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Q&A with Portland Visual Basic User Group (PDXVBUG)

SearchVB goes out to the U.S.'s great Northwest for its next peek into the world of Visual Basic User Groups. Our February feature focuses on a user group stationed in the 'City of Roses,' Portland, Ore. Piloting the Portland Visual Basic User Group (PDXVBUG) is former airplane pilot Ken Starnes. Ken has seen this group expand from about 30 members to more than 300 in its seven-year history. As part of the 2001 series of User Group profiles, SearchVB Assistant Site Editor Mark Lewis spoke with Ken about his group and the issues facing VB developers in the coming months:

It looks like you have come a long way since the 33-member meeting in 1994. Can you tell us how PDXVBUG got started?
I have always been a supporter of user groups. In 1994, there were no groups supporting Visual Basic, so the decision was made to market a meeting with Microsoft and test the demand for such a group. The demand was there, and from that date forward, this group has been very active. How would you describe PDXVBUG's mission?
The goals of this group are to increase our knowledge of Visual Basic, network with other members, pass along job opportunities, solve common problems of programming and have some fun doing that. You've had some outstanding presenters visit PDXVBUG. What do you look for in a speaker?
The main reason why members attend a meeting is for technical content. We tend to shy away from any presentation that is marketing in nature, focusing on technical presentations. I believe our highest attendance was in conjunction with Microsoft prior to Visual Basic 5.0 being officially introduced -- almost 300 people showed up that night. We really strive to have members participate in our presentations as well as more nationally known speakers. Since the majority of our members are professionals, we lean toward the more advanced topics, but still try and have several presentations each year that go back to the basics for the members just starting out. We occasionally have two or three mini-presentations in one night. From start to finish, what is a typical meeting like? What can one of our users expect to walk away with from a PDXVBUG meeting?
Each meeting starts out with general membership issues/announcements and then we open the floor up for a limited "Q-and-A" session on technical issues or problems a member may be having. Next is the time reserved for the speaker and the presentation, which takes up the bulk of our meeting. After the presentation, we generally hold a raffle for any goodies. Any parting words for readers about the state of Visual Basic or your group?
I am very excited about .Net and the future of Visual Basic. We have some good developers in our group who are very involved in the operation of this group. Membership support is vital to the continued good health of any user group. We intend to expand our private membership area and members will be doing the coding in the area. I am very excited about .Net and the future of Visual Basic. We have some good developers in our group who are very involved in the operation of this group. Membership support is vital to the continued good health of any user group. We intend to expand our private membership area and members will be doing the coding in the area.

For more information, check out:


Portland Visual Basic User Group (PDXVBUG)

Meeting Location:
Wells Fargo Center
1300 SW Fifth Ave
Portland, Ore.

Meeting Date/Time:
2nd Monday of each month, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Website:
http://www.pdxvbug.com

Officers:
President - Ken Starnes
Vice-President - Tim Giorgi
Meeting Manager - Chris Dart


About Ken Starnes:
President of Portland Visual Basic User Group
President of Portland SQL Server User Group
President of Ken Starnes & Associates

Ken has been actively coding since 1988. He became frustrated in trying to find an inventory system for a sporting goods store, decided to write his own and has been hooked ever since. He holds a BBA degree from the University of Texas and has taken various graduate-level courses. Ken focuses on client/server applications and for the past three years has been involved in the building of large Web sites utilizing SQL, Visual Basic, ASP and various other scripting languages.
How will PDXVBUG help its members tackle those issues?
Our first presentation on .Net will be either in March or April -- this being an overview. We will devote an increasing number of presentations to specific issues in .Net. We have already had several presentations on XML and intend to continue its coverage as the model changes. Project management...good coding standards are timeless, and we have at least one, if not two presentations on software engineering each year. What do you think will be the three most important issues facing Visual Basic developers during 2001, and why?
First, .Net. This technology will require a fundamental shift from traditional Windows programming to next-generation Web and n-tier applications. Because Visual Basic will conform to the CLR, such things as fixed-length strings and non-zero based arrays are removed from Visual Basic .Net.

Second, XML. This technology will become increasingly important and those who haven't learned it will be in trouble.

And third, good software development standards are timeless, and without these, developers will not be able to efficiently utilize their profession.

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