Tag Archives: Geek Dinner

Betsy Weber Geek Dinner

Most times when a Geek Dinner is announced for London, it’s really not practical for me to attend. What with a journey of around an hour by train into the centre of the city, and then often a need to take the Underground to wherever the dinner is being held it’s really not practical to get there from work.

This week is a bit different. I’m on a course run by Developmentor, who host their London courses in a managed office block a short walk from Kensington Olympia Underground, so rather than a long train journey, the journey into the west end is about twenty minutes on the Underground. So when Ian posted on Twitter yesterday that he had had a couple of cancellations for the dinner that night I took advantage of being in London and headed along.

The host/special guest at the dinner was Betsy Weber of TechSmith who was in town as part of a trip around the UK, Ireland and France, and although I was vaguely aware of the company, it wasn’t a name I had come across.

Having said that, it was probably a fortuitous coincidence, as having taken a look at the website of the company, their product is really just what we’ve been looking for.

One of the issues we have at work is that users, like everybody else’s users, don’t bother to read manuals. They often end up learning to use the applications via onsite training as either a super user who has been involved in the development, or one of us in the development team travels around training the users. What we have been talking about doing of late is producing screen casts to demonstrate the software, hopefully cutting down on the travelling for face to face training.

Anyway, it did prove to be a good opportunity to share some ideas about screen casting, and certainly we can take a look at TechSmith when budgets allow.

Aside from that, like most Geek Dinners it was a real mix of people and provided lots of broad talk about technology. I was sat next to Ian, and we had an opportunity to catch up with his work with Silverlight. Opposite was Paul, an accountant by trade, but who also is involved in the regular Bar Camp events. I also talked to Julielyn, a friend of Betsy who was travelling with her and who runs a company specialising in Social Media and Internet Strategy. Sat next to me on the other side was Melinda who again is involved in BarCamp and Geek Dinners.

All in all it was a great evening. The restaurant, the Cote, a French restaurant in Soho had apparently come recommended from Colin MacKay – definitely a hit – good food and well priced. Having said that, none of us actually had to pay anything, as despite us offering to split the bill Betsy kindly picked up the bill for the whole evening!

I had my iPhone with me, so below are a few pictures I snapped during the evening.

Developer Day 4 Geek Dinner

Wine

After the Developer Day, comes the night. With a number of people staying around the area and heading home tomorrow, plus one or two like myself and Dave who live locally, three out of the four Developer Day’s have been followed up by a dinner, this one being organised by Zi Makki.

As with the DDD2 dinner, I headed home to collect Beth, who although she would be bored silly during the day, quite enjoys the conversation at the dinner. In a change to previous dinners, after her starring appearance in a Channel 9 video, Dave’s other half Lou came along too and joined in the fun.

Down the Table

Unfortunately, as quite often happens with these things, there were a lot of no shows. Since the sign-up for the event is via a wiki, and opens pretty early on – indeed ahead of registration for the event, it is very much dependant on people taking themselves off the list if they subsequently are unable to attend. Sadly, failing to do this means that people who otherwise would like to come along, are put off. Looking at the list, we had a booking for forty people, and thirty-seven people listed as coming – however at least ten of those people didn’t show up.

Having said that, we had a great time none-the-less. In fact I barely talked to Beth all evening as she had a pretty wide ranging discussion with the guys further down the table covering everything from teaching to gun control. I had some somewhat more geeky conversations, however in general, although there is a slight geek focus to some of the conversations (and always the inevitable gadget comparison), ultimately the topics for discussion are as broad as any other party situation – there really isn’t an archetypal geek!

Creamed

It was great to see Lou at one of these occasions too, hopefully she enjoyed it enough to join us for one of the bigger London events in the future. I took a load of shots with the camera on the phone, thanks to the lack of light some are a bit grainy, but you can browse through my selection here. There were several other people snapping away during the evening, so hopefully we’ll be able to pull them altogether into a group later on.

Developer Day 3 Coming Up Fast

The third Developer Day is coming up fast, looking at the calendar it takes place a week on Saturday. I got in promptly with my registration, as did a colleague at work who is coming along too – both our passes turned up yesterday. As expected the event was full in just over two weeks, so it seems as popular as ever. Also as before I still can’t quite make my mind up which sessions I’ll go to – invariably I’ll go to different ones from what I plan anyway. Beth and myself are also signed up to go along to the dinner afterwards – looking at the list there should be one or two familiar faces there as well.

However, what will be slightly strange will be the people that won’t be there. Neither Dave Oliver, nor Sarah are coming along this time. From what I can gather none of the guys from SSE are making the journey up to Reading this time which is a shame, would have been nice to catch up with them.

Anyway, I expect I’ll post a report on the sessions I attended, plus a selection of snaps from the Geek Dinner too.

Geek Dinner Roundup

As usual, the Geek Dinner on Saturday has a broad selection of reports from a number of different sources. I thought I’d highlight some of the postings that caught my eye.

Firstly, Robert Scoble himself posted about the dinner on Sunday morning, linking here – which has certainly given my traffic a boost over the past couple of days, and left me quite chuffed to be picked out. He also linked off to a stack of pictures taken by Tim Scarfe.

Dave, nursing a hangover it seems, blogged pretty quickly about his experiences – and it was he that pointed out the link from Scobleizer.

Jen and Neil Dixon of Britcaster.com have several blog postings on the dinner, including this one which includes a picture of me photographing Dave’s nipples… 😮 As an aside, Dave pointed out that Jen and Neil have a story similar to Beth and myself, with them having had a long distance relationship over e-mail before Jen moved across the pond and settled in the UK.

It is worth remembering that it wasn’t only geeks that attended the dinner. Probably the most interesting posting on the event was from Andrew Denny, who blogs on the subject of canals over at GrannyButtons.com, and has an interesting angle on the evening, especially his description of Scoble at the dinner.

He also took a great series of pictures of the evening. Having done a tour of all the tables during the dinner, he does have a picture of us, with a caption that gave me a laugh when I read it – Celebrating your 40+ birthday at Geek Dinner – all of Sarah and Barry’s hard work arranging the surprises for Dave was worth it as now nobody believes he’s only 35!!!

Looking at the slightly more controversial aspects – Ben Metcalfe, who has previously been pretty critical of Hugh McLeod and Stormhoek on his blog mentions in a longer post about current issues a conversation which he had with Jason Korman of Stormhoek (no mention of it in the Stormhoek blog posting though), which includes the following comment:

I came away from that conversation with the impression that Jason (a self-described “wine entrepreneur�) had no real threshold above which he wouldn’t consider marketing his wine (other than legality, I’m sure).

Having chatted to the Stormhoek guys at one point in the evening we didn’t get that impression – certainly we didn’t feel like it was any sort of sales pitch. I have come across salesmen before who really never switch off looking for a pitch, but that certainly wasn’t the impression I got.

Finally, don’t miss the excellent interview with Hugh McLeod and Robert Scoble – great listening.

Anyway, all in all it was a great evening, and I’m sure we’ll put in an appearance at another dinner soon!

Developer Day 2 and Geek Dinner

So we’ve just got home from the post Developer Day Geek Dinner, following on from a busy day soaking up information, and networking at the second Microsoft Developer Day.

Looking at the business end of the day first, the events at Thames Valley Park were a bit different than the last time. The team had taken on board feedback from the last session, and also introduced some new ideas. Apparently the event was sold out before even the agenda had been published, and certainly with a dedicated team behind it determined to make it better, I’m sure we’ll see another event soon.

Since there had been comments about the lists of recommended books we had had at the first day, this time we had a Computer Book reseller along. There was also someone showing Windows Mobile devices at a Windows Mobile table, although the other subject area tables didn’t seem to overly work as an idea. One disappointment was the distinct lack of freebies this time out. Whilst I’m not that bothered about getting a Microsoft Bottle Opener, last time we got beta copies of Visual Studio 2005, and certainly with a large group of developers it would seem to be a good opportunity for Microsoft to distribute some more previews of upcoming products.

Having said that, the sessions were all excellent, and a again a real mix of topics and presentation styles.

Perhaps the most frustrating of the sessions, wasn’t to do with the presenter, but more to some of the attendees. It was on the topic of using .Net code in SQL Server 2005, however the session got dragged down into a discussion about pretty detailed stuff about how to install .Net code into SQL Server, largely meaning that we ran out of time. The structure of the day is such that an all the topics the sessions are giving at most a broad overview of a topic, so whilst the time consuming divergance was of use for this group of people who were obviously having difficulty with the topic, for others in the room (one of whom actually shouted out to get on with it after a while) it was decidedly frustrating when they knew there was limited time.

Talking at the Geek Dinner, it seems that one of the sessions I thought was good, really divided opinion, with another person thinking it was one of the worst. Mike Roberts session on .Net Development Trees, had come out of a series of blog postings he had written on the subject. However rather than just bash through a series of slides based on the article, he tried something different, which initially involved us splitting into groups, and the results of the group discussion driving the rest of the session. Of course the key difference between this sesssion and the others is that we ultimately didn’t get a complete overview of the entire subject, however you can get that from the original article, however what you did get was much more of a chance to interact with the other developers, and in some ways realise that whatever companies we actually worked for, in many cases we were getting the same sorts of problems, and hence why a development tree was so important.

After the final session, we finished with a bit of group discussion about what could be done better or differently. One interesting idea was for a sort of bring and share type session, where participants bring their laptops, and would get the latest builds of software to play with. Certainly this seemed like a great idea from my point of view. In our normal working lives, unless it is specifically your job, most people won’t get to play with preview builds. Indeed many will be one or two versions behind the current leading edge. Since for many people I have spoken to, the popular sessions are the previews of new features, this idea seems to move that concept on further, and actually give people a chance to test drive these things. In addition, leading on from the development tree session, I found that much more interesting, in that we made use of the fact that this was a group of developers together in a room, leaving the stuff we could just read off the notes to time we had on our own.

Arty Through The Glass Shot

Whilst on the subject of talking to other developers, after the developer day had officially ended, there were drinks at the Revolutions Vodka Bar in Reading, followed by dinner at Zizzi’s.

Dave got his first chance to podcast, thanks to the original podcaster dropping out through illness. Heaven knows how me and Beth will sound on the podcast, although I doubt you’ll be able to hear much of us over the noise. Incidentally, although she didn’t come to the day, Beth came to the dinner. She did seem to enjoy herself, being married to me she can cope with geeky topics, and even found somebody with whom to talk about Shakespeare!

Perhaps the only down point of the dinner was that thanks to people changing around their orders, the food was ultimately very late, with main courses not arriving until 10pm, when many of the people who were relying on trains had to get going. Having said that, everybody seemed to have a good time. I’ve posted my snaps of the evening to onto Flickr, so hopefully there will be a group with other peoples snaps up there soon. Incidentally, if you attended the event, don’t forget to get your feedback in so as to influence DDD3!