Tuesday, January 31, 2006

NW Ohio .NET User Group: January Meeting

Consultant, author, and Microsoft Regional Director (not an employee title, but rather an honorary designation bestowed upon prominent community members) Bill Wagner presented tonight at the NW Ohio .NET User Group (NWNUG) meeting. His topics: Generics in C# 2.0, and LINQ in C# 3.0.

Perhaps having Greg Huber and myself in the same room is bad luck for hardware, for Bill had a little struggle in getting the presentation going. After a reboot and a couple of anecdotes, we were on our way.

Bill, of course, is the author of the highly acclaimed book Effective C#: 50 Specific Ways to Improve Your C#, which I guess kind of makes him an expert on the subject of C#. That didn't stop Scott Wiltamuth from recommending Bill's own book to him at the PDC this past year!

During one of his vamps, Bill pulls out a fresh copy of his book and slides it across the table to me. He then explains to the group that he wanted me to have one that was properly signed (which this copy reads: To Jason, Thanks for inviting me to speak at your group. Bill Wagner)

Now, to understand the significance of this gesture, I need to first take you back to probably the mid 1990's. I was doing a lot of Visual Basic 4 programming, and my definitive source of information was Carl and Gary's Visual Basic Homepage. At that time, the internet was actually not the wealth of information that it is today, and I'm not even sure what the state of the MSDN web site was (if it even existed). But, everything that I needed to know could be found at good ol' CGVB-dot-com.

Jump ahead to maybe 1997. I receive as a Christmas gift a book on Internet programming using Visual Basic 4. It soon became the catalyst that led me into protocol-level programming because I was truly amazed by just how simple these Internet protocols really were. The author of that book: The same Carl from CGVB.com. Cool.

My life then transformed from doing pure Visual Basic programming to web programming, and I spent a great deal of my professional life dealing with angle brackets, client-side scripting, and OSASPADO (Old-School ASP/ADO) on the backend. My visits to CGVB completely stopped, and Carl's book was stored away in a box. I swear it was like the scene in Toy Story 2 when the little girl got rid of the Jessie, the Yodeling Cowgirl, complete with a sad song by Randy Newman. /me wipes away a tear.

Zipping ahead to April 2005 (we'll be getting back to Bill Wagner in just a second, so hang in there): I attended a MSDN event that Bill Steele presented at. Part of the swag that was given away included a DVD loaded with content, including the first 100 episodes of this Internet radio talk show named .NET Rocks!. "I'll have to give that a listen," I thought. BTW, it was after this same MSDN event that I discovered that there was a .NET User Group in Toledo.

So, it began. While working at a client's site, I listened to 2-3 episodes of DNR each day. After a month and a half of a diligent listening schedule, I was completely caught up. Once again, that Carl guy had somehow snuck back into my life. (And, I also found a certain appreciation for the personality known as Rory)

I was really impressed by this sense of community that existed. It was almost like a fraternity, with folks from all over the country (and the world) sharing in their passion for Microsoft technology. Most importantly, I learned that there were others who shared in my beliefs that Microsoft was better than Java. (If you're still reading at this point, you know that I'm trying out some tongue-in-cheek ideas here, right?)

I had the opportunity to actually meet the current DNR duo while I was in San Francisco late last year for the Microsoft Joint Launch Event. I think that it's no secret to readers here that I'm a big fan of Carl Franklin the Podcaster, the Musician, and the Regional Director, so being able to ever so briefly hang out with him was a big highlight of 2005 for me. DNR was the catalyst for me becoming involved in the community.

The day after eating boiled ribs with Carl and Richard at the post-event party, I flew back to Detroit for our own regional version of the same event. There, I met Bill Wagner for the first time. I had taken his book with me to SFO, so as we were standing there at the User Group booth, I pulled the book out and asked if he would sign it. Having no clue who I was, I think that he simply looked to me for guidance about what to write in the dedication. It was then that I said, "To Jason, With Love, Carl Franklin" (as if I didn't know or cared who Bill was). To his credit, Bill actually wrote something to that effect. Party on!

Thanks for the replacement book, Bill! Though, the original one is certainly not going anywhere!