Archive for May 2009

Why Circuit City Failed, and Why B&H Thrives 05 May

“Even as competitors like Circuit City go bust, B&H remains packed with loyal customers. And that makes me very happy. For a business owner, there's nothing more satisfying than watching honest dealers expand their operations while the schmucks, with their going-out-of-business markups, go down the drain.”

From my Inc. column: Why Circuit City Failed, and Why B&H Thrives

Stack Overflow DevDays 12 May

Stack Overflow has been going nuts—after just six months in business, we’ve had 3.5 million unique visitors per month. We’ve starting thinking about how to get that great tribe of developers together in the real world.

We decided to launch a series of Stack Overflow events: the first gathering of the tribe of great developers making Stack Overflow so successful that over 90% of questions get answered [video].

It’s going to be in October, in five ten separate cities. In each city, we’re planning a one-day event.

We decided to cram as many diverse topics as possible into a single day event. Like a tasting menu at a great restaurant, we’ll line up six great speakers in each city.

This is not going to be just a Java conference or a .NET conference or a Ruby conference. This will be completely ecumenical. We’ll have somebody to introduce Microsoft’s new web framework, ASP.NET MVC, but we’ll also get someone to talk about writing code for Google’s new mobile operating system, Android. And in each city, we’ll find one local computer science professor or graduate student to tell us about something new and interesting in academia.

For smart programmers who are interested in learning about something a little bit outside of their own immediate field, this is the conference for you. We’re doing it in the spirit of Byte Magazine. Remember Byte? Every issue covered a wide range of topics and technologies. Sadly, Byte disappeared, to be replaced by Mac-only magazines, IBM-PC only magazines, even Microsoft SQL Server-only magazines.

The conference is for programmers. The conversation is going to be hard core. Speakers are going to be writing code.

Putting on these conferences is really expensive—conference centers can charge you $1000 for one urn of coffee. That’s why typical developer conferences can cost $1500, plus travel, hotel, and $73 for the Internet access in your hotel room. With the current worldwide recession, that just isn’t gonna fly. Many great conferences, like SD West, have been cancelled. Attendance is way down at the conferences that survive.

So I got together with Ryan Carson, whose company, Carsonified, has been putting on great conferences like FOWA, and we tried to figure out how little we could possibly charge for this thing. The answer: $99 per attendee.

That’s it. These one day conferences are just $99. You can bring your whole team for less than the cost of a normal conference.

We’re doing it in five cities, so you may not even have to travel. We’ve got room for just 300 developers in each city:

October 19 San Francisco SOLD OUT
October 21 Seattle SOLD OUT
October 23 Toronto SOLD OUT
October 26 Washington, DC SOLD OUT
October 28 London SOLD OUT

Update! Due to popular demand, we’ve added five more cities:

October 7 Boston
October 14 Austin
October 16 Los Angeles
October 30 Cambridge, UK
November 2 Amsterdam

Register for Stack Overflow DevDays right now. Given the huge demand and the limited number of tickets, I expect all five cities will sell out pretty much instantly.

OK, here’s the FAQ:

Who will be speaking?

I’ll be speaking in every city. Jeff Atwood will appear in San Francisco only. We will line up about six speakers in every city.

What will be the topics?

The topics haven’t been nailed down yet and depend on speaker availability. I’ll do my best to get speakers on as many of the following topics as possible:

  • Android
  • Objective C and iPhone development
  • Google App Engine
  • Python
  • jQuery
  • ASP.NET MVC
  • FogBugz 7.0
  • Mercurial and Distributed Version Control

Each talk will be fairly introductory but will be intended for advanced developers. If you already know about a topic, say, iPhone development, you can wander outside and hang out with the other iPhone developers in the hallways.

Is this the same in every city?

Not exactly. Some topics will be repeated—my talk will be the same in all five cities—but we may not have the exact same topics and speakers in each city. We aim to have at least one local speaker in each city.

I’m hungry!

Me too. I’m always hungry. Breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea are included in the price of the ticket. Half of the fun of this conference will be meeting other Stack Overflow members.

Where are the events?

We haven’t booked halls yet. The exact location will be announced. There is a small chance we may have to adjust a date a little bit if we have trouble booking a space.

Note: If your company is in one of these cities, and has a presentation space that is suitable for 300 people, we’d love to have you as a sponsor. Please email devdays@stackoverflow.com.

What should I wear?

Make a T-shirt with your StackOverflow identity and reputation (see sample at right). You can order them here or make your own.

Are there academic discounts?

There are a very limited number of subsidized student tickets at $10. Due to the cost of putting on the event, I regret that there are only a limited number of student tickets in each city.

How can I help?

Ah! Thank you for asking. We need lots of help to pull this all together.

  • We need volunteers in each city. If you live in one of these five cities, and would be able to help check tickets and just generally be useful during the conference, please email devdays@stackoverflow.com.
  • We need sponsors for the meals and breaks. If your company would like to be a sponsor, please email devdays@stackoverflow.com. This is a great way to recruit superstar programmers: sponsors will have the opportunity to set up recruiting booths at the conference.

I have more questions.

That figures. Email them to (you guessed it) devdays@stackoverflow.com and Natasha at Carsonified will get back to you.

 

Server Fault now in public beta 29 May

Server Fault is now in public beta!

When Jeff Atwood and I launched Stack Overflow last fall, we really wanted it to be a site for and by programmers. But the engine behind the site, the Q&A engine with voting, editing, and tagging, could obviously be used in a lot of other professions.

The first field we picked is close to our heart: system and network administration; as programmers, we often end up doing system administration ourselves. And it’s the perfect domain for a Q&A engine... there are a million detailed problems that depend highly on lore to get right. There’s no way to accidentally discover aspnet_regiis.exe -I until someone shows you the trick. How much time have you wasted trying to figure out which process is holding a file open preventing you from deleting an otherwise empty directory? Can you use dd to clone a disk drive?

Thus, Server Fault. If you already have a Stack Overflow account, you’re all set up, although your reputation score, badges, and favorite tags are separate. It has all the great features from Stack Overflow which I talked about at Google last month (video).

Jeff: “I am sorry to inform you that you may be a system administrator or IT professional.”

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