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CFUN-04: Who, What, When, Why?

Something for everyone

There are many excellent conferences and user groups for CFML developers, and one that consistently gets great reviews is Michael Smith's CFUN event, which will be held in the Washington, DC, area June 26-27. This preview gives you the 4-1-1 on the event.

CFUN is the national ColdFusion and Web programming conference that Rockville, MD-based IT firm TeraTech (www.teratech.com) hosts each June in the DC area. CFUN stands for ColdFusion User Network and, based on my experiences at CFUNs I have attended (and spoken at) in past years, there's plenty of opportunity for users to learn and network - and have fun doing it!

Conferences like this are important not just for what you learn but also for who you meet. There's a tendency for many developers to find themselves working in isolation. CFUN and conferences like it offer a chance to immerse yourself for a few days in best practices and fresh ideas while also connecting or reconnecting with friends and mentors in the community.

Many conference-goers find that when they meet the speakers (many of them nationally known) they're far more approachable than expected - and usually willing to answer questions even after the event.

The tutorials, keynotes, and lectures offer great insights and techniques, while the informal interactions that take place are of greater value for many. As one attendee last year said, "Without events like CFUN we become stale. With it, we're fresh!"

Plenty of Topics for Everyone
There are five tracks this year, with topics ranging from introductory to advanced, covering ColdFusion and Flash/Flex programming and more, as well as general topics applying to all, such as project management and accessibility. Here's the track rundown:

  • Bootcamp: Basic ColdFusion and Flash topics
  • Advanced: Advanced ColdFusion topics
  • Empowered: Fusebox and Project management topics
  • Accessibility: Creating Web sites that disabled people can use, Section 508
  • Integration: Flash, Flex, and other technologies integrated with CF topics
Some of the 42 topics include:
  • Oh Grow Up!: "Kiddie Scripter" to "Software Architect"
  • Working with Remote Data
  • Application Blueprinting
  • Deploying CFML on J2EE: Opportunities and Challenges
  • Component Development in Flash MX 2004
  • How NOT to Fusebox - Lessons from the Trenches
  • Integrating ColdFusion with Microsoft Office
  • How to be a Guru Coder
  • HTML Markup for Accessibility You Never Knew About
  • Leveraging Macromedia Flex and ColdFusion MX
  • Integrating Flash with Fusebox
  • Creating Accessible Web Forms
  • CFMX XML Tricks and Traps
  • XSLT for Data Manipulation
  • CFMX - Strange But Not True
  • Managing ColdFusion Projects
  • User-Defined Functions
  • Advanced Topics in Custom Tags, UDFs, and CFCs
  • CFDJ Panel
  • Practice Safe Stress
  • Java for ColdFusion Programmers
  • SQL Server Reporting Services
  • Introduction to SQL Server 2000 Security
  • Mach II at Macromedia
  • CFC Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks
  • CSS for Better Sites
  • Variables and Conditions
  • And many more!
Networking Opportunities Galore
If you're looking for work, CFUN is a fantastic place to market your skills and connect with consultants and development firms. Discuss the market, where it's going, and what you can offer in it. Sure, the job market's tight and most everyone's been affected, but there are companies looking for the right people. Investing in a conference like CFUN demonstrates commitment to your future and can give you an edge in getting a job. (I recommend you get your résumé and portfolio together before the event so you're able to follow up fast on Monday morning with any leads you get!)

CFUN isn't a "party," but I expect you'll have fun learning and meeting people. It's an opportunity to integrate into (and ingratiate yourself with) the great ColdFusion community while learning new stuff too. If you're a consultant, or looking for one, or just want to network with others in your position, it's one of the best ways to meet a lot of folks. At the end of the conference you'll be exhausted. You'll have learned a lot, made new friends and contacts, and have a pocket full of business cards!

In addition to meeting the local folks, you'll find guru programmers, authors, and other important players in CF who come to the DC area for CFUN. People who can't afford the big conferences can still share in the experience and reap the rewards of spirit, motivation, education and, most important, bringing the local community together for a weekend to connect in person.

Then again, people have come to attend from far and wide (even from Canada) because of what they've heard or experienced.

Serving the Community Since 1999
CFUN started in 1999 when TeraTech and the Capital PC User Group (CPCUG) organized the first CFUN conference at the NIH headquarters in Bethesda, MD. Over 900 people registered or walked in, filling the Masur Auditorium to overflowing. A second room (the Lipsett Amphitheatre) was set up with a live video link so extra people could view the proceedings! Since then there has been a CFUN conference each June.

Since moving the conference to new hotel facilities the number of speakers has grown from 12 to 30, with a total of 42 talks, now offered in 5 tracks in concurrent sessions so you can select the topics that interest you the most.

The CF Doctor Is In
One of the staples of the conference is the CF Doctor, Douglas Smith (no relation to Michael), who has been at all of the conferences answering questions and giving advice.

Additionally, the conference has also had many of the leading vendors in the CFML space offering their wares and demos, as well as advice and often giveaways. And to help break up the educational intensity, each year there have been programming "fun and games" too (CF Jeopardy, CF Millionaire, and more). And there are always lots of door prizes, too!

Speakers by the Dozens
Speakers typically include many of the famous authors, list members, and other nationally known names in the CFML programming community. This year, Macromedia guru Ben Forta, who's written more books than many can count, will be giving a keynote on Sunday. Local authors Jeff Peters (Fusebox: Developing ColdFusion Applications and other books) and Steve Drucker (contributor to the first editions of Ben's seminal CF book) are speaking. And Microsoft .NET evangelist Geoff Snowman will be talking about new SQL Server features.

CFDJ magazine authors Hal Helms, Ray Camden, Simon Horwith, and Charlie Arehart are coming as well, and of course TeraTech's own Michael Smith will be speaking too. This is just a sampling of the many great speakers - 30 in all - giving 42 talks over 2 days. See the site (URL at the end of the article) for all the speakers and topics.

CFDJ and Other Sponsors
CFDJ will be hosting a panel where you can put your questions to the experts. Plus you can talk with CFDJ editor-in-chief Robert Diamond. Other sponsors with booths will include HostMySite, New Atlanta Communications (BlueDragon), activePDF, House of Fusion, and O'Reilly.

The local PC user group, CPCUG, will be staffing a membership information booth together with a local nonprofit, Byte Back (www.byteback.org), that provides training for people who can't afford regular computer classes so they can learn how to program and get a better job.

Conclusion
Again, there are many CFML conferences held each year, and each has its strengths. I personally love speaking at all of them. But here's what one attendee said about CFUN last year:

"The CFUN series of conferences is by far the best ColdFusion conference of the year. Each year, Michael puts together the most advanced and sophisticated set of ColdFusion topics and speakers to be found - anywhere - for any price. Nowhere else do you get to network with the real CF gurus and peers alike in a fun, friendly, casual atmosphere. The timing of the meeting couldn't be better, either. The early summer dates for CFUN provide an excellent 'opposite end of the year' opportunity to see what's going on with ColdFusion and the Macromedia world. Year after year, the meeting provides a first look opportunity with CF Server and Fusebox product releases. Best courses, best learning, best timing, best networking, best price - best meeting. Period."

The CFUN-04 ColdFusion user conference is being held Saturday, June 26, through Sunday, June 27, from 8am-5pm in Rockville, MD. The cost is $269. Full details and registration information are at www.cfconf.org/cfun-04.

More Stories By Charlie Arehart

A veteran ColdFusion developer since 1997, Charlie Arehart is a long-time contributor to the community and a recognized Adobe Community Expert. He's a certified Advanced CF Developer and Instructor for CF 4/5/6/7 and served as tech editor of CFDJ until 2003. Now an independent contractor (carehart.org) living in Alpharetta, GA, Charlie provides high-level troubleshooting/tuning assistance and training/mentoring for CF teams. He helps run the Online ColdFusion Meetup (coldfusionmeetup.com, an online CF user group), is a contributor to the CF8 WACK books by Ben Forta, and is frequently invited to speak at developer conferences and user groups worldwide.

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