|By Charlie Arehart||
|October 5, 2000 12:00 AM EDT||
Late in July ColdFusion developers who simply couldn't wait for the November Allaire Developer conference had the opportunity to gather with compatriots and spend time learning CF tricks and techniques from some of the most popular CF speakers.
You may find this announcement only mildly interesting if you're fortunate enough to have a CF user group in your area. These groups are popular and meet all over the country, many of them monthly.
But this was no ordinary "CF user group." It was CFUN-2k.
If You Organize It...
When Michael Smith, president of TeraTech, Inc., began planning and then put out the call for this meeting, billed as CFUN-2k, he had big plans. He arranged for a huge auditorium at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
He invited some of the most popular CF speakers nationwide, and decided not to charge a fee for attendees. Speakers responded from across the country and agreed to speak at no charge.
Then he sent out invitations to thousands of CF developers worldwide. They answered by the hundreds, spread the word and invited others.
In the end more than a thousand people registered, and Michael, his staff and a group of dedicated cosponsors began the arduous task of organizing, registering and pulling off a tremendous example of CF community building. They'd done it the year before, so they knew what they were getting themselves into.
CFUN-2k was on, and it was going to be bigger than any CF gathering to date. Bigger than the previous year and, yes, even bigger than last year's CF Developer Conference.
...They Will Come
Did I mention this was a weekend event? And not just one but two days? During one of the loveliest summers on record in Washington?
Yet still they came. Many of the participants and several of the speakers traveled long distances (in a few cases several hundred miles). Seven hundred CF developers attended, hungry to learn and willing to sit for several hours each day just watching and listening as speakers covered subjects from basics to business issues to advanced techniques. An overflow room with video feed had to be set up to accommodate them.
It wasn't all work, though - there were breaks for refreshments and lunch, and constant giveaways of books, software, tee shirts and more. To break the ice even further, there was the clever and well-received CF "Family Feud" as well as "Who Wants to Be a CF Millionaire?"
The meeting was a single-track format with 40-minute presentations. The roster of 16 speakers included many of the most popular local and national CF personalities. In order of appearance they were:
- Adam Churvis, president, Productivity Enhancement, purveyor of CommerceBlocks and a series of CF e-commerce seminars, spoke on "Using CF, Stored Procedures and Triggers," and offered lots of useful coding tips.
- Christine Pascarella, VP, sales, VirtualScape, shared insights into the challenges and opportunities as well as security issues involving CF hosting.
- I had the next slot, and showed how to build WML applications using ColdFusion.
- John Paul Ashenfelter, president, TransitionPoint, and coauthor of CF for Dummies, helped simplify "complex" data types in ColdFusion (arrays, structures and WDDX).
- Michael Smith spoke on the dynamics of change in the Web development industry and on the value of peer-to-peer networking (among computers and ourselves!).
- Howie Hamlin, project manager, CoolFusion.com, purveyors of the InFusion Mail Server, spoke on their tool's many features and benefits.
- Robi Sen, CIO of Granularity.com and organizer of the first national CF conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1998, spoke on business-to-business commerce with a focus on new forms of electronic data interchange and application syndication.
- Steve Nelson of SecretAgents.com, a noted Fusebox.org ambassador (and soon to be author of a Fusebox book), spoke on the Fusebox methodology and its significance as an alternative for creating highly reusable CF applications. Steve did double duty by delivering Hal Helms's talk on "Beginning Fusebox." Hal, who was unable to attend, is a well-known CFDJ writer, Fusebox guru and consultant.
- Bill Rogers, CEO of Ektron.com, purveyors of the eMPower content management solution, demonstrated their tool and how it enables content providers on your Web site team to offer content in an easy and inexpensive manner.
- Leon Chalnick, president, Advanta Solutions, was unable to attend, so the next morning, at his request, I gave his presentation on the features and benefits of using ColdFusion custom tags.
- April Fleming, Web software developer for Federal Data Corp. and organizer of the Orlando CFUG, continued the WDDX theme started by John Paul Ashenfelter and showed a working example of using WDDX to syndicate data among CF servers.
- Shlomy Gantz of CoreActive ACG, the most highly rated speaker at last year's CFUN event, demonstrated the power and capability of integrating Macromedia Flash with ColdFusion to create powerfully interactive applications.
- Steve Drucker, CEO of Fig Leaf Software and one of the most popular CFUG speakers nationwide, carried forward Shlomy's Flash ideas and added COM and Java for further open integration.
- Michael Dinowitz, master of the CF-Talk list, spoke on programming philosophy, both general and CF-specific, and on the value of the interconnected CF developer community.
- Dave Watts, CTO of Fig Leaf Software and the most prolific contributor to the CF-Talk mailing list, shared his wisdom on "extreme debugging" and identified several tools to help solve system problems that can affect a CF application.
- Michael Imhoff, CTO of OmniCypher, spoke on the pluses and minuses of using Microsoft Access as a database for CF applications in development and production.
- Dave Aden, VP, technology services, WWStudios.com and contributor to the Allaire Spectra E-Business Construction Kit, gave an introduction to Spectra as well as tips and tricks for those already familiar with it.
All Work and No Play? No Way!
As I mentioned before, the weekend was much more than just sessions and speakers. Besides the giveaways and prizes (many organized by Amy Brooks, who as user group coordinator for Allaire deserves a big thanks from all of us all over the country), there were some elaborate and clever contests.
In the "CF Family Feud" Michael Smith and company had polled registrants in the weeks before to answer several questions (technical and nonwork related) and had gathered the most popular answers for each. As in the TV game show, game organizer and emcee Chris Mosier quizzed two "families" composed of audience members and speakers. And in "Who Wants to Be a CF Millionaire," host and organizer Adam Churvis led two contestants through their paces on several challenging CF questions.
You Asked? They Answered
Questions and answers were the rule throughout the conference. There was time after each talk for them. There was also a vendor area outside the hall with several CF companies and conference cosponsors demonstrating their products and, of course, ready and willing to answer any product questions.
The "CF Doctor" (Douglas Smith of TeraTech) was "in," trying to answer random questions throughout the conference. When he was stumped, he brought questions to a panel on Sunday composed of most of the speakers who also addressed questions from the audience.
A Yeoman Effort
The folks at TeraTech as well as volunteers from Capital PC User Group (CPCUG) and the Maryland CFUG did a yeomanlike job, staffing the entrance area and performing all manner of support tasks, including planning, organizing, marketing, registration and coordination of the CD, not only during the weekend, but in the many days leading up to the event.
The speakers and cosponsors, along with Michael Smith and his company, deserve a round of applause (and received several) for their tremendous efforts. It was a worthy precursor of the upcoming second annual worldwide Allaire Developer Conference, November 5-8, in Washington, DC.
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