Questionmark Users Conference Day 2

questionmark I think today went more smoothly for me than yesterday, probably because I felt a little more comfortable having met a bunch of people. I still learned quite a bit too, so I am feeling pretty good about the trip as a whole. I think it was a worthwhile experience for me.

Sessions I attended today included an overview of our reporting options, a session exploring the ways to integrate Perception with other projects, and a couple of Q & A sessions. Again I was struck by the high level of knowledge that some customers have.

Tomorrow is the last day of the conference, but it’s really only a half day. The big news will be an announcement about the next version of our software, so that’s exciting!

Drinks with epodcaster! Wes, Greg, and Mack

After the conference ended today I had the pleasure of meeting up with Jennifer Navarrete and her family. Jennifer is a fellow podcaster, and we’ve been Twitter buddies for quite a while (she’s epodcaster). When she saw my status updates about being in San Antonio, she asked to meet up, and I’m glad she did! It’s always great to meet people in real life 🙂

Tonight’s conference event was pretty cool – they got us all into buses and took us to a place called Sunset Station. They handed out drinks as we walked in! There were nacho and fajita bars inside, and they eventually expanded into a dance room for line dancing and the like. Music wasn’t too loud either, so it was great to walk around and chat with people.

I don’t leave San Antonio until tomorrow evening, so I plan to do a bit of exploring/shopping in the afternoon. Should be fun!

Questionmark Users Conference Day 1

questionmarkToday was the first official day of the conference, and it was really interesting. The hotel we’re at (Westin Riverwalk) is a great venue because all of the meeting rooms are on the same level. We started out with a “birds of a feather” breakfast, followed by the conference kickoff and general session. Our CEO, Eric Shepherd, shared a number of company highlights. Notably, Questionmark turns 20 this year!

The rest of the day were breakout sessions. I attended a “Training with the Techs” session to learn more about assessment authoring with our Windows tool, a Product Central session to hear from customers about how we can improve our product interfaces, and another training session on reporting. I learned quite a bit at each one, not only from the Questionmark staff who were presenting, but from customers too. Some customers have an incredible amount of product knowledge, they truly are experts.

This evening was the “Dine Around” event. We broke into groups and ventured out on a photo scavenger hunt! Each group also had a reservation at a particular restaurant along the river walk. It was lots of fun! I can’t wait to see the slideshow tomorrow morning.

I’ve started uploading some photos to this photoset, but it’s slow-going. The upload speeds for the Internet here aren’t very good.

En Route to San Antonio

I’m traveling to San Antonio today for the 2008 Questionmark Users Conference, taking place through Wednesday at the Westin Riverwalk. I didn’t find out I would be attending until late this week, so the flight options were pretty limited. I was scheduled to leave Edmonton this morning at 6 AM.

I left my house a little later than I wanted to, meaning I didn’t get to the airport until just before 5 AM. That would normally have been okay (though cutting it close), except that the self-service check-in machines were all down. So I got in the incredibly long line and started to wait. I gave up on that after about ten minutes, jumped into the first class/business line, and pleaded my case.

The service agent was really helpful, and she helped rebook me on a later flight. Frankly I was fairly surprised at how busy the airport was so early on a Sunday morning. Anyway, I’m in Denver now, on a long layover. I should arrive into San Antonio tonight at around 6:30 CDT.

The great thing about the Denver International Airport is that they have free, ad-supported wireless Internet – something I wish we had in Edmonton. I’ve been using it for a while now, and it seems pretty quick. Uploads are really fast actually, faster than my connection at home, at least to Flickr! I uploaded a bunch of pictures from Megan’s birthday celebration last night. Happy Birthday Megan 🙂

More later!

Six months with the day job – no thanks to school

Post Image Today marks six months of me working at Questionmark. I started there in July as a .NET developer, and so far I’m really enjoying it. The work is interesting, and the people are great. After focusing mostly on Paramagnus for the last couple years, I was kinda worried that the transition would be painful, but it hasn’t been.

Of course, transition may not be the best word as I’m still working on Paramagnus too (along with Dickson). Not as much as I used to, obviously, but Questionmark has been very accommodating thus far. The first month or two was a bit difficult, but I have more of a routine now, so that’s good. The vacation last month was a nice break from everything as well.

I think part of the reason that doing both Paramagnus and Questionmark isn’t impossible is that I’ve never worked solely on Paramagnus. Until April of 2007, I was still a full-time university student! And all jokes about skipping class aside, it still required a fair bit of time and effort. So in a lot of ways I have just replaced school with the Questionmark job.

Those of you who know me well know that I do not look back on my time at the University of Alberta with much fondness. I really enjoyed the Economics courses I took and a few of my options were pretty interesting too. My computing sciences classes, on the other hand, were largely a waste of time. I always felt that the things we were learning about were entirely irrelevant! It still bugs me, because I love technology and I love software development but I absolutely hated most of the CS courses I had to take.

I’ve always wondered if any of the CS stuff I learned would be useful in a real job. None of it was at Paramagnus (except maybe the two database courses), but I don’t think that should really count, because I have complete control over our development and how it works. Questionmark should count though, right?

I can honestly say that if I had to rely on the things I learned in computing sciences for my job at Questionmark, I’d be completely screwed.

Instead of a Bachelor’s degree in Computing Sciences, I should have gotten the BFA in Software Development, as described at Joel on Software:

When I said BFA, Bachelor of Fine Arts, I meant it: software development is an art, and the existing Computer Science education, where you’re expected to learn a few things about NP completeness and Quicksort is singularly inadequate to training students how to develop software.

Imagine instead an undergraduate curriculum that consists of 1/3 liberal arts, and 2/3 software development work. The teachers are experienced software developers from industry. The studio operates like a software company. You might be able to major in Game Development and work on a significant game title, for example, and that’s how you spend most of your time, just like a film student spends a lot of time actually making films and the dance students spend most of their time dancing.

That sounds like it might have been useful! Better yet, screw university and just start a company. I mean it – I have learned so much from Paramagnus. I can’t imagine where I’d be had I not started the company. I certainly wouldn’t have a job at Questionmark.

Is it my fault for going to the University of Alberta instead of NAIT? No, I don’t think so. The U of A is supposed to give you the best education possible, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of preparing you for the real world. Will I look back twenty years from now and find value in the CS courses I took? Never say never, but I seriously doubt it. The tech industry changes too quickly.

I think the current education model for software development is horribly flawed. Very few people want to be computer scientists, charged with proving theorems and all that other crap. I think a lot of people want to learn how to develop software, from start to finish. I laughed at first, but I think the BFA in Software Development idea is actually quite good. It could totally work!

If I’m ever in a position to make it happen, I absolutely will try.