Will "the Mighty" Strohl

Update... and Code Camp

Well, it has been (once again) a while since I last posted. A bunch of cool things have happened. My new job is going well, I got my truck fixed and repainted (photos to come soon), and I have been working (which is playing to me) hard.

I really wanted to post about an event I attended somewhat recently called .Net Code Camp. It was held at the UCF Campus in Orlando, Florida and it ran several tracks simultaneously to center in on whatever subject you wanted to learn more about and network with others on. I have no idea how detailed the Code Camp would be until I got there. I failed to check the information posted on their web site.

In order to appropriately highlight what I got out of this event, I should tell you a bit more about myself...

Several years ago I was tasked with providing a new web site for the companys intranet. The previous one I had been simply updating with new content. It was similar to most things you find on the internet where someone says "I can build a web site" and the end result is something static with a single column of links and animated GIFs. In this case I was lucky and the previous people to edit the site actually knew a bit about HTML, so there was some organization to it. However, no time or design effort was given to add any scalability or flexibility to the site in the UI or the back-end programming (yes, there was some ASP done).

In planning to replace the site with something that more correctly addressed the needs of the company, I came across the common idea that this company needed a portal. Answers.com has definitions for what a portal is, so I won't bore you with it.

I searched online for a while with my favorite tool, Google. :) After some research, I kept hitting on something called IBuySpy Portal. Within some of my freebies from previous events I had been to and magazines I had subscribed to, I remembered that I disk I was given or sent had this term on it. I proceeded to and found that they had some resources to support it. There was a download and information section and a forum with plenty of users who were using and extending it. This inspired me to do the same, so several months later the new intranet web site was released to the company and it was received with open arms. I was even rewarded with our annual IT award for the web site.

If you don't already know, the IBuySpy Portal was a great start for any portal web site, but it was also very incomplete. I had to write my own Active Directory back-end for it. I also created a built-in page creation mechanism. There was so much more done to it. Also, with the different needs of various departments, I had the need to create sub-portals to account for larger amounts of information and varying needs for the way users logged in. This is only a few of the many upgrades it received. It became nearly unrecognizable, except for the fact that I didn't change the build name.

I found out about 6 months later that right after I had committed myself to this project another portal was released as an open source solution using the very same .Net language I was using. It is called DotNetNuke. This new portal offered all of the things that I had built, and much more.

About 3 or more years of maintaining that site and then moving on to a new company, DotNetNuke has become a monster compared to what it once was. So, while this new employer wants a portal solution, I now have a chance to use DotNetNuke to provide a base for the intranet and internet web site for this employer. Right out of the box, I have already save myself MONTHS of development and debugging time. I can deploy this solution and simply write new DotNetNuke modules to plug right in to the current portal. I do not have to worry about security, it is already taken care of for me. I simply use the built-in features to handle this for me.

While I have already been debugging and testing DotNetNuke in this new environment and I have not yet made it live, this .Net Code Camp came up. I wanted to go for pretty much the same reasons that everyone else does. I wanted to learn things that other people have been able to learn from their projects that have differed from mine, and I also wanted to network with others who are more experienced than I am.

To my great surprise there were several different tracks available which focused on various topics. However, the one at the very end of the list caught my eye. It said DotNetNuke!!! I was ecstatic. I immediately committed myself to sit in that one room all day long. I wanted to soak up everything that these other people have learned to give myself a head-start on my newest journey.

The track was great. I learned a lot of things. The speakers and attendees all were from varying backgrounds and had different focuses with DotNetNuke itself. As you would expect, the track began with an introduction to DotNetNuke, and ended with some more complicated stuff, only to be followed by a question and answer session. It was highly useful. It was a dream come true, so to speak.

Also, the organizers, Orlando Dot Net Users Group, did an excellent job of getting speakers and freebies there. Not only was the event completely free, but they even threw in a free lunch and a semi-free event to follow at a local bar & grill. From what they said the speakers were not paid to be there, but they also brought their own freebies and made it a point to be there and let us pick their brains. It was a brilliant success. Many of the speakers I have seen before at expensive and free Microsoft Events as well.

To sum up all of my babbling above, if you run across a .Net Boot Camp in your area GO TO IT!!! It may not be as good as the one I went to, but it is definitely worth your time. Thank you to all of the organizers and speakers who attended! Thank you so much!

Now, I just want to give a plug to a few of the speakers that I had the pleasure of listening to and learning from (not that they need it). Thank you all for your time and sharing your experience! If you have time, visit these folks:

Ryan Morgan - http://www.arrowdesigns.com/
Tracy Wittenkeller - http://www.t-worx.com/
Stan Shultes - http://www.vbnetexpert.com/

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