Merry Christmas to all and a reflection on how I got into the community…

Christmas is a time that you catch up with old friends, spend time with family and the like.  I class myself as fortunate to have so many friends both here at home and around the world in the virtual community.  I’ve got friends from all kinds of different backgrounds.  The one thing in common with them all is that I’ve met so many of them via the online communities.  Back in 1995 I first got into online communities when I was installing Exchange v4.0 for the first time.  I found a mailing list focused on Exchange issues run by a guy called Peter Bowyer (if member serves me correctly).  This list had a huge amount of knowledge on Exchange and I was trying to get something working between Exchange and MS Mail.  I was provided the answer via this list in a very short time and I was able to solve my problem.  Some weeks later another new soul asked the same questions and this time I was able to help them out with the answers… then I had a post from one of the list gurus (I think it was either Ed Crowley or Ed Woodrick) saying “that’s 100% right Wayne” and I felt good about having helped someone else.  This was really my introduction to the online community overall.  The feeling of an “atta boy” from someone I considered to be a “god” was huge and addictive.  Shortly after this SBS 4.0 was released and I found an SBS mailing list run by a kind old soul called Grey Lancaster.  Grey is a real gentleman and hails from South Carolina. He ran this list of a mail server that was owned by one of his clients.  Anyways, I started asking a few questions and before long was answering a heap of them too.  I met more people on this list, Steven Teiger from Israel, Calvin McLennan from Canada and a whole heap more people.  Many of these people were just names, but over time they became much more than that.  The SBS list morphed into an egroups list and then later into a yahoogroups list.  The one thing that has remanied the same overall is the sense of tolerance and community.  I think that Grey instilled that into us and helped us grow as human beings.  He taught us to be patient, he taught us to be tolerant of the new user.  He also taught us that we had to teach people how to fish rather than to feed them all the time.  I started up a website called to provide a place to store all those tidbits of information that people needed to have.  I also started another yahoolist focused more on the consulting side of the SBS consultant called smallbizit.  Over time things got bigger and I was noticed by Microsoft as being of community spirit.  I was nominated for an MVP award and had no idea what that was all about.  I accepted and then later that year was invited to an MVP summit where I finally got to met not only Grey, but Jeff Middleton, Susan Bradley, Steve Foster and a number of other people.  I was sitting in the conference hall and there behind me was Ed Crowley and Ed Woodrick – one of which gave me the original “atta boy” that really got me going into this.  I then started Australias first SBS User Group nearly 4 years ago now – the Sydney group has grown over time and now has around 40 or so people to our monthly meetings – you can find out more here. I’ve been involved in trying to get usergroups going all over the world and have in conjunction with a few other like minded souls launched site back in September.  I’ve been to four MVP summits now and watched the ranks of the SBS MVP family grow from strength to strength.  I can say that this MVP family is something so very very different and I treasure the friendships I have with all of them. It’s been a great experience for me and my life is richer for this for knowing the people I’ve met along the way.

So in this time of reflection, take a moment to think about where you’ve been over the past year, the past 5 years and heck even the past 10 years.  Chances are you’ll think of people that you’ve not said hello to in a long while.  Drop them a line, an email or even a phone call.  Just don’t forget them because they are the reason YOU are the person you are today.

Happy Holiday season to you all – I wish you all safe travels and relaxation over this holiday break.

New look blog

Ok – so if your not up to speed, the blog looks different now – that’s because the underlying structure of the blog has been upgraded from the .text environment to the Community Server environment.  This was accomplished over the weekend by Susan and Chad – congrats guys on a job well done.  Now to start playing with the settings on it to get it just right 🙂

Media Centre PC for home – LCD TV selection.

My wife and I have been planning to redecorate our formal lounge / dining room – we don’t use it for these functions, but instead we’re using it as a home office / library.  Now we want to add another function to it and at the same time redecorate.  With our kids getting older now, we decided that we want to use this as a parents retreat / home cinema.  So I’ve been shopping this weekend to get some of the components.  I won’t bore you with the hassles we are about to go through with ripping up the carpet and laying a floating timber floor, or the problems selecting the right colours for the paint etc.  What I will let you in on is the selection of technology that is going into our home right now. 

We’re going to setup a Media Centre PC here in the library, and team that with a nice big wall mounted LCD screen.  I did quite a bit of investigation into the LCD vs Plasma debate, and settled on LCD as the selection for me – one of the prime concerns I had with Plasma was the screen burn issues that I’ve heard about.  We do plan to use the big screen with the media centre PC and I was worried that if we had plasma it would not be good for this.  So – once decided on the LCD screen it was off shopping.  There is a new big store opened up nearby in the last week, so they are having massive sales on everything.  Of interest to me were Harvey Norman, The Good Guys and JB Hi-Fi – all but The Good Guys were new to this location.  So I went along – my wife had set a maximum of $3000 for the TV purchase – I dearly wanted a 42” screen, but sadly they were out of the price range.  The 32” screens were in the price range, but I really wanted to see if I could go for the 37”.  After looking at the screens somewhat, I settled on the Sharp LC37GA4X as being the one I liked the best – I saw this in 2 of the three stores and it was the one that stood out from the rest.  It had an RRP of $5999-$6599 based on many stores.  I asked for the best price from one store and got it down to $4800.  I came home, did a bit of searching on the net, found that the people that had reviewed this screen loved it – even found some people that had teamed it with a media centre PC with great success.  The best price online I could get was $3800 here in Australia – good I thought.  I went back to one of the stores, and they under pressure from my wife gave me a price of $3500 which was higher than budget, but my wife allowed me to stretch a little (thanks dear).  I then went over to Harvey Normans and they price matched it.  Great – I was going to also buy my media centre PC from Harvery’s too, but in the end the one they had didn’t have a dual tuner hence I could not record two programs @ once.  Long story short – I’ve placed a deposit on the Sharp LC37GA4X for $3500 and pick it up Tuesday. 

In my next bit I’ll go over the selection of the media centre PC and then after that how we hook it all up.  I’ll need to integrate this PC into my SBS 2003 home network – the server already has 750GB of RAID 5 storage just ready for it.  Hope you learn something from my experiences.

Darwin Special MS Partner / End User Presentation

I’ve just returned from a quick trip to Darwin – my first visit there.  Man was it hot… we landed at 10:35pm at night and it was still 30c outside and sticky.  I was asked to be involved with Microsoft in presenting to the reseller community in Darwin about SBS – do a summary of the 2 hour network build and also present my spin on Dean Calverts excellent session on how he builds his business around SBS 2003 and a session on mobility around SBS 2003.  What I learned going over Deans presentation was that we do many things in a similar fashion and at the same time many things differently.  I’m going to be adopting some of his ideas into my business model in the future.

What surprised me about Darwin resellers was their initial reluctance to look at doing any real marketing.  Many of the Darwin SBS resellers are like I was a few years back – they get 100% of their business via word of mouth.  Now this is not all that bad – it tends to give you qualified leads that are of good quality.  The problem though with word of mouth marketing is that it’s inconsistent.  You can not predict when you will get your next lead, therefore if you are having a low time in your business, you can’t really do all that much to excite it and get it moving.  This is one of the key things that I feel has held back the growth of our business over the last few years.  The solution to this is to get involved in marketing – getting your name out there so that you can get a larger share of peoples mindset and business than what you already have.  When asked at the beginning of these presentations by Microsoft if the resellers would engage in marketing, only one or two people put their hands up.  I then had the chance to present a number of sessions based on my real world experience, and as part of that I presented Deans session.  I kept reinforcing to the audience just how we were doing marketing around these activities and how little effort some of it required.  I had a lot of fun presenting to this crowd, and they were all ears.  At the end of it, around half the audience now want to get involved in marketing activities because they saw that it’s not as scarey as they first thought.  I felt good about this because I felt that I had helped them see the light and the potential they could achieve with this.

We ended with the potential to start an SBS User Group in Darwin – Lucinda Hodges is going to head up the group for now, and we’re looking at the first meeting late January 2006 or early February.

Time will tell how they succeed with this or not.  I enjoyed my all too brief visit to Darwin