Will "the Mighty" Strohl

Living the Dream… About Last Night’s Hackathon ODUG Meeting

PowerDNN sign with Nik Kalyani in the background When I first decided to start a DotNetNuke® user group, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do.  However, Brian Scarbeau beat me to starting the Orlando DotNetNuke® Users Group (ODUG).  In retrospect, that’s the best thing that could have happened.  When I learned that I would be taking it over, I went to every area user group meeting that I could attend to generate ideas and pick the brains of the other user group leaders.  In the beginning, I came up with some very general goals for the ODUG:

  • Spread DNN knowledge to any and all who want and/or need it
  • Give local people a forum to get help from other local people
  • Cultivate a comfortable atmosphere that promotes in-face social networking
  • Bring in speakers to speak to the group, and promote themselves

Those goals have since been updated.  They ended up getting much more grand in scope, and focused in idea:

  • Build a board of directors to allow the user group to live past any single “leader”
  • Cultivate local speakers
  • Be the most popular DNN user group
  • Be the largest DNN user group
  • Allow anyone in the world to participate and be part of the user group meetings
  • Hold an annual “code camp” DNN event
  • Bring in top-notch speakers from anywhere and everywhere

Size of the ODUG/ONETUG Meeting I think we’ve done a pretty good job of laying the foundation and accomplishing many of those goals.  However, the other night, I saw that I was much more ahead of my goals than I thought.  We had the largest ODUG meeting in history, and probably the largest DNN user group meeting in North America, ever.  I haven’t had a chance to finalize the count yet, because I am on the road.  But, the count is easily more than 50 people in attendance!  Only about 40% were DNN users.  It was incredible!

To be completely fair though, it wasn’t just the ODUG.  More on that later…


Nik Kalyani speaking at the ODUG/ONETUG Meeting Nik Kalyani and I first talked about him speaking to the ODUG a couple of months ago.  Between both of our busy schedules, we were not able to finalize any details until about 2 weeks ago.  Since that time, 1 week was spent planning, and the other week was spent marketing.  That’s not very much time for any event – much less a user group meeting looking to get 50+ people through the door.

The meeting format was meant to be interactive, and it was.  Basically, Nik’s presentation was meant to show people how to build a DNN module using the Model-View-Presenter (MVP) pattern.  This is something very new to the webforms crowd, but adopters of ASP.Net MVC already know what I am talking about.  Then, those who choose to participate further can create a very simple module using the MVP pattern, and submit it to the Hackathon website to be judged.  Three people will win, and the module specs are already laid out for everyone.

Grand Sponsor

During our planning, it was decided that we needed a few grand prizes that truly were “grand” enough to hold that label.  We settled on a cherry red Dell Vostro 3500, and two Acer netbooks.  However, in order to make that happen, we needed a “grand” sponsor.  Luckily, I found one in PowerDNN.  The folks there are HUGE supporters of DotNetNuke®, and one of the most popular DNN hosts around.  They really helped us up the ante, adding tremendous value to the meeting, which helped us reach our goals of attendance and swag/prize support.  (Not to mention the snazzy Hackathon t-shirts, like you see Nik wearing. Nearly everyone at the meeting received one of these shirts.)

PowerDNN: Official Sponsors of the Hackathon

Grand Surprise

It’s  no secret that I not only lead the ODUG, but I also am the VP of ONETUG, the local .Net user group.  In holding that position, I regularly speak with Esteban Garcia, the ONETUG President.  When I told him about our next ODUG meeting and everything it involved, he was so excited that he immediately asked to be part of it.  Very soon after, the ONETUG meeting that month was moved to pair up with the ODUG.  This was very exciting for me, as it really verified to me the level of importance and interest that this meeting could have to general .Net developers.  This also is helping me achieve one of my other goals, “spread the DNN word.” 

With the added support from ONETUG, it was clear that we wouldn’t be able to fit into our current venue.  So, we asked to move to the ONETUG venue, and we were very happy to get their approval.  If you don’t already know, they have one of the best meeting spaces that a user group could ask for, with: lots of tables and chairs, plenty of networking space, plenty of room for the speaker, open wireless with great bandwidth, and so on…  We can easily fit 70 people in the room, and more if people want to stand or sit on the ground (or more chairs).  In fact, we’ve passed that number recently at a ONETUG meeting.

Alex Buckles (ODUG) & Darinel Cabrera (ONETUG): Laying Out Door Prizes I want to sincerely thank all of the ONETUG board members for helping us merge the two user groups together, and getting the resulting logistics handled:  Esteban Garcia (President), Brian Mishler (Marketing), Darinel Cabrera (Membership), and JT (Treasurer & venue coordinator).  I’d also like to thank Joe Healy (Microsoft Developer Evangelist for Florida), and Jonathan Goodyear (local Microsoft Regional Director, a.k.a. AngryCoder).  They had tentatively planned a talk on Visual Studio 2010 this month for the ONETUG, and they allowed our user groups to get together instead.

One of the things that we had to do was coordinate the opening and closing announcements so that both groups were fairly represented.  I think we did a pretty good job.  Kurt Amstutz (ODUG Vice President), and Darinel Cabrera (ONETUG Membership) knocked it out.  We then had Alex Buckles (ODUG Marketing) and Darinel hold the door prize raffle at the end of the meeting.

During the Meeting

The meeting went well, and everyone showed up, despite the following challenges:

  • Different venue (ODUG’ers)
  • Different date (ONETUG’ers)
  • Different time (both UG’s)
  • Orlando Magic game traffic

Not only was Nik there to talk to us, but this event was also a webinar event, allowing anyone in the world to participate in the first ever Hackathon in Orlando, Florida.  If you didn’t read between the lines, that means anyone in the world is also eligible to win the grand prizes. ;)  I was supposed to be a moderator, but that didn’t work out very well, so I did the best I could by communicating to webinar attendees via twitter.  It worked quite well too.

Before Nik would begin speaking though, we have a section of the meetings dedicated to a segment called, “DNN Appetizers.”  This segment is intended to allow any member to get up and talk to the attendees for up to 10 minutes about how to do something cool in DNN.  Last month, Darrell Hardy did a great job of showing us the difference between DNN PE and DNN CE.  It was great!  This time around, it was my turn.  I decided to show the group how to install and use the Page Ear module by MarkIt modules.  This went very well, but I was very surprised and honored that Nik allowed my short demo to be on his webinar.  Thanks, Nik!

Whenever you have Nik booked as your speaker, you can feel easy, knowing that you have one of the best speakers that you can ask for in front of your crowd.  He didn’t disappoint this time around, either.  His demos went very smooth, and I don’t remember any bombs happening, now that I think of it.  His descriptions of all of the elements in DNN module development using MVP were very concise and thorough.  My only regret is that we didn’t have another 3 hours or so to let him go into deeper detail.  :)  Nik did a fantastic job!  If you missed the meeting or the webinar, shame on you!  :P

New Food & Beverage Sponsor

Signature Consultants Most of the Central Florida area user groups have really enjoyed a long relationship with KForce as their food & beverage sponsor.  Unfortunately, that relationship has ended at the moment for the ODUG.  The main reason all of the user groups chose to allow KForce to sponsor and continue to sponsor was because of their smash hit employee, Megan Hopkins.  She really understands what recruiting is all about from the client perspective.  Though, she’s no longer at KForce, she has since moved on to other opportunities.

Most of us in the work force really do not like recruiters, even a little bit, because they rarely appear to have our best interests at heart.  They more often seem to be busy filling meaningless quotas, such as getting as many resumes and leads a they can in one week, month, or quarter.  However, I believe it is much more beneficial to everyone involved to instead create relationships with the very people that they are trying to recruit and/or do job placement for.  Simply put, Megan “gets it.”  She really knows how to say and do the right things to keep her and her company at the forefront of people’s minds – in a POSITVE way. 

Signature Consulting Staff Picture For the reasons above, I chose to contact Megan and her company immediately after finding out that we had an opening for the food & beverage sponsor.  I fully expected us to be sponsored, but I didn’t expect for Signature Consultants to take the extra steps that they did.  First of all, they had their local reps show up at the meeting, and stay through the duration of it, learning what we do, say, and think.  Second, they brought and raffled off a $50 gift card (winner: Ron Miles, @lokheed, from the ODUG).  The final cool thing that they did was to fly in Megan for a reunion of sorts with the user groups here that she had forged such a great relationship with in the past.

Thank you so much, Signature Consultants, for really stepping up to the plate in a big way!  We are very proud to shout to the world that they are our newest and long term food & beverage sponsor for the ODUG.

Door Prize Raffle

Honestly, we had so many door prizes that many people left with 2 or more prizes.  There’s way too many to mention, but there were shirts, software, DNN modules, DNN skins, and so much more!  Some of the sponsors that we’d like to thank are:  Active Modules, DevExpress, Telerik, O’Reilly, HyperCrunch, PowerDNN, and so many more.  We really had one of the best user group meetings we have ever had, and they are one of the main reasons why.

After Party

After the user group meetings, we nearly always take a short walk to a nearby watering hole to sit, chat, network, and have a drink or two.  This is always a very fun time for both user groups, and without surprise, there is a somewhat different core group that goes to each.  We went to a local place called Latitudes.  This a bar that gets quite a bit of attention from so many people in the Orlando area for how fun it is.  This was my first visit there.  I must say that I was not impressed though.  Granted, when we first got there, there were few people there.  We had a group of about 15 people, and there wasn’t a server.  If we wanted a drink or refill, we had to walk to the bar to get it.  There’s no doubt we should get off of our lazy bums now and then, but this is not something that you’d prefer in choosing a location to hangout.  This became even worse though, once the Magic game ended, and the bar filled up.  One bartender, and a bar full of people.  No win.  Very simply, it was a big failure on their part.

I was also disappointed in the group of people that showed up.  Only the ODUG’ers chose to attend the after party for some reason.  No one else showed up.  This is highly unusual.  Hopefully, one of our ONETUG brethren will read this and let me know why. :)  All criticism is very welcome!


Will Strohl I began this post telling you about my visions for the ODUG as its leader.  After last night’s meeting I am very happy and proud to be able to share what we have done, and how we have gotten to the point we are today.  My visions and goals for this user group are nearly all met, and it is very satisfying to see.  After having a meeting with 50 or more people, I am seeing my DNN dreams come true!  Thank you so much to everyone who has helped to support myself and the ODUG.  You are all super stars in my book, and you’re the motivating power behind me.  Not having you around is my kryptonite.  (Circling back to the very cool Hackathon t-shirts!)

Thank you:  Esteban Garcia, Brian Mishler, Darinel Cabrera, John (JT) Torrey, Kurt Amstutz, Darrell Hardy, Sam McCloud, Alex Buckles, Joe Healy, Megan Hopkins, and most importantly, Kim Rausch.  She stands by and (not always silently) allows me and supports me while I dedicate myself to some of the meetings and events like the Hackathon.  In fact, she helped out at this meeting by taking all of the pictures.  I know I have left out people, and I am sorry.  Please bash me in the comments section below.  :)

I hope I have given you a good run-down of the meeting, and if you didn’t attend (and could have), I hope you’re jealous!  :P  Here are some pictures of the event for your enjoyment.  See you at the next meeting!

Click here for the Flickr hackathon slide show

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