It’s not often that you hear people who are involved in technology referred to as “heroes”. Most of us are just techno-geeks trying to do the best we can. And while I don’t necessarily drink the kool-aid as far as those of us who are using the newer Microsoft technologies being called heroes, I have to say I was struck by Tom Brokaw’s opinion of what technology has meant to our world and our society.
I went to Microsoft’s Los Angeles Launch Event 2008 this past week in celebration of the release of their three new products, Windows Server 2008, Sql Server 2008, and Visual Studio 2008. Lots of great advances, lots of awesome stuff, and their theme was “Heroes Happen Here”. By that, they mean that the people who are using these new technologies are the heroes of technology.
But Tom’s keynote speech (I was actually surprised when he came out on the stage at the Nokia Theater) revolved around what technology has meant to people in other parts of the world. He admitted to not being very computer savvy…and admitted he would probably never write a line of code with Visual Studio, or manage a Hyper-V Virtual Server Farm…but he did recall the importance of technology in making our world smaller, and hopefully better. He talked about the people who went to Pakistan to help during their last devastating earthquake, and how that when they came down from hiking into the deep mountains they were able to put fingers to keyboard and let the world know what had happened. He talked about how technology was helping to improve farming, and irrigation, and what that meant to the lives of people living in Africa. He talked about surgeries being led remotely by doctors via videoconferencing. I can’t recall all the stories he told, but they all held essentially the same meaning: that the people, the programmers, the administrators, all of us who help make technology what it is, and make it available to the true heroes of the world, we all have a stake and a helping hand in that heroism, and he wanted to thank us.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, gave the rest of the keynote address as the event moved from true heroism into our own personal versions of “code heroes”…but what Tom Brokaw said does ring true. Technology helps in ways that sometimes we never know about, and our role in that is crucial, and we shouldn’t take for granted what we do with it. We’re all heroes.
Maybe the best way is to start your own group. And no, I don’t mean therapy group!
When I relocated to the Central Coast, I wanted to see how many .NET developers there were here because that was my specialty and something I was interested in. In Los Angeles where I had lived before, it was not uncommon to find several “User Groups”…groups of people who shared a common interest that got together once a month to talk about what they are interested in. So I started hunting around for a User Group here.
I couldn’t find one, although certainly there is SLOCAMA, and SLOBytes, there was no .NET or even a general “programming” User Group. So I started asking around, and it was hard for me to explain to people what exactly it was I was trying to accomplish.
So I started my own. In November of 2006, I founded the San Luis Obispo .NET User Group. Now we are 40+ members strong and meet once a month. A typical meeting will generally consist of pizza or pasta or panda express, a 90 minute to 2 hour presentation by a member or an outside speaker on a topic we are interested in, and then everyone hangs around to chat. It’s a great way for all of us to expand our knowledge and share our ideas.
And the reality is, it wasn’t that hard to get it started. You basically need two things: a conference room, and a projector. In most cases, you can find conference rooms at banks, accounting firms, there are many local places that you can get one. In fact, the San Luis Business Center will rent one to you, and KCBX.NET will rent you one with a projector! Granted, you might spend $80 a meeting, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. If you’re lucky like we are, you have someone in the group with access to a room and then you don’t have that cost either.
Then you need a vision, a purpose. In our meetings, it’s .NET programming. Yours might be databases, or design, or even electrical engineering. The topic and vision don’t matter as long as you have one. And if you have one, I guarantee that there are others out there who share it.
Finally, you need speakers. Our group has only had two or three people from outside come in and speak. For the most part, our own members have been willing to step up and investigate something and come back with their findings. None of us are professional speakers, and it’s very laid back and low key and about the sharing of ideas.
I placed a single comment in the Tribune with the weekly Central Coast Technology article written by Dan Logan and set up my first meeting. Fourteen people attended, and we’ve just grown from there. Dan continues to be supportive, and groups like Softec have stepped up to offer their support as well in the interest of “Community Education”.
It’s really that easy to start a group. Get a room, a topic, a projector if you need it, a speaker (even if it’s you), some food, and set up shop. Even if only two people show up the first time, word will spread and your group will grow.
It’s definitely worth your time and effort.
Robert Hope, Founder