Jun 242013
 

Well, here I go again: my current day job contract is ending prematurely, apparently due to budget constraints.  This happened earlier in the year but I was saved by a last-second extension.  This time there seems to be no such rescue.  I did pleasantly interview today for a different role with the same employer, but as with most things, there’s no guarantee.

Many of you might be surprised to learn that my Nokia work these days is part-time.  I say that based on the reaction of locals when they learn of it.  I have spent a lot of time around Dallas-Fort Worth at various meetups and events so I can understand the amazement.  It’s the most full part-time gig I’ve ever had.  ;)

But, part-time doesn’t pay the bills, and being the sole breadwinner of this bunch, I need to find something new ASAP.  What usually follows that statement is the traditional query from interested parties: “So, what are you looking for?”.

Good question.

What I’m really looking for is to make the Nokia thing go full-time.  I have thoroughly enjoyed whipping up the enthusiasm of mobile developers.  But there are no hints of that possibility so I’m not banking on it happening.

Even more, I’d love to get my own business going.  I’ve shared some thoughts on that previously.  Technically, only time and some skill shortcomings have gotten in the way.  That said, I have been steadily working on a number of potentially big projects as I find time, and at some point hope to take advantage of BizSpark or AppCampus offerings and get something launched.

But, right now I have to think short-term.  Very short-term.  While I have not had a true vacation in four years, and one would be really nice right now, renewing my tan between sips of margarita doesn’t pay any bills.  Well, not for me, anyway.

You can see my raw skills here, but specifically, I’ve been working with SharePoint lately.  I’m 95% self-taught– not sure if that’s good or bad.  I wouldn’t mind continuing on that path, as painful as SharePoint development can often be, but I’m open to possibilities in the engineering, manufacturing or information management fields.  Heck, I’ve been dusting off solid modeling skills the past year or so and could happily plug back into that world as well– especially with 3D printing catching on.  Fun stuff.

Anyway, just thought I would inform everyone where I’m at.  If you don’t hear from me, I might just be on that unpaid vacation.  Mentally, anyway…

Update: found a new gig within days of losing the other one.  Whew!

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!

May 282013
 

For those who have been active in the Dallas-Fort Worth Windows Phone developer scene for some time, the headline here may seem odd.  After all, the Meetup.com group has been gathering on occasion since this time last year.

But what’s been missing, according to the most common feedback I receive, are semi-social gatherings with a focus on Getting Stuff Done.  Attendees have had enough consumption; they’re ready to create.

With that in mind, I have spent the past few months scouring DFW for good venues for this activity.  I put together the following criteria for sites:

  • Should be free (or at least low-cost)
  • Should have easy facility access (preferrably no security hurdles)
  • Must have decent, dependable WiFi
  • Must have easy access to power
  • Must have comfortable seating for at least 15 attendees for 3+ hours
  • Should have easy access to food and drink (including catering)
  • Must be available weekends and/or evenings

This is not an easy bill to fill.  I encountered many potential venues that had one or more of the must-have items but lacking something critical (usually weekend/eveing access).  To increase our prospects, I asked community members to aid in the search.  Pointing out a possible location wasn’t enough– I needed these foot soldiers to compare sites against the requirement list, talk to managers, and even take pictures.

It may come as a surprise to readers that grocery stores turned out to be generally good locations.  Specifically, the Tom Thumb flagship stores, which meet every Must and Should.  The only drawbacks I’ve run into were man-made… such as the strange reluctance of one store manager (who was worried about us displacing customers, when I saw only 3 people occupying a 35-seat area) and human mistakes.  Mostly mine.

I had scheduled a meetup for May 25 at a Tom Thumb store in Arlington after one member, Dallas .NET’s Omar Villarreal, got clearance from the manager.  Unfortunately I misread Omar’s instructions and secured the wrong store.  When the group arrived, we discovered that there was no WiFi or Starbucks.

Oops.

We waited for stragglers to show before moving to another Tom Thumb a few miles north.  This cost us an hour and a half of valuable time.  Lesson learned: read the fine print.

The second store turned out to be acceptable.  WiFi was mostly reliable (I had a couple of brief drops) and the deli sandwiches were excellent (I recommend the pulled pork).  The 5 other attendees seemed fairly pleased.  However, the late start combined with another error on my part got in the way of getting any work done.

I had set aside the beginning of the meetup for introductions and announcements, which would be okay for social meetups but took way too much productive time from this one.  Socializing is certainly useful, but we’ll hold separate events for that.

I would like to think that the attendees at least benefitted one way or another, but I welcome constructive criticism to help shape future get-togethers.  I definitely need to arrive early to get things set up.

The good news is that this somewhat-rough experience was useful in certain contexts, especially since we had new members attend, and allowed me to get a good idea of what works and doesn’t work.  Going forward, I will put together a handout for updates and trim the initial verbal presentation down to about 5 to 10 minutes.  Less time of me chatting, more time Getting Stuff Done.

Ideally, we will see a good mix of skill levels and experience at these sessions.  I really want to pair mentors and experienced app publishers with beginners, for one.  Same with bringing in more data modelers and UI designers.  To motivate members in that regard, I am offering a recruting incentive: bring in any new member with any useful skills for app creation, and get a $10 gift card.  Bring in any new member with at least one published app, and that amount goes up to $20.  Stipulation: new members must agree to sign up at DVLUP and also provide me full contact information before I award the gift cards.  This promotion runs until I am broke or we have too many members.  ;)

Speaking of DVLUP, I’m also considering holding specific “DVLUP Days” events with the goal of just tackling DVLUP challenges at the event.  XP building opportunities, if you will.  I’m also working on partnering with various companies and instructors for educational meetups– stay tuned!

My intent is to “bounce around” the metroplex and hold these sessions in various parts of the area, with a preference for central locations.  If you know of any, let me know!  By all means, ask the managers about the items on my list, and pictures of the venue are very helpful.  And ask your employers about hosting!

We’ll probably hold another such event in North Dallas next, at an office near highway 35E and Beltline Road.  Registration will be at the Meetup.com website, and I will announce in the usual social channels.

Ultimately, we’ll get into a rhythm that will benefit everyone involved.  I can’t wait to see the results!

May 222013
 

I wrote a DFW-specific piece on civic coding in the area a while back and more recently followed up with a more general article on preparing cities for civic coding events.  Now I want to double-back to DFW in particular again and drill down into one aspect of the first article.

First, a lamentation familiar to just about every resident of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex: traffic.  As this area has exploded, practical tranportation options have lagged.  Sure, new highway segments like 161 have popped up here and there, relieving some congestion, but massive construction such as that on 114 and North Loop 820 shows that our ability to get from point A to B is woefully inadequate.

This point was especially driven home today as I received responses to an invitation for a social mixer at the TECH Fort Worth business incubator.  In this regard, Fort Worth is well behind other areas, such as Plano and North Dallas.  One of my goals has been to support increased tech event and meetup opportunities west of Highway 360.  But anyone living in and around Dallas quickly experiences the pain that we Westies have been enduring for years: it can be near impossible to attend cross-town events, especially in the early evening.

The ultimate answer in my opinion is a drastically reduced emphasis on automobile-oriented solutions and more rail.  A LOT more rail.  That can be a hard sell in Texas, but we’re getting better at entertaining the notion.  We just still have a long way to go.

Meanwhile, DART and the TRE do serve major parts of the metroplex fairly well; the closer to Dallas the better that service gets.  And there are plenty of stops in well-planned locations.

When I visit other countries and even some other states in the US, I see city centers have developed around rail hubs.  Government services, shopping, entertainment and other amenities tend to naturally sprout around these stations.  Even without nearby rail, the city center concept has been gaining great popularity in the US in recent years.  It’s easy to see why: the alternative, malls, proved in many cases to be an unsustainable premise.  There are many reasons why and that’s out of the scope of this article.  But one aspect of failure was how indoor malls isolated people from their environment.

In outdoor city centers, you tend to see far fewer cars and much, much more foot and bicycle traffic… especially if they are fed by public transport.  The oppressive atmosphere of cavernous malls is gone.  Along with these features, you see higher degrees of social engagement.

Which gets me back to the social coding premise.  While trying to launch a DFW-wide civic hackathon, I focused centrally in the hope of helping to create that civic center experience where it doesn’t quite yet exist.  But we DO have a strong candidate in DFW: the CentrePort business park.  I was just unable to convince anyone that the time was right to start adding another layer of usefulness to the campus.  And perhaps the time is not right, just yet.  Still, it would be a shame to completely ignore the potential.

CentrePort

CentrePort is the home to many high-contributing companies, such as American Airlines.  It’s also an important logistics hub to others like Whirlpool, Johnson & Johnson, et al.  Combine that with convenient hotels such as Marriott, plenty of eateries, proximity to DFW Airport, a rail/bus stop and accessible highway connections, and you have the starting point for a truly dynamic civic gateway.  And a great future site for events like hackathons.  We just need a few more additions, starting perhaps with a true intermodal center at the CentrePort DART/TRE station.

So my plea to DFW municipal leaders is simple: let’s take a long look at other civic centers, and get to work enhancing CentrePort in similar fashion.  Yes, Dallas has a nice DART gateway near the American Airlines Center, and Fort Worth has two downtown with potential, we still need that central nexus with fairly easy access for anyone and everyone.  A civic center for all of us, regardless of where we live and work.

Let’s get that on the agenda.

May 092013
 

I lamented the other day how the Dallas-Fort Worth area does not seem quite ready for civic hackathons (aka coding events), and how one I was trying to create wound up being scaled down to a workshop.  I want to add that this is not necessarily a bad thing per se: it just means there is more work yet to do here than I had expected.

For those unaware, a civic hackathon combines software developers with engaged citizens of all backgrounds to leverage open data sets into solutions for civic services, lifestyle improvement, etc.  Stakeholders will pitch their ideas to the general attendees in the hope that a team will form around their proposal.  The types of solutions generated could be pothole reporting apps, improved online billing interfaces, emergency notification solutions… you get the idea.  Essentially, government agencies and departments from city to federal stand to benefit from citizens freely helping overcome bureaucracy and modernize public services.

Open solutions require open data, and this is where the greatest challenge lies.  Often, government data sets are designed without openness in mind, to address highly specific needs.  This leads to closed silos of isolated information.  To be fair, this issue is just as common in the corporate world.  The difference is that in civic situations, the taxpayers own the resources.  In an ideal world, they would have at least some say in the development and deployment of these data sets.

Fortunately there’s a growing trend to pry these information stores open, and provide public access via APIs and web services.  NASA and other federal agencies are leading the charge, while state and local governments are seeing the value and working to follow suit.

Many cities are ahead of the curve here, driven often by desperate need to do more with less and solve drastic problems.  Extreme weather damage, water shortages, transit issues and other civic disasters drive desire to open data sets to armies of skilled volunteers.

But for cities wanting to get started with civic coding events when lacking experience, there are some steps to consider:

  • Get informed.  Follow the activities of organizations like Hack for Change and get a feel for what these events entail.
  • Get empowered.  Most cities already have a person or department tasked with public engagement.  Common events include trash pickup days, park picnics, etc.  Civic coding events just become one more to add.  Public liaison personnel need not have a grasp of the technical details; that’s for IT and engineering departments.  And if you don’t have this sort of liaison capability, create it!
  • Get involved.  Chances are you have local citizen groups (hacktivists) already active in necessary components of a civic coding event.  Data experts, programmers, bicyclers, geocachers, urban design enthusiasts, Makers, gardeners… this is just a short list of the clubs you will want to connect, and odds are many exist in your locality.  Check sites like meetup.com to find them.
  • Audit other hackathons.  Odds are there’s a municipality nearby that has one or more civic coding events under its belt.  Sign up, sit in and learn!

There’s more to it of course but there are the fundamentals.  I’ll explore further in upcoming articles.

May 052013
 

DataLibre_logo-1

As some of you know, I’ve been working the past two months to bring a Hack for Change event to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  There have been moments of triumph, such as when Pepsi and Frito Lay kindly agreed to donate snacks, and there have been periods of epic frustration.  Following is a letter I reluctantly just sent to those who had been helping me with this:

Greetings Data Liberators,

After struggling to get widespread DFW buy-in for the Data Libre DFW Hackathon 2013, I have had to accept that it isn’t going to happen this year, at least not for the Hack for Change time period of June 1 to 2.  We don’t yet have the awareness and interest in DFW at large for civic coding events.  More on that in a bit.

After discussing this with Karen Siddall of Irving Public Works, I decided to scale down to a brainstorming workshop specific to the City of Irving.  To their credit, Irving is the only city out of several directly contacted that stepped up with solid interest in this sort of activity.  Fort Worth is also interested but not quite ready (they may audit the Irving workshop to get a better understanding of what this entails, for a later event).  Expected total participant limit has been reduced to about 30.

On one hand I am highly disappointed.  Other cities, including Austin and Houston, are fully onboard for the June event.  DFW is just a bit behind the curve on this sort of civic engagement.  I encountered a lack of understanding that cities generally take the lead on these events, and most don’t really need the activities explained at this point.  We have an educational challenge (opportunity) in front of us: get DFW informed and engaged for the 2014 event.  If Dallas and/or Fort Worth get behind it, other municipalities will follow suit.

To that end, I have established a Data Libre Meetup Everywhere group.  The idea is to hold meetups over the next several months geared specifically toward whipping up local enthusiasm for this movement.  I will conduct as many meetups in as many locales as I can, focusing for now on Irving since they are stepping up.  But I will need help; feel free to create a meetup listing for your area and join me in cultivating interest!  And spread the word!

Of course, kudos to Irving for taking the lead here.  I was thrilled that Karen called me back after my query.  It’s just unfortunate that several other cities blew it off.  However, we will make the most of the opportunity we have, and hopefully other cities will realize they missed out on something cool.

I have updated event listings and will refine the scope further soon.  Input welcome.

Note: we are still looking for a venue in Irving.

Thanks all!

While I’m still disappointed with the outcome of my efforts, I remain optimistic that sooner or later the Dallas-Fort Worth coding and enthusiast communities can make a large-scale civic coding event happen here.  It will take a broad coalition of people from all backgrounds, with the common interest of improving city services, public access, and lifestyle opportunities.

Let’s do it.

Mar 102013
 

SMU Hackathon

The last time I did a “Where I’m At” post was too long ago, so let’s get this thing going without much preamble.  And no, this isn’t about US college basketball playoffs.  Just feels like it sometimes.

Nokia Stuff

As many if not all of you know, I returned to Nokia on a part-time contract basis in late 2012.  I still have a full-time day job, and commit a large part of my other hours to sharing the Nokia Lumia story with current and hopeful developers in North Texas… with some virtual forays into neighboring states.

Here in DFW there’s been a steadily growing increase in interest, something I’ll blog in more detail about later.  But it’s still a mostly Apple world in these parts, at least from a user perspective, while the local developer community largely feeds on Android.  The Dallas-area Windows Phone developer crowd has reached a respectable size, though, to the point where this part-time gig feels more like full-time.

That last part has been mitigated through cultivation of additional community leaders.  For instance, Bary Nusz in Amarillo, Texas and Patrick Hefner of the Nashville, Tennessee area have been phenomenal in growing the Nokia developer and enthusiast base for their regions.  They’re being rewarded with Lumia phones and something maybe even more useful: Nokia Developer Champion nominations.  The Champions are volunteers recognized for some form of advanced leadership– technical, community-oriented or both.  The perks are very nice.  I have not heard yet if Bary and Patrick will have their nominations approved [update: both were], but they are both deserving in my opinion.  I’ll be spending a great deal of time this year on Champion development.  If you’re interested, contact me!

And if you haven’t checked out our DVLUP incentive program, what are you waiting for?  It’s out of private beta so no registration codes required now.  The challenges have been updated and cool new rewards added.  If you’re an existing Windows Phone developer and haven’t joined, you’re already cheating yourself out of some really cool stuff.  If you’re new to the experience, you’ll find helpful people there and at Nokia’s core developer community as well (our wiki is legendary).  So get engaged!  Some lucky DVLUP participant and Cowtown Code Camp attendee stands to win big– more on that in a following post.

The Maker Space

Being a founder and director of the new and rapidly-expanding Fort Worth Makerspace community keeps me pumping as well.  To minimize conflicts and make it easy on this old body, I’m focusing on areas where Makers can play in the Nokia product ecosystem.  This goes beyond simple app development into some really cool areas, like 3D printing.

As I shared over at post404, I helped kickstart Nokia’s involvement in crowdsourced 3D printing and have been assisting John Kneeland as he promotes this venture into even bigger proportions.  The project started with the sexy Lumia 820 and has recently been expanded to include the newer 520 model.  It remains to be seen if calls for supporting unibody devices like the 920 prove feasible.  I’ve formed a mobile technology special interest group at our local makerspace for those interested in participating.  See Nokia’s developer wiki for more details.

I’m trying to get some sort of contest developed around 3D printing of Lumia back covers, and hope to share something soon.  Meanwhile, Shapeways has announced a 3D printing API and I’m very excited about the possibilities it presents!  Check it out.

Before 3D printing took off in the consumer space, the Internet of Things was largely about mobile and embedded devices.  Sensors everywhere would feed data to the web, turning the Internet itself into a rich field of environmental I/O.  Arduino and Netduino devices are especially designed to participate in this space, and I plan to bring the latter into my Nokia outreach efforts.  Ideas welcomed!

Perceptual Computing

As if all that wasn’t enough, I’ve been asked by Intel’s awesome Bob Duffy to whip up local enthusiasm for their perceptual computing challenge.  How could I resist?

In a nutshell, Intel is promoting the development of novel interactve solutions built around Ultrabooks and Creative’s Interactive gesture camera.  Consider the latter as a laptop-scaled analog to Microsoft’s Kinect camera and you get the picture.

This article at Venture Beat provides an introduction to what Intel is trying to do:

The latest laptops, known as Ultrabooks, will have multiple ways to interact.  Nuance-based voice controls will let you talk to your computer to run Google  searches, start playing music, or share links on Twitter. Perlmutter, who is  from Israel, said the technology will eventually be able to understand even his  accent.

Intel is also working with SoftKinetic to bring 10-finger gesture recognition to the PC. With it, you can wave your fingers in front of the camera of a  computer, and it will recognize your gestures. [Intel executive vice president Dadi Perlmutter] showed how he could use his  fingers to control a catapult game demo and hold a crystal ball, by waving his  hands in front of a computer and not touching it.

I’ll be using my Maker channels to organize activity around this one, although I have also been informing the local Nokia outreach community of the opportunity.  I have developer devices available for loan and session work; I’ll have something more formal to announce soon for the next phase of the challenge, but feel free to hit me up via email if you’re at all interested in learning more.  First, however, get familiar with the program and tools.  Note that my direct support of this activity will be limited to the immediate Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Bob has an analysis of where the challenge is currently, and it’s worthwhile reading.

Getting Qt

Sadly, I have not had much time for Qt lately.  I do want to rectify that, but at the moment I don’t see how.  I’m still interested in the platform, especially where Jolla is concerned, and even in coding for my coveted N9… but overcommitment is a bad habit that I’m working hard to break.  I’ll still share Qt news, mostly on twitter, and continue trying to make time for learning it.  I’m thrilled at its prospects and assured by its recent advances.

!Spam

As noted before I have a lot of work to do with this site.  Most of it has been invisible: theme-searching, plugin-testing, etc.  The necessary grunt work that feels like time wasted.  I definitely need to add some resource pages, and that’s in the works.

One of my goals is to push content to your preferred channels so you don’t have to subscribe to MY preference(s).  So besides this site, here’s a list of outlets where you can expect updates:

Twitter

Texrat (general)
NokiaDevNorthTX (Nokia outreach specific)

Facebook

Texrat (general)
Nokia Developer Outreach North Texas page
Nokia Developer Outreach North Texas group
Mobile Monday Dallas

Google Plus

Nokia Developer Outreach North Texas community

Meetup.com

Windows Phone App Developer Group – DFW North Texas

LinkedIn

Develop with Nokia
Windows Phone Community
MobileMonday
IdeasProject
Windows App Developers
Developer Evangelists

Nokia Developer

Windows Phone App Developer Group – DFW Dallas Texas
3D Printing and Nokia Developer Outreach North Texas

Website(s)

Fort Worth Makerspace

Up Next

I’ll be attending a Board of Directors meeting for the Tarrant County Maker Community Foundation this week.  If you have anything you want me to raise there, let me know!

Here are some upcoming events:

Cowtown Code Camp 2013
Mobile Monday Usability/Accessibility Brainstorm DFW

Much more to come!

Feb 192013
 

I’ve been focusing on building various channels for pushing community content, since I don’t want to force people into one that doesn’t suit them.  I’ll post more on that later.  But what’s kept me from developing this site as I want is a frustrating inability to find a theme that fits my goals.

This needs to be a community-oriented site, supporting the three areas in which I’m involved (Make, Windows Phone, and Qt in no particular order).  But I’m unable to find a ready-made WordPress theme, free or premium, that works.  I’ve tried several dozen with varying degrees of dissatisfaction.

I don’t have time or skill to develop anything, nor can I afford to pay for custom development, so that limits the possibilities.

Essentially I’ll need management of events, developer resources, contests and communications.  I’ve found plugins I believe will support those but I still need a site framework that does.

So… suggestions?

Jan 022013
 

Late last year as many of you know I rejoined Nokia in a part-time capacity, supporting developer outreach.  I neglected this blog a bit because I was focusing most of my attention on our local Windows Phone meetup site, but that’s about to change.

Going forward, I wil transition the bulk of my community support activity to this blog, as well as two twitter accounts: @NokiaDevNorthTX (was @DFW_WPDEV) and my old generic account, @texrat.  The latter is blessed with the most followers, but they’re so diverse (and include many people disinterested in Windows Phone) that I will use @NokiaDevNorthTX for highly-focused Windows Phone activity.  Still, expect at least few retweets on the @texrat side!

Last year I sponsored and otherwise supported some fun meetups and events, and 2013 will be no different.  January starts off with the North Texas Smartphone App Competition 2013, followed closely by a local instance of the 2013 Global Game Challenge.  Both events will also have preliminary meetups.  We’ll also be holding regular group meetups at Nokia’s Irving site starting in January.  The first meeting will cover many topics, and my hope afterwards is to have one major topic for each meetup.  We’ll have a really exciting one for April oriented around usability and accessibility, and I’m also putting one together (probably for March) with the theme of creating compelling apps.  I’ll be bringing in guest speakers from various companies and organizations, and looking for volunteers!

Speaking of meetups, the DFW meetup group grew fairly well in 2012, finishing the year at 107 members.  Out of that number, there were about 20 or so really active participants, some of whom have flirted with the Nokia DVLUP Leaderboard (must be registered to view; ask me about that if you aren’t) and quite a few winning prizes and awards for their work.

One thing to note: for reasons unclear to me, I have lost co-organizer status at the DFW meetup group.  This means I can no longer organize meetups or events on that site, or even update resource pages I created.  I will therefore be exploring other options… possibly Eventbrite.

I was also a little discouraged at low participation in certain community challenges, so I’m looking for feedback on how to do better this year.  Let me know any ideas you have for incentives and contests.

As for DVLUP… it’s still a Canada/USA program only for now and I know that frustrates those of you outside those countries.  Nokia of course recognizes the need to expand this opportunity so I hope you’ll be ready to jump in when it’s available to you.  It’s become quite popular and the development team has been hard at work fixing bugs and implementing new features.  Participant feedback is key!

Of course, while Windows Phone consumes the bulk of my community work these days, I’m still involved in other initiatives.  I’m on the board of directors for a local Make organization, still interested in 3D printing, and helping Digia as I can with local Qt meetups.  But I did drop some other activities due to time constraints.  I can only be stretched so thin, unfortunately.

Anyway, there’s going to be a lot going on this year and I have my work cut out for me.  Soon I hope to beef this site up a bit and make it a truly useful resource for you.

Thanks everyone for your support!

Oct 302012
 

Yesterday I received an email from a Dallas entrepreneur who wondered why he kept seeing my name pop up a lot.  Then today I got a call from a former Nokia colleague following up on a LinkedIn update, wondering what I’ve been up to lately.  So it’s no doubt time for Yet Another Boring Update.

Only it hasn’t been boring for me.  Far from it!  Here’s why, explained by what I am and will be doing, in order of priority:

  • Full time job and family.  Hard to say which really comes first, since I could only go without a full-time job if I had no family.  But I’m stuck with both, and regardless of pecking order they come before all else.  I love working for BNSF Railway and hope that continues as long as I need it to!
  • Nokia developer outreach.  As many already know, since 2005 I have supported Nokia’s business in some form or fashion, and it just got real again.  I am now officially working part-time for my former favorite employer, as a project coordinator with the cooler-sounding label of Nokia Developer Ambassador.  The goal is to get developers cranking on Windows Phone.  I’m currently working on getting my embassy in order.  That would be home office (corner of our bedroom and a tiny spot on a living room table), this website, twitter account, a local meetup site, and various coffee shops around town.
  • Qt.  I can’t give up on this platform, even though I sadly retreated late last year and set it aside.  I’ve been asked by Digia to help with Dallas-area meetups and I believe I can fit that in.  I just hope there’s enough interest!  I’m also eager to find out what’s brewing at Jolla; the new mobile phone manufacturer may offer renewed hope to mobile Qt developers.
  • Tarrant County maker community.  Since returning from the Devaamo Summit in Finland some months ago, full of fire and foolishness, I have been trying to pull together a local maker community.  There’s no shortage of talent and interest in my home county; just little in the way of Big Picture Organization.  That hurdle appears to have been crossed, thanks in large part to Sherry Huss of O’Reilly Media and the visionaries at http://DFWI.org.  A makerspace website has been constructed by the hardworking Robert Bradbury, and the community is taking shape!  There’s synergy with Qt and Windows Phone efforts, which will help minimize my time.
  • Hildon Foundation Board.  This is a new organization chartered to find a future for Nokia’s Maemo assets and community.

I’ve also been helping Scarlet Motors on community-building.  But you’ll notice no specific mention of 3D printing or Tribal Method in that list.

Where the former is concerned, I’m not stopping activity– just reducing it.  3D printing will be a large part of maker community activities, and I’ll still putter with my inventions as I find time.  But it won’t be as high a priority as it has been… unless something changes in the list above.

As for my ventures, aka Tribal Method, I’m putting that on a distant back-burner.  I still have big ideas, and strongly believe one or more of them could create many millionaires, but I continue to struggle in selling my business ideas and building the teams necessary to bring them to life.  Yes, for those in the know that includes Kintegrity, Conkin, unfolo, Resuflex, Cocoa Labs and others.  Maybe at some point I’ll be able to get something going on one or more of them, but it isn’t now.

I’m busy enough.  ;)