter.

Next Steps

Being awarded the MVP is a very exciting development in my career. Over the last two years I have been very focused on blogging and sharing as much as I can with the amazing developer community. I learn huge amounts from other community contributors and it’s wonderful to play my small part in that and be recognised with this prestigious award for that work. It’s a little intimidating too, to be joining such an expert group of fellow MVPs. I can’t help but feel a degree of impostor syndrome at the thought. I hope to live up to the award by continuing to contribute within the community. I want to keep up blogging, speaking, running my user group and OSS contributions as much as possible. There are a few other projects and ideas that I hope to find the time to do also that I hope will contribute further to the ASP.NET community in particular. I owe a huge thanks to the community and various specific people along my journey who have supported what I’m doing, offered advice and nominated me for this award. A big thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way!

.NET South East October 2017 Meetup With guest Rabeb Othmani

Last night we held our third .NET South East meetup at Madgex HQ with special guest Rabeb Othmani. Here’s a brief summary of the evening…

Preparation

Planning for this meeting felt a lot easier than past events as I have built a few lists of things to do and have a bit of experience with setting everything up. As usual I did a bit of marketing for the event via Twitter, hoping to spread the word.

On the evening I finished work around 4:30pm to begin setting up the room and preparing things like the snacks and drinks. We have a pretty well-oiled process now and with the help of Ricky our IT guru we had the room prepared in about 30 minutes. The plan for the evening was to stick to the process we’d developed at our prior meetup.

We had our attendees sign in down in the foyer with two volunteers, Chris and Jenny very kindly helping to do that this month. Again we placed our food and drinks networking area in our main reception space so that there was more space for people to chat and socialise. Toby and Sally; two more Madgexians kindly helped meet and greet people from the lifts. This month I was please as everything was ready well in advance and I was actually able to spend a bit of time greeting and speaking to people as they arrived. This was something I’d been unable to do at the prior events where I was running around getting the final things sorted.

In the end we had 20 attendees for the evening so a bit of a drop off from our first two. I had kind of expected this since the novelty has worn off for some. We did have some new faces though so it was nice to see more members finding their way to us.

Intro and news

At 7pm I opened the evening with my introduction, including thanking our fantastic sponsors and then went on to discuss some of the news items I had gathered for this month…

Quantum Computing

The first item I discussed was taken from the Ignite 2017 announcement that Microsoft are expecting to release a Quantum computing programming language by the end of this year. Microsoft are heavily invested in research around building a working quantum computing device and would like to start skilling up developers to work in the quantum world. The new language is yet unnamed (my guest is Q#!) and will include full Visual Studio integration, including a debugging experience. A local simulator will be available to simulate a 30 Qubit device or an Azure based 40 Qubit similar can be used. It’ll be interesting to watch how this develops as quantum computing could truly change the way we think about programming.

Microsoft Quantum Computing

Arstechnica Article on MS Quantum Computing

.NET 4.7.1 built in support for .NET Standard 2.0

A smaller news item but worth a quick mention, this story refers to the Microsoft announcement that 4.7.1 of the .NET Framework now includes all necessary files to consume .NET Standard 2.0 libraries. While 4.6.1 introduced compliance with the .NET Standard 2.0, it required some additional files to be deployed and in some cases binding redirects to be used.

.NET 4.7.1 built in support for .NET Standard 2.0 Announcement

UWP Supports .NET Standard 2.0

A related story was another Microsoft announcement that a major update for UWP means that it now supports .NET Standard 2.0. This introduces an additional ~20k APIs to the platform which developers can now take advantage of. It should also make sharing code between UWP and other platforms much easier. To use this update you need Visual Studio 15.4 and need to be targeting the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

UWP Supports .NET Standard 2.0 Announcement

Rabeb Othmani – Welcome to the age of conversational interfaces

Rabeb Othami speaking about conversational interfaces

Rabeb gave us a great talk that really set my mind off thinking about building bots! She talked about the coming of age of conversational interfaces via devices like Google Echo, Amazon Alexa and our smart phones.

She described the history of the changing development landscape as users move to consuming on smaller devices and via different interfaces. We moved from mouse on desktop devices, to touch on tablets and smart phones and we’re now entering the age of voice communication where we may never physically interact with the device at all.

Recent advances in technologies such as AI and machine learning are enabling us to develop more intelligent applications while improvements in voice recognition, language interpretation and text to speech have also driven the industry forward and moved us towards more and more voice based interfaces.

Digital assistants such as Google, Siri and Cortana understand more about the context in which we are operating and can tailor responses and information to our needs.

Voice as an interface is becoming popular in part due to its convenience and speed. With text we need to locate our device, unlock it, access an app, type data and wait for a response. With voice, we can very quickly interact without any need to physically hold the device. We can interact on the move or in situations such as in the car when our hands are not free to use a device. Voice can be very simple when done right as there are no UI issues in the traditional sense. However the application/device must be able to understand and interpret the intent of the user.

Rabeb listed some key point to consider when building voice based interfaces:

  • Make it smart
  • Use language users can understand
  • The capabilities of your tech
  • The structure of the info – For example dates; e.g. should you infer a year if the user doesn’t say one?

When building for devices like Alexa you build skills which are a unit of conversational intelligence. You must register the skill to be able to use it from your device. Skills invoke a bot in the cloud which does the processing for your application. Rabeb demoed the Microsoft bot SDK in Visual Studio and a simple bot which would call her phone using the Nexmo APIs.

Rabeb Othamni at .NET South East

It was a great introduction to the world of bots and voice interfaces. I have been inspired to add it to my list of things to try and I hope a few others will do the same. This is exactly why I believe user groups are so great. In a short evening you can quickly learn about a new technology with enough to get you excited and start you on a path of discovery. A big thank you to Rabeb for travelling down from Bristol to spend the evening with us.

As always, a big thanks too to the amazing volunteers from Madgex who helped me setup and run the evening and to all of the attendees for making time to join us. A final thanks goes to our sponsors for the evening who offered some great prizes and support of our user group.

Prize Draws

With the end of the evening closing in we drew the winners of the prizes from our fantastic sponsors for the event. The prizes we had to offer were:

JetBrains
One year individual subscription to any single JetBrains Toolbox product

Progress
DevCraft Complete License code

Manning
Free eBook

elmah.io
6 month Small Business license

PostSharp
License to PostSharp

Again we use the WPF app created by Dan Clarke, who organises the .NET Oxford meetup. The rules as with the last event were:

a) names are added from the RSVP list (as at about 1 hour before the event)
b) if the name drawn is not in attendance, we redraw.

Next events

We have some great speakers lined up for the next couple of months, and I’m working with a few people of plans for next year too.

.NET South East November 2017 – Michael Newton
Making Distributed Systems in .NET Easier

.NET South East November 2017 – David Arno
Roslyn Analysers

2018 events to be announced soon!

Call for speakers

I’d love to get a range of varied content and speakers to present at our user group. We have a nice pipeline for the coming months but those months will fly by very quickly. If you’d be interested in speaking at a future event we’d love to have you. Please get in touch via the contact form on this blog or ping me on Twitter and we can discuss availability and topics.

I’m really keen to draw as many speakers from our local community too so please let me know if you might be interested in speaking. Perhaps you have presented a talk internally and could open it up to a wider audience. I highly recommend speaking as a way to develop professionally. I’m happy to offer advice for new speakers and help where I can.

If you don’t like the idea of public speaking, you are not alone. Please check out my own story in my recent two part blog series – Part 1 of How to not hate public speaking.

Links

https://www.nexmo.com
https://rabebdiaries.wordpress.com/
https://dev.botframework.com
https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/cortana

.NET South East August 2017 Meetup With speakers Dylan Beattie and Steve Gordon

Last night we held the first ever .NET South East meetup event! I’ve been really looking forward to this meetup since first announcing the idea at the end of June. I talked about some of my motivations behind starting the group in an earlier blog post.

I’d spent a lot of time leading up to this event trying to think about all of the bits I needed to plan and have ready. I had great support from some of the other community leaders to help with ideas, advice and suggestions. I was also able to attend an event at Microsoft in London for community leaders, speaking with some of their team about how they can support user groups, so I’m looking forward to working with them too.

Over the days and weeks before the event I had been staggered by the number of RSVPs we were getting via meetup.com. One of my two big concerns when moving forward to launch the group had been whether there would be interest from the local community and people would show up. I had set a rather arbitrary 60 person limit for the group, never really expecting to hit that. However, with a day or two left before the event, we were full! In fact I was starting to worry that if everyone turned up, we would run out of space and seating.

The big day!

Thoughts of the meetup were always in the back of my mind during the day and as the start time approached I was equal parts excited and nervous. I start and finish early at work so by 4pm I was able to shoot out and grab an early dinner from Pompoko in Brighton. It was nice to have 20-30 minutes to relax out of the office and prepare myself for the evening ahead.

Returning to the office at 4:30pm it was time to begin setting up. We have 3 meeting rooms at Madgex which can all be opened up into one large space. It’s the perfect location for an event like this as we have a large TV screen for presenting on and an audio system with an array of microphones. I’m hugely thankful to two Madgex staff in particular at this stage who helped me to get this room ready and setup the equipment. Leah our amazing office administrator was on hand helping to set up the seating, whilst Ricky our IT tech was there to ensure the audio/visual side was all functioning as expected.

Our one and only technical hitch for the evening was actually with one of the folding doors which allow us to open up the last room as part of the space. The last folding section was jammed shut and we couldn’t open the door fully. However, it wasn’t a major issue and we were still able to get the seating setup. It was not one of the things I’d worried about going wrong! I’d been mostly concerned with the TV output and microphones working correctly.

Madgex venue for .NET South East

I was amazed at how quickly the time evaporated as we got the room and snacks prepared. Once the meeting rooms were ready I set about putting up some signs to guide people into the Madgex offices. By 6:15pm we had our first early bird arrivals. Some more of my colleagues at Madgex jumped in to add their support here, helping get people through the security doors and into the office. Madgex are on the 1st floor of a shared building and access is tightly controlled. To access the building you need to be buzzed in, then to use the lifts you will need an access fob.

It was actually the logistics of this which was the hardest part of the evening. Fortunately I had two volunteers on hand to help. Rachel, our development team lead kindly based herself in the foyer of the building to let people in. She would then put them in the lift and swipe her access fob so they could be delivered to the 1st floor. Ready and waiting in the entrance of the Madgex office, Chris, one of our senior developers was ready to greet the guests and get them signed in. With RSVP lists on hand Chris was able to tick off the attendees for the evening.

The other logistics challenge we have is access to the toilets, or more specifically, how people get back into the Madgex office. Once you leave for the toilets a security locked door stands in your way if you want to return. We had organised visitor access fobs for the evening and Chris was superb as passing those out and gathering them back from our guests. During our 10 minute break Chris manned the door to enable people to use the facilities.

Without Chris and Rachel helping on the night I’m really not sure how we could have gotten everyone in so successfully, so I know for next time that I need to line up at least two volunteers again. We also realised that once we start it’s near impossible to hear the intercom buzzer so I have made sure to update our details on meetup to stress that entry after 7pm can’t be guaranteed. Unless we are able to get someone stationed near the door (who was not worried about missing the talks) I’m not sure how we can improve this. We’ll try to think about possible solutions to that problem, but hopefully everyone arrives on time. By having the arrivals from 6:30pm and talks at 7pm, we hopefully give enough of a window to get people into the event.

In the end we had 49 attendees (including myself) and I think nearly filled every seat in the room. I was really amazed by the turnout as people started to fill up the area where we were serving drinks and snacks. Before long it was getting quite congested. We’ll think about the possibility of picking a different networking space for the next event. I’d honestly not dreamed that the first event would be so popular. A big thanks to everyone who made time to attend and show their support. It’s great to see that we have such a large community who are willing and able to attend. I really hope we can keep the attendance level up for the upcoming events.

Audience at .NET South East

Intro and news

As we hit 7pm it was time to get everyone seated and begin the event. I expected to be more nervous than I was as I prepared to give my introduction. However, I felt pretty good and after a minute or so I was into my stride. After covering the obligatory health and safety notices I went on to share some of the reasons behind starting the group and welcoming everyone to the event. I then took a chance to thank our sponsors, especially Madgex for the support they’ve given and for providing a venue for the evening. The meeting rooms are a great space and I hope everyone was reasonably comfortable in there.

I also covered a little news and events section which originally I was unsure about including. However, with the release of .NET Core 2.0 last week I felt that was worth spending a few minutes to talk about it. The big changes are the wider API surface now available in .NET Core 2.0 which align it to .NET Standard 2.0. This hopefully eases the barrier to entry for companies with existing code that they may want to migrate over to core.

I also highlighted the .NET Conf event which is running in September as well. It’s a free, streamed conference organised by Microsoft which will likely include a lot of .NET Core 2.0 and ASP.NET Core 2.0 content.

Talks

Dylan Beattie: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of APIness : The Secret to Happy Code

With my introduction complete it was time for our first talk. Dylan Beattie was kind enough to join us from London (on his birthday) to give his fantastic talk entitled: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of APIness : The Secret to Happy Code. In this very entertaining talk Dylan presented examples of both good and bad interfaces and how these can affect the happiness and frustration of end users.

During the talk he highlighted the power of giving helpful error messages and prompts for the user/developer to solve the issue wherever possible. Blank wall error messages should be avoided where they offer no useful information to enable the user to proceed. The way those messages are phrased is also important.

Dylan spoke about a personal obsession of mine – including proper XML comments to supply tools like Visual Studio’s intellisence a way to provide developers with useful instruction about how to use your library / code. This is something I’m very keen on as I’ve used a few poorly commented libraries that provide no intellisense support to guide you through their API.

The discussion continued onto proper and relevant logging / monitoring and how logging levels and messages should be used wisely to provide insight into the health of systems. A good recommendation is leaving relevant debug logging in place that can be enabled in production if you need to diagnose hard to replicate errors.

It was a great talk and really well received by the audience.

Dylan Beattie speaking at .NET South East

Dylan ended with a short promotion for a .NET conference that he helps to organise in London called Progressive .NET. There’s a fantastic speaker line-up for the event so I recommend you check it out and convince your boss to send you along! We also have a 20% discount code you can use against the current list price: SE_PROGNET_20

My Talk: Docker for .NET Developers

After our 10 minute break I was pleased to see that nearly everyone had stayed for the second talk of the evening. This time I was in the spotlight and presenting my talk about how .NET developers can get started with Docker. In this talk I share our experience at Madgex as we got started with Docker for a new product. Along the way I explain the architecture we developed and how we used Docker to ease the workflow for our front end developers. Along the way I show some code demos about how we can get started using Docker, building images and running containers. We look at using docker-compose for co-ordinating multiple containers.

I conclude the talk with an explanation of how we’d developed a build and deployment process and how we run in production on AWS using Docker. This included a final demo showing the deployment process in action.

Steve Gordon speaking at .NET South East

Prize Draws

With the end of the evening closing in, before heading off to the pub we drew the winners of the prizes from our fantastic sponsors for the event. The prizes we had to offer were:

JetBrains

One year individual subscription to any single JetBrains Toolbox product

Progress

  1. DevCraft Complete license code
  2. T-Shirts x 5

Manning

  1. ebook – 1Docker in Action by Jeff Nickoloff
  2. ebook – Docker in Practice, 2nd edition by Ian Miell and Aidan Hobson Sayers

elmah.io

6 months Business license

I went for the low tech, names out of a bowl approach for the first event! The rules I’ve devised which I hope are fair are:

a) names are added from the RSVP list (as at 1 to 1.5 hours before the event)
b) if the name drawn is not in attendance, we redraw.

Congratulations to the winners. I hope everyone who won was happy with their prize. One issue we did encounter were that meetup.com doesn’t enforce full names for RSVP’s so we could run into issues with drawing a winner signed up with just their first name when more than one person in the room shares the name! I’m not sure what we can do there but we’ll try to manage it fairly or do some kind of tie break in those cases. I’ll also urge our attendees to add their full names when registering on Meetup.

Next events

One of the main concerns I had when starting the user group was finding speakers. So far those concerns have not been warranted and I’m pleased to have been able to line up some great speakers for the coming three months of events.

.NET South East September 2017 – Jon Galloway
We’re excited to announce that Jon Galloway from Microsoft will join us for the evening to share two exciting talks. What’s new in ASP.NET Core 2.0 and a talk about The .NET Foundation. This is filling up fast and we expect it to be quite popular. Please make sure you visit the link and RSVP to attend as we will have to limit numbers.

.NET South East October 2017 – Rabeb Othmani
Rabeb joins us with her talk “Welcome to the age of conversational interfaces” – looking at how we can build interfaces using SMS, voice and bots.

.NET South East November 2017 – Michael Newton
Michael joins us with his talk “Making Distributed Systems in .NET Easier” – discussing distributed architecture with .NET.

Call for speakers

I’d love to get a range of varied content and speakers to present at our user group. We have a nice pipeline for the coming months but those months will fly by very quickly. If you’d be interested in speaking at a future event we’d love to have you. Please get in touch via the contact form on this blog or ping me on Twitter and we can discuss availability and topics.

I’m really keen to draw as many speakers from our local community too so please let me know if you might be interested in speaking. Perhaps you have presented a talk internally and could open it up to a wider audience. I highly recommend speaking as a way to develop professionally. I’m happy to offer advice for new speakers and help where I can.

Links

A collection of links shared during the evening.

Dylan Beattie’s blog
Steve Gordon’s blog
.NET Conf – Sept. 19th – 21st
Progressive .NET Tutorials – Sept. 13th to 15th
Humanitarian Toolbox Summer Hackfest
.NET Core 2.0 / ASP.NET Core 2.0 Introduction – Scott Hunter
Ian Cooper – Creating a .NET Renaissance (NDC Oslo 2017)

Docker for .NET Developers slides
Docker for .NET Developers – Demo 1
Docker for .NET Developers – Demo 2
Docker for .NET Developers – Demo 3
August 2017 Meetup intro / summary slides

Announcing .NET South East A new Brighton based .NET User Group

It’s been an exciting few weeks for me recently. First I was accepted to talk at two conferences in September, then our latest product at work went live, then I got a promotion at work and now I’ve decided to start a new .NET user group in Brighton which is call .NET South East.

Brighton based .NET South East user group logo

The idea of starting a meetup has been at the back of my mind for a little while now and after much consideration I decided that I should just go ahead and get on with it. I’ve setup a new group on meetup.com called .NET South East. I expect it will mostly be attended by developers living and working in Brighton but I’m hoping that we can encourage people to join from anywhere around Sussex.

Announcing the First Meetup

I’m very excited to be able to announce that the first meetup will be held on August 22nd. At that event I’ll be talking about Docker for .NET Developers. In this talk I will take you on a tour of Docker, a modern application packaging and containerisation technology that .NET developers can now leverage. I will share with you the Docker journey that our team at Madgex are on, exploring our motivations for using Docker. You will learn the core terminology .NET developers need to know to begin working with Docker and explore demos that show how you can start using Docker with your own ASP.NET Core projects. Finally, I will demonstrate how we have built a deployment pipeline using Jenkins and explore the AWS EC2 Container Services (ECS) configuration we have created to enable rapid, continuous delivery of our microservices.

Elmah.io have kindly provided sponsorship for this event in the form of a 6 month business license for their software. We will be holding a raffle at the end of the event for one lucky attendee to win this fantastic prize.

Why a User Group?

User groups are a place where like-minded people can come together to enjoy a common interest, sharing and learning about that interest together. I’ve attended a few general developer user group sessions and watched many more online and I always leave having learned something or with a take-away I could follow up on later. Even if it’s just the seed of an idea or something I’d like to try, it has been well worth my time. Along with the content from the speakers, it’s also a good chance to mix in with other developers and make contacts, share thoughts and ideas. Perhaps you’ll meet someone who can help with a problem you’ve been fighting recently!

I started working in Brighton nearly two years ago and since then I’ve kept an eye out for groups and talks to attend. The only .NET specific group I’ve found locally is Brighton ALT.NET which meets once a month to have open discussion about any topics that the attendees vote to talk about. It’s a great format and there’s a nice variation of topics and opinions from the community there. I’ve attended on a couple of occasions and plan to get along to more of their monthly events.

Some may wonder, why start a group if one already exists and it’s a fair question. What I’m proposing to introduce takes a different format to that of ALT.NET. I’m looking to bring in speakers from around the area, as well as hopefully further afield, giving them the chance to share a topic in depth with the audience. In many cases I expect the talks to be conference length, 45-60 minutes long although I’m sure we can accommodate shorter talks as well.

Recently I met up with Mike who organises the ALT.NET evenings to run the idea past him. I was conscious that he already has a good community of regular attendees and I didn’t want to upset the balance by trying to introduce this second group. Mike was very encouraging of the idea and agreed that he felt there was room for both groups to exist and thrive together, helping to strengthen the local .NET community.

I recently watched a very inspiring talk from Ian Cooper at NDC Oslo entitled, The .NET Renaissance. In that talk Ian highlights the historical decline of C# and .NET. Ian ended that talk with a call to action to everyone in our community to help create a renaissance of .NET. Together, we can do it and bring the change. It’s an pivotal time for .NET developers with the new .NET Core framework and the approach from Microsoft to embrace open source and community. Later this year, version 2.0 of .NET core will be released and at that point porting over older .NET framework projects should be even easier. I’m very much enjoying working with the new framework and sharing my experience in this blog and now at soon at some meetups and conferences. I’m excited to play my small part in helping move the #dotnetrenaissance forward. Please join us!

What’s Next?

I’m still finding my feet as I establish this new group and start planning the events. I’m working on the logistics of the arrangements that need to be in place. My employer Madgex have very kindly agreed to allow me to use their meeting room space for the meetups. We have three meeting rooms that can be opened up into one large area, with A/V equipment and seating available. Perfect for our needs! Located close to the centre of Brighton, the Madgex office should be in easy reach of developers wanting to participate.

Madgex have also kindly provided me funding to setup the meetup.com group so that I could start to gauge interest in starting a new group. Already I’ve had over 40 signups from people interested in the idea and I hope that many of those will be able to attend the meetups going forward.

Finding speakers was my main worry, but already I’ve been approached by a few people who have talks they can offer to present. I expect there are other potential speakers out there with content to share, but perhaps no outlet for it. If you’d like to come along and speak please do get in touch.

I’m still trying to decide what the best schedule for the meetups. Ideally I’d like to run them every month and about two weeks after the local ALT.NET meetup. To begin with I’m planning on every two months as we build up the interest and I make arrangements with enough speakers who can present at the meetups. We’ll judge this on interest and the logistics or organising everything.

Call for Attendees

I’d love to get as many developers from our community involved in the meetups and attending regularly. I really believe that they will be a great chance to learn about topics that are necessary for .NET developers to thrive. Let’s get together and share our passion for what we do. I do urge you to save the date and RSVP on meetup.com. Please do spread the word with friends and colleagues who may want to attend.

Call for Speakers

I’d love to hear from you if you have a talk you want to present. It would be great to hear from the many local developers we have in Brighton, sharing what they do and teaching others about technologies they are using. If you’re further afield, but able to travel, we’d love to have you. I’d love to welcome first time speakers to join us as well. I’ve only just begun speaking myself and I’m finding it to be a great experience that is teaching me a lot along the way. I’ve never been a confident public speaker, but have found that by diving in, I’m able to deal with that fear and share my passion. Please do get in touch and I’ll help in any way I can.

Call for Sponsors

We already have two fantastic sponsors on-board, Madgex are providing their meeting space for free and assisting with some of the costs to get the event up and running. Elmah.io are providing a license as a prize for one attendee to win. If you’re a company in a position to offer prizes or sponsorship to our new group to help us get off the ground, please do get in touch.

Conclusion

I’m excited to get started to try to do my part to help build on the .NET community here in Brighton. I’m learning as I go and developing my own skills to organise the meetup and network with peers. I’d like to offer a huge thanks to those who have helped me so far. I’ve had great support from other event organisers (Dan Clarke, Joe Woodward, Dylan Beattie, Derek Comartin), community members via Twitter, Madgex and the staff there and elmah.io. Thanks to Mike from ALT.NET for his support and input and a special thanks to Ben Wood, a talented designer at Madgex who is kindly helping to develop a brand identity and digital assets for the new group.