I first bumped into DNN around 2005 while working at a local university in the Charlotte area. At that time, I had no idea what DNN or open source was or the impact it would play in the next decade and beyond of my life. Since then I’ve met awesome and generous people, ended up in places I never expected to go, made a lot of friends, and have learned a lot along the way. The DNN platform and community have definitely impacted my life.
Around 2 years ago I was contacted with the challenge of re-engaging with, empowering, and reinvigorating the DNN Community. This happened as the acquisition occurred. Of course, these were all things I wanted to see happen and to get to be a part of it was even better. And while there may have been some bumps in the road, we have come a long way since then.
We’ve Made Great Progress and We’re Just Getting Started
Since re-joining DNN Corp 19 months ago as Ecosystem Manager, the DNN Community has made great strides. DNN Corp leadership followed through on the promise to empower the community and we’ve seen the community undergo an exercise in self-organization and take complete ownership of the source code. We’ve joined the .NET Foundation which ensures the code base will always remain open source and the community now drives the roadmap for the platform. Further reinforcing the progress and contrasting from years past, DNN TAG leadership now has “owner” rights to the DNN platform GitHub repo and can build releases at will.
Outside of the code, the MVP Program was turned over to, and MVPs were elected by, the community. Community members are also running the annual DNN Website Awards Competition. And as of this past week’s DNN-Connect conference in Switzerland, the community has launched its own site, DnnCommunity.org. And last but not least, the documentation center was turned over to the community and DNNDocs.com is now live and in preview mode.
We have indeed come a long way and made great progress since the acquisition. I’ve tried my best to meet the challenge of re-engaging with and empowering the community. Hopefully I’ve played a small role in bringing on some of the positive change in the community. It’s been great to watch the community respond, take initiative, and step up. We still have a way to go and I look forward to continuing to be a part of the journey with the community.
Transitioning Back to DNN Community
I will now return to full time community member as I recently accepted a new role and will be transitioning out of DNN Corp. Moving forward, although I’ll no longer be at DNN Corp, I’ll still be active in the DNN Community. That is, I’ll still be involved with DNN Association, DNN Summit, the DNN Docs team, the Charlotte-based Southern Fried DNN User Group, .NET Foundation activities, and you’ll see me online as well!
I’m excited to have accepted a role as Senior Solutions Consultant at Simpplr. Simpplr is a SaaS based intranet solution with a lot of similarities to DNN. If you are looking for a modern intranet, that is indeed simple to use, feel free to reach out!
Oddly enough, the US-based Simpplr office is located in San Francisco not too far from the old DNN Corp offices. So, I’ll be riding down El Camino Real again soon and for any old DNN’ers let’s connect when I’m in town.
As a sales engineer, I do a lot of online presentations for clients, prospects, colleagues and partners. When conducted well, online presentations and demos can be very effective sales tools. We strive to make our demos interactive.
The sales rep and sales engineer work together like a well-oiled machine throughout the demo. We encourage interaction and strive to be most efficient and effective as possible within the given timeframe.
Each presentation follows the same schedule. There are things to do before the demo, during the demo, then after the demo. In this post, I’ll share 32 tips to help you rock your online presentations.
Preparation is an obvious step. I mention it as a reminder that attendees are giving you their time, and their time is valuable. Be respectful of their time by thoroughly preparing and providing value to them. Ultimately a demo is like anything else in life: if you put your time and energy into it, then it will turn out well!
Agreeing on the agenda beforehand helps set expectations, reduces wasted time on the demo, and ensures that we only review functionality in which demo attendees are most interested. Since there is generally an hour or so for the demo, we need to make sure we hit the mark given the allotted time. By agreeing on the agenda beforehand, we drastically increase the productivity of the demo.
I learned this one the hard way. I had a webinar to present with a few hundred people waiting on me and as soon as I was made the “Presenter” my machine’s memory overloaded and I got the blue screen of death as my computer crashed. I had been working in numerous programs before the demo and apparently had nearly maxed out my memory and making the presenter passed the tipping point resulting in a few hundred people waiting awkwardly on me to reconnect. Now I restart my computer before demos so that my memory is not used up.
At some point, the presenter role will be passed to you. When his happens, the software (GoToMeeting, Join.me, or whatever you use) will ask you which screen you want to share. If you have a multi-monitor setup, this can become challenging if the monitors aren’t numbered or have similar names. Knowing your monitors names beforehand can reduce missteps. You don’t want to accidentally share to the wrong screen!
Be sure to reduce the number of potential distractions. Ever been on a demo and as soon as the leader shares their screen, you see their desktop icons and you start looking at all their files to see what they’re interested in? You are not alone, as everyone does it (admit it!).
In order to remove this distraction, be sure to hide your desktop icons or demo from a monitor that doesn’t have any application or document icons on the background. With fewer things to look at, your attendees will be more focused on what you show them.
Along the lines of removing distractions, you should turn off all pop-ups that occur on the screen from which you are presenting. The last thing you want is a sales person to send you a Skype message cracking a joke and have it show up during the demo. If you do leave Skype (or any messaging application) on, be sure you know the monitor on which the pop-ups occur.
Everyone knows it, but I’m still listing it here. Mute cell phones so that while you’re presenting there is not a constant vibration happening anytime someone emails or calls you.
If you use the same environment over and over, your browser’s cache can become corrupted. Browsers often try to remember passwords, cache content, cache URL paths, etc. and these cached items can sometimes trip you up. I usually clear my cache before each demo to ensure everything is fresh.
Just when you think you’re getting in the groove you will get a “tickle in your throat” and get choked up. You’re going to be talking a lot and a glass of water can save you in long-winded demos and in the moments that you may need to wet the whistle.
I always have a backup environment prepared should something go wrong with the primary environment. This takes more time up front, but it’s worth it. Having that backup environment can be worth its weight in gold.
Have a back-up plan for getting online. Yes, it only happens once in a blue moon, but what if you are scheduled to give a demo on that particular blue moon? Having a My-Fi or hotspot is well worth the investment.
Before the demo, try to find out who will be attending, so that you can speak the right language to them. You don’t want to talk about server architecture if you are demoing to the marketing team; you don’t want to talk to the server guys about lead generation. Tailor your story based on our audience.
This won’t apply to all of you, but I demo websites and online communities.
I make sure I have my site up and loaded in memory by the time they make me the presenter. I don’t want any time wasted on something to load up. So I keep my site “warm” just minutes before the demo so that the site is up and ready to rock by the time I get controls.
Some sites load URL’s from third party services, such as Google Fonts, Facebook, and Twitter. In my demo sites, I try to remove these external calls, so that if Facebook is having a bad day, it won’t affect my load time on the demo. There are scenarios where you have to rely on these external calls, but reduce them as much as you can.
During the introduction, attendees will tell you new information. In some cases the information shared during the intro can drastically alter what you present.
Listening and waiting to talk are two entirely different things. By listening, you can pick up things that may alter your demo. You can also pick up on personality traits, the mood in the room, and social queues that may help you better connect with the demo attendees. Listening carefully can help you establish better rapport with demo attendees throughout the demo.
We like to do a roll call during the intro of a demo as well. It never fails that there is someone in the room that we didn’t anticipate being there. It may be some manager, marketer, or developer who just happened to have another meeting cancel and was able to attend, but usually there is somebody either there or not there that we didn’t expect.
This again helps us to more accurately hone in the demo. If all of a sudden the CEO shows up on the demo, then we’ll be sure to add in the value proposition and benefits of each feature as executives don’t necessarily like to know the nuts and bolts, but ask the “why’s” and the “what results can we get” or “what does this help us do” type questions. Taking roll call will help you be on point with your delivery.
I ask the question early on as to whether or not the attendees have a “hard stop.”. This helps me know whether or not we can get long-winded with explanations or if we need to be very mindful of the time. Attendees may have an extra 10 to 15 minutes at the end and when that happens we know that we have more time for questions. Finding out the exact ending time of the demo early on can help you better manage time.
One thing I strive for is smooth transitions throughout the demo. Whether it’s transitioning from one subject to the next, transitioning from me talking to the attendees talking, or the transition of the “passing of the presenter role,” we want everything to flow as smooth as silk.
I ensure that our sales reps know how to pass the presenter in the meeting software we use.
I also tell them to pass the presenter as they are finishing up their last few points. This gives me time to get the presenter role and share the correct monitor. Otherwise, there is an awkward pause where everyone waits on me to get the presenter controls.
People present in different ways and that’s a good thing. Some like questions and interactivity and some don’t. Whatever your style is, set the tone early so that demo attendees know how to act and what to expect. I encourage questions, interruptions, and interactivity, so I put that fact out there very early on in the demo. Setting the tone will eliminate any guessing on the part of your attendees.
I encourage questions during the “Setting the Tone” stage because I want attendees to feel comfortable asking questions. At the same time, each question equals an interruption. The more questions there are and the more disruptions there are, the less smooth the demo goes.
Over time, you will begin to see where similar questions get asked. After you denote a trend in the same question being asked then just go ahead and answer the question before it gets asked. This will help things flow more smoothly. So, again, while I encourage questions, I hope to give such a thorough presentation that I remove questions just before they get asked!
On some occasions, there will be an attendee who is determined to get you hung up on some very minor technical detail. In these situations, it is your job to control the demo and not let the train de-rail. When these scenarios happen, it’s good to schedule these topics as “follow up” topics so that you can get your demo back on track.
Ever listen to a very dry presenter and wanted to be somewhere else? Don’t be that presenter! When appropriate, I like to inject humor. I crack jokes on the sales guys or on my own Southern accent. Your attendees will relax and build a stronger rapport and maybe even remember you more as a result.
Oh the echo, ooo… ooo… ooo… You know the echo that I’m talking about! We’ve all been on meetings where one person is using their speakers and their microphone picks up on the sound from the speakers which creates an echo effect. The person usually denies that it’s them, it makes things awkward, and then you have to recover and make things un-awkward again.
So what can you do about this? One option is to mute your participants. You can see which participant is making the noise and then mute them. In some meeting software, you can mute all attendees.
You may have heard of the “Power of the Pause” before. If we are presenting a demo and the attendees are not very lively, then I will show a feature and then ask them what they thought about that feature. Sometimes these pauses seem like an eternity and I just let the awkwardness hang until someone responds.
While it seems like a long time on my end, I know that attendees may be in a meeting room with the phone on mute and they may be talking to each other or going around the room seeing if anyone has a question.
When I first started giving demos I was scared to death of not knowing something. Though, not knowing something is perfectly fine. If someone asks you a very technical question there is nothing wrong with saying “Hey, I don’t know that answer, let me check with our engineers and then we’ll get back to you.” Admitting that you don’t know something lets the attendees know that you are human, builds credibility, and it also gives you something to follow up on. Following up continues the conversation and gives you another touch point with the lead.
Just as I’m doing here in this blog post, tell a linear story. Build on top of things you’ve already covered. Telling a sequential or linear story makes it easy for attendees to follow you and better consume the information you are presenting to them.
There will come a time when you have to present or demo something that is complex in nature. When this happens it’s best to try to describe these via multiple concepts. Sometimes people refer to concepts differently so using multiple descriptions can help ensure clarity and that everyone understands and is on the same page.
As you get close to the end of the demo, be sure to check on the clock. If you have a hard stop, you may have to cut a feature set short so that you can leave time for questions. Q&A is critical to the demo because there are some people who will remain quiet until everything is over and then they speak up. We want to ensure that we give those people ample time to voice their thoughts because they can provide great insight.
This is a chance for you to get vital information about the demo. Attendees’ comments can be key indicators as to the demo’s effectiveness and whether or not the lead is ready to move forward.
After the demo is over, we work hard to solidify next steps so we can keep the process moving forward. Identify any “deliverables” that you need to follow up on. Often times these deliverables are PDF documents, blog links, or videos. Summarize the set of deliverables and let attendees know when they can expect them.
Once you’ve established those deliverables be sure to follow up in a timely manner. This will help you keep the process moving forward while things are fresh on the demo attendee’s minds.
The reason we conduct demos is to progress a sale forward. If the demo is effective then the lead will want to continue the conversation. Ultimately the demo is a reflection of the presenter and the organization they represent. By fine tuning the process of a demo you can better move your deals forward! I hope these tips have given you some insight into things you can do to have your demos and presentations at their best.
DNN is an open source .NET CMS and application development framework that is a member project in the .NET Foundation. As the DNN Ecosystem Manager I am well aware of the benefits that our community reaps from the .NET Foundation. Last year I articulated several of these benefits in a blog titled “5 Reasons Why We’re Glad to be a Part of the .NET Foundation”.
Promoting Open Source & the .NET Foundation at Microsoft Conferences
Not too long after I posted that blog, I got an email that included a call for volunteers to help staff the .NET Open Source booth at Microsoft’s Build Conference. I responded to this call for assistance as I felt it was a great way to give back to the .NET Foundation since we receive so many benefits from it. A few weeks later I found myself at the conference and I was telling the story of DNN’s journey in open source. I spoke with attendees and articulated how the .NET Foundation plays a big role in the DNN Community’s ability to sustain and thrive.
The call for volunteers came again this year and I returned and it was apparent that developers in the .NET ecosystem are more aware that the .NET Foundation exists, but they may or may not know exactly what the foundation does or why they should be a part of it. Now that the .NET Foundation has a board in place it is a great opportunity to continue the messaging of the value the foundation provides.
DNN: A Great Case Study Example for the .NET Foundation
As I engaged with attendees over the past 2 years it became clear that DNN is a great case study example of why the .NET Foundation exists. It’s one thing for someone from Microsoft to explain what the .NET Foundation does and it’s a completely different thing for someone who is a member project of the foundation that represents the “living and breathing” example to be there on-site to convey the value and benefits the .NET Foundation provides. Telling the DNN story to attendees helps them understand a “real life” example of an open source project that’s reaping benefits from the foundation.
I think it’s somewhat of a poetic justice that DNN is the prime example of an open source project in the .NET Foundation given DNN’s history of being one of the earliest, if not the first, open source project in the .NET space.
Developers Love Open Source!
Another trend I noticed was the increased energy, appreciation of, and momentum around the open source movement at Microsoft. We had several people come up and show appreciation for how Microsoft is embracing the open source movement and for the role the .NET Foundation plays in that movement. It’s great to see this energy and it’s neat to help turn the lightbulb on for those who weren’t completely aware of what the .NET foundation is doing to help continue the OSS movement at Microsoft and in the Microsoft ecosystem.
.NET Foundation Panel on MSDN Channel 9 Live-Stream from MS Build 2019
If you’ve never been to Microsoft’s Build conference it is pretty big-time production. That is, everything is live-streamed and you commonly see video crews following people around, interviewing speakers/attendees/thought-leaders, and setup all around the stages for the keynotes. There is also a big stage where the cameras are permanently set-up and interviews and panel discussions take place. This year the stage was set up in a corner of the convention center not too far from our .NET Open Source booth.Sometimes you just end up at the right place at the right time and that is exactly what happened to me on the last day of the conference. There was a session scheduled to discuss the .NET Foundation which was slotted for the last day of the conference in the late afternoon. As things turned out, Jon Galloway, Executive Director of the .NET Foundation, had to leave early which left an open seat on the panel. Beth Massi felt bad for me and so I got to be the Jon Galloway stunt double on the panel. You never know where you’ll end up! The panel was more about the .NET Foundation in a broader sense rather than DNN specific, but it was still fun to represent the DNN Community on the panel.
You can find info from the session on the Channel 9 site and you can check out the replay below:
Have you ever seen a small pixel in your Pulsar Thermal optic’s screen that you wish wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb? If you fire your gun a lot these pixels-that-need-repair occasionally occur, but fear not, Pulsar has anticipated this and provided a way to resolve it. I had one on my screen for a few months before I investigated it and the good news is that it’s simple to correct!
A “defective pixel” is a pixel within your viewfinder or screen that is “degraded”, sticks out, and won’t go away even after your scope calibrates. I’ve owned a Pulsar Trail XP-50 for over 2 years and in this time, I’ve only had 2 defective pixels. Though, when it does happen, over time it will bother you enough to want to know how to fix it.
Here’s a screenshot of one of my defective pixels while in “White-Hot” mode
In this screenshot, the defective pixel may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re hunting and looking through the viewfinder it can become distracting to your eye over time, especially if it’s near the crosshairs. While hunting with the defective pixel shown in the screenshot above there were several times I panned the horizon and mistook the small white dot for being an animal that was a great distance out.
The first thing to do if you notice a defective pixel or something that doesn’t look correct in your viewfinder is to calibrate the optic. If you haven’t changed any settings on your scope then your Pulsar thermal optic will automatically calibrate every so often to ensure what you’re seeing is accurate, clear, and crisp. Calibrating the optic makes the clicking sound that you may have grown accustomed to hearing by now if you own a thermal optic.
These calibrations can be forced by pressing the power button in the Trail models. If my screen ever gets hazy or I notice something not sharp in the viewfinder I simply calibrate the scope. With all that said, the first thing to do if you notice a defective pixel is to force a calibration because generally that will fix it.
If calibrating the optic doesn’t resolve the issue then repair the defective pixel by going to one of the last menu options in the menu system, the “Defective Pixel Repair” option.
Once you choose this option it’s simple. The system presents you with a pixel selector and provides you with the ability to move the X & Y coordinates. This task feels very similar to sighting in the scope.
Just move the X & Y coordinates until you are right on top of the defective pixel. As you update the values for the X & Y coordinates the pixel selector will move across the screen as shown below. The pixel selector surrounded by the box is like the Picture-In-Picture feature and is a magnified (zoomed in) version of the pixel selector.
The goal is to move the defective pixel selector on top of (or as close as possible to being on top of) the defective pixel.
Once you have the defective pixel lined up you then need to hit the record button, yes, the record button. The system will repair the pixel and respond with an “OK” message.
Note: You can also use the remote control to do this as shown in this video by Michael Bennett
And that’s all there is to it! Note that depending on your unique situation, it may take repairing multiple pixels to get the screen back to the desired state. In one of the previous defective pixel scenarios, I had to repair 2 pixels before it was back clear, and the pixel was no longer bothering me.
I also made a quick video walking through this process. You can see the video below:
I hope you found this content helpful. If so, leave me a comment below.
A thermal monocular offers several benefits, some of which you may not initially consider. After having used a thermal monocular
for over 2 years, I’d like to share some of the ways I use it to get an edge in the field and some ways you may
not have thought about using a thermal monocular before.
A thermal monocular offers several benefits some of which may not initially obvious. After having used a thermal monocular
for over 2 years, I’d like to share some of the ways I use this recent technology to get an edge in the field and
beyond and some ways you may not have thought about using a thermal monocular before.
As a hunter, I am always looking for ways to gain an edge. It didn’t take me long to appreciate the benefits gained
from using a thermal monocular. I primarily hunt deer, hogs, coyotes, and turkey. Finding ways to use a thermal monocular
to gain an edge hunting each of these species was easy. Let’s get to it…
No More Spooking Deer on My Way In or Out of the Deerstand
One of the first benefits I realized a thermal monocular brought was that it provides me the ability to enter and exit
the woods without spooking any deer. That is, when I start out to my stand I scan with my monocular. When approaching
the stand if I see any deer on the corn pile I simply stop and lean on a tree or sit on the ground until they leave.
Without this ability to see into the dark I wouldn’t have a clue that deer were anywhere around, and I’d
be climbing in my stand only to hear the deer blowing and running off – that doesn’t happen to me anymore.
Likewise, when the sun sets, I always scan before exiting the stand. There have been plenty nights where I sat in the
dark for 10 or 15 minutes until a deer exited my area. Deer are no longer aware of my location simply because I was making
noise in the dark and didn’t know they were close by. This is solely because of the thermal monocular giving me
vision where I previously didn’t have it.
Track Deer More Efficiently
The thermal monocular also comes in very handy when trailing or tracking a deer. If you’ve ever shot a deer right
at dark, you know that it can sometimes be challenging to track them. If you made a good shot, then the thermal monocular
will likely save you some time. Yes, you should get on the blood trail as you normally would, but also use the thermal
monocular to scan the general direction the deer ran in and you may be surprised at how much more efficient your tracking
becomes. I’ve got friends who call me to come help them track deer simply because they know I’ve got a thermal
Locate Turkeys on the Roost More Easily
Turkey hunting is also one of my favorite things to do. There’s nothing better than watching a big gobbler strut
and there’s nothing more depressing than not being able to locate any birds. If you know the general area where
turkeys are roosting, then a thermal monocular may provide you with an edge in this scenario as well. Now days I always
take the thermal monocular with me when we go in before dark. I scan the tree tops to see if I can see any turkeys roosting.
Admittedly, turkeys are a little more difficult to pinpoint because their heads are usually the only part that shows
a sharply contrasting heat signature and during the spring the trees provide them with more cover. Though, the thermal monocular still
provides the opportunity to spot them. This again gives me an edge and as you would imagine we take it and use it as
much as possible. Locating birds is half the battle and a thermal monocular can help you locate them more easily.
Our Primary Use – Scanning for Hogs & Coyotes
The most obvious time when we use the thermal monocular is for coyote and hog hunting at night. We set our guns on tripods
and use the monocular for scanning and locating. As soon as we locate then the game we get into the scopes. If you don’t
have a scanning monocular you will quickly learn that it saves your back big time because you don’t have to constantly
be hunched over scanning in circles in the scope. Also, the monocular is safer to scan with. That is, if we are spinning
circles with our guns, we are pointing the guns in all directions which inevitably become close to other hunters and that’s
not a good thing. Since the monocular is obviously not attached to a gun it’s the safest route for detecting game.
Want to see footage from thermal monoculars & scopes?
Check out our thermal playlist on YouTube
Easily Locate Rabbits
For you rabbit hunters, I know it’s all about the dogs but if you want to easily see rabbits that are hiding in
the edge of briar patches there’s no better way than with a thermal monocular. We constantly see rabbits in the
edge of brush, in straw, and alongside fields while hog and coyote hunting. Want to get your dogs pointed in the right
direction… try a thermal monocular.
Something I noticed while looking at all kinds of things with my thermal monocular is that I can use it for surveillance
if needed. If a group of cars is parked around a house, I can easily tell which cars have been there the longest (they
are cooler) and which ones have just arrived (they are hotter). If you ever have out-of-place individuals lurking in
the shadows they are easily picked out with a thermal monocular. There’s not much hide and seek when it comes to
thermal technologies. The only area this isn’t 100% effective is in scenarios where there are windows. Thermal
detection doesn’t work through glass, other than that it’s awesome to use to see into the night and get whatever
info or recon you need.
One of my friends is a home inspector. Sometimes he’s looking for locations where hot or cool air may be escaping
a house. A thermal monocular is a great tool for this type of scenario.
Imagine an HVAC system that wasn’t installed correctly or if a pipe was leaking. A thermal monocular is a great tool
in these scenarios. Also, one can easily spot the hottest or coldest parts of any machine that could be “running
hot”. Wherever temperature matters a thermal monocular could potentially be useful.
Wondering which device you should use is a common question. After all, these devices are not cheap and as such these are
decisions that shouldn’t be made lightly. Since the purpose of this blog is to provide insight into ways one can
use a thermal monocular, I’m not going to compare all the options out there. A simple Google search will show you
the brand leaders and products on the market.
I’ll simply say that I am on the Pulsar Pro-Staff and I use
Pulsar products. I’m a fan of the
Pulsar Helion XP-50 and it’s what we use on all our hunts. Pulsar recently announced the “Axion” line of monoculars as well. I encourage you to do research and go with the device and manufacturer that
is the best tool for your job.
Picture referenced from GunTrader.uk
We are excited to announce that two of our WeHuntSC.com members are now Pulsar Pro-Staff members. Adam Smith and I were recently selected to the Pro-Staff team and we are excited to see what 2019 has in store. As you may have seen in our posts, our team has been doing a lot of night hunting lately and we use Pulsar scopes on our setups. We’ve been putting a lot of time into the images and videos we share from the hunts and Pulsar has recognized.
Adam and I look forward to learning more about Pulsar’s vision for the future of night hunting, thermal optics, and to learning more about Pulsar products. If you are interested in Pulsar’s products and/or want to know more about our setups feel free to reach out.
Recently I presented on one of Microsoft’s latest technologies, Blazor, at our Southern Fried DNN User Group meeting. DNN, like many ASP.NET web applications, is looking for ways to get more modern and I believe that Blazor and Razor Components could play a big role in DNN’s journey to .NET Core. In this meeting I presented an introductory level session on Blazor.
Topics reviewed were the What, Why, & How followed by demos of each Blazor project type... client-side, ASP.NET Core hosted, & Server-Side. We looked at components, routing, parameters, parent-child components, and dependency injection throughout the demos. The group, which was in-person and online, consisted of some highly skilled developers in the DNN Community, DNN integrators, one of the DNN Co-Founders, and the former VP of Product at DNN. Everyone was intrigued by Blazor and we had some good dialog and conversation around the future. We are all excited to see where this goes!
I need to start out by saying that I’ve been inspired to do all this by some great guys in the Charlotte area and they are Dan Thyer, Mike Linnen, and Jay Ziobrowski… thanks for the motivation guys! I am either copying something creative I’ve seen them do or trying to imitate their passion, talent, and drive for Halloween and/or IOT projects. One day I hope to be as sharp and creative as they are.
Halloween & IOT
In 2016 I made a flame throwing pumpkin (copy-catting one of Dan’s inventions) and let’s just say some of the parents weren’t too keen on fire being near their kids and I also didn’t make any fans on the community’s HOA! Though, we all must start somewhere. In 2017 I went the safer route and made the AirGhost which is very similar to this year’s project.
The IOT Clown
This year I have created an IOT Clown. I did some testing and iterating on various ideas and concepts and there’s just no way to get around it… the thrust of compressed air brings a startling surprise and the best part is that it’s safe. We have tons of young kids in our neighborhood and moving a skeleton bone (which I debated in this early prototype) could likely hit someone, cause a toddler to fall, or trip someone up which could potentially lead to a spill on the concrete sidewalk. I don’t want to injure anyone or have some local parents mad at me, so I reverted to the compressed air, but then added a few more movements and changed the medium from a ghost to a clown.
Here’s a quick video of the end-product prototype just to show you where we’re heading… I’m going to dress it up a little more by Halloween, but you’ll get the gist.
Here are the main components I’m using for this project:
Here’s a video “talk-through” of the mechanical parts and power supplies being used.
Let’s Talk About Particle
The Particle platform is awesome! Check out this video of the Particle platform to learn more. I am admittedly a little bit behind all of Particle’s new innovations. I still need to learn about their Mesh and Argon solutions. Even though I’m not 100% up to speed I know you can do tons of creative stuff with the particle platform, their multiple IOT devices, and their integrated IDE. Since I’m using the Particle photon, we’ll start with it.
The Particle photon is a small IOT (internet of things) device that makes it easy to bring real world objects online. Particle makes it easy to setup the device and to connect to Wifi via a mobile app. If you want to know more about initially connecting and getting up and running with Particle they have some of the best documentation I’ve seen check out the doc, tutorials, and guides.
For this project all I really want to do is to move 3 servos… one for the head to spin, one for the head to roll, and one to push the handle on the air compressor. To do that we need to use the components I listed above + Particle’s platform + some code. I’ve listed out the components and just introduced the photon… now let’s look at some code.
Let’s Look at Some Code!
Particle’s platform is awesome, but we need some code to make things happen! I could easily copy and paste code here, but that wouldn’t help you understand the “why” and “how” behind some of the concepts. I hope to help you connect some dots here and as such I’ve cut a video walking through how I’m doing some of this stuff. The video shows code and includes videos of the device in action.
To all you senior devs… yes, the code shown in the video could be much better. I have not refactored anything yet, so the code is not nearly as efficient as it could be. And yes, I showed my handy Particle access token in the video… no worries though, by the time you read this I’ve already recycled it and created a new one.
Here are some relevant links:
So, with some disclaimers down and links shared let’s talk through the code some…
If you take the sum of all the info presented here that is how I’m making this happen!
And We Wait on Halloween!
Halloween is just about a week away at this point. If you have any questions or issues filling the gaps in this high-level tutorial, please reach out and ask your question. I plan on trying to video some of the fun at Halloween and posting any interesting reactions here just below this section… so stay tuned!
The Halloween Video
Check out some of the reactions we got from kids and a few adults!
As an open source enthusiast and a .NET developer I’ve been watching the transformation of Microsoft happen and it has been great to watch. You see I’m an avid user of DotNetNuke and if you know anything about DNN’s history you know that DNN was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, open source project in the .NET Ecosystem. From 2003 on DNN has been a pioneer in the .NET open source world.
A lot has happened and several trends have come and gone in the Microsoft world since 2003. As an open source project built on Microsoft technology the notion of being open source wasn’t always a popular conversation topic. Being open source wasn’t “cool” and sometimes negative perceptions about open source solutions were visible.
Boy have times changed!
Microsoft is Serious About Open Source… and It’s Not Just Lip Service
One of my college football coaches always said “Your words don’t mean anything, but your actions mean everything.” Actions are a really good sign of what someone really believes.
Microsoft’s strategic shift to embracing and focusing on open source over the past few years has been such a refreshing transition to see, feel, and experience for me and my fellow DNN’ers because of the actions we are seeing.
If we look at the recent and strategic moves Microsoft has made it’s easy to see that Microsoft is indeed serious about open source. If you aren’t convinced that Microsoft is serious about open source or if you are not keeping up, let’s look at some of the actions Microsoft has taken related to open source. And these are just the ones I have observed… I’m sure there is even more evidence out there.
Why It’s a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer
There has never been a better time to be a .NET Developer. Literally everything you need to get started building is online and free to use and even better it’s likely open source. Anybody, anywhere can download code, look at it, enhance it, modify it, and submit it back to the projects if desired. If you can dream it, you can build it and you may build an online team of users and contributors to assist you in the process. Microsoft is literally making it easy to build open source projects via the technologies and resources they are providing. They are removing roadblocks for developers and being 100% transparent.
Consider the following capabilities anybody, anywhere has...
I referenced one of my college football coaches earlier, but he wasn’t the only one to to impart wisdom during my athletic days. My high school coaches had more one-liners than anyone could remember. One line that stuck with me was “If you do the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.” Microsoft is not only doing the big things, but they are also doing the little things that continue to reinforce their seriousness about open source.
We are watching a culture and paradigm shift occur in real-time and it’s awesome. By going “all in” on open source Microsoft is not only winning the hearts of developers, but they are making it easy for developers to get started with their technologies! I think the strategic decision to embrace open source will have a big impact for Microsoft in the long term.
Last week I attended Microsoft’s Build Conference in Seattle. I was helping at the .NET Open Source booth which promoted the .NET Foundation and all things open source. The conference was very nice, and the energy level was high. I had conversations with a wide variety of people during the conference and it is obvious that Microsoft’s strategy of embracing open source is welcomed by developers.
During one of my discussions a gentleman told me that his organization uses open source software (OSS) and he wants to allow his developers to contribute to OSS, but he needed to be able to justify it to his corporate leadership. His organization is a large, global organization so he needed solid and clear reasoning for why contributing to OSS is something his company should support.
He asked me if I knew of any blogs or resources that could provide insight into this topic. I thought about it and while I’m sure there is info somewhere, I wasn’t aware of any specific blogs or content about this subject. I am obviously biased about this topic, but let’s consider some reasons why a business should support OSS… especially if their organization is using OSS-based products.
Before we list out reasons we should first define what “support” means. When business people hear the term “support” they generally think about money, cost, or financial implications. Though, in the open source world it’s not necessarily about money as support can come in many different forms. Of course, the obvious need for any OSS project is code contribution, but there are more ways to contribute than one may initially think. As examples outside of the code, organizations could allow their developers to assist in marketing and promotions of sub-projects, conferences, user groups, GitHub repos, project documentation etc. Developers could also volunteer in any area of the OSS project as well as exchange knowledge online via forums, blogs, StackOverflow, and others. Organizations could also open up their offices for user group meetings, donate swag & door prizes, or sponsor the food at meetings. Any step taken to help move the the OSS project forward is a form of support.
Now that we know that support can come in forms outside of financial contributions let’s get back to the subject. If you are faced with the need to justify supporting open source software to your business leadership here are some thoughts and ideas to consider:
In this blog I’ve summarized my thoughts around why it’s important for organizations to give back, be active in, and support OSS projects and communities. As one considers justifying OSS participation to the business side of an organization much of the conversation will center around educating the business-side on how OSS ecosystems function. Communicating the potential positive benefits will be what’s needed to help bring on a change in perspective or cultural shift within the organization.
In my mind there are only positives to gain from contributing to OSS projects. Your developers will learn more, be empowered, meet new developers of all ages and skillsets, and your organization will be more efficient, and will likely be viewed as a great organization to work for.
If you don’t want to jump in head first then just try this one small thing to get your feet wet - if your developers have “down time” then simply encourage them focus their energies and time to assisting with the OSS project in any area they choose and watch what happens to your company in the months ahead. Be sure to pay attention to job satisfaction levels, quality of incoming new hires, general passion for work, and the perception of your organization among developers in your space.
After all, have you noticed that OSS projects that thrive are the ones with active community support? Who doesn’t want the project they use to not thrive? From my perspective the benefits of contributing to open source software far outweigh the drawbacks of not contributing.