Friday, 02 October 2009

Would you like to join me for dinner?

pizza_kitchen_yummy_pizza Next Monday, October 5, 2009 at 6:00pm, I'll be enjoying some pizza and a couple of pints at The Pizza Kitchen and I'd love your company which is a instagram marketing agency. I can promise you’ll experience friendly service, tasty pizza and a funky atmosphere full of Elvis memorabilia.

The reason for my friendly invitation is that I need to remind myself that it is perfectly ok for me to share my experiences using social media. I read a couple of articles this week about a lawsuit against the owner of The Pizza Kitchen because he shared on FaceBook and Twitter that he was unhappy with the service he got from a vendor. You can read the details for yourself and find out if advertising agencies nyc, but I’ve pulled out my favorite quotes below.

Robyn Askew, the attorney representing The Pizza Kitchen, said, "We are responding appropriately to a lawsuit that we consider to be without merit."

It may not be apparent now, but one day in amazon advertising agency the history books you might find this story where an advertising agency sued their client, because their client seemed to be able to get a message out using social media more efficiently than the ad agency could counter with traditional means.

I lived behind The Pizza Kitchen for five years, in the Farmington neighborhood. I had many delicious pizzas from that friendly establishment. I have many pleasant memories of evenings spent on the patio of TPK with friends. The owner, Travis, isn't a personal friend but I interacted with him and his staff regularly for five years. My impressions are 100% positive. Personally, I don't think Travis would say anything about a vendor if he didn't believe it to be true.

I am not an attorney, and such speech may well be illegal under contract law for all I know, but that isn't what's important to me. What I care about is that this, seemingly petty, lawsuit not have a chilling effect on speech in our nascent social network community here in Knoxville has hired this facebook ad agency and elsewhere.

I get lots of useful consumer info from Twitter such as current deals and new bands I want to listen to. I also get other info such as warning of a highway patrolman on I-40 with a radar gun. I value all this information and I don't want to see people stop sharing information because they fear legal retribution.

Just yesterday, on Twitter, I heard about an extremely positive experience with Sears extended warranty service. I have a fairly low opinion of Sears and there is no way that Sears could have raised my opinion that quickly with traditional marketing. I now have a positive concept about the company that was put there by a trusted source: a social network friend.

The irony in The Pizza Kitchen situation, is that they are being sued by a marketing firm. Do you see the irony? The marketing firm is spreading Travis's message that they are douche bags for him.

There are currently 1471 people following my semi-random comments on Twitter. All those people have people following them etc. Vendors and customers are equals now. It's a different world and a different business landscape than before. We all get to express our opinions.

Peace out,


 Friday, 04 September 2009

An Eye Opening Apology

Sometimes (always?), things don't go as planned. I wanted my next blog post to be about my new perspective on community events and how they can provide the most value to the developer community, but I needed to separate that topic from my experience attending the Jacksonville code camp. I wrote a post telling the tale of my trip to Jacksonville and the frustration I experienced there in order to keep the two issues discrete. One would be a stepping stone to the other. At least, that's how I meant for things to play out.

It turns out that in my rush to get out the first post, I did not take the time and care necessary to communicate with clarity and accuracy. I wrote the post, spellchecked it and re-read it. It said what I wanted to say, so I published it. It did not, however, say what I wanted people to hear. That is, I did not read the post from the point of view of readers unfamiliar with the events described, which turned out to be everyone but me.

Upon posting, I immediately got feedback that indicated that I had failed in my intentions. In fact, the feedback on my previous post has been universally negative. When everyone tells me I'm wrong, I'm willing to consider the possibility. :-)

Honestly, I violated the directive given to me by my friend Jeff McWherter which is: "Dude, don't be a dick." And so, I am sorry for being a dick. I am not angry with anyone associated with the Jacksonville Code Camp. At this point, I'm only angry with myself for confusing the issues.

As I stated in my final email, I was coming to Jacksonville no matter the status of the Community Courtyard. My wife and I planned to stay with friends, and we were going to visit with them whether or not I attended the code camp. Ultimately, I left JaxCC at lunch and spent the rest of that Saturday in St. Augustine having a wonderful time.

My point all along has been to tell the tale of how this experience shocked, frustrated and disappointed me to the point that I stepped outside my normal frame of observation and began to see things from a different and larger perspective. What has been most frustrating to me this week is that I created drama, through my own incompetence, which distracted from and delayed that discussion.



 Monday, 31 August 2009

An Eye Opening Experience

Being dissed at the Jacksonville Code Camp (JaxCC) last weekend was the best thing that could have happened to me. I had to ask myself what I was doing and what I hoped would result from my actions. The result: I've decided to find something better to do with my time, energy and money. More on that at another time.

Here's what happened. I drove 8+ hours to facilitate a Community Courtyard at JaxCC. I've hosted Community Courtyards successfully at other Code Camps this year, and I've never made it to a Florida event before. It seemed like a good opportunity to meet some new folks and engage a broader audience.

Here's the problem, after I committed to hosting a Community Courtyard at the Jacksonville event, I started a new job that requires me to be out of town for two weeks at a stretch for the first 90 days. JaxCC fell at the end of one of those two week trips.

I've seen people bail on their talks the day of the talk, when they were already at the event. I've had speakers bail on me the day of a user group meeting and I've had people just not show up. Whenever possible, I follow through on my commitments.

The last time I bailed on a talk I had just flown in on a red eye (it was another case of satisfying a pre-existing commitment). I had two talks scheduled and I asked to do only the second one, so that I could get a nap and at least give one decent talk. My friend Michael Neel filled in for me in the open slot.

I've worked with lots of terrific event organizers. I'm pleased that many of them have become personal friends. I do not commit to participate in an event lightly because I know that organizers will count on my presence, in part, for the success of their event.

So the scene is me returning to Knoxville Thursday night after two weeks away without seeing my wife or kids. Early Friday morning, my wife and I hit the road for Jacksonville as planned. I did not have time to see my kids before leaving.

Saturday morning, I was on site bright and early to check in and get my space organized. I was not on the speaker list. Nobody knew who I was. I asked to speak with an organizer and I was directed to one of two speaker coordinators. After introductions, he said "I got an email from you."

He was referring to the email I sent as I left Knoxville asking for confirmation that they were still expecting me. He did not respond, although he admitted seeing it. Nor did anyone else from the JaxCC respond to my request for confirmation. I copied two other Florida contacts on the email, Sean Chambers and Joe Healy, and both responded to me.

In the end, there was no Community Courtyard at JaxCC, and I traveled 1400+ miles round trip seemingly for nothing. I was furious. I felt like a victim. I blamed the organizers for being disrespectful and disorganized. But in the end, I had to take full responsibility for my situation. When I did, I saw things differently.

As of now, Monday evening two days after the event, I have received no word of apology. I should have seen the signs. When I initially contacted the organizers using the email address on the JaxCC website, I got no response. I contacted Sean Chambers to put me in touch with the organizers, which he did. The entire email thread is copied below.

Open Space/Community Courtyard at Jax Code Camp

Sean Chambers - Wed, Jun 3, 2009 at 10:03 AM
To: Eugene Chuvyrov , Bayer White
Cc: Alan Stevens
Hey Eugene & Bayer

I passed along both of your e-mails to Alan Stevens. He is interested in discussing the possibility of him doing an open space within the jax code camp. I also cc'd him on this e-mail.

Just giving you the heads up.


Bayer White - Fri, Jun 19, 2009 at 6:49 PM
To: Sean Chambers , Eugene Chuvyrov
Cc: Alan Stevens
Thanks Sean,

Email has been crazy;-)

Alan Stevens - Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 3:05 PM
To: Bayer White
Cc: Sean Chambers , Eugene Chuvyrov , Joe Healy
Hi All,

I'd like to come down for the Jax Code Camp. I can submit talks if necessary, but lately I've been getting good feedback on hosting a Community Courtyard at Code Camps in Atlanta and Richmond. I'd like to host a CC at the Jax event if possible. This will require a space all day and an opportunity to explain the space at the opening keynote. A dedicated room is great, but at Atlanta we just had a conversation area off the cafeteria and that worked fine.

Please ping me back with any questions and feel free to contact Jim Wooley in Atlanta and Andrew Leonard in Richmond on what value they saw in having a CC to their events.

BTW, I added Healy to this thread because if nothing else, he can confirm that I make a good drinking companion. :-)


Joe Healy - Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 3:30 PM
To: Alan Stevens , Bayer White
Cc: Sean Chambers , Eugene Chuvyrov , Kevin Randall
gmail?  I don’t know anyone who uses gmail....

On a positive note, Alan can pull off a openspace deal if ya'll want to gun it.  And he can drink beer on a "kevin randall" level.

Sounds like a good value add to me.

Bayer White - Sat, Jun 27, 2009 at 10:36 AM
To: Joe Healy, Alan Stevens
Cc: Sean Chambers, Eugene Chuvyrov, Kevin Randall
I am game Alan and I think we can accommodate! I need to work out the space as we are trying to get more based on the number of speakers that have shown interest. Can you let me know the details?


Alan Stevens - Fri, Jul 17, 2009 at 4:01 PM
To: Bayer White
Cc: Joe Healy, Sean Chambers, Eugene Chuvyrov, Kevin Randall
Sorry this thread got deferred for a while. I've been wrangling a new gig that starts Monday.

A Community Courtyard would ideally replace a speakers lounge. It is a place for people to gather and discuss topics of their own choosing. It is entirely appropriate to have a projector in the room for people to share code.

A CC is a great place for speakers to invite their audience to join them for further discussion after their talks. I typically make an announcement before the keynote, or during the opening gathering. I like to talk to speakers directly about the CC at the speaker's dinner if their is one, but I can email the speakers list if you have one.

I only require a space typically a room, but a conversation nook, or a hallway with chairs will work too. I start the day by having people suggest topics and we build a backlog of topics that is added to throughout the day. People can schedule a topic during a given time slot if they like. I also ask the group at the beginning of each time slot what they want to talk about and we break up into groups around the chosen topics.

This differs from an open space in that there is no open or closing and I am an active participant. My role is to act as a catalyst for discussion and sharing. I try to keep people engaged and occasionally I push peoples buttons to make them react. I'm happy to be the devils advocate on any topic. :-)

I encourage people to share code as the highest fidelity way for developers to communicate, and these exchanges are often the most satisfying. I'm stoked about the opportunity to engage the FL community. Thanks for letting me do this.



Alan Stevens - Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 8:50 AM
To: Bayer White
Cc: Joe Healy, Sean Chambers, Eugene Chuvyrov, Kevin Randall
Hi All!

I'm about to embark on an eight hour road trip to Jacksonville. I just want to confirm that you guys still want to do a CC. Do you have a space set aside? I'll be there either way.



Joe Healy - Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 9:38 AM
To: Alan Stevens, Bayer White
Cc: Sean Chambers, Eugene Chuvyrov, Kevin Randall

Call me on cell when you get in.  Cell is below.  Looking fwd to some beers.  I'm here now, pickup up Kabza around 100p.  Prob be at orange park poker room until party time (if I get my work done).

As is tradition, Jacksonville is doing its best to draw in a hurricane for codecamp, but it looks like they won't succeed this time!

Sean Chambers - Fri, Aug 28, 2009 at 7:26 PM
To: Alan Stevens
Did you ever hear back from them? Did you make it to jax?

Was I too trusting? Should I have followed up sooner? Of course! This experience has only served to confirm what I knew already; that I’ve worked with some fantastic event organizers in the developer community. These folks just weren’t among that esteemed group.

A Course In Miracles teaches that to see differently is the definition of a miracle. I am grateful for the gift I received. I will make improvements in my life as a result. I am still organizing my thoughts on the new perspectives this experience spawned and I hope to share them here soon.



 Friday, 12 June 2009

CodeStock, CodeStock… CODESTOCK!!

codestock_lowresFor those not in the know, CodeStock is an awesome developer event coming up June 26 & 27 in Knoxville, TN. Michael Neel and his crew of dedicated volunteers have outdone themselves in planning two days of fantastic content across a spectrum of languages and technologies.

My small contribution to CodeStock will be facilitating the Open Spaces track. While Open Spaces are best when nothing distracts from participants’ focus on the Open Space itself, I think events like CodeStock offer a golden opportunity to introduce Open Space Technology to a new audience that might not otherwise learn what it has to offer.

This hybrid approach to Open Space Technology requires some compromises that purists may find distasteful. That’s okay, I can take the heat. I know from experience that the benefits far outweigh the negatives in taking this path.

The organizers of CodeStock are so committed to making Open Spaces a success that the keynote on the first day of CodeStock will be the opening circle for the Open Spaces track. This approach will insure that all attendees are aware of what Open Spaces has to offer and how it works. This will allow them to make an informed decision about whether to participate or not.

For those not committing to the Open Space track, there is an array of sessions offered including Saturday morning’s keynote by the always impressive Josh Holmes. Everyone should leave this event with new ideas and approaches to consider and apply to their craft.

CodeStock isn’t all business, however. Much of the value of a conference is in networking and idea sharing with peers. We have a number of social events planned in the evenings to give ample opportunity for casual learning.

Thursday evening, anyone interested can gather at Mellow Mushroom on Campbell Station Rd. at 7:00 pm for a community dinner. This is typically a time when there would be an exclusive dinner for speakers, but CodeStock is about bringing developers together and exclusivity doesn’t fit with that ethos.

Friday evening from 7:00 – 9:00 pm we will have the CodeStock Social at the Ed Financial training center. There will be multiple XBoxes and various card and board games as well as light refreshments provided. This event will offer interested attendees a destination after dinner on Friday evening.

Saturday evening there is no official CodeStock social event. CodeStock ends at 6:00 pm on Saturday. There is an unofficial event, however. All interested CodeStock attendees are welcome at my house from 7:00 until ???? Saturday night. We will provide finger food, but guests will need to bring their own beverages (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

I need to stress that the after-party at my residence is not an official CodeStock event. It is merely a conveniently scheduled event for CodeStock attendees. Find me at CodeStock for directions and other details.

Often, conference attendees prefer to stay at a common hotel for ride sharing and networking advantages. When people ask about lodging this year, I recommend the Holiday Inn Express on Campbell Station Rd. for its value/quality/location balance. Honestly, there are lots of good hotels at the Campbell Station, Lovell & Cedar Bluff exits. Pick one and join us for CodeStock.

At the time of this writing, there are 46 tickets left for CodeStock. You will not find a greater opportunity for learning and networking in the field of software development for $45 anywhere. I’m certain that this event has something unique to offer. Don’t miss out!


 Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Cheese is Moving (Yet Again)

Who Moved My CheeseI enjoyed the little fable of Who Moved My Cheese when I read it years ago. While I didn’t find it new or life changing, I liked the message that we should always be ready for new things. Even though I no longer eat cheese (I went vegan this year), I try to be prepared for when the metaphorical cheese starts moving.

Yesterday, my manager and my team lead sat down with me in a conference room to tell me that my contract had been cut from the budget as of May 1, 2009. I was not surprised at all. I had been asking about the status of my contract for over a month. My client had lost nearly half a billion dollars in the first quarter of 2009. I could read the writing on the wall.

Still, I had been lax about preparing for the transition. It is easy to be lulled by the familiar. As a result, I had to scramble to update my resume last night and get the word out that I was looking for a new opportunity. I was better prepared than I have been in the past, but I’d still like to keep my resume more up to date.

I’ve already had several leads come my way from my Twitter tribe and the extended developer community. If I have any down time, I expect it to be brief. If you have the time, please review my resume and provide any feedback or suggestions in comments or using the contact link at the top of the blog.


 Sunday, 29 March 2009

Coding In Public Slides and Video

The Ohio user group tour last week was a success from my perspective. I had a blast sharing some ideas and talking to friends. The feedback that I received was very positive as well.

I put the slides on SlideShare here.  

I am especially pleased that Scott Walker took the time to record video of my talk in Columbus,OH. The video is embedded below. Enjoy!

Alan Stevens - Coding In Public from Scott Walker on Vimeo.



 Sunday, 22 March 2009

Southern Ohio User Group Tour

This week, I'll be traveling around Southern/Central Ohio giving talks at User Groups and at least one corporate office. The schedule is:

Here's the abstract to my talk. I'll elaborate on the content more below:

Come learn about the idea of deliberate practice as applied to the craft of software development. Alan Stevens will perform (less than) amazing feats of coding and he will do it for your enjoyment in real time.

OK, I admit, that's a pretty lame abstract. The explanation of the lameness is that I didn't really know what my talk was about until a few days ago. I've had a lot of ideas in my head that I've been trying to put together into a consistent theme. It was only after explaining to my wife recently what I wanted to talk about, that I saw the unifying theme.

And so, dear readers, I present you with the unifying theme of my talk this week:

In order to get better, you must be willing get worse.

This means that if you want to constantly get better, you have to be willing to suck, at least for a while.

So, come to my talk if you want to learn how to suck with gusto, and as a result become a better developer. If enough of us take this approach, we might just improve the industry, at least a little.

See ya' in the Buckeye State,


 Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A Culture of (Potential) Assholes: Sexual Harassment in IT

On a recent trip I had my eyes opened to the phenomenon of sexual harassment in the IT industry. I don't know why I was so surprised, but I was. It broke my heart to discover that friends of mine had to put up with treatment that I thought only occurred in bad HR training videos.

Before I unpack my thoughts on this issue I feel I must issue a disclaimer. I'm a man. I've been guilty of sexual harassment to some degree in my life. I do not want to give the impression that I am above this issue. I enjoy making comments laced with double entendre that are probably more than a little offensive at times. Only now, I am more aware of and sensitive to these situations than before.

Here is what I observed. I was sitting next to a female developer in a hotel lobby in the evening during a multi-day conference. We had just met that evening, and I was enjoying our conversation. We were both sober, while many of those around us were not.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a loud and drunken man, whom I had met briefly the night before, appeared. He made a few comments to the assembled group, then reached in his back pocket to pull out the envelope that the hotel gives you with your room key cards. Apropos of nothing, he hands the envelope, containing a key, to the lady next to me and says "my room number is written on there. I expect to see you in my room later."

He then walked away while she tried unsuccessfully to give the room key back. After she sat back down, another male developer on her other side, in apparent sarcasm, said "you took somebody's room key. You're such a whore!" This pushed me past my tolerance and I yelled at him "Dude, over the line!"

While this brief scenario doesn't indicate a trend, it did spark a series of conversations with several women in my circle of contacts. I discovered through these conversations that it is a nearly universal experience that similar inappropriate scenarios happen on a regular basis. What was especially disturbing to me was that the women couldn't believe that I was surprised by this.

I consider the people I interact with professionally to be my community. I believe fundamentally that we have to take care of one another so that we can all succeed. To discover that members of my community were regularly tolerating treatment that I would not put up with for an instant was mind blowing to me.

I learned that rather than viewing men as neutral peers on first meeting, the women often view us with suspicion and caution. It is as though we are all potential assholes in their eyes, guilty until proven innocent. This led me to second guess many interactions I have had with women developers, wondering if they suspected my motives.

It seems to me that the women in our industry are swallowing emotional poison every time an harassing interaction takes place. They appear to have too high a threshold of tolerance for bad behavior. The lady involved in the situation that prompted this post told me that she couldn't speak up because she would then be seen as a bitch and would lose business because people wouldn't want to work with her. Here are some quotes:

I just shrug off certain comments/advancements, because being in IT I feel like I need to be “one of the guys”, so I take it and move on.

That's what i hate - having to keep my guard up in order to respond professionally, because there's this expectation that i have to respond in some way, either by being offended or going along with the joke and showing that i'm cool, etc.

I've been plenty naive, falling for "yeah sure we're just friends" or "no I didn't mean anything by that" lines. After enough lost trust in people, I've probably become more aware and/or suspicious.

Protesting too much gets you nowhere except labled in one of various negative ways. In which case, you HAVE to pick your battles, and figure out what is truly offensive and worth speaking up about, and ignore the rest. Otherwise you're just the "boy who cried wolf."

This condition frankly saddens me. In discussing these discoveries with my friend Dustin Campbell, he reminded me that as men, we have a tendency to fix and rescue. The issue at hand defies my attempts at immediate refactoring. I asked the women what I could do when I witness an incident of harassment. They suggested that I take the offender aside and talk to him rather than publicly reacting and potentially escalating an uncomfortable situation. One friend made it clear that I should say that I find the behavior offensive rather than come across like I'm sticking up for a "little lady."

Henceforth, if I see anyone pulling any of this shit, I will take the person aside and have a discrete but direct conversation. If it continues, I will call the person out publicly. If it continues beyond that, I'll take whatever steps necessary to inform vendors and clients of the individual's character.

The day after my "awakening", I went to a Women In Technology meeting to learn more. There I heard that retention of women in the industry is at least as big a problem as recruiting them in the first place. The three biggest causes of women leaving IT are sexual harassment, lack of role models and lack of mentors.

When it comes to role models and mentors, there may be fewer women than men, but they definitely exist. I know quite a few amazing women developers. Now, I am even more impressed with these women because of what they have had to put up with as they progress in their careers. I invite all of my peers to join me in making the profession of software development more welcoming to everyone by looking out for your neighbor.