Saturday, 26 July 2008

July Update: Upcoming Events and Video Links

I really do need to update this blog more frequently! Alas, my lifestyle is such that currently Twitter is serving as my main work-related blog (as well as a more limited personal one) albeit with each entry limited to 140 characters maximum length. Actually, being limited word-wise is probably a VERY GOOD thing in my case ;-)).

Anyway, here's a few diary updates...


I missed the first ALT.NET conference (which I was supposed to be videoing - doh!) but managed to get onto the second one which 'sold out' (it's free!) pretty quickly. I haven't totally bought into ALT.NET yet - I think there are too many scenario's where the traditional ALT.NET tools and approaches are just too complicated and 'abstract' for the average developer. And at times too many of its advocates seem obsessed with the latest fad regardless of any kind of cost/benefit analysis that favours the traditional 'MSDN.NET' approach :-P So it'll be interesting to see if I'm 'converted' after the conference. Don't get me wrong about development - I love Agile, especially when it's done right. But (maybe I've been unlucky) too often it's NOT done right, and often used as an excuse to avoid doing things that should be done. So I'm very much looking forward to this, even with the completely ad-hoc agenda, which is making me nervous about how the hell I get good video from such an ad-hoc format. Filmed user group presentations without the original slide decks can make for very dull video (a bit like filming theatre). Impromptu discussions and white board debates could be even worse (and sound recording is a nightmare as the video of audience questions at the first Silverlight User Group proved). I'll find out soon!


In September I'm also going to be attending the Microsoft's Remix 08 event in Brighton just a few days before the NxtGen talk. There's a vague possibility I'll be doing video at the event - not sure yet, and rather apprehensive about even offering given the nightmare experience at MIX08 in Las Vegas earlier this year!


I'm giving a talk of the session I'd offered for the next Developer! Developer! Developer! Day event, "Internet Killed the Video Star" at the NxtGen user group meeting in Coventry on Monday, 22nd September. I suspect the developer day talk won't happen as there's a lot of good stuff on offer and my suggested session has little to do with development per se, being all about video and prepping material for the web with the only real technical content being about codecs, transcoding and the like. So it's good to have the chance, at NxtGen, to summarise the vast amount of information I seem to have accumulated rather painfully over the last 7 months, and hopefully we'll have a bit of fun at the same time (just to be clear: this is NOT going to be a session where I whizz around Visual Studio while everyone squints at the back wondering what I'm doing, although I will be having quick dips into Sorenson Squeeze, Microsoft Expression Encoder and TechSmith's Camtasia Studio during the talk).


I've been filming the talks at the Vista Squad user group. I guess this is kind of ironic given how terrible I think Vista is (There's a reason why not one professional Windows video turnkey provider will offer Vista as an option more than a year after its launch, and as an aside Vista just blue-screened again on this Vista pre-installed top-of-the-range laptop from Dell half way through this blog entry) But the folks behind Vista Squad are really friendly and there have been some excellent developer talks, which really relate to .NET development in general and also Microsoft Server I.T. rather than just Vista, contradictory to what the name might imply.

I'm not convinced these user group video's work as web-based video per se (lots more on this - and what DOES work - in my NxtGen talk), but they're a conveniant record of the event for those who want to recall forgotten bits or just missed a meeting they were interested in.

I've had a LOT of problems with Vimeo who seem to change their methods of encoding/transcoding HD video on an almost daily (if not hourly) basis. Video's frequently fail to upload/transcode then magically work a few days later. Or they appear for a few days then mysteriously disappear. Support is lacklustre to say the least, which is in complete contrast to ExposureRoom who will be my hosting company/community of choice when I launch the couple of projects I seem to have been 'prepping' forever finally launch later this year.


Those waiting to see the recent excellent Vista Squad talk by Mike Taulty on LINQ to XML should hopefully see it appear on the main Vista Squad site soon, although there were problems uploading the source that Vista Squad repost so there may be a delay. In the meantime, if you don't want to wait, you can view it here. Apologies (especially to Mike) for the dreadful thumbnail (ExposureRoom's 'Change Thumbnail' option seems to be broken - I'm chasing it up with them) and the poor focus/white balance for the first few minutes of Mike's talk. Things improve later and Mike manages to condense a really useful primer about LINQ to XML in the hour that the video runs for.


The second meeting of the Silverlight User Group UK will be taking place on the 14th August, and I'll be attempting to video the talks at that event too. The first meeting of the user group was excellent, with really good talks throughout (I think it helps a lot to have input from a large number of former Flash developers in the audience and helps newbies like myself get to hear about the negative stuff that Microsoft seem to forget to tell you about). You can see the video's from the last user group meeting on the organiser's blog here.


Alas, all the video hosters seem to be struggling at the bleeding edge of trying to catch community early when the technology (especially for anything which runs for more than a minute or two, or which is in an HD format) is still extremely flakey. Support for my beloved iPhone (which supports H.264 but not Flash) is almost non-existent, unless you count YouTube who have severe limits on format, length and size of compressed files that make it impractical for user group recordings (quite aside from the fact that on the iPhone you're watching video that has first been compressed/transcoded to the Flash format and then re-transcoded to H.264!) Apparently Vimeo are 'working on it' when it comes to iPhone video hosting but I've been told not to expect anything 'soon', which is just as well as the turnaround time on failures for the current offerings on sites like Vimeo seems to be in the order of weeks rather than the hours it should be. It's painful being on the bleeding edge!

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