Southwest Fox 2017 is in the books. Here are my thoughts:
Smaller, younger crowd
When I walked into the keynote on Thursday night it was clear that this was a smaller crowd than years past. We were told to expect this because the folks at Alaska Software are taking the year off from conferences to focus on delivering their xBase++ product. Although those colorful characters were missed, the smaller crowd size was not, in my opinion, a problem. Throughout the conference I felt like I was able to connect with more people than ever, which I enjoyed. Also notable were quite a few new attendees who’s age skewed much younger than average. I’m talking early 20s. In talking with them I’ve found they’ve been brought on to support their businesses applications and that they love Visual FoxPro.
Unfortunately I missed the first half of the keynote because my flight was delayed by 7 hours. Yes, 7 hours. Apparently there was a screw lodged in the landing gear tire and the next closest tire was a two hour drive away from the Madison airport. Why the airline couldn’t, you know, fly, a new tire up from Chicago is beyond me. But my 7 a.m. flight eventually took off at 1:30 p.m., getting me into Phoenix too late to catch the beginning of the keynote. But I can’t say enough about Dave Bernard and his talk “Bots, AI, Machine Learning: The End of Employment as we Know it?” He’s a polymath who delivered an eagle-eyed state of the industry and economy. After the keynote, Servoy had a drink reception which I’d normally tear into but I only had one Johnny Walker Black (thank you Servoy!) and only a few conversations before I had to hit the hay. It’d been a long day.
Social media frenzy
A new development this year was the assignment of Jody Meyer as “Social Media Coordinator,” and wow did she do a great job! There’s an energized Twitter presence for the @swfox account and a new FaceBook group, and many many photographs were posted on each. Thank you Jody!
Maybe you’re wondering what a conference about Visual FoxPro, which hasn’t had an update in 10 years, could possibly have to offer? I’m not going to rehash every session here, but the content included topics that reached into the depths of VFP (GenXTab, BindEvents, the web browser control, data corruption), looked at the current VFPx happenings (Project Explorer), and tools that enhance the developer’s life (FinalBuilder). It also included topics that apply to any web developer (Angular, WebSockets) or business owner (Google Analytics, Facebook for Business, Challenges). Every session I went to provided valuable content, and of course attendees walk away with 100s of pages of whitepaper, which distinguishes this particular conference from any other. I of course, combine all of the whitepapers into a OneNote notebook which allows me to quick find whatever I’m looking for from anywhere. I have a lot of reading to do!
More than once I heard the exclamation “Well, that just paid for the conference right there!” I myself thought it twice.
The conference had two tracks this year, as well as a vendor track. This allowed the attendees who scheduled carefully to attend every session, something that was just not possible in the past. I actually attended a few vendor sessions this year, which is ok because the session whitepapers are so good I’ll still get value from the sessions I missed.
At this point Southwest Fox feels like a family reunion as much as a conference. Each night a large group collected to drink scotch and share stories, and each morning a group of us ran 5k which helped sweat the alcohol out of my system! On Friday night 8 of us went to an Escape Room in Phoenix, and we just nailed it. Came out in 51m, our best time ever, despite some unique puzzles we’ve never seen before.
As mentioned above, I attended the sponsor sessions. Servoy and wxPerts who have products that appeal to Visual FoxPro developers who are looking for line-of-business development environments that feel familiar. They both looked good but have their pluses and minuses. I also attended Rick Strahl’s WestWind session because frankly I get smarter every time I’m in a room with Rick just through osmosis.
Germany, and 2018
If you’re sorry you missed Southwest Fox 2017, you still have time to attend German DevCon, coming up Nov 16-18th, 2017. I spoke at this conference in 2016 and it was AMAZING. It’s held at a lovely hotel/conference center in a suburb of Frankfurt. Last year my plane ticket from Chicago to Frankfurt was cheaper than my ticket from Madison to Phoenix. Rick, Doug, and Tamar all speak at this conference, in English. The people are extremely friendly and afterwards the beer flows freely.
The organizers also announced there will be a Southwest Fox 2018 if enough people register by July 1st. It was close this year, and I’m extremely grateful they were able to pull it off once again. It’s a great conference with valuable content. Every Visual FoxPro developer ought to be there.