I’ve known Jim Duffy for almost 6 years now, and I can honestly say he thinks he’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. When I first asked Jim to do a NINE Questions interview, back in September, he was delighted to have an opportunity to talk about his favorite subject. Fast-forward 7 months and welcome to the longest NINE Questions interview ever. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you Jim Duffy.
1. Where are you from?
A long time ago in a galaxy far away... oh wait, that one's already been used. Though I wasn't born in there, I grew up there and consider my hometown to be Hollywood, FL. I lived in South Florida until 1992 when the wife and I packed up our worldly possessions and moved to our current hometown, Raleigh, NC. It was at that time that I founded my company, TakeNote Technologies. I cannot confirm nor deny any rumors about me descending from British royalty, Egyptian Pharaohs, George Washington, or from an extra-terrestrial life form that crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947.
2. Who do you work for? Give me the 10 second pitch on them. Why would I want to buy their product?
I work for the company I founded back in 1992, TakeNote Technologies. TakeNote is an award-winning training, mentoring, consulting, and software development company. TakeNote continues to serve the developer community with training in application development environments such as VB.NET, ASP.NET, Silverlight, SQL Server and not so much anymore, Visual FoxPro. We also partner with FarPoint Technologies (www.fpoint.com) and provide training for the Spread line of .NET spreadsheet components. Bottom line is TakeNote conducts public, hands-on, instructor-led training classes in Raleigh, NC and on-site training for national and international clients.
Why use our services? That's easy, because I said so. Geez, ask me a hard question next time. :-) Kidding aside, we understand the challenges involved with learning new technologies and try to make the learning process fun and engaging. On the software development side of the business we understand that we can't be experts at everything so we partner with some of the best and brightest developers around including Rod Paddock, editor of CoDe Magazine and owner of DashPoint Software (www.dashpoint.com).
You can find additional information about me, TakeNote Technologies, links to my blog (http://geekswithblogs.net/TakeNote), as well as training information, consulting information, and software development services at www.takenote.com.
3. What brought you to your current employer?
Because it's good to be King. I tired of the corporate life while living in South Florida and decided it was time for a change. While the idea of retiring to an island in the Caribbean and sipping margaritas all day sounded like a good idea, the bank account didn't think so. With the reality of the situation staring me in the face it was time to move to Raleigh!
When I founded TakeNote we were focused on providing the Visual FoxPro development community the best Visual FoxPro training available. I think we succeeded. Since then we have moved on to the .NET platform and have taken that same focus with us to .NET. We have helped many of the people who attended our Visual FoxPro training make the move to .NET as well. It personally brings me joy knowing that we're helping to make a difference out there in the development community.
4. You're well known as an technical educator (not just a speaker), but that's still a broad field... what's your specialty?
My current expertise is with Visual Studio, VB.NET, ASP.NET, Silverlight, Virtual Earth, SQL Server and Visual FoxPro-to-.NET conversions.
I consider myself a communicator who understands and can sling code. I've been told I have a knack for taking something that can be a complex topic and explaining it in simpler, more understandable terms. I use that skill to help developers learn about new technologies or techniques in our training classes (www.takenote.com), in articles in CoDe Magazine (www.code-magazine.com), as a radio show co-host (www.850thebuzz.com/compute), in interviews on DotNetRocks (www.dotnetrocks.com), in sessions on dnrTV (www.dnrtv.com), in user group and code camp sessions, and finally at developer conferences. The next conference I'm speaking at is DevTeach 2009 in Vancouver (www.devteach.com). While all that "communicating" is my passion, I also know that you have to work on real software development projects in order to understand what the typical developer encounters out there. I split my time between communicating and working on software development projects for our clients.
I co-host the Computers 2K9 radio show every weekend in Raleigh on 850 The Buzz (AM850). We take calls on a wide range of computer related topics and try to provide answers to the questions we get from the listening audience. Typical questions revolve around anti-virus recommendations, configuring wireless networking, hardware and software recommendations, and so on. I try to focus on developer related stories and topics.
5. You're a Microsoft Regional Director. What's that all about?
It's really pretty simple. I don't work for Microsoft. I don't have a Region. I don't direct anything. I'm a Microsoft Regional Director. :-) I heard fellow RD, Richard Campbell, tell that joke years ago and it stuck. I'm not sure if he wrote that or who did. Either way, I know I better credit someone because it's not mine.
While I could go on and on about what the RD program is all about I'll direct the readers to an excellent article on the subject by fellow RD Jonathan Goodyear (http://www.aspnetpro.com/opinion/2007/01/asp200701jg_o/asp200701jg_o.asp).
As for my ascension into the RD program :-) I wouldn't be here without the recommendation and support from my friend Brian Hitney. Brian is the Microsoft Developer Evangelist for the Carolinas. I'm honored that he considered the community contributions I've made worthy to join the ranks of some of the biggest names in the Microsoft software development community including Tim Huckaby, Carl Franklin, Richard Campbell, Michele Leroux Bustamante, Juval Lowy, Brian Noyes, Rocky Lhotka, Billy Hollis, Paul Sheriff, Mark Dunn, Guy Barrette, Steven Forte, Ken Spencer and the list goes on.
I've been in RD program for just over a year now and I hope my contributions to the program have been worthy of the honor of having my name included in such a respected and prestigious group of people.
6. Do you think we're hitting any kind of critical mass with all the Conferences, Day of This, Codefoo, User Groups, Camps etc...?
While I think that all the community events and activities are is fantastic, I do wonder how effective we're being drawing in new blood. I'll explain. I consider one of the primary objectives of the community efforts is to introduce new technologies and techniques to the developer community. While I know this is being done in user groups, code camps, and conferences around the country I can't help but wonder if we're continuing to talk to the same group of people. Case in point, I was emailing back and forth with a client that we had done some ASP.NET and SQL Server training for a few years back. I was reaching out to see if they needed any help with WPF, WCF, Silverlight, Windows Workflow, and so on. The answer I got back from what I consider a very talented, intelligent and competent developer was "I've downloaded Silverlight but haven't gotten a chance to play with it yet. What are WPF, WCF and Windows Workflow?" I imagine even more obscure but highly relevant topics such as Agile development and TDD are even farther off the
radar with developers like this. Obviously our community efforts haven't help this individual and I'm betting there are many more out there like them. The question remains, what can we do to reach beyond the group of developers we typically count on to be at each user group/code camp and bring in new blood? Anyone have any ideas?
So, do I think we're reaching a critical mass? I hope not. I think there are lots of developers out there who aren't even aware of all the FREE resources available to them in their community. Marketing, it's all about marketing and making sure the events are publicized well enough in advance in places that everyone will see.
7. Ok, so obviously you're a strong supporter of the local dev community, but that's just part of who you are. What's something the world doesn't know about you?
I like chocolate.
I like Diet Mountain Dew.
I like Dancing With the Stars (alright there, I said it... I feel better now!).
I like whiskey & ginger ale.
I like dogs.
I like the smell of freshly mowed grass.
I like thin mint Girl Scout Cookies.
I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
Have I ever told you that I passed on the role of Joel Goodsen in the 1983 movie Risky Business? Yes, that's the role that made Tom Cruise a household name. I hadn't told you that? Good, because I would have been yanking your chain. I passed on the role of Lana played by Rebecca De Mornay. :-)
Back in the early 2000's I did some standup comedy locally here in Raleigh. What I learned is that the money in the technology business is better. Then again, the fact I wasn't funny might have had something to do with that.
8. Any non-technical hobbies? What are they and why?
Let's see, years and years and years ago, yeah, a looooong time ago, I collected comic books. My very first comic book was The Amazing Spiderman #130 that my older brother bought for me. Yes, I still have and treasure it. Every so often I'll take out the collection and do some price checking. One of the most valuable ones I have is Silver Surfer #1. I've never had it professional graded but I think it's like near mint condition. I paid $12 for it when I was in 7th grade!
A hobby I really need to get back to is to finish the 1967 VW Beetle in my garage. It's been totally customized from front to back, so much so that now it's a 1967 Chevy Impala. :-) Seriously, wider fenders, new bucket seat interior, Centerline rims, new paint, and a killer motor if I ever get around to finish building it! I got bit by the VW bug (ha, get it? Bug? Never mind...) back in college. I've had a '68 Beetle and '73 Super Beetle and bought the '67 in 2001.
I'm a sports fan and love watching college football and basketball. I'm a huge University of Miami football fan and I live in college basketball heaven with the Duke Blue Devils, University of North Carolina Tar Heels, and North Carolina State Wolf Pack all easily within a half hour of where I live. Having played since I was a kid, I'm a big baseball fan and I'm lucky enough to have ballpark where the Durham Bulls play (yes, from the movie Bull Durham) within a half hour of my house as well. There's nothing like watching a baseball game with a beer in one hand and a hot dog in the other.
One last thing I enjoy is taking walks with our 14 yr old German Shepherd named [name omitted to protect her from identity theft!] . We've had her since we started fostering (and then adopting) her when she was about 2. Hard to believe we've had her over 12 years!
9. Last of all, any tattoos?
Ha! Me? Tattoos? None! You see I have this thing about needles and pain that just keeps me away from the tattoo artist like Superman avoids kryptonite. Oh geez, how much of a nerd am I? I just ended the 9 questions with a comic book reference...