Microsoft Insider Dev Tour in Manchester

This week saw Manchester hosting one of the Insider Dev Tours of 2018, we had a great turnout of over 100 people joining us in the city centre, for a full day of content with lunch provided by Microsoft.

These are over thirty events being hosted in cities all over the world and are aimed at developers and IT pro’s who are on the Windows Insider Programme and/or are interested in seeing what features and enhancements are being shipped in the latest and next versions of Windows 10.
The events are run by local MVP’s (Most Valuable Professionals) and community groups with the content and demos provided by Microsoft, so it’s an intensive lap around the key features that Microsoft want to highlight for 2018 and based on sessions provided at last month’s Build conference in Seattle.

I did two sessions, one on Progressive Web Apps and one on Productivity Apps in Office365 and there was a host of MVP talent on show for the others – Pete Vickers, Peter Foot, Rob Miles, Robert Hogg, Rik Hepworth and Simon Jackson.

A big thanks to Pete Vickers, who put in a load of work to make the day the success it was, and also to Aden Earnshaw and Mike Irving, who gave their time running the registration desk and generally doing the unsung heroics on front of house.

If you want to follow any of the labs from the sessions, they are available here.

The robots are coming with cheese!!

Last month saw us meeting once again at Auto Trader for May’s DotNetNorth. We welcomed our old friend Rob Miles over from Hull to talk about his latest passion, dinky robots! Rob has been working on these things for a while and opened with a description of how he designed a little robot using stepper motors, Arduino boards and various sensors (after, of course, a couple of corny opening gags).

Rob has conceived these robots – called Hull PixelBots officially – to be easy to build with off-the-shelf (cheap) electrical components and even a 3d-printable chassis (although you can just use perspex or balsa wood). He has also written the operating system that powers the beasts called HullOS (are you detecting a theme here?); but is adamant that that sounds much harder than it actually is.

Rob then showed us a few demos and explained that using a few of the features in Azure, he could control the beasts remotely. If you want to see the presentation, it was recorded by our friends from Pusher – you can find it here

DotNetNorth review of 2017

I thought I’d do a quick look back at the events of the year for DotNetNorth as it’s been a pretty amazing year all told.


The beginning of the year saw our meetup membership exceeding 700. Our attendances had been growing slowly in 2016 and we were beginning to see the effects of the simple marketing tactics that our main sponsors Evolution Recruitment had been doing – a number of their consultants had been adding a short link to the group into their email signatures.

We had also nicely settled into using our latest venue; we made the switch to take advantage of a few things, such as a huge video wall for presentations, microphones and much easier access in the evenings. There were a few disadvantages – the space has a coffee shop alongside and the sound can carry quite far but in general it was a great fit for us with space to sit about 60 comfortably and a few dozen more at a stretch.

We also began a relationship with the guys at Pusher, who offered to come and video our talks to put on their website.


We started to see significant growth in our audience numbers in the summer with numbers reaching 60-70 for each session. The down-side of this, of course, is the cost of pizzas so we were pleased when we re-confirmed our sponsorship agreement with Evolution Recruitment.

We were also contacted by the events team at AutoTrader, a big employer in the city, who were looking at ways to raise their profile within the Tech community in Manchester.

After Oli and I took a visit to see the space we decided to run a trial event in June; this went well with the AT catering team excelling themselves in putting on a great buffet with drinks.

The opportunity to use AutoTrader came just in time as around this time the events organisers at Rise were let go and they declined to take bookings more than a month in advance.


In September we started a run of events at AutoTrader; being able to plan dates in advance with them meant we could schedule some great speakers and our audiences grew to around 60-70 each evening. We also ran a Windows Fall Creators Update launch event with a huge box of t-shirts being shipped from Redmond.

In October we ran our second Xamarin Dev Day which was kindly hosted by UKFast; they have a great theatre space with a stage and huge screen and a breakout area alongside. That event attracted people from as far away as Reading and London, just showing there’s an appetite for these kind of full day events.

We also joined the .Net Foundation Meetup Group, which means we’re now listed alongside 100 other .Net related user groups across the globe.

End of the year

At the close of the year we’re looking in great shape – we have over 1300 members on meetup and it’s growing daily.

Due to some changes in the community outreach programme at AutoTrader, they won’t be able to support us quite as comprehensively as they have in 2017, so we’re pleased to have just signed up another sponsor Dunnhumby; we’re also looking at some alternative venues to mix things up a bit, so we’re not dependent on a single host company and not demanding too much of them either.

We’re also pleased that two DotNetNorth attendees have set up their own user groups – Luce Carter has set up a Xamarin group and Michael Dickens a F# group.

All in all, this has been the best year yet for DotNetNorth; we still have problems cropping up every so often, but I still get a great thrill when the message pops up to say ‘new .Net fans have joined your meetup group’. I especially want to thank the four people who help run the group – this really is a team effort and we could not have got where we are without the work put in by Pete Vickers, Oli Newsham, Mike Irving and Jason Holloway.

Looking forward to 2018 now, deep breath….


A bit about Dot Net North

As you may know, I am one of the co-organisers of a Microsoft oriented community ‘user’ group in Manchester called DotNetNorth. We run a monthly meeting in Manchester city centre with one or two speakers plus pizza (that’s Manchester in the United Kingdom).

When the group started it was run by myself, Pete Vickers and Chris Hardy and was aimed at building a community of Windows Phone developers; we didn’t see many people at the meetings but we built a small core of regular attendees many of whom have become friends.

In 2014 we decided to pivot into a less specialised group and we’ve grown since then to have almost 1000 fans on our meetup group.

Chris has since gone off to work for Xamarin in the USA so Pete and I now have the help of Oli Newsham, Jason Holloway and Mike Irving to keep the group running. Having a team certainly makes the events easier to host and run – we’ve all got different strengths and we use that to our advantage each meeting and it means people can find an ‘organiser’ when they need one.

This last year has been a pretty incredible one for us – we secured a year long sponsorship with Evolution Recruitment which allowed us to stop worrying about how to pay for the pizza each month and they also promoted the meetup site by adding a link to the email signature of all their consultants working with Microsoft related technologies. The company has been commendably ‘hands-off’ about the arrangement with one of their guys, Scott Barker, coming along each month (sometimes with a colleague too) just to chat to anyone who is looking to move jobs.

The group continues to grow at pace and we will soon be looking for a bigger venue to host the meetings and more sponsors to cover the costs.

If you’re interested in coming along or speaking at one of our meetings then you can see the event diary and/or send us a message at

HoloLens talk at DotNetNorth Manchester

Last night was the December meeting of DotNetNorth in Manchester at which the excellent Mike Taulty gave us a developers’ first look at the HoloLens. It was an eagerly anticipated meeting and we had just over 50 people in the room.

There’s some seriously powerful stuff going on inside the headgear and it was great to see people getting really excited about what HoloLens can deliver.

The group has been running in this format for just over a year and this was one of the best attended ones we’ve had – thanks to our sponsors and the team of fellow organisers.

DotNetNorth is a community group for techies in Manchester who are interested in Microsoft products. I’ll post more about the group over the next months, but if you’re local to the area and want to join us then head over to and join the group.