Jan 102014
 

I’ve been working with various developer communities for several years, and there’s a common question I encounter regardless of the platform:

Q: “What should I work on?”

This isn’t always easy to answer specifically, because a great deal depends on the skills and interests of the person asking.  But there is an easy general response:

A: “Solve a problem for yourself.”

I’ve found that the developers not asking that question tend to do exactly that.  They have a need, see no available solution, and jump right into solving it for themselves.  Often enough, that tends to work for others as well.

I’ll demonstrate with an example that’s close to home for me.  My youngest son was riding with a friend who got stuck at the edge of a lake in his truck, well away from any paved roads.  He was unable to tell me exactly where he was, so I needed his geocoordinates.  Unfortunately his phone’s battery was low and he was reluctant to do anything else to drain it; calling me was cutting it close.  But eventually I was able to figure out that he was at a park I’d been to, and headed off to get him.

I also checked the Windows Phone store for location-sharing apps, for future use.  Something like that would be handy for teen drivers and their parents.  But while I found several that provided coordinates, I didn’t see any that provided routing.  As I drove to pick my son up, I sketched out in my head how I could address that.  Back at home, I immediately got to work.

When I talked to others about it during development, I kept encountering the same response: “I’d love to have that for my kids!”.  As I got further into the project, I thought of other modalities: meetings, deliveries, even macro gaming.  I incorporated many, but kept the basic functionality simple and focused on emergencies, so that someone needing urgent help need only use a few clicks to get it.

The result is my first published app (after 30 years of coding!), Here You Go.  I’m pretty pleased with the outcome and have several ideas on how to make it even better.

Point is: I had a problem, checked out what was available, and then solved the problem.  That sort of process tends to result in apps that resonate with others.  It works for hackathons too: time and time again I have seen clear, simple, monofunctional solutions take the big prize away from more complicated projects.

So, at least for your first app(s), forget Change The World type solutions.  Look at your own needs, and implement something simple that solves them.  The odds are very good that there are many, many potential customers with the very same needs.

Now go code!

Dec 062013
 

Greetings all!  It’s time to dive back into Windows Phone developer community land.  In this post I’ll be sharing the good and not-so-good news for WP development in my region, which is physically centered in the Dallas-Fort Worth area but also includes Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota.  I’ll summarize the year and share some ongoing/upcoming stuff too.

Developers

Since starting this part-time role, I have spoken directly with hundreds of developers in my coverage area, and communicated with or become aware of many more by email, Twitter and other virtual means.  Out of that, here’s a breakdown of current status:

2014 Windows Phone Developer Information – Nokia Dev North TX

Status

Number

Notes

Contact and related info

Have provided a name and expressed interest

~180

Partially registered with me (Name, email address and location minimum)

47

Fully registered with me (email address, DVLUP account name,   Windows Dev Center name, location)

64

Twitter name also helpful but not required

Development

Have published app(s) to the Windows Phone Store

48

Active (WP app created/updated within previous 180 days)

29

 Goal: get this higher!

Related developer and enthusiast groups (must show examples of Windows Phone support)

North Texas

Member of Windows Phone App Developer Group – DFW

189

Member of DFW Mobile .NET

108

Supports Windows Phone, iOS and Android
Member of Dallas .NET User’s Group

193

Broad interest that includes .NET mobile development

Oklahoma

(no groups known) Rich Dunbar is working on starting a group in Oklahoma City

Kansas

(no groups known) I am in discussion about this with the Kansas City Mobile App Developers Group

Colorado

Member of Boulder .NET User Group

371

Broad interest that includes .NET mobile development
Member of Colorado Microsoft Developers

260

Member of GeoDev Meet Up Group – Colorado

341

Broad interest that includes .NET mobile development

Nebraska

Member of Omaha Mobile Group

271

Broad mobile interest

South Dakota

Member of Sioux Falls Developers Group

149

Broad interest that includes .NET mobile development

 

Note some big gaps between some of these numbers… which means missed opportunities for many developers and myself.  For developers because in the past year or so I’ve given out plenty of Nokia phones, swag, software development resources and even cash to many.  For myself because I receive incentives from Nokia directly tied to developer activity and success.

Obviously I’m highly motivated to help interested developers, who should in turn be motivated by their own rewards.  Too many have been missing out, as I’ll explain further in a bit.  But bottom line, I’d like to see that 29 active developers count go up.  WAY up.

Events

There haven’t been many Windows Phone meetups in the DFW area recently.  The original DFW developer group has been inactive for a while, and my focus for the past few months has been on a multitude of local hackathons.  On that note, here’s a list of some I’ve supported:

And events planned for the future:

  • AT&T Developer Summit Hackathon, Las Vegas, 04 to 05 January 2014.
  • Dallas IGDA Holiday Party, 11 January 2014.  Hang out with rockin’ gamers– I’ll have prizes!  Bonus prize for registered developers.
  • Global Game Jam, 24 to 26 January, 2014.
  • UNT Big Data Hackathon, 07 to 09 February 2014.
  • Dallas Day Of Dot Net, 28 March 2014
  • BRIT Civic Hacking event, probably summer of 2014.  Planned to coincide with the annual, US-wide Hack for Change events.
  • DFW Mobile.NET learning sessions under development for 2014.  Will cover Windows Phone, iOS and Android.
  • DVLUP Day(s) DFW.  We’ve had a few large events focused on DVLUP around the country and they’ve been a tremendous success.  Some have in fact broken developer-involvement records for Nokia and Microsoft.  I intended to hold a small one for DFW this Fall but the previously-mentioned hackathons interfered.  Look for one sometime next year, and possibly something bigger.

Let me know of any I’ve missed!  I’ll update this page.

Promotions and Opportunities

Chances at prizes and fame!  Note that not all of these are for coding.  Some key opportunities:

DVLUP

As of this writing, DVLUP now supports 40 countries around the world.  It’s an unstoppable phenomenon!

We’re rewarding Windows Phone developers for doing what they love best: coding apps.  Many have made out well, with success stories that include one developer earning enough points for six Lumia 920s during a December 2012 promotion!  And yet, there are many who have published WP apps yet aren’t active in DVLUP.  I personally find that mystifying, but I’m here to support those savvy developers who know a good thing when they see it.

There have been some growing pains, including recent site glitches, but rest assured the DVLUP team is highly committed to providing you a rewarding experience.  Get in and get active!

General

As many of you know, Windows Phone continues to grow in popularity.  Back in early 2012 I struggled to get local developers interested.  By early 2013, Windows Phone teams were winning at hackathons!  I believe the platform is at a tipping point toward huge success, and suspect that Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s handset business will help cement that.  Get involved before the WP app store is oversaturated!

Along those lines, we’re not sure what’s going to happen with our little team when the buyout dust settles.  However, I have no doubt that DVLUP’s success is being recognized by Microsoft.  No guarantees from me, and I have no inside info, but I suspect it’s going to continue.

Going Forward

Let’s make 2014 the year of no excuses.  If you have ideas, start developing!  If your app has grown stale and you’ve fallen out of the active category, refresh it!  Remember that Nokia’s Ambassador team is here to help you.  And if you have suggestions for me, please share!  Especially for events.  I didn’t get out to other states in my coverage area this year and I’d like to change that.

But generally, I challenge my immediate and extended WP developer community to do the following:

  • Code/update Windows Phone apps.  Keep them fresh!
  • Make sure you’re active on DVLUP, and submitting apps.  We’re giving you great stuff!
  • Get fully registered with me.  I’m going to be doing more promotions!  You must be registered to be eligible.
  • Enter your apps in Microsoft’s Apportunity Sweepstakes.  Ca$h to be had!
  • Follow this blog and my @NokiaDevNorthTX Twitter account religiously.

Don’t be one of the many missing out.  Make sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity.  If you’re already coding Windows Phone apps and not hooking up with promotions, why the heck not???  I’ll be releasing my first WP app soon and you can bet I’ll submit it for DVLUP XP.

More to come in 2014!  Thanks everyone.

Oct 222013
 

appsweepstakes-216x100I’ve urged the Windows Developers in my outreach areas to enter their apps into Microsoft’s Tech Affiliate Sweepstakes on numerous occasions… but I haven’t really gone into just what that is.

The contest of course rewards a few randomly-selected developers and their community leaders each month for app submissions.  There’s a lot more to Tech Affiliate, however, than monthly cash prizes.

Microsoft’s community-support program empowers community managers to keep their members motivated in many ways.  From swag to event funding and promotion, it’s a one-stop-shop for developer incentives and makes a great adjunct to Nokia’s own DVLUP program.

highres_230091982

The more events a community leader hosts, the more points they earn.  Points can be cashed in for the aforementioned perks.  I typically use mine for phone cases and coffee tumblers.  The former go to members at meetups, the latter are for speakers, guests, etc.  It’s amazing how popular those little foamy cases have been.  I’ve had to reorder them several times!

The User Community cap comes in handy, too, lending a little cred at hackathons.

Tech Affiliate has been kind enough to sponsor two events for me this year; one wound up being one of the most popular I’ve held thanks in part to the dinner and drinks that sponsorship provided.  Since it’s only allotted for two events per year, I recommend saving the benefit for something big.

So far no one in my coverage has won a Sweepstakes prize, but some of my Nokia Developer Ambassador colleagues have seen repeated success.  So come on, community– I know you have the apps, so submit ‘em!  This month’s round ends soon.  And if you need any help, hit me up!

Oct 032013
 

I recently wrote about a long shot opportunity I thought I had to attain a “dream job”.  In the aftermath of failure, a friend mentioned that we don’t always land our dream jobs.  I had to reply that I did have one, once, in a quality assurance role in a former Nokia factory from 2005 to 2007.

Of course defining a dream job is very personal, and for me there were some distinct, key elements that inspired me to literally race to work most mornings and hate leaving some times:

  • Management trust.  My boss made it clear she trusted everyone on her team to have the necessary skills and do the right thing on every occasion.  She never hovered over us, never micromanaged.  And when I doubted myself on a tough, critical project, her faith in me got me past a brief approaching-deadline panic and on to a satisfying solution.
  • Clear goals and communications.  I was never caught off guard with ad hoc expectations.  I always knew what I was supporting.  In fact a large part of my role was to improve the team’s data mining and reporting solutions so that we ALL knew.
  • Ideal work environment.  On the first day my boss was embarrassed, she said, that I would have to sit near the edge of a mezzanine overlooking the factory floor.  I thought she was kidding– for a Maker, that was workplace heaven!  Not only that, but cube walls were almost non-existent– so low that I could actually see my colleagues at any moment.  That may bother others, but I loved it.  Out of the maze and right over the frying pan!  Not to mention that I got to spend a lot of time in a test lab.
  • Travel opportunities.  When I was told I would be going to Finland sooner or later, I was terrified.  I had never left the states and did not know how I would handle a foreign country.  A trip to Mexico was not really a big deal; it was just southern Texas with different laws.  But not only did overseas travel turn out to be tolerable, I actually enjoyed it.  I’ve been to Finland 13 times now and eagerly look forward to getting back as soon as I can.
  • Beneficial training.  Oh, the training I received!  Useful.  Interesting.  Not the usual rote lecture stuff but engaging sessions where I came away a much better employee and person.  Nokia had training down to a fine science.
  • Opportunities.  For a while, the sky was the limit in Nokia.  I have a feeling it will be again before too long.
  • Enjoyable culture.  I’ve worked for many companies but only found myself truly at home in two: Texas Instruments and Nokia.  A large part of that was culture.  The previous bullet points are reflections of rich, rewarding corporate culture.  Where employees feel empowered and even encouraged to contribute, and not just treated as cogs in a cube farm.  True, no company is perfect and even TI and Nokia had some cultural failings, but they were still far above many of their peers.

Of course those attributes work for me but may not for everyone.  They thing to take away though is that a dream job is one that easily fits your aptitude and interests.  One you might even do for free, for fun.  I think we can all agree on that sort of definition.

But I’m eager to hear from others: what defines your dream job?  Please add to comments.

Oct 012013
 

Deliver HereI’ve just recently gotten serious about learning XAML for Windows Phone development, and it’s been a real rollercoaster.  Hours of bad-document-reading, tutorial-deciphering and hair-pulling punctuated by brief bursts of accidental success.  My wife has learned to ignore my cursing but my poor dog Peanut still runs under a corner desk when some seemingly innocent code breaks.

Part of the problem for myself (and others, based on threads on MSDN and stackoverflow) is that documentation is woefully incomplete.  Too many examples telling you WHAT needs to be done but annoyingly omitting critical HOWs.  Too many segments of potentially useful code lacking the necessary prerequisite references to run.

But I digress.  And if you just want to avoid further background and skip to the solution, scroll down.

I’m working on a C# Windows Phone geolocation app designed to route an email recipient to a person in need.  One of my goals as always is to craft the best user interface for the solution.  For touch devices, that often means stripping out conventional interface objects like buttons because they tend to occupy a layer between the user and what he or she wants to do.  In this case, I want the app’s Map object to be the center of attention, and most if not all user interaction to take place on or around it.  As is my norm, I dose this work with lots of context sensitivity.

I began with PNG objects like those shown in this post.  I got that working fine eventually; tap on the graphic, and a context menu of several options pops up.  Select one, and the graphic updates to reflect the user’s purpose.

But as I began the task of replacing Application Bar buttons with more Map-centric interaction objects, I began thinking that bitmap graphics were too low fidelity.  If I went with vectors, and added more Map layers, I could truly orient the user better and improve engagement.  The Map itself could host most of the UI.I Need HELP

It’s easy enough to add polygonal objects to XAML.  Many of the Windows Phone content objects can host them.  But once you get beyond simple shapes, editing can be a pain.  One quickly misses Adobe Illustrator.

I found a really sweet XAML export plugin for Illustrator, but the creator has been unable to update it past CS4.  I’m using Creative Cloud, and older plugins no longer function [edit: as one reader pointed out in comments, Microsoft's Blend can import AI files.  Part of my purpose here was to identify a completely free solution.  For many uses, Inkscape works fine].  I discovered that the free vector editor Inkscape supports XAML export, so it was a no-brainer to bring my AI graphics into it and export.  Below is an SVG file of my Map Pushpin object:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<!-- Generator: Adobe Illustrator 17.0.0, SVG Export Plug-In . SVG Version: 6.00 Build 0)  -->
<!DOCTYPE svg PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD SVG 1.1//EN" "http://www.w3.org/Graphics/SVG/1.1/DTD/svg11.dtd">
<svg version="1.1" id="Layer_1" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" x="0px" y="0px"
width="28.263px" height="72.538px" viewBox="0 0 28.263 72.538" enable-background="new 0 0 28.263 72.538" xml:space="preserve">
<circle fill="#3D5EAB" fill-opacity="0.9" cx="14.132" cy="7.041" r="7.041"/>
<path fill="#3D5EAB" fill-opacity="0.9" d="M14.132,16.012C6.327,16.012,0,22.339,0,30.143v0v42.395l28.263-28.263V30.143
C28.263,22.339,21.936,16.012,14.132,16.012z M22.332,44.275h-3.956v-8.347H9.814v8.347H5.872V23.784h3.942v8.076h8.562v-8.076
h3.956V44.275z"/></svg>

I next exported that to XAML, getting:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<Viewbox xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml/presentation" Stretch="Uniform"><Canvas Name="Layer_1" Width="28.263" Height="72.538" Canvas.Left="0" Canvas.Top="0"><Canvas.RenderTransform><TranslateTransform X="0" Y="0"/></Canvas.RenderTransform><Canvas.Resources/><!--Unknown tag: metadata--><!--Unknown tag: sodipodi:namedview--><Ellipse xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml" Canvas.Left="7.1" Canvas.Top="0" Width="14.1" Height="14.1" Name="circle3405" Fill="#E63D5EAB"/><Path xmlns:x="http://schemas.microsoft.com/winfx/2006/xaml" Name="path3407" Fill="#E63D5EAB"><Path.Data><PathGeometry Figures="M14.132 16.012C6.327 16.012 0 22.339 0 30.143v0v42.395l28.263-28.263V30.143  C28.263 22.339 21.936 16.012 14.132 16.012z M22.332 44.275h-3.956v-8.347H9.814v8.347H5.872V23.784h3.942v8.076h8.562v-8.076  h3.956V44.275z" FillRule="NonZero"/></Path.Data></Path></Canvas></Viewbox>

I am LOSTOther than redundant schema info and unknown tags, it looked okay.  I cut out the portion I needed (Canvas tag content) and plopped it into a XAML MapOverlay in my project.  Visual Studio immediately complained:

TypeConverter for “PathFigureCollection” does not support converting from a string

The offending bit was the Figures object.  Time to Bing for an explanation… but while I found many examples of people encountering the error, there were no useful solutions.  Some mentioned Kaxaml, which I downloaded.  While it’s a very helpful tool for visualizing and troubleshooting XAML, it didn’t see any problems with my code and offered no way that I could see to refactor what I had into something Visual Studio would like.

The Solution

But reading more about the PathGeometry object tickled a few brain cells.  I found a Path example that looked like it would work for what I wanted.  So I changed the essential code to what follows (key portion in bold):

<Canvas Name="Layer_1" Width="28.263" Height="72.538"><Canvas.RenderTransform><TranslateTransform X="210" Y="300"/></Canvas.RenderTransform><Ellipse Canvas.Left="7.1" Canvas.Top="0" Width="14.1" Height="14.1" Name="circle3405" Fill="{StaticResource PhoneAccentBrush}" Opacity="0.8"/><Path Name="path3407" Fill="{StaticResource PhoneAccentBrush}" Data="M14.132 16.012C6.327 16.012 0 22.339 0 30.143v0v42.395l28.263-28.263V30.143 C28.263 22.339 21.936 16.012 14.132 16.012z M22.332 44.275h-3.956v-8.347H9.814v8.347H5.872V23.784h3.942v8.076h8.562v-8.076 h3.956V44.275z" Opacity="0.8" /></Canvas>I Want to Play

Success!  In a nutshell, the trick was to remove the PathGeometry and use the Figures string as Path Data…. which just makes sense.  My custom Pushpin rendered exactly as it should, and looked much sharper than the PNG bitmap.  Now to construct other UI elements, add Map layers, and wire up the events.  I’ll post more later, and will provide the full code on app release.

Hope you find this technique useful!

 

Aug 232013
 

I’m behind on publishing some content but an opportunity has come up that trumps just about everything else.  Except beer and pizza.  First the background.

Many of you know that for several years now I’ve been supporting creative communities, both on and offline.  If I really want to date myself then this activity goes back further than I’ll usually admit, to a stint as a writing forum moderator in the heyday of America Online.  Don’t judge: it meant free dial-up.  ;)

As you can see on LinkedIn, my more recent history has gone from Maemo to MeeGo to Windows Phone plus local Makers.  An interesting mix of communities that has helped me understand myriad arguments for and against various platforms and preferences, as well as learn to socialize with creative types from all walks of life.  This understanding has pushed my thinking above and away from the sort of religious dogma that can cripple a project, and in turn helped me (I think) be a really good all-around community leader.  And even as I’ve helped Nokia’s efforts to pull in Windows Phone developers, I’ve kept a watchful eye on Jolla and kept fairly current with Qt developments.  I even assisted Tuukka Ahoniemi with Qt outreach in Dallas (although other activities got in the way, something I would fix if I got this role).

Which leads me back to the opportunity.

Against all odds, I will be interviewing with Digia soon for an Online Community Manager position.  Exciting!  I think I’m the ideal candidate, and so do a few others who have already spoken on my behalf.  But landing this position will take some serious effort: they really want someone situated in Norway, Finland or Berlin.  I have to prove that I can do even better than someone in close proximity.

Now, I’ve done the remote working thing both voluntarily for the aforementioned communities and professionally for Nokia.  I know I can perform this role with the same success.   Heck, I’ve always said I can work from Antarctica as long as I had Internet.  I just need to convince Digia.

To that end, I’m looking to the communities I serve for advice.  What should I emphasize?  In what areas do I still require polish?  Feel free to add comments here.  Be critical if you feel led.  Or contact me privately, too.

I had a similar opportunity with Scarlet Motors at one point, and touched on that in an article about keeping a childlike aspect in communities, but unfortunately they lacked the means at the time to make it a paid position.  The Digia role will be full time, and involves work I love and have been preparing for.  I relish the opportunity to take lessons learned from other communities and see where it will support Qt’s desire for broader adoption.

I really, really want this job.  Your feedback will help, and perhaps so will lobbying Digia.  Make sure to hit Qt Project and Qt by Digia on twitter, as well as their Facebook page.  After all, a good online community manager should mobilize Internet citizens, right?  ;)

Thanks.

Aug 042013
 

In the last community update I included one upcoming hackathon and omitted some promotions.  Time to rectify the latter and expand on the former!

General Promotions

Unity has a new contest going for Windows platforms.  Big prizes involved!  From their website:

Unity and Microsoft are inviting Unity developers to enter a new contest by submitting beautifully crafted, high-quality new or existing games or content for the upcoming Windows Store Apps and Windows Phone 8 platforms. Over $100,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded to a number of talented and lucky winners.

Deadline is September 30, 2013.  Get your game on now!

In arandallarnoldddition, Microsoft has created a program slightly similar in goals to Nokia’s DVLUP, called App Builder Rewards.  Might as well double-dip!

Finally, I missed that Microsoft Tech Affiliate had restarted the great APPortunity sweepstakes.  Submit your apps for August ASAP.

Remote/Virtual Hackathons/Events

Nothing to report yet– let me know if you discover any!  In addition to online events, those in any region I cover will be promoted here.

DFW Hackathons/Events

Here’s more info on what’s coming (I will not attend all events and/or all times; more on that as details firm up):

August 2013 NDDNUG Meeting
August 8 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM 2013
5543 Legacy Drive, Plano, TX (MedAssets bldg)
link: http://northdallas.net/location/

August 2013 FWDNUG Meeting
August 20 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM 2013
100 Pier 1 Pl, Fort Worth, TX (Pier 1 Home Office)
link: http://fwdnug2013aug-es2.eventbrite.com/?rank=1

UTD-Microsoft Windows 8 app dev workshop
August 20 9 AM to August 23 5 PM 2013
800 West Campbell Road, Richardson, Texas (University of Texas at Dallas, ECSS 2.412)
link: https://ezpay.utdallas.edu/C20239_ustores/web/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCTID=1055

UNT Startup Primer
September 6 6:00 PM to September 8 6:00 PM, 2013
Sycamore Hall 119, University of North Texas
307 Ave. B, Denton, TX 76201
link: http://untuniontickets.universitytickets.com/user_pages/event.asp?id=187&utm_source=Co-Founder&utm_campaign=CoFoundersLab+08082013

UNT Music Hackathon
September 13 6:30 PM to September 15 8:30 PM 2013
1155 Union Circle #305189 Denton, TX (Innovation Greenhouse)
link: http://innovation.unt.edu/events/september-2013/music-hackathon

20 over 20 Hackathon
September 19 12:00 PM to September 22 4:00 PM 2013 (team announcement September 18)
315 S. Cesar Chavez Blvd, 2nd Floor, Dallas, TX 75201 (Dialexa)
link: http://the20over20.com/

AIGA DFW Hackathon with Open Dallas
September 21 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM 2013
2919 Commerce St, Dallas , TX,
link: http://thecommondesk.com/event/aiga-dfw-hackathon-with-open-dallas/

HackerNest DFW September Tech Social
September 30 8:00 PM 2013
(No location yet)
link: http://www.meetup.com/HackerNestDFW/events/123491032/

LeadingAge Hackfest
October 25 7 PM (optional meetup) to October 27 5 PM 2013
650 Griffin Street, Dallas, TX (Convention Center)
link: http://leadingagehackfest.org/
link: http://www.meetup.com/LeadingAge-HackFest-in-Dallas-Group/events/132040302/

HackerNest DFW November Tech Social
November 25 8:00 PM 2013
(No location yet)
link: http://www.meetup.com/HackerNestDFW/events/123496772/

Others with no firm dates (more details to follow):

Nokia DVLUP Day DFW
August?  September?  2013

UNT Aged Well Hackathon
September 2013

Mobile Monday DFW – Windows Phone App Showcase
October? 2013

Nokiathon DFW
October?  November? 2013

UNT Energy Hackathon
November 2013

Hope to see some of you at one or more of these events!  Again, send me any I may have missed.

Jul 292013
 

me

Greetings all,

I’ve decided it makes much more sense to do all updates on this blog and email the link rather than send it all via email.  That way the content gets greater exposure and you have shorter emails.  ;)

Now onto business… topics are:

  • Nokia Promotions
  • Lumia 800s
  • General
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
    • Meetups
    • Hackathons

Nokia Promotions

I was about to launch a Windows Phone promotion tied to my local Civic hacking activities, but another need has come up and I’ll focus on that first.

The Nokia Developer Ambassadors are working hard to make sure we’re serving you in the best way possible.  That means having the most recent contact and program data for you.  I’ve already spoken with some of you individually, and others have responded to Rich Dunbar’s appeals, but consider this a broadcast to my community:

I’m doing a simple drawing and giving away some cool Nokia prizes for those meeting the criteria below.  You can win JBL Power Up Speakers, Wireless Charging Plate, or Nokia Purity Headset with Monster technology.

All you need to do is the following:

  1. Live in North Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska or South Dakota (see NOTE below if you live in USA or Canada but not in my region)
  2. Have a published Windows Phone app
  3. Send me the following (via email or blog comments) by midnight July 31, CST:
    • Full Name
    • Email address
    • Microsoft Dev Center name (not GUID)
    • DVLUP name (register ASAP if you’re not!)
    • City/State
    • Twitter name if you have one (not required)

If you’re out of my area, see http://richarddunbar.blogspot.com/2013/07/developer-registration-drive.html.

Note that I’ll launch the Civic Hacking promotion soon after this and will post a special announcement for it.

As for others that had been running, I’m sorry to say that the Microsoft Windows Phone Keep the Cash and APPortunity promotions have ended.  At this time I have no idea if anything else is coming from Microsoft (or other sponsors), but I will let you know once I do.

Lumia 800s

I’m happy to announce I’m almost out of Lumia 800s for app incentives.  Why happy?  This means you’ve all been busy!

But if you have not yet released a Windows Phone 7 or 8 app, make sure you get published ASAP to qualify for one of the remaining phones!  People tell me they make excellent reserve and test devices.

General

Many of you have already registered for the Mailchimp email list, and I appreciate it.  But I’m wondering now if it’s even necessary.  Since I’ll be using this blog more, maybe it makes sense to fully use its subscription and group communications abilities.  What do you think?  Let me know in comments.

Oh, and to get a view into what we Ambassadors do at big events, check out my recent write-up on //build/ 2013.

Finally, please share this article and related info about Nokia’s outreach to anyone you feel may be interested.  I am especially looking to connect with more schools in the DFW area.

Dallas – Fort Worth

Meetups

I’m still planning to put together DVLUP-specific meetups for the DFW area, called DVLUP Days.  The idea will be to get developers through a DVLUP challenge and an app ready for publishing in one day (if possible).  Should be fun!  Make sure you’re registered– if not, you’re missing out on benefits!

I’m also working on a Mobile Monday WP App Showcase for DFW, with some local powerhouse development firms.  I’m looking for developers to submit one of their apps for consideration.  If you’re selected, you’ll be presenting your app at an upcoming event.  The goal will be to get you more downloads, reviews and notice.  I will also do a special twitter push for the apps selected.  So start submitting!  Use email or this comments section.

Finally, we need to hold more general meetups as well.  I haven’t seen any scheduled recently by corporate or community leaders so I’ll be filling the gap as I can.

Hackathons

This fall is going to be busy in DFW!  The University of North Texas is planning three hackathons (September, October and November).  No details yet, but I’ll post when I have them!

There’s also the 20Over20 hackathon coming in a couple of months, running from September 19 through September 22.  It looks very interesting so far; check it out.

As for the planned Nokiathon, that’s still under discussion.  I’m excited at the possibility and hope to be able to schedule mine before too long.

That’s it!

Thanks everyone, and as always: call, tweet or email me at any time with any question, concern or proposal.  I will do my best to address your needs promptly!

 

Randall (Randy) Arnold
Nokia Developer Ambassador

Twitter: @NokiaDevNorthTX
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/texrat
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NokiaDeveloperOutreachNorthTexas

Jul 272013
 

In 2012 I “attended” Microsoft’s //build/ developer-focused event virtually, envious of friends with the good fortune to attend.  Thanks to my Nokia Developer Ambassador gig, this summer I got to enjoy the excitement first hand.  Instead of a lot of text, though, I’ll share some highlights with the focus on photos (all taken with a Nokia Lumia 920):

sim key

Here’s a little gift I had made up for fellow Ambassadors: a 3D printed, DVLUP-branded SIM key for unibody Nokia Lumia phones.  It replaces the stock key that can stab delicate areas.  Thanks to Shapeways for printing them up, and Rich Dunbar for approving the expense!

George

SoCal Ambassador George Salcedo waits for the rest of the gang on Day 1.

ant

Nokia Developer Champion lead Antoine Naaman shoots the cool Wall of Windows Phones.

Jambassadors

The Nokia “Jambassadors” team discussing their //build/ hackathon project.  From left to right: Paras Wadehra, Jan Hanneman, Lance McCarthy.

lance and jan

Boston area Ambassador Lance shares his thoughts with team member Jan (northwest region).

designing

I helped a little by designing a custom part for the project…

pad design

…and here’s the design in progress on SolidWorks.  Amazing that it runs on a Surface Pro!

Jan and 3D printer

I decided to print up two of the parts.  Here Jan enjoys watching one get underway on an UP Plus.

3D printer

Closer shot of the part in process.

Nokia booth

Meanwhile, the Nokia booth got really busy after we put out word about DVLUP tee shirts…

finished green pad

The 3D Systems team kindly printed up another part for us with one of their Cube devices.  It was extremely helpful to have this resource at the event!  There were 3D printers everywhere, cranking away on all sorts of things.

2 pads

The two completed parts.  Each took about 2 hours to print.  I hand-colored the red apple.

app at work

The end result.  Lance had the novel idea to combine a Netduino with a pressure transducer and replicate the “test your strength” carnival games on a smaller scale.  The parts I created were pads.  Unfortunately, the pad wore down the pressure transducer, putting the entry at risk, but Radio Shack saved the day with conductor repair compound.

leaderboard2

Look who tops the iSmack leader board!

interview

Peers voted iSmack the best app of the hackathon!  Here the Jambassadors are interviewed on stage by Microsoft’s Clint Rutkas for Channel 9.

Of course, there was a lot more going on, but these photos essentially cover where I was.  ;)  Hope to make it next year!

Jun 232013
 
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Gathering in the cool TECH Fort Worth foyer…

After months of exploring civic hacking possibilities for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a brainstorming session finally came together early this month.  Held at TECH Fort Worth on a breezy Saturday, the event sought to identify challenges and develop plans for future events that bring needful municipalities and contribution-minded citizens to the same table.

We decided to take a traditional brainstorming approach, throwing ideas on the board and carefully guiding them toward a refined, useful set of actionable items.  TECH Fort Worth is the right facility for it!  But first, I shared a presentation on the subject.  I’m sure I violated some unspoken rule by launching a Prezi from a PowerPoint deck, but at least it worked!

Instead of the traditional lecture presentation style, I prefer a more inclusive, audience-friendly approach.  It can take a little longer to get through, but I find the attendees come away more informed and engaged.  This technique also better sets the stage for true brainstorming afterward.

We were extremely fortunate to have Pete Anderson and Brian Chatman from the city of Fort Worth and Karen Siddall of Irving Public Works.  The strongest civic hacking events enjoy a high degree of municipal involvement, as demonstrated by Palo Alto seeing around 5000 participants in their Hack for Change event this year.

It’s very doubtful DFW will see such numbers in 2014, but we feel a year’s worth of planning and preparation will lead to a successful event for us.  We are targeting a participant level of 75 but it could go even higher.  It comes down to the support we get!

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What’s a meetup without pizza? Pizza Hut was fast and courteous, and the food was great.

Discussion continued over lunch, although we lost Cone Johnson and George Battle III beforehand.  They had a good reason to leave, though: as it turned out, small Hack for Change events sprang up in south Dallas and Red Oak, and the two of them went to check on progress at both.  Even though the core goal of this committee is to put together a metro-scale event for 2014, smaller surrounding events are of course welcome and we will support them any way we can.

Oh, and thanks to the Microsoft Tech Affiliate program for buying the meal!

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Jorge Varela moderates. So glad to have him aboard!

We were every fortunate to gain the participation of Jorge Varela, assistant director of TECH Fort Worth.  Jorge was invaluable in leading the discussion from the storming to forming portion and development of specific action items.

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Discussion results

As brainstorming discussions do, this one wandered over vast territory before reaching critical paths.  I had originally proposed CentrePort business park as the ideal general location, and was pleasantly surprised to see our talk end up there.  As I blogged previously, it really is a great spot; we just need to identify a site host.  We narrowed top three candidates down to:

  1. New KXAS Studios
  2. AT&T
  3. American Airlines

I drove out there after the session to reacquaint myself with the property.  I could not find the AT&T site; even an internet search was no help, which I found to be very odd.  I’ll have to do a little more digging to find it.  They would make an ideal partner for this sort of event… however, I got nowhere with them this year so I’m not very optimistic for next year.

The under-construction KXAS news studio was number one on our list so I made sure to check it out.  The building looks nice, but smaller than I expected.  KXAS would be a perfect partner for the event, but I’m not sure their facility will work as an event site.  We’ll see.

The American Airlines campus is huge, and given their high level of community involvement and social media awareness I believe they would be able to support us.  We will definitely pursue them.

There are other possibilities to explore as well.  Bottom line, CentrePort is the place to hold a DFW event.  New bus lines will be added to CentrePort Station soon, which just increases its attractiveness for our planned use.

Wrap-up

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Backpack winner Raj Daniels

As a thank-you for participation in the brainstorming session, I conducted a random drawing among participants for a sharp Nokia DVLUP-branded Wenger backpack.  Karen Siddall was kind enough to bring various useful items promoting water conservation.

For future communications purposes, we have a Google group set up, and have taken out the domain DataLibreDFW.org.  Nothing on the site yet, but that’s coming!  We’re going to be holding periodic meetups, and welcome anyone wanting to attend.  Follow this blog and the Twitter account MakeDFW for future developments.

Amidst all the successes, there remain some challenges.  I was disappointed that the following cities neglected to respond to requests for involvement: Keller, Southlake, Grapevine and Coppell.  It’s critical that between now and next year we get every local municipality to understand the huge benefits of civic hacking [note: the linked article is a must read for team members!].  Of course, we can pull an event off with backing by Fort Worth and Irving, but we don’t want to leave anyone out!

I want to encourage anyone reading this to get involved in civic hacking for your locality, or even on a larger scale.  For North America, start with the Hack for Change organization, which puts an incredibly big effort behind the activity in general and specifically the National Day of Civic Hacking events.  Here in DFW we’re going to need a lot of help making this happen here.  The growing Maker community stands ready.  If you’re interested, contact me to see how you can contribute, or just join the Data Libre DFW Google group.  I guarantee you there’s a way you can help!