April, 2012

Apr 12

What Microsoft MVP means to me

It wasn’t long after college that I found myself blogging about the technology I was using on a regular basis. I have pretty good writing skills and am damn good with the code so soon after I was easily breaking 10K hits per post. Having a platform to share my ideas and knowledge was exhilarating and fun, but really didn’t mean much career wise. I wasn’t particularly passionate about C# or the CLR and would have been just as happy blogging about Java.

But after about two years out of college everything changed. I went to a talk by Rich Hickey on Clojure. Rich walked us through a completely functional and massively parallel ant colony simulation which repeatedly blew my mind. Four hours after walking into that talk I came out a different person. I knew then that I had been going about this whole programming business wrong. I knew then that everything was much harder than necessary and I was wasting huge amounts of time grooming my object oriented garden.

Now, I worked for a .NET shop so Clojure at work was out of the question, but I seen posts around on a new language from Microsoft Research. It was also a functional language but had some different properties. Properties that could be used to get stronger guarantees on code correctness.

Over the next week I feverishly built my own ant colony simulation in F#. While I struggled with the new type system at first, I found the ML syntax to be a joy to read after the fact. The code was also remarkably robust, it was a simple matter to inject and swap between many different thread communication models. I soon became convinced that I had found something even better than Clojure. A passion grew inside me like I had never felt before. Other people had to know that there was a better way.

Soon I found myself giving talks at every Code Camp and user group meeting that would have me. Most others viewed my enthusiasm skeptically but I was pushed on by the open minded few who watched my presentations with enthralled attention. Of course, some meetings were better than others. After one particularly great night at a meeting in central Connecticut I had a line of about ten people who were just dieing to know more.

I also worked with Michael de la Maza and Talbot Crowell to start the first F# User Group. Getting speakers locally was a challenge so in most cases we resorted to having people speak over live meeting. I worked on this as much for myself as I did to help spread the word about F#. It was fantastic to hear from others using the language and to learn about things I have never even considered before. Even after moving on to NYC, I still reminisce about the early days and I’m still very proud of our loyal group members.

Now all of this, from learning F# to starting the group, had been only taken about a year. What followed was an even more overwhelming whirlwind of life changing events.

I’m not sure how it came about, but someone had noticed my passion. I was given a free trip to Microsoft PDC where I had dinner with the Microsoft language teams. Chris Smith carted me around and introduced me to everyone (he’s a very popular fellow). Conversation after conversation was loaded with interesting ideas and fresh perspectives. I had one of the best times of my life.

Then came the MVP, shortly followed by Professional F# 2.0, then the MVP Summit where I was able to spend a day with the F# team right in their offices! To spend so much time talking with the people I admired so much for building this wonderful language was a dream come true. And still, it continues with more conferences and events, meeting very smart people and hearing fantastic new ideas. The whirlwind hasn’t stopped, even three years later, and it’s been a fantastic ride.

I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.

Apr 12

F# Event Madness, Spring 2012 Edition

Upcoming Speaking Engagements:

Great Lakes Functional Programming Conference — May 5, Ann Arbor, MI

I’m very excited to be giving the Keynote at the first Great Lakes Functional Programming Conference, I’d suggest signing up but it’s already sold out!

Progressive F# Tutorials NYC - June 5/6, 2012 NYC

I’ve spent a ton of time over the last few months helping put together the first ever F# conference in the USA. Many of the most well known speakers from the F# community will be there giving hands on tutorials. There’s also both a beginner and advanced track so no matter your skill level you will certainly learn something.

CodeStock - June 15/16, 2012 Knoxville, TN

From what I hear, CodeStock is just about as much fun as you can legally have at a programmer conference. I’m proud to be giving one of four F# talks this year.

Recordings of Recent Events:

Why F#? With Richard Minerich and Phillip Trelford

Scott was kind enough to give us a shot at the “why should I use F# again?” question on his podcast. I hope Phil and I were able to convince at least a few folks to play with it a bit.

Barb: How I built a simple dynamic programming language in F#

I finally felt Barb was ready for show and tell at the NYC F# User Group. I would be grateful for any feedback you might have.