Today I got an email of my old friend Willem van den Broek. He pointed me to a major milestone in the Dutch Visual Basic community. This month we are celebrating our 20th anniversary! Unbelievable, we started the Dutch Visual Basic Group for exact twenty years ago! In that time I knew Willem from a thing called Fido Net, let’s say the predecessor of the Internet. With a couple of other people we decided to start a user group, publish a magazine and organize offline user group meetings. We started VB-Net, a Fido Net based Visual Basic community. We had the same goal: Teach each other and learn from each other!
My first published article was in our first Visual Basic Magazine. I wrote an article about Internet. I warned the readers to keep in mind the speed of the Internet connection and when you compare providers that you have to choose one who provides a local telephone number. You want to keep the the telephone costs as low as possible, of course. I explained what an e-mail is and what they meant with the World Wide Web. I showed that you can click on an image to open a new web page. I explained what a website is and pointed the readers to ‘Carl & Gary’s Visual Basic Homepage’, that time my favorite Visual Basic resource of Carl Franklin and Gary Wisniewski. (Carl is a fellow Microsoft MVP and still active in the .NET community, you know him perhaps as cohost of the popular podcast series .NET Rocks!)
After that first magazine I became a sort of Visual Basic API guy. Inspired by my personal bible, the Visual Basic Programmers Guide to the Win32 API by Dan Appleman, I wrote for years in every magazine at least one article where I described some very nifty Windows API calls. Like the one to delete your files to the recycle bin, including a dialog with a nice animation. For that time, really great stuff.
Willem wrote in the first couple of magazines about Windows Help. The technique how to compile these files, but he also explained how you could empower your own software with context sensitive help. Later on he upgraded this article series to support HTML help. As far as I know, it became the most popular download on our site. Not only our readers were waiting for the next issue, but also I was, as editor in chief, looking forward to the new articles. At that time it was so freaking hard to get information about our beloved Visual Basic or software programming in general.
After ten years Willem and I decided to go our own way. We didn’t want a paid subscription model anymore and we started VBcentral. With help of Arjan van Huizen and a couple of other enthusiastic nerds we grew rapidly. We organized VBevents and learned that a forum where people can ask questions in their native language, really hit the mark. We started to cooperate with other Dutch developer communities, like dotNed and the SDN. And up until today, a couple of my good friends are from these communities. Despite the fact that the way our community works today is completely different from the past and – honestly – how hard it is for us to attract people to our offline meetings, we think that we are still relevant. For offline events we really need to cooperate with the other Dutch developer communities; we complements each other. I think that together we are more than the sum of our parts. As VBcentral we must be innovative in connecting to our members. At the start of this summer we tried our first interactive VBwebinar about Visual Studio 2015. We all agreed that it was a huge success and should be repeated on a regular base.
And in all the years that I wrote articles and later on books, were I presented on user group meetings or on major conferences, were my goal was to learn people new concepts or techniques, I was the one who learned probably the most. I learned from passionate hobbyists new language features or obscure shortcuts. I learned from senior professionals the beauty of good software architecture. I learned that your soft skills and communication skills are just as important as your technical knowledge. I was able to meet people with the same passion as I have. I was able to travel to nice countries to attend or speak on great conferences. As a Microsoft MVP, I was able too discuss with very smart people at Microsoft in Redmond and help to make our daily based tooling and language a little bit better. And finally, I was able to start my own software development company.
Every day I can do what I like at most. Imagine what that actual means. Really priceless. And of all of this was not possible due to commitment I had and got from the developer community.