VSTS Overview Talk at Wayne State University
I gave a presentation on Visual Studio Team System last night to about 30 students at Wayne State University in Detroit. I don’t think it was one of my better presentations, for a number of reasons, which I’ll lament here and attempt to improve in the future.
First off, this was an earlier presentation than most of the INETA talks I give, and was scheduled to start at 5pm. I scheduled my flight into Detroit to arrive at 2:30pm which was really plenty of time. I wanted to get to the room to present around 4:30pm so I could get set up, make sure everything worked, etc. Unfortunately, the nearest parking I could find was a couple of blocks from the campus building where I was to present, and I had the unfortunate luck en route of getting behind a semi rig that tried to make a turn onto a narrow bridge (that I wanted to cross) and got stuck, unable to make the turn, and with nowhere to back out (this being the start of Detroit rush hour, downtown). So… that set me back at least 5 minutes.
But I did get to campus, and I did park. I hauled out my MVP Swiss Army Backpack that has served me well for the last year or so, loaded with my Alienware laptop, power supply, and a Maxtor OneTouch external drive “just in case my computer died” with backup presentations and VPCs. Well, the Alienware bested the backback — one of the shoulder straps gave way. Luckily this was in the trunk of my car, so nothing fell any significant distance, and I could still use the bag, but I couldn’t sling it on my shoulder (the other shoulder strap, while still attached, showed signs of wear and I didn’t want it giving way as I hiked to the Computer Science building.
I’d allowed what I thought was plenty of time to get to the presentation on time, but now I was a bit behind, and I arrived at the room at around 4:50pm. I quickly set up my system only to find that the university’s projector refused to show any video from my computer. Normally I’m pretty good at getting projector’s to cooperate, but this being a school, the projector was not physically accessible, locked as it was in a metal cage within a heavy AV cart. No problem, the user group leader went to find help, and eventually (say, 5:30) we did get another projector that did work properly.
So, I went through my fairly brief set of slides, during which it began to dawn on me that my audience wasn’t altogether familiar with many of the things I usually take for granted, like unit testing. A quick poll told me that virtually nobody in the room had even heard of, much less used, NUnit or NAnt, two tools which bear heavily on many of the features of VSTS. So I stopped and gave a quick mini-presentation on the virtues of unit testing and TDD.
Finally, I got to the demo section (I really only had about a dozen slides, and was planning to spend most of my time on demos). At this point the most comical of technical difficulties I’ve encountered to date occurred — my VPC window refused to display on the projector. I messed with it a bit, changed settings, tried full screen, no dice. But! I did figure out that I could get it to paint on the projector if I wiped another window over it. It wouldn’t update beyond that (until another wipe was performed), but I was able to show, in a series of screenshots more or less, what I was doing for my demos, by wiping another window across my VPC window every few seconds. Needless to say this was somewhat frustrating for me and I’m sure for the audience, but I’m not sure it’s something I could have predicted. I am at this point about ready to go and buy one of those 3 lb portable projectors, but given that my existing array of gear already surpasses the weight limits of my luggage, I’m not sure I could swing that without resorting to a wheeled cart or something…
Anyway, I got some good feedback after the session and spoke with several of the students who assured me it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was (likely they were being polite). One student was very interested in the concept of continuous integration and unit testing and TDD and asked me a bunch of questions I was happy to answer — I think he may be a convert. Another was concerned about the current market for developers and wasn’t sure how to set out on his own since many of his friends were having trouble finding work. I assured him that there is plenty of work out there to be done, and that nobody doing ASP.NET work needs to limit themselves by geography. If you’re good and you know how to market yourself, you can find work with companies all over the country, or the world.