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Q&A with Capital Area Visual Basic User Group (CAVBUG)

During the recent US elections, the media descended on our nation's capital, saturating us with US presidential news coverage. You may be tired of that presidential coverage, but there's another president residing near the capital about whom I think you'll be very interested in reading. I'm referring to Hal Hayes, president of the Capital Area Visual Basic User Group (CAVBUG). This is the first in a series of User Group interviews that we'll be bringing to you during 2001. SearchVB Site Editor Brent Sheets recently spoke with Hal on how User Groups can be a vital resource for Visual Basic developers:

Hal, give us a little background on CAVBUG? When I visited your Web site, I noticed the claim that Bill Gates himself founded the parent user group. What's the story on that?
Brent, I am not too sure about the story. It seems that it occurred about the time Windows NT was coming out around 1993. Microsoft was looking for a "grassroots" angle. I understand that Charles Kelley started the NT*Pro Users Group, and somehow got Bill Gates to open the meeting. The rest is history!

As to the story on the Capital Area Visual Basic User Group (affectionately known as CAVBUG), that started in 1999. The year before I was looking for a VB group in Washington, D.C., but could not find one. In the spring of 1999, I talked with Marty Schuchman, who was running the Visual InterDev group (which is now the "ECommerce and Intranet Applications" group managed by C.J. Salzano), about the idea. Since NT*Pro did not have a VB group, Marty suggested I start one with them. He also put me in touch with Scott Keen, who was looking to do the same thing. Scott and I organized our first meeting in June of 1999. Andrew Coupe, formerly the area's Microsoft speaker extraordinaire, was our first guest speaker. How would you describe CAVBUG's mission?
Our mission is to provide a forum for topics of interest to the Visual Basic community. We tend to concentrate on new technologies, products and software engineering topics. You've had some great guest speakers in the past. Names familiar to our readers, such as Charles Petzold, Ash Rofail, Yasser Shahoud, and Jason Bock, just to name a few. Will you be having equally impressive speakers this year? Care to name names, Hal? [grin]
Well, we certainly are very aggressive about getting any authors of VB topics in our area to come and present. Microsoft helped us bring in Charles Petzold, and Wrox Publishing did the same for Jason Bock. Both are not local to the Washington metro area. Besides the authors you mentioned, I worked with Andrew Marshall, who is a contributing author at the Fawcette's Visual Basic Programmer's Journal. He has been a speaker before, and if I twist his arm a bit, we can get him back - he writes some interesting stuff.

Of course, we expect to have Ash Rofail and Yasser Shahoud back. As leading authors in Visual Basic and XML, they have been very supportive of our group. We are working really hard to get the Microsoft VB.Net Development Team out to one of our meetings. I bribed them with several CAVBUG T-shirts, so I am hopeful that they will come out and present. I hope ten shirts were enough.

Tim Bassett, from Rubicon, is coming in January, and we are looking forward to having Danny Haught, FMS Corporation, present after that. The rest of the lineup will be put together soon. Of course, if you are in town, Brent, perhaps you would like to present? The invitation is on the table! Why would our readers wish to join CAVBUG? How does CAVBUG membership benefit Visual Basic developers?
Joining is easy. Just come to any meeting. Get on our mailing list. That's it. No charge.

What do you get by attending our meetings? Well, you will get an opportunity to listen to leading authors, developers and instructors. You will get to see some "bleeding edge" products. Just last month we had AppForge in with their just-released product that lets you write Palm applications with VB. Briefly tell us what you think will be the three most important issues facing Visual Basic developers during 2001, and why?
First, Visual Studio .Net. It is revolutionary, especially for VB developers.

Second, XML. Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a firestorm that is sweeping the industry. For such a relatively simple concept, it is having a powerful impact on everything we do. If you are a serious developer, and don't know XML - then you are already a year behind.

Third, good software engineering techniques. It is not enough to just know the technology. You have to have good development practices to bring those projects in on time and on budget. Hey, thanks for the offer -- I appreciate that. Hal, take our readers through a typical CAVBUG meeting from start to finish. What can they expect?
Unless it is a special meeting, we break things up into three phases. The first phase allows us the opportunity to thank our sponsors, talk about upcoming meetings, and introduce our speaker. Then the speaker gets the lion's share of the time. We finish off with a question and answer session, and usually raffle off some gifts - which we call "swag." Some of our meetings have been real swagoramas.

We had a special meeting for our first birthday. That meeting featured a guest panel consisting of development leaders and authors from the local area. Can you explain to our readers how CAVBUG is helping its membership prepare to meet these critical issues?
We have concentrated on XML and software engineering. We had Skip McCormick, the author of three books on Anti-Patterns, in to speak. For XML, we have had previously mentioned Ash Rofail, Yasser Shahoud and also Jonathan Zuck, who is the President of the Association for Competitive Technology, and myself give topical presentations on the subject.

Besides new products that are of interest to our developers, such as those that enable development of PDA applications, we will look to concentrate on Visual Basic in the .Net framework and other enabling technologies - like Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). Hey, it's been "swagorific", Hal. Thanks for taking the time to speak with Any last words for our readership?
Brent, it has been a pleasure. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to get the word out through your outstanding organization!

For more information, check out:

Capital Area Visual Basic User Group (CAVBUG)

Meeting Location:
1900 Gallows Road
Vienna, Virginia 22182

Meeting Date/Time:
2nd Wednesday of every month.
Meetings begin at 7:00pm and last about 2 hours.


President - Hal Hayes
Vice-President - Scott Keen
Meeting Manager - Scott Lock
Meeting Sponsor - Patricia McIntyre

About Hal Hayes:
President of Capital Area Visual Basic User Group
President of ACRITECH Corporation

Hal has been working in client-server development since 1994. Background includes middleware applications, large-scale client-server systems, high performance computing, computer vision, pattern recognition, shrink-wrapped software, and GIS. Hal has developed applications using Visual Basic, Visual C++, ASP, MS SQL Server, Sybase Adaptive Server, and Oracle. He has a BS, and MS in Computer Science from Old Dominion University, a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Virginia, Post-Graduate studies in Pattern Recognition and Advanced Computing at George Mason University, and holds an MCP Certification in Visual Basic.

Mr. Hayes is also a Naval Reserve Commander, and has served at Reserve Commands at the Naval Research Laboratory, and Office of Naval Research. He served in the Navy on active duty, until 1991, as a Naval Flight Officer, flying aboard the Navy's E-2C Hawkeye aircraft.

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