Southwest Fox 2007 Wrap-Up

I got back late Sunday night from Phoenix after spending four awesome days at Southwest Fox 2007. What an outstanding event this turned out to be! Rick Schummer, Tamar Granor, and Doug Hennig, who took over as conference organizers this year, did an excellent job. They deserve a ton of credit for their efforts and for the resulting success of this year's conference.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I attended as a speaker so my travel and hotel expenses were covered by the conference. However, we speakers are volunteers and are not paid for our presentations nor for the time it takes to prepare them, so my enthusiasm for this event comes from the heart, not from the wallet.

At something over 150, not counting speakers and staff, this year's attendance was more than double last year's. If I correctly remember the numbers Rick Schummer announced at the keynote session, people came from 35 states and 7 foreign countries to be there. Old friendships were renewed and new ones begun. Sessions were well attended. People were excited and continued talking with one another well past session ending times. Outside the session rooms, sidebar discussions were going on all the time. You could feel the energy level running throughout the conference.

In short, the buzz was definitely back.

With 27 separate presentations (not counting pre-conference and vendor sessions) and 14 mainline time slots, there was literally so much technical content you couldn't see it all. But of course every attendee received complete session materials and code samples on CD, so we can explore the sessions we couldn't attend along with anything we did see but couldn't fully absorb in 75 minutes. In addition, the conference organizers made the session materials available for download a few days in advance of the actual conference. Some people commented later that they took advantage of this to read the white papers and look over the slides before attending the live presentations, which really enhanced the session experience for them.

The conference venue -- The Arizona Golf Resort and Conference Center in Mesa -- was beautiful and in my opinion well suited to a conference of this size and type. We pretty well filled up the one conference center building where all the general and breakout sessions took place, although the resort has at least one other conference building as well. Breakfast and lunch were provided by the conference and served in a banquet/party room adjacent to the conference center building. There were plenty of tables and chairs so there was no waiting for somebody else to finish eating before you could sit down. The dining room had a nice open feeling with lots of windows, conducive to relaxation and conversation. Tables were also set up in the outdoor courtyard so those with a preference for sunshine (and there was plenty of that!) could eat outside. Personally, I thought the choice of foods was among the best I've seen at a conference. The Resort's catering and support staff were uniformly attentive and courteous and did a fine job of making things go smoothly without being intrusive.

Although I was primarily there as a speaker, I also took advantage of the opportunity to sit in on other speakers' sessions when I wasn't presenting one of my own. Any doubts anyone might have had about the strong future of Visual FoxPro were easily dispelled by the broad spectrum of VFP and VFP-related technical content presented at Southwest Fox. Although most of it is community-based these days, there is so much going on in so many areas that there is no doubt VFP will continue to remain vital and growing for a long time to come, despite Microsoft's decision to end further enhancement of the core product.

One side note: Near the end of my session on Framework Fundamentals, I showed a sample application whose "About" screen included the cool "Three Kokopellis" postage stamp graphic representing the Southwest Fox conference logo. Dave Aring of Visionpace is the creative talent behind that and the other graphics for the conference. I meant to acknowledge Dave, who was seated in the back of the room, but in my haste to finish the presentation on time I forgot to do so. Dave didn't ask to be mentioned for this, but he deserves to be. Thanks for the great work, Dave, and for contributing it to the conference.

Southwest Fox was definitely a highlight of the year. I came back feeling totally re-energized by the experience, with lots of good ideas to apply in my future development work. If I can leverage even a fraction of what I learned, both my clients and I will benefit greatly.

Perhaps the best news of all: Southwest Fox 2008 was announced for Oct. 16-19, 2008. Mark your calendars!

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