Well, it was a fun two day jaunt to Kansas. I flew the good 'ol American Airlines and arrived with out incident yesterday. The Avis counter took a billion years to get me processed (like a deer) and there were only two couples ahead of me. Not sure what that was all about. I really, really need to get on the preferred list so I can just run in and grab my car. I hate to wait just to sign the contract. I mean that is all I did, nothing special.
I loved the countryside that I passed as I-70 unfolded before me on the way between Kansas City and Topeka. I think living in Texas for so long has made me miss the actual changing of the seasons that other parts of the country get to experience. There where tons of old farmhouses and other old Americana lying about that really gave the journey a kind of Norman Rockwell feel.
So I get to the hotel (Residence Inn) and the folks are nice but the place is in some funky hidden area behind a strip mall. Not sure what the deal was with that. I tend to stay in Marriott properties to scarf up the reward points but find myself lately wondering if I should give other chains a shot. It's nothing in particular that Marriott has done per se but it is kind of annoying not having a wired connection sometimes. This is going to be especially problematic as I start up the new 26 part webcast series that I have committed to for the year. WTF was I thinking?
Without a doubt I have decided to only stay in the places where I have a kitchen area. When we did the Halo 3 Event at UT Austin my buddy Brad booked our rooms at a Residence Inn and I have been hooked on the kitchen thing ever since. I sometimes feel dirty spending a little extra out of my T&E to get the cool suites but I justify it by rationalizing the need for comfort as much as I travel. ON the up side they do give free breakfast and dinner ;)
Zain Does Topeka
So today I was greeted around 11am by Don King (head of the Topeka DNUG). I like Don he seems to really want to help his members out and have their interest at heart. Although I have never seen it myself, I have heard of UG leaders who only take the position to get recognition for themselves. While this works a little it is very easy for us to spot the ones who are really committed (like David Walker in Tulsa) and those who aren't.
For the record, it is just as easy to spot the "swag hounds" (my term for folks who come to Microsoft events just for the swag). There is always a little greedy glint in their eyes and they approach any sign-up table scanning the length of the table to see what swag they can get. I think there has only been one time I just wanted to b-slap an attendee and he was a swag hound. This guy in Tulsa came in once after we had put everything back on the truck and wanted some swag. I told him there wasn't any as it had all been put on the truck but we would get him some for the next session in one hour. Apparently that wasn't good enough and he demanded some swag. Needless to say he didn't get any but I always find it interesting to see who will come to an event to learn (and if they get swag that is just a bonus) versus those who come (in some case many miles) just for the free stuff.
But I digress. The Topeka meeting was a fairly full room with, I would guess, around 50 people attending. Anyone who speaks for a living knows that crowds have personalities. Not just the people in the crowd but the crowd itself. I am happy to report that the Topeka crowd is very friendly. They asked intelligent questions and really seemed interested in hearing about Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF).
After the lecture, I spent a few minutes with Don discussing how we can help get more members in his group. The main point that I felt needed to be made is that we can't possibly touch every person by going to them individually. It just isn't possible. We depend on the DNUG's to get our message out and to provide valuable feedback on a variety of topics. I would hope that any professional coder is part of a user group in their locale. If not, then please join one ASAP.
Now, just to avoid being a hypocrite, I was not regular part of any user group before I joined Microsoft. I would have liked for someone to convey the importance of joining user groups. In my career as a trainer and consultant I can't recall ever having a consistent connection to MS. I realize now how much I missed by not being part of some group.
Thankfully the folks in Topeka don't have that problem. They are a great bunch and it was a pleasure to hang out with them. Looking forward to going back! :)