Interview

Q&A Interview with Denver VB.Net Special Interest Group (VB.Net SIG)

Brent Sheets
Chris, tell us a little about VB.Net SIG? Your group seems to have already adopted a strong VB.Net focus. Is this correct?
Since the inception of our group in 1995, we have evolved as Visual Basic has evolved. We began as a small group of users to become a large, diverse group of professional systems developers at all levels of expertise. From the original five members we have grown to well over 400 by the end of 2000. About 100 members actively participate in our monthly Presentation Meetings, in addition to our monthly Labs.

We always keep in mind our goal to continue to cultivate the professional, enterprise level approach to systems development that we began years ago and that we have worked to build within our group. We especially look forward to working with the Microsoft .Net technologies as evolution turns to revolutionary enhancements of our developer tools. Your group has obviously embraced VB.Net wholeheartedly. But what about those individuals still sitting on the fence concerning Microsoft's entire .Net initiative? Do you have to be a .Net cheerleader to benefit from membership?
Within our group of developers, we are often torn between discussing issues of immediate use and issues on technologies that might not appear for some time. Our goal is to meet that challenge head on! We embrace the cutting edge technologies directly with our speakers from Microsoft and our own volunteer members. We also continue to assist our members in their work today and show how those real world solutions can be brought into the current state of software development with our supplemental presentations.

We intend to continue to present topics of interest concerning the current and next versions of our development tools. As .Net becomes a reality, we will move increasingly to present more and more exclusively .Net topics. How would you describe VB.Net SIG's mission?
VB.Net SIG members are 100% devoted to Microsoft Visual Basic.Net and the Microsoft Visual Studio.Net development tool set. Our mission is to support our members who use these tools. We are a technically focused, independent group of professional developers who concentrate our interests in VB. Our members include both experts and novices. We present information on both general and specific topics regarding VB at our Presentation Meetings and Labs. As peers, we support fellow members through question and answer sessions as well as discussions. We discuss both the current and next versions of VB. We network for job and career advancement. The depth of the presentations and the speakers you've attracted is impressive. I noted a few meetings devoted entirely to discussing real-world issues, such as how to earn a living as a Visual Basic developer. How did members react, and do you plan on similar meetings in the future?
Time and again we have seen that the more technical our Presentation Meeting, the larger the turnout. We have also seen a shift in the more unusual presentations that we have offered, which cannot be obtained elsewhere. These have included meetings on careers in IT, training and certification, and those that introduced Visual Basic to people who had no previous background. Topics sometimes produce attendees who are enthusiastic but satisfy a smaller number of members. Our presentations on cutting edge technologies have always met with large numbers who wanted more.

We will continue to present these unusual topics, but we will not be able to devote entire meetings to them; instead we will present them in shorter periods prior to the beginning of some meetings. That way, those who want to discuss those issues will still be able to, and we can continue to present technical topics as our main attraction.

The important message here is that our user group must continue to evolve to meet members' needs by focusing more closely on our mission and thus the technologies with which we work and those that are changing the way we work. We are constantly attempting to satisfy the needs of our developer community members, concentrating on the tools they use to meet those needs. Chris, take our readers through a typical VB.Net SIG meeting from start to finish. What can they expect?
We spend time up front announcing our activities and other local seminars or other items of interest to our members. We poll our members on different issues. We then take a networking break for about a half hour. This is a chance to talk to each other in an unstructured way, talk with our guests, and have refreshments.

We then spend the rest of the time together on one or two different presentations of some technical interest. These include a free exchange of questions and answers. We plan to enhance our presentation time by adding small, structured groups - some made up of beginners, others made up of intermediates, others advanced - where the presentation topics will be discussed according to skill level.

Some user groups may be more passive with presentations that are more academic. We strive to conduct meetings in an active way that is more practical.

Please note that we spend no meeting time with the issues of running the group. It is best that those organizational items not take time from the technical topics. We must always be mindful of our members' time and the reason that they are there. We also don't engage in social activities - our group is all business, friendly but all professionals. How will VB.Net SIG help its membership prepare for the issues you just outlined?
With only about 11 Presentation Meetings and 11 Labs per year, we cannot hope to teach anyone the details of software syntax, let alone the complex issues of complete systems development in this ever-changing complex world. We can, however, assist our members with presentations that showcase real world solutions to everyday challenges, using the current and "about-to-be-current" technologies available.

With VS.Net, Microsoft is focusing more broadly on the overall development life cycle. Built with Internet scalability in mind along with an open and extensible architecture, VS.Net is the foundation for a lifecycle platform.

We must actively participate in assisting our members in thinking in terms of complete solutions to business issues and not just to think about VB code only. We need to present total packages of solutions with the variety of products and tools we have at our disposal. This is not often the kind of meetings that one usually thinks of when thinking about a VB user group! Briefly tell us what you think will be the three most important issues facing Visual Basic developers during 2001 and why.
Obviously, the move to the .Net framework with its extensive changes to VB and our other tools will be our most important issue.

Hand-in-hand with that is the expanding need for developers to become experts at an increasingly large and dizzying array of technical issues and products.

Lastly, the sometimes not-so-gentle pull of other technologies will entice us to rethink our devotion to our technologies and cause us pause to consider alternatives. I've enjoyed our interview, Chris. Thanks for taking the time to speak with SearchVB.com. Any parting words for our readers?
Volunteers are a user group's most precious resource. The many volunteers we have in our group not only provide the ideas for great services, they are essential to fulfillment. This willingness of individuals to spend time and energy supporting the efforts of the group and helping other members is what allows the group to exist. We recognize the efforts of our volunteers and realize their importance to the group and to each one of us.

The most important contribution that a person can make to our group of members is that of presenting topics of interest to other members. The sharing of experiences and information transference is an honorable effort.

Assisting our volunteers in making a successful professional presentation to our group has always been and remains a top priority. We will do whatever we can do to help - together we will continue to make this a success! Always keep your mission in mind! FOR MORE INFORMATION:


Denver Microsoft VB.Net Special Interest Group (VB.Net SIG)

Membership:
VB.Net SIG is 100% devoted to Microsoft Visual Basic.Net and the Microsoft Visual Studio.Net development tool set. There are no membership dues, and everyone is welcome to attend our Presentation Meetings and Labs.

Meeting location & time (Presentations):
Microsoft
Rocky Mountain District Office
Regency Plaza One Building
4643 S. Ulster St., Suite 700 (7th Floor)
Denver, CO 80237

  4th Monday of every month.
  Meetings are from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.

Meeting location & time (Labs):
The PARSEC Group
405 Urban St., Suite 100
Lakewood, CO 80228

  3rd Monday of every month.
  Meetings are from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

Focus:
Presentation meetings cover a wide variety of VB-specific areas. These areas usually center on one or two major technical topics using VB.Net and the other Visual Studio.Net development tools. We also cover Microsoft Office, Back Office, and other Microsoft and non-Microsoft applications that use VB and VBA.

URL: http://www.vbdenver.org/


About Chris Wallace:

Group leader of Denver Microsoft VB.Net Special Interest Group (VB.Net SIG)

Chris Wallace is a consultant in Microsoft technologies, emphasizing Visual Basic OOP/N-tier architectures. He has 20 years of information technology experience working both in the US and Europe. His goal is to deliver complete systems development solutions to meet real world business needs.

He has a Masters degree in Computer Information Systems and is a private pilot and worldwide adventure traveler. When not solving the world's business problems, he can be found on a sled on the snowy slopes of Colorado with his Siberian Huskies.


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