Southwest Fox 2010 Recap

Hey, Everybody! I just flew back from Phoenix and boy is my brain tired! It was the annual Southwest Fox conference, where me and my like-minded FoxPro developers hang out for a weekend of learning and fun.  Now last year I blogged during every session I attended but like many my enthusiasm for blogging has diminished inversely to my enthusiasm for tweeting.  So this year all you’re getting is a recap of the whole experience.


This year I was actually invited to speak at Southwest Fox, which I considered quite an honor as the roster of speakers is essentially a who’s who among FoxPro developers.  I gave two sessions, one on Christian Elscheid’s VFP2C32 library, which wraps the Windows API in an easy to use package for VFP developers, and another on Carlos Allouit’s LibCurl library for VFP developers to access web services easily within VFP (especially web services who’s examples are all given using curl).

Based on the feedback I received both in person and on the forms, I think my sessions went well. I feel I could have done even better of course, and I should have rehearsed them even more than I did because a couple of times I lost my place and the flow ebbed a bit.  The advantage I had was that both of my topics were fairly fresh to a lot of developers so they were eager to hear what I had to say.

I was very happy to have had this experience, but one lesson I learned is that it takes a ton of time to prepare a session for presentation.  Between the learning, the whitepapers, the slides, and the rehearsing I probably had 200 hours of prep time for these sessions. So don’t agree to be a speaker just for the perks because you’d be better of just paying your own way for the conference!

My First Session Crowd
My First Session Crowd!


I was able to attend Rick Borup’s pre-conference session, which introduced us to Ruby on Rails. It may seem odd to you that a conference purportedly about Visual FoxPro would have a RoR session, but one of the goals of the conference is to expose VFP developers to technologies they might be interested in adding to their toolbox. Since VFP doesn’t have great native web support and the demand for web apps is increasing, RoR seems like a natural path for VFP developers.  The similarities are there: it’s an interpreted language with command-line support and decent database functionality!  Having worked with ASP.Net and PHP/CodeIgniter recently, RoR seems like a nice alternative.

KeyNote with Craig Boyd

It’s a shame Craig Boyd had to abort his sessions this year, but the conference organizers were able to persuade him to give the keynote. Craig’s one of those guys who can intelligently ad lib his way through anything, and he gave a fun and dynamic keynote without even using notes!  The slides he put together of the conference organizers (using the incredibly fun and addicting were fantastic.  In addition to all the fun, his keynote had an emphatic theme: the perceived value of the tools you use is personal. Just because nobody else believes Visual FoxPro is worth anything doesn’t mean it’s not – if you’re out there making money with this tool it does not matter what the elitists think.


I saw several fantastic sessions this year from speakers Kevin Cully, Steve Ellenoff, Rick Schummer, Doug Hennig, Rick Strahl, Bo Durban, Christof Wollenhaupt and Rick Borup. Unfortunately because I was a speaker I was NOT able to see nearly as many as I wanted to, but the conference organizers require all the speakers to turn in lengthy whitepapers on all of their sessions so I have enough reading queued up to last until next year’s conference. And yes, next year’s conference was announced!

After the conference I spent another day in the frigid session room watching Uwe Habermann and Venelina Jordanova talk about Silverlight and introduce their tools that allow Visual FoxPro applications migrate to Silverlight. Very cool stuff!

In case anyone is curious {g}, Rick Schummer and Lisa Slater Nichols were awarded the Visual FoxPro Lifetime Achievement awards during the post-conference wrap-up.  Well deserved, guys, congratulations!


And now we get to the point I really want to make: Conferences are for Socializing! You could easily learn just as much sitting at your desk reading this stuff on-line and saved yourself some dough, but if you did you’d be missing the entire point of conferences.  Talking to people at the morning coffee, meal breaks, between sessions and after hours is where the real value of conferences comes in.  If you are spending all that money to come to a conference and don’t speak with anybody and don’t get out of your hotel room you are absolutely wasting your time and money. Go get a book.  And if you’re shy, start by breaking the ice online through discussion forums such as Twitter, Foxite or Universal Thread so that by the time the conference rolls around you already feel like old friends even to people you haven’t met yet in person.

I’ll admit I come to this the hard way. I’ve been attending FoxPro conferences since 1995 but only recently have been actively participating. As it turns out all of the speakers, all of them, are actually human beings who enjoy interaction and sharing what they know.


Lastly I want to say something about my air travel experience. No, not TSA – I had no trouble at all moving quickly through their lines. I would like to say that airports need to cater to the business traveller better.  What is up with these seats that don’t have any place to set anything except in the seat next to you.  Worst by far though is the lack of power outlets available.  I actually missed my connection on Dallas because I ended up having to go 4 gates over in order to find a power outlet (granted I also misread the take-off time as the boarding time, but if I had been at my gate that wouldn’t have happened).  At O’Hare on the way back there were banks and banks of, get this, payphones.  Remember those?!  But the only place I could find an extra power outlet was at an abandoned gate desk. Look airports, give me flat surface to put down my coffee and laptop and a frickin’ power outlet near my actual takeoff gate – that’s all I want!

Oh and of course I came back with a wicked cold, another happy side effect of air travel.

Though I have a ton of materials to read, I look forward to next year’s Southwest Fox conference already.  See you there?

Rick Schummer



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