Announcing: one awesome Windows Phone 7 app + the Open Conference Protocol

This weekend, off the back of Web Directions South, the awesome conference team also organised the Amped hack day. Sponsored by Adobe, Microsoft, PayPal, the Powerhouse Museum and Yahoo, there were a number of coding challenges throughout the day.

Aaron Powell (@slace), Brendan Forster (@shiftkey) and I attended in the capacity of mentors for the Windows Phone 7 track. In the end though, the ratio of mentors to participants and one awesome idea threw us down the path of competing instead.

Here’s what we built:

I was talking at a mile a minute because we only had 3 minutes to pitch in the final. (You might notice me glancing at the stopwatch in my left hand.)

Lucky we decided to compete, because in the end we won the whole day! That means we’re off to Web Directions East in Tokyo next month.

We’ll progressively release resources once we polish it up a bit more, take the mirrors down and let the smoke clear out. In the mean time, start with http://openconferenceprotocol.org.

Talk Resources – Internet Explorer 9 for Developers

At REMIX10, TechEd AU 2010 and TechEd NZ 2010 I’ve been showing some of what’s new in Internet Explorer 9 for developers.

Here are the slides and code: http://db.tt/JvEUu3o

The recording from TechEd New Zealand (the third and best version!) is available here: http://www.msteched.com/2010/NewZealand/WEB304

IE9NZ

The recording from TechEd Australia (version 2 of the talk) is available here: http://www.msteched.com/2010/Australia/WEB204

IE9AU

And finally, here’s a recording from REMIX10 Australia (version 1 of the talk): http://www.microsoft.com/australia/remix/videos/default.aspx

IERemix

If you’ve attended any of these talks, thank you for your feedback! The session evals at conferences are like crack for speakers. We read every single one, and then we read them again.

— Tats

Talk Resources – Riding the Geolocation Wave

At both the REMIX10 conference in Melbourne, Australia and more recently TechEd New Zealand I presented on geolocation for developers.

This was the abstract:

It’s pretty obvious by now that geolocation is a heavy player in the next wave of applications and APIs. Now is the time to learn how to take advantage of this information and add context to your own applications. In this session we’ll look at geolocation at every layer of the stack – from open protocols to operating system APIs, from the browser to Windows Phone 7. Building a compelling geo-enabled experience takes more than simple coordinates. In this session Tatham will introduce the basics of determining a user’s location and then delve into some of the opportunities and restrictions that are specific to mobile devices and their interfaces.

The talk was filmed at TechEd New Zealand, and is available for download here: http://www.msteched.com/2010/NewZealand/WEB205

(Note: this version has a Windows Phone 7 demo in it too.)

GeoNZScreenshot

The first version of the talk was also filmed at REMIX10, and is available for download here: http://www.microsoft.com/australia/remix/videos/default.aspx

GeolocationScreenshot

Here are some links to the code and resources (but you really want to watch the talk first):

(Post last updated 7th Sep 2010 with new links and videos)

Web Forms Model-View-Presenter on Hanselminutes

Over the last few months Damian Edwards and myself have been spending quite a bit of time building out a Model-View-Presenter framework for ASP.NET Web Forms.

Until now we’ve been pretty quiet about it all on our blogs because we were busy polishing off v1 and trying to get all the documentation in order. Nevertheless, the word has definitely started to spread as Scott Hanselman interviewed me about the library on this week’s Hanselminutes episode.

Listen to the podcast

Learn more about the library

Video: Building Fast, Public Websites

Following up from my last post about the ASP.NET MVC vs ASP.NET WebForms debate, we’ve had a second TechTalk posted, also from TechEd Australia. In this video, Michael Kordahi, Damian Edwards and I sat down to discuss building fast, public websites. It was a bit of a teaser for our breakout session at the conference, which will be available online as a screencast in the next week or two.

If you’re interested in learning more about building large public websites on ASP.NET, remember that the full video from our recent REMIX session is still available online too.

Building Fast, Public Websites

Watch Online or Download

Video: ASP.NET MVC vs ASP.NET WebForms – Will WebForms be replaced by MVC?

At the recent TechEd Australia conference, Paul Glavich, Damian Edwards and myself sat down to discuss what we thought about the current MVC vs WebForms debate. Our TechTalk has now been posted on the TechEd Online site, and available for anyone to watch.

Check it out, and feel free to continue the debate with any of us. 🙂

ASP.NET MVC vs ASP.NET WebForms – Will WebForms be replaced by MVC? 

Watch Online or Download

A Career in Business

This is the transcript of a presentation I’ll be giving at a joint schools careers night in Sydney tomorrow. The hosting school are my old high school, SHORE.

I’m here this evening to discuss small business.

It’s my personal opinion that a business degree will prepare you for running your own business little more than your HSC already will.

Your prospective universities may disagree.

Running a business is an expression of entrepreneurialism, and is not something that can be taught or learnt in a class room. They may be able to teach you financial ratios, an obscure set of legal structures and some basic marketing techniques, however each of these are somewhat superfluous to the core of running a business.

Many of the business people I value the most have either never attempted university, or more often, never completed it. The success of these individuals and their lack of (completed) formal tertiary educations should not however be interpreted as a free pass for anybody to skip uni, jump in head first and expect an equivalent outcome. Nor should it devalue the relevance of finance, law, marketing and the myriad of other business-related professions that I have skipped over. Instead, they each highlight what is at the very core of a successful business person; the individual themselves. If business success was a simple as following as defined set of parameters that you were taught in a classroom, the free market economy would simply fail to exist in the first place.

Partnerships

Running a business is a tough road. It requires one to act in many roles and demonstrate a diverse range of skills over an extended period, all whilst maintaining balance and focus. Larry Page and Sergey Brin suspended their PhDs to found Google. The pair’s success serves to highlight what I see as a very important aspect of the individual; the partner. All too often, starting a business is seen as something done by an individual.

Running a business demands a set of behaviours that one person will often struggle to deliver consistently. Particularly during the start-up phase, it can be a struggle to maintain focus in the right areas and avoid the wrong areas, particularly when you’re so passionate about getting it perfect instead of getting it done. Having a business partner can deliver the balance required, as well as a sounding board for ideas and the always needed set of helping hands. I know that I wouldn’t have achieved but half of what I have today without my business partner Tom.

In our business, Tom also provides a complementary set of skills. He’ll leave a lunch with three business leads and I’ll be asking him what the host’s name was again. Our partnership allows me to focus on building out product, and Tom to focus on the capitalization, two processes that require distinct skill sets.

There’s another description I quite like, which is that if you can’t convince one person to join you, you probably want to revisit your idea. I can’t remember exactly where I heard that, but I suspect it may have actually been one of my teachers here.

Someone who I see as being in dire need of a business partner is Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. In 2006 Microsoft tried to buy Facebook and arranged an 8am breakfast catch-up. His office responded that “this simply would not be possible, as Mr Zuckerberg would still be in bed at that time.” Around this same time he was still attending trade fairs handing out a business card that read ‘I’m a CEO … bitch’.

Whilst we can all appreciate the humour, Facebook has failed to achieve anywhere near the profits required to match the US$2.2 billion that Microsoft laid on the table. I have some suspicions that Mark would be better served building the website we know and love and leaving someone else to make the deals.

Risk Capacity

Another business you might be familiar with from your computer lab periods is CollegeHumor.com. Launched by two US college mates spreading fliers around their campus, traffic grew organically – and quickly. At the three-month mark, the site was attracting 600,000 visitors per week, largely thanks to a video of a man sitting on a tree stump being hit on the back of a head with a shovel.

What started out as a joking search for advertisers to pay for their beer ended up as an online media business attracting advertisers like Coca Cola and Dreamworks. Had the business failed, Josh and Ricky would have lost little more than their initial $200 investment and their $30 per month internet bill. No doubt, they would have held on to their now extensive collection of funny videos.

Josh Abramson, the site’s co-creator once commented that “the greatest thing about starting a business in college is that there is very little risk.”

He’s right; and you’re in that sweet spot right now. You don’t go broke when you’re 18; you just go back to your parent’s place for dinner. You might miss a night out on the town; but you won’t miss a mortgage payment.

You’re all sitting at the peak of your risk capacity, and shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage of that. I’ve certainly had my fair share of failed ideas along the way. Most just lost time, some lost money and I certainly had varying amounts of cash in my wallet along the way. All of them were good fun though, and all of them prepared me better for the subsequent, and successful, attempts.

Skills Crossover

All of the businesses I have mentioned so far have been web based, but this does not make them purely technology businesses.

Lots of people author good content on the web, but that doesn’t make them good at promoting it. Google does that for them.

Plenty of people can make a funny video, YouTube demonstrates that. The simple act of publishing the video doesn’t make it popular with college students though. College Humor does that.

In their simplest sense, each of these businesses operates on the divide between two different skill sets. Generally, I find this to be the space where the most opportunity exists.

Brendan Powning is a 42 year old rigger on construction sites, with a side hobby of electronics. With 20 years of experience on construction sites, he’s seen countless tools go missing and no great solutions. Using his basic electronics skills he developed an inexpensive motion sensor that could be buried alongside the entrances to construction sites and activated from a mobile phone. Now, every time somebody drives on to one of his constructions sites out of hours, he gets a text message and can investigate.

Having being featured on the ABC’s New Inventors, he’s now developing a successful business around this device. Whilst not an overly complex or unique idea, it took the rare crossover of construction site experience and basic electronics skills for the idea to eventuate and be practical.

Think about the activities, sports and hobbies you participate in today, and where the frustrations exist in each of them. As its simplest level, business is about providing solutions and finding the frustration is generally a good place to start.

Enablement

This can all sound a bit ominous though; finding an idea, finding a business partner, and then (hopefully) finding your first customer. Picking the trifecta is hard, and it should sound at least a little bit ominous because if you’re successful in doing so you’ve done bloody well.

You don’t always have to do that though. There are plenty of useful ideas out there already; more often than not from people who will fail to execute them. Similarly, there are plenty of people ready to achieve, but still looking for that golden idea.

Think about which group you are in now; then find the other.

One of the businesses I run is a based in male fashion PR and export. I don’t know any designers, I don’t know any fashion editors, and I don’t know any fashion trends until they turn up in Chatswood Westfield. I do know how to build a website, my business partner knows how to market it, and our strategic partners know how to make it look good. Our involvement is silent, based around enabling someone else’s idea using our skills.

Closing

Stepping back for a moment, you may have noticed that I haven’t actually used the phrase “small business” since the very beginning of this talk. The techniques, behaviours and skills required in running a small business are equally applicable to operating larger businesses. The experience gained from making those front-line business decisions along the way has given me a respect for the wider organisational context. What may seem right and justified to you at one time is but a single point of view in the tug-of-war that is running an enterprise. Attempting to understand this wider context without having experienced it is an exercise in futility. The consulting role that I am currently engaged in may be one of technical strategy, but I won that role more so from my capacity to engage with the business as opposed to technical flair.

Closing on that statement, I’d like you to leave this evening thinking of business as both an end-game, as well as a flexible opportunity to develop a highly valuable set of skills.

If you’d like to review this talk at another time, the transcript is available from tatham.oddie.com.au, and I’ll ask Mr Scouller to circulate that address.

Thank you.