Boston Code Camp: Part II

On March 25, 2017 I attended Boston Code Camp 27 at the Microsoft Technology Center in Burlington, MA. This is the second part of the notes I took from the sessions I attended.

After the Hololens talk I ended up taking two sessions on presentations.

The Cure for Boring Presentations

The first was The Cure for Boring Presentations by Rick Pollack “The Presentation Medic.” Rick started his talk explaining that he used to work for Motorola and in one meeting, while he was droning through a long list of product features, his customer actually fell asleep! After that he decided to take some speaking classes. He now offers lessons so that others will not suffer his same fate. As you’d expect from a good presenter, there was more than just the text of his slides.

From my notes:

  1. Give your audience a reason to care. Instead of mentioning features, describe the benefit (save money, save time, etc.) Diagnose your audience’s problem and prescribe them an idea.
  2. Your presentation should make a connection, establish a context, and your ideas should contrast where they are with how you can help them.
  3. Go through your slides and make sure there is a “you” rather than me focus. For example instead of saying “My software runs 33% faster,” shift the focus to “You’ll increase processing speed by 33%”
  4. Use hyperlinks within your power point slides around key topics in case they catch interest and you have to skip ahead. Clicking a link is much smoother than hitting TAB 36 times.
  5. Number your slides for easy navigation.
  6. Forget the Jargon and use simple language.
  7. Don’t use the slides as a teleprompter.
  8. Instead of hand outs make a PDF they can download later via URL or QR code.

Rick also advised in always framing your presentation in the form of a story. Our brains are hard wired for stories and the information they convey will last longer. Be a confident guide while you spin the tale of who, what, when, where and why they should care what you have to tell them.

Put your audience’s situation that makes them uncomfortable with the status quo. Describe the situation they would find themselves in before and after an upgrade or what they will be facing with or without your idea.

Filter and distill your content. Only include what data is necessary to support the story. If you were trying to sell a muscle car to a guy who loves engines don’t bore him brake-pad details, focus on the horse power!

Finally, your “Big Idea,” the big take away needs to be memorable, repeatable & tweet-able.

ScreenCasting 101

Betsy Weber (@betsyweber) from Microsoft gave a quick half-hour presentation on screen casting. Each of her slides consisted of a funny GIF from giphycat over a bullet point of advice she had learned the hard way.

Before you record:

  1. Write out your script or at least have an outline.
  2. Turn off background programs like Skype, Slack, Steam, Discord, etc.
  3. Gather and prepare all the materials you will need.
  4. Practice and do a dry run!
  5. Clean up/off your desktop! Minimize the distractions you have to compete with.
  6. Use the now blank real estate of your desktop to enforce your brand!
  7. Clean your browser history to avoid not only embarrassment but also eliminate another distraction.
  8. When moving your mouse SLOW it down! No one wants to have to concentrate on that tiny pointer zipping around.
  9. Pause your recording when you need a break.
  10. People wont tolerate bad audio. Try pulling a comforter over your head while recording audio to reduce ambient noise.
  11. Write the script, record the audio, record the video in that order! Then combine them in editing.
  12. For a microphone you can get a Blue microphone from Amazon for around $50.
  13. Spring the $6 for the pop-filter. It makes a big difference.
  14. When recording audio, stand up and make gestures. Sitting down constricts your diaphragm and you’ll sound better.
  15. Don’t drink soft drinks or milk before recording as it will make you sound Phlem-y.
  16. When recording audio use a clicker, tap the mic or just be silent for a moment to “mark” the audio histogram to make editing easier. Think of it like the clapboards they use in films to mark a scene.

Some screen capturing tools you can check out include:

  • Jing – Free but imposes a time limit.
  • Snagit – $50
  • Camtasia – $199

Boston Code Camp: Part 1

Microsoft Technology Center, Burlington, MA
On March 25, I attended Boston Code Camp 27 at the Microsoft Technology Center in Burlington, MA. Although I’ve never done any .NET programming, the schedule listed some open source and professional development tracks I thought looked interesting. Below is a list of the talks I attended along with my impressions of the ideas and presenters. Where possible I’ll link to any of the presentations.

Living Breathing Digital: Bending Reality with HoloLens

I’d seen the hype about Hololens online and really couldn’t pass up seeing this thing in real life. Jason Ioffe from BlueMetal did a great job handling a demonstration that wasn’t easy to pull off. Jason was wearing the Hololens, which was tethered to his Mac book, that was connected to the projector; allowing us to “see through his eyes.”

The Hololens is totally self contained and equipped with sensors and cameras that constantly scan the surroundings up to a distance of 20 meters. It’s not a bulky, or awkward looking headset like the VR visors we had in the 90’s. A HUD (which we couldn’t see) was super-imposed on the glass looking out at the real world. You use your finger as a mouse, fully extended to hover and then bent to click. I have to say, watching him scroll and click through phantasmal menus made me think of little Danny in “The Shining”.

Jason took a “snapshot” of the room and loaded it into the Unity 3D SDK where all the walls, desks and audience members appeared as a 3D, gray, video game scene. Into this scene he imported “artifacts” from the Unity library like a sphere, a revolving doughnut, apple tree and a cartoon robot that acted as an interface to a speech to text virtual assistant.

Loading these artifacts back into the Hololens was were the presentation bogged down. It’s hard to keep an audience enraptured while you all sit there watch the compile, deploy, debug ritual play out in real time. Once he was all set we watched him shake the Apple tree. Digital apples fell from the tree, landed on a front row desk and then rolled onto the floor. Looking at the blue cartoon robot, who sat under the tree, he asked it the weather. The robot replied with a text bubble. While the artifacts could “interact” with the scene, they cannot, currently deal with changes in the environment. For example if the digital apple had landed on the desk, then I moved the desk, the apple wouldn’t follow the desk or drop to the floor but remain suspended.

The Hololens is a cool piece of tech and its sleek design holds up as a testament to Moore’s Law but outside of video games or niche specialized presentations (medical, miniaturization design) I have a hard time thinking of what practical applications it would be put to.