FoxPro and Community in the “real world”

First off, the sky is not falling.

Yes, Craig has identified that the Sydney VFP User group is closing down and Rick Schummer spent a day of .Net.

But that doesn’t mean a massive exodus from FoxPro – it simply shows the real world. I’ve been trying to resist linking to John Koziol’s Jiffy Tech post

as so many others already have, but he makes a great point that the development world has changed (John’s recent posts on the World of Tomorrow are interesting to read as well)

I installed Wakoopa to gauge what tools I actually use. FoxPro is NOT the number one tool I use – Firefox is, but then I use Remote Desktop connection, or Word, or Mind Manager among other tools. Yes, FoxPro is higher than the others but the days when the only tool I used was FoxPro is gone. And it should be. There are other tools out there that help achieve results and they should be used where other tools fail.

I just finished a FoxShow interview with Kevin Cully about FoxForward. Here’s a conference that is noticeably about FoxPro but also celebrates other technologies. Craig’s new group, the Sydney Business & Technology UG, is noticeabley different as well. While geared towards senior developers, it’s also explicitly high-level – ABOUT technologies as opposed to just coding (typically the difference between a Developer and a Programmer).

I agree with Craig when he says that FoxPro developers can get their information from a variety of places but that leads to another question: how important is the local user group?

Rick regularly does visits to the various user groups around his area. There are still groups around (I lurk around on the Madfox group board among others) but I would hazard a guess and say these are definitively small meetings (not more than 30 users – please correct me if I’m wrong).

When I ran the Ottawa FoxPro user group, we started in 1992, with a showcase meeting of about 500 people and that grew considerably smaller over time. Later we became a special interest group of the larger Ottawa PC Users Group and eventually dwindled down to about 10 per visit. Does that mean there are only 10 FoxPro developers or shops in Ottawa? Absolutely not – but it showed how difficult it was to get people out of their regular lives into a meeting about a single tool rather than a variety of tools.

Yet, the FoxPro community around the world remains huge. Craig has said he’s still going to do OzFox. ( I hope he also does more OzFox Rocks!) Rainer Becker has actually laid claim to holding German conferences beyond 2012. The Foxite site continues to be huge. If you can’t belong to a regional group, there’s also the Virtual FoxPro User Group which always does a great job with their newsletters.

I still come back and always wish there were more “bloggers” at these local groups. Why? Because sometimes you get great sessions – speakers often use local UGs as a way for testing their sessions – but also even the dialog that goes back and forth is valuable. These meetings are going on – while it’s nice to know when they happen – why not tell everyone WHAT happened?

Ted Roche who does more LAMP work these days, gives great examples on his blog – he doesn’t just say when, his next post usually describes what was talked about. This is the type of content I would love to see – even streamed during conferences or even just recorded (hey, I will even host the site if you’re concerned about space).

I know some conference organizers don’t like the idea of sharing the sessions online – it “defeats” the purpose of attending is usually the argument – but why not post the audio from these sessions 6 months or a year after the conference ends? It would act as a great promotion for your next conference and would also allow those who don’t have local user groups around a chance to connect to the community. Look at IT Conversations – did you think you would ever be able to hear some of these people? Now you can and it’s great. (besides, I recall Ted telling me (when I started to actively campaign for more online conferences – and I agree) that the real value of conferences is the networking)

I asked a question in an earlier post – how do you reach FoxPro developers (or any kind of developer for that matter)?

One answer: every way you can.

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