Past Meetings

The Guild's been around for a long time. It's kinda fun to see what we've been talking about for the past decade or so.

February 2020

We spend a lot of time on the list discussing how to save money on consumer items, like aftermarket toner, phone plans, internet service, insurance, etc. We talked about all that in person. Folks brought their successful strategies on negotiating with providers, tips on purveyors, donating/recycling, service provider recommendations and other hacks we tought were useful.


November 2019

Topic: Stop Data Mining Me: Surveillance Capitalism, Privacy, and some things we can do.

Companies still want to sell us stuff or even give us stuff for free, but it seems now that it's all a cover to get information about us and sell THAT. They basically demand our “permission” and then commoditize us. It's wrong on so many levels. Let's discuss. We'll be talking about how attempting to predict behavior based on data profiling can go wildly amok, why privacy matters, and some actions we can take to protect ourselves.


Debra Weiss heads drw Design LLC, a full-service web design and development firm. She is the Guildmaster for the Neon Guild.


September 2019

Semi-Annual Neon Guild Cookout

Burgers, dogs, all the sides, beverages, all for free.


June 2019

Topic: Road Map to Security Enhancements: What to do right now

Speaker: Tim Baker, Trend Micro

Last December, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a four volume publication: Health Industry Cybersecurity Practices (HICP): Managing Threats and Protecting Patients.

We reviewed how this industry-led effort can be used in all industries as a road map to plan next step security enhancements.

About our speaker:

As a Security Professional working for Trend Micro, Tim Baker helps his customers navigate through the threat landscape by providing innovative security solutions, education, and technical support. Prior to joining Trend Micro, Tim spent 15 years with one of the world’s largest Clinical Research Organizations where his global team focused on delivering highly available systems, message hygiene, regulatory compliance, data loss prevention and application security. As a system architect with over 25 years in the Information Systems industry, he has worked in a broad range of industries including health care, manufacturing, energy production, and financial services. He started in the technology field while serving in the US Army where he attended Fayetteville Technical Institute.


March 2019

Tidying Up Your Digital Life

With terabytes of storage readily available on hard drives and in the cloud, what do you delete when you have unlimited space? For most of us, the answer is NOTHING. How often do you look at the thousands of pictures you've taken? What about all those stupid videos that are taking up gigabytes of space that you'll never look at or share? Would you raise your hand if asked if you have more than 5 years of email? How about 7? How about 10?  Who's got a drawer full of old phones, tablets and laptops? Who's got cables, adapters and cords to things that you either no longer own or have no idea what they go to? 

We talked about all that, with a focus on photos, and gave some really practical solutions on ways to painlessly purge. 

Speaker: Jack Smith is the founder of the Neon Guild. He recently went on a journey to organize a huge archive of family photos, many that more than a century old. Lots were slides.


January 2019

JavaScript and Markdown Slideshows with RemarkJS

Presentation programs like Powerpoint are hugely complicated and hard to use. Why? Presenting a slideshow is usually very simple: click to advance a slide. Most of the complication of the program, therefore, is focused on authoring the presentation, but authoring a presentation creates no value. Only the talk itself creates value. What if the equation were reversed: presentations were easy to create so you could focus your effort on giving the talk, where all the value is to be found? That's what RemarkJS does, and in this talk Baron will show how it works.

Speaker: Baron Schwartz is the CTO and founder of VividCortex, the best way to see what your production database servers are doing. Baron has written a lot of open source software, and several books including High Performance MySQL. He’s focused his career on learning and teaching about scalability, performance, and observability of systems generally (including the view that teams are systems and culture influences their performance), and databases specifically.


December 2018

Mobile Development Frameworks: A Journey

Rob Cook is software engineer. He builds apps all day long. He's discovered there are a lot of ways to do it. Some are good. Some are more problematic. He's going to talk about several of the frameworks they've used (or not used) at his company and some of the reasons you would or would not go a similar route.

Speaker: Rob Cook is a Senior Software Engineer at 3Advance splitting his time between android, server and devops tasks. He has developed web and mobile applications using a wide variety of tools and enjoys learning and exploring new ways of solving problems. Rob has a hard time leaving things alone when there might be a better way. In a former life, Rob was a runner and represented the USA in three World Cross Country Championships. He also convinced his wife to ride a tandem bicycle across the country and is still happily married.


October 2018

Once Upon A Time: Using Story Structure For Better Engagement

Stories form the connective tissue of our lives. They’re our experiences, our memories, and our entertainment. They have rhythms and structures that keep us engaged. In this talk, we looked at how those same rhythms and structures can help us enrich and enhance the user experience and connect with our customers, whether they are internal or external. 

Speaker: John Rhea. John is a storyteller with design and development skills. By day he designs and builds websites and mobile apps, by night he spins sci-fi stories at StoryLab and counts his words carefully at He’s also a pineapple in disguise and writes zombie-themed web development books. He’s been lucky enough to collect a wife and eight kids along with six cats, four dogs, and a small army of fish. If he remembers to wear pants, it’s been a good day.


January 2018

JS Like It's 2018

Wait, you’re still using jQuery? That’s so 2013. JavaScript is advancing so quickly one of biggest problems for developers is an inability to keep up (“JavaScript fatigue”). Have you heard of ES2015 (ES6), ES2016, ES2017, Promises, React, Babel, Async/Await, or Webpack and wanted to learn more? In this session, Justin Schroeder, from Braid, discussed new features and syntax in the language itself, and talked about the tooling required to use the code in production today and long into the future.


December 2017

Software Disasters

At our non-holiday get together, we told some great stories about our own software disasters and what happened next. 


October 2017

Online Security

We'd been having a lively discussion on our email list about passwords, security and staying safe and private online. We needed to talk about that in person. We shared strategies that are working for us and our clients. 


September 2017

Neon Guild Semi-Annual Cookout

Burgers, dogs, veggie options, all the sides, beer and soft drinks, all for free. And this time, super-yummy smoked chicken!


June 2017

Topic: Google I/O Extended!

Starrie Williamson is the Google Developer Group liaison for Central Virginia and returned from a weeklong conference in Mountain View, California. She and co-organizer Anson Parker  walked us through the highlights of Google I/O.


May 2017

Topic: Network Security | Securing Wordpress

No company wants to experience a data breach, yet they happen all the time. While larger companies can often absorb these incidents, the average small business closes their doors within six months of a cyber-security event. What’s worse is that the vast majority of these breaches were active inside the network for months or, sometimes, for years. Evidence of a security compromise was there all along, had a qualified expert been looking for it. It's shocking to learn, but 60% of cyber attacks occur at small and medium sized businesses.

Lorri Haney, Vice President and Managing Partner at Advanced Network Systems ( talked about what they're seeing out in the field and educate us about some tools and resources for securing networks at work and at home.

As the most popular web publishing platform on the internet (by a large margin), WordPress is a popular target for hackers and spammers. WordPress is known for being one of the most user-friendly website platforms available online, but out of the box WordPress is terribly vulnerable to attacks. According to WP White Security, more than 70% of WordPress installations are vulnerable, and it takes a malicious attacker only a couple of minutes to run automated tools that can discover such vulnerabilities and exploit them.

Elizabeth McMartin ( hosts a lot of Wordpress sites. She told us what happened when the first one got hacked, how it changed the way she does business, and she showed us about the tools she's found that are effective at keeping the bullies away.


February 2017

Topic: Phone, TV, Internet: Rants, Raves, Resources

It seems like a lot of us walk around in a state of low-level anger (or rage) toward the providers of our communication and entertainment services. Still have a landline along with cell service? Are you caught in the Comcast web of bundled services? Do you use a VOIP service? Is Ting in your neighborhood?  Do you get TV with an antenna? What's your recipe for the best services at the cheapest prices? We all shared our resources.

December 2016

Taming the Mobile Monster: AMPing Up Your Pages

We discussed the monstrous state of the mobile web, what accelerated mobile pages (AMP) are, what they do, and how to build our own.

Speaker: John Rhea


November 2016

Stop Starting, Start Finishing - How Kanban maximizes IT Customer Value

Kanban is the latest in the suite of Agile methodologies that’s very easy to adopt. All the principles scale to what is called ‘personalkanban’—ideal for people who don’t work on teams or whose work doesn’t follow a predefined workflow. This session demonstrated how Kanban can help teams focus on the highest value work and drive to delivery.

Speaker: Andrea Ross


September 2016

Semi-Annual Neon Guild Cookout

Burgers, dogs, veggie burgers, adult beverages, all the sides, all for free.


June 2016

Topic: The Gig Economy: Good or Evil?

There is no one name—whether sharing economy, gig economy or on-­demand economy—that captures the diversity of this disruption. But it’s clear that the demand for this way of working and consuming is profound.

Is it that a small group of founding entrepreneurs comes up with a novel way to get rich, then builds their companies on the backs of under-compensated, unprotected workers who are easily replaceable?

Or, is it an opportunity for self-determination, entrepreneurship, and the freedom to work on your own terms, when and where you desire?

We had a lively conversation about this topic, and Debra shared a bunch of sites that enable folks to monetize a lot of odd stuff. See the list below.

Moonlighting and Thumbtack: Both these site offer all kinds of activities for hire, some of which can include web/tech jobs. What’s different about these sites compared to Guru, Rent-a-Coder, Upwork, etc., is that you’re getting leads LOCALLY, not competing against folks from third-world countries.

Want to AirBnB your DOG? See: Rover and DogVayCay.

Vayable: Discover and book unique experiences offered by local insiders. In other words, if you know an area well, you can set up your own private tour business.

You can rent out your bike, skis or surfboard when you’re not using them on Spinlister.

Make money from clothes that are just sitting in your closet by signing up for Poshmark.

Sell photos on Foap. Maybe. Download the Foap app, upload your photos and make them available for purchase on Foap Market. For each photo you sell you make $5 and you can sell the same photo an unlimited number of times. They also have Foap Missions, which are photo assignments disguised as contests. Winners get paid more, like $100.

Field Agent does mobile audits and research for clients. They crowdsource the research by using Field Agents, whom they send on “missions” and pay.


February 2016

Topic: Lego Serious Play

This was such a fascinating and fun meeting. Yes, there were legos, and we did a lot of serious playing.

The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology is an innovative process designed to enhance innovation and business performance. Based on research which shows that this kind of hands-on,minds-on learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities, the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology deepens the reflection process and supports an effective dialogue – for everyone in the organization. The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology is an innovative, experimental process designed to enhance innovation and business performance.

Facilitators: Joe Snyder and Joan Gammon

Certified as a LEGO Serious Play Facilitator, Joe is a seasoned IT Professional with broad, diverse experience in Project Management, Agile Coaching, and Training for organizations including Financial Services, Health Care, software development, and Government Agencies. He has a strong record of achieving outstanding strategic and tactical results in large and small enterprises across a wide spectrum of operational initiatives and functions. He is successful at building strong teams and facilitating consensus to bring order out of chaos and delivering predictable outcomes through developing and managing relationships. He has wide-ranging experience in enterprise transformation to adopt and implement agile methodologies.

Joan Gammon has been helping teams develop software since 1999. She has experience working with small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies in a range of industries. With expertise in Agile, Kanban, and Lean methods, Joan holds multiple certifications in Agile and waterfall, scaled Agile, coaching and facilitation, as well as being a certified Lego Serious Play Facilitator. She has helped organizations transform their waterfall teams to agile delivery teams, and assisted agile teams to move from good to great. Her passion is helping teams and individuals develop beyond “doing” Agile and move to “being” Agile. She has been actively involved in the Agile community since 2011 running the user group, Agile Richmond, and has been co-producer of the annual Innovate Virginia conference in Richmond, Va. since 2012.


December 2015

Topic: Give it!

The holiday season is a time of giving, so we played along. Folks brought used computer equipment that we donated to Computers4Kids.

This meeting was NOT a “holiday party”. Although there was eggnog there. And some real booze to go in it.


October 2015

Topic: Transitions

Speakers: Max Schubert and Hillary Ritt

Max and Hillary spoke about transitioning to Agile from waterfall in both large and small company settings, and about transitioning to a leader from being a producer.


September 2015

The state of the IT job market

Earle Killius and Andrew Dodson from Computer Resource Team in Glen Allen told us what’s happening in the job market in tech right now. It’s always good to know what opportunities are out there, how marketable your skillset is, and which skills are in the highest demand right now.


June 2015

Neon Guild Semi-Annual Cookout

Burgers, dogs, veggie options, all the sides, beer and soft drinks, all for free.


April 2015

This one was a get-together to check out a new venue, Studio IX.

STUDIO IX is a coworking space in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. They serve freelancers, entrepreneurs, and remote workers with a flexible shared office environment designed and managed to cultivate a collaborative community.

Co-founder Natalie Barton was our host, and we all had a great time.


March 2015

Topic: Open Data

The state’s register of corporations isn’t public data—you’ve got to pay them to license it, and only six customers bother. But it turns out to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually to governments throughout Virginia. Waldo explained how he stumbled across this, and what he’s doing to put that data into the hands of governments to close budget gaps.

Speaker: Waldo Jacquith

Waldo Jaquith is the director of U.S. Open Data, a non-profit organization building the capacity of open data and supporting government in that mission. In 2011, in acknowledgement of his open data work, Jaquith was named a ‘Champion of Change’ by the White House and, in 2012, an ‘OpenGov Champion’ by the Sunlight Foundation. He went on to work in open data with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He’s been a Guild member since 1996.


January 2015

Show and Tell!

The Neon Guild is all about sharing what we know and learn. If you are on the mailing list, it’s hard not to be amazed at the breadth of know-how, creativity and pure brain power displayed in our group!

Folks came and did a show and tell about ONE website, book, app, widget or concept that enhances their life. We had a couple food demonstrations that were fun as well!


December 2014

Topic: Captain Phone Gap and the Web Avengers: Saving Budgets and Kickin’ Apps

Does building an app for your company cost ten times your annual salary? Do you want to build apps without re-learning all of technology? Want to do cool things with a device’s capabilities, but only have web skills?

PhoneGap allows you to build near-native applications using your shiny web skills. We’ll talk about what you can do with PhoneGap, its superpowers, its Kryptonite, and how it could save your neck from the mighty jaws of budget woes while still delivering a near-native experience on the platform of your choice.

Guilder John Rhea gave a really entertaining and enlightening presentation.


November 2014

Topic: It’s About Time

Speaker: John Feminella

Do you know what time it is? Well, you could ask a computer—but you may not get the right answer. Despite our ideas of the representations of time in computers having been settled for a few decades now, we’re still making the same mistakes over and over in software.

In this talk, we’ll explore the common gotchas around times and dates as implemented in a number of programming languages, and with computing in general. Along the way, we’ll tell you what a calendar is (it’s more complicated than you might think!), cover the subtle but critically important distinctions between time zones and time offsets, and hopefully allow you to remain sane the next time you look up today’s date.


September 2014

Topic: The Privacy Fallacy

Speaker: Jack Smith

Internet privacy is an oxymoron. It doesn’t exist and never did. But is that a bad thing? What do we lose and what do we gain by giving up information about ourselves? Jack will take a short look back at the concept of privacy (anyone remember telephone party lines?) and consider where we are now. Does it matter that Google (or Yahoo or any number of businesses) read our mail or scan our documents? Should we care that our cell phone or
tablet is a tracking device? How big of an issue is it that we don’t know who has our information or what they’re doing with it? Jack provided a few suggestions for improving privacy, but the overall goal was a candid discussion about the reality (and fiction) of Internet Privacy.


August 2014

Topic: DevOps

From our speaker:

“The definition I like most is that DevOps is about empathy, and what I mean by that is that developers and system admins need to empathize with each other, realize they are both on the same team, and communicate with each other to effectively resolve IT operations issues. DevOps is also considered a trend in IT around adopting tools and techniques such as “Continuous Delivery”, “Infrastructure as Code”, “Platform as a Service”, “Configuration Management” and “Automation” with the end goal of being more efficient at delivering software. In my opinion, I think both definitions are not wrong.

“At VividCortex we believe in DevOps. Once a developer ships their code to production they still own that code. If it’s not functioning right it’s still their responsibility and they must collaborate with operations to resolve the issue. On the operations side we are all about giving developers the tools they need to diagnose problems on their own. In the case they need help, we are willing and able. I can share real examples of how DevOps allows us to be a highly effective IT organization.”

Speaker: Owen Zanzal

Owen Zanzal is a developer at VividCortex, where he is on the operations team putting the dev in DevOps. In his career he has worked on just about every aspect of the Stack and uses that experience to find the best solution for the job. At VividCortex he has defined the continuous delivery pipeline, automated server configuration using Ansible, and has redefined operations by introducing ChatOps. He is passionate about sharing his experiences and learning from others. He as recently started DevOpsCV—a regular DevOps meetup taking place in Charlottesville. When Owen’s not hacking, he enjoys traveling, playing the guitar, and home brewing. He is a self-professed craft beer snob.


May 2014

Neon Guild Cookout!

This was our semi-annual event. Burgers, dogs, brews, all the sides, all for free, always fun.


March 2014

Title: Appropriate Software Communications: Email, SMS, Voice, and Push Notifications

Speakers: Matt Makai, Arin Sime

Matt Makai covered the advantages and disadvantages of different communication methods and when to use them properly. Matt is a developer evangelist from Twilio and a graduate of UVa and JMU.

Arin Sime followed up Matt’s presentation with a discussion of Pub/Sub messaging and WebRTC for real time audio/video communications in the browser. Arin is founder of design and development shop AgilityFeat, which is based in Charlottesville and Central America.


February 2014

Title: Enabling Generational Wealth for Good / Roll your own open-source hedge fund

Speaker: Michael Blinn

Charitable giving is fundamentally broken. Though any donors give money episodically, and are immediately and forever petitioned for more. Many charities live hand-to-mouth, so in order to survive they must devote time and money chasing donors. The system is wasteful. is a local open-source project devoted to the idea that there’s a better way to make charitable donations. In this talk we’ll detail the what, why and how behind the technology that lets donors donate, invest, and build endowments to fund their favorite charities, and why you should care.


January 2014

Title: “A Fistful of Bitcoins: How Cryptocurrency Works”

Speaker: John Feminella

Bitcoin, as almost anyone who’s been reading the news can tell you, is some kind of new fangled money whose value fluctuates wildly. Specifically, it’s an open-source peer-to-peer protocol and cryptocurrency. But what does that actually mean?

In this talk, we learned you how cryptocurrency like Bitcoin works; the limitations and advantages of physical money over digital currency, and vice versa; and describe why anyone might want to use it or care about it.


December 2013

TOPIC: Crowd Funding. What is it? Can it work for you?

Speaker: Dale Strickler, MBA

From Dale Strickler, an entrepreneur and veteran of 4 crowd-funding campaigns we had a talk about the intricacies of starting and running a successful campaign.

After two semesters at Darden studying it, consulting on 4 campaigns, and preparing to launch his own, Dale ran through a presentation, data analysis and provided links pulled together from his time at Darden. Also he gave the Neon Guild a preview of his new gaming brand’s campaign - launching soon! We had an engaging discussion about the topic and encourage questions.


November 2013

Topic: Marketing Your Business - You’re doing it wrong.

This month’s topic is inspired from a recent article in the New York Times:

Riding the Hashtag in Social Media Marketing

It’s about this guy named Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s actually the “speaker” at our meeting. We will be watching one of his talks. He says a lot of things that will make you think about your own attitude regarding social media and what it takes to market a business, service, brand, and products in 2013.

We had a discussion after which was quite thought-provoking.


October 2013

Topic: Treasure Trove at the Library?

Guilder Jackie Lichtman and staff from the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library amazed us with all the awesome FREE things you can get through the library. Stuff you don’t have to visit a branch to get. Stuff that usually costs money—sometimes a lot of money.


August 2013

Semi-Annual Neon Guild Cookout

Burgers, dogs, brews, all the sides, all for free, always fun.


May 2013

TITLE: A gentle introduction to the Go programming language
Speaker: Baron Schwartz

Baron says:

“It seems that every time I tell someone we’ve chosen Go as our primary language at VividCortex, they respond with something like “I’ve heard about Go! Neat! What is it like? Why did you choose it? Are you happy with it?” The answer is that Go is a fascinating language that’s working great for us. After many years of programming in everything from C to Java to C# to Perl to LISP to Shell, I’m pretty much in love with Go. There are particular reasons I chose it for our special use case, but beyond just niche considerations, it’s working great as a general-purpose, high-performance, very productive systems language. I’ll try to contain my enthusiasm and tell a story about evaluating it, learning it, and then learning it more deeply.”

About our speaker:

Baron is CEO and co-founder of VividCortex, a Charlottesville systems monitoring and performance management startup. He wrote High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software. He’s previously worked at the Rimm-Kaufman Group and at Crutchfield, which makes him one degree of separation from everyone in town.


March 2013

TITLE: The Timelessness of Lean Management Timeless? Lessons from the Field.
Speaker: Sanjiv Augustine, President, Lithespeed

Agile development methods like Scrum, XP, and recently Kanban have achieved notable success in improving speed to value, reducing waste, and raising customer and team satisfaction. Successful practitioners worldwide have cut development times, improved product quality and reduced engineering cost. Notably, underlying the agile methods are timeless Lean principles, including: focus on customer value, respect for people and continuous improvement. Sanjiv Augustine describes how agile teams in various organizations are implementing Lean management. Learn the basics of Lean, including its origins in the Toyota Production System, and how to apply Lean to software development with the disciplined practices like automated build-and-test and test driven development.


January 2013
Topic: Fail Early with Rapid Prototyping

Stop sketching on the whiteboard and start sketching in code! Doug Turnbull showed us how a prototype is a great way to communicate ideas—giving an invaluable window into what’s possible, what ideas should be pursued, and what mistakes can be avoided early. Through sharing his experiences, Doug discussed the risks and benefits of prototyping, best practices for developing prototype software, and how to walk the careful path from prototype to product.


November 2012
Title: Lies, damned lies, and statistics

John Feminella examined several of the most common tricks people use to lie with statistics. He also explained how you can dissect statistical statements to get to the bottom of things. By the end of the talk we were armed to deal with and respond to the worst kinds of statistical shenanigans (or more nefariously, to mislead our own future audiences).


October 2012
Topic: Transition and Cultural Change: Organ Transplants

Bob Mead gave a fascinating presentation about one person’s personal experience with organ transplantation, organ transplantation policy, its impact on transplantation and software development to support the transplant community, and the cultural change moving from phased software development methods to agile software development methods.


September 2012
Topic: Business Communications

Debra Weiss gave a presentation on how to be less annoying to others when communicating via email and voice, as well as the disturbing statistics on texting and talking while driving.


June 2012 - Cookout!


May 2012
TOPIC: An APPstravaganza!

Guilder Charles Knight came back to Cville (from Philly where he now lives) to show us the best of iPhone/iPad apps, many of which have Android counterparts. Projected on the screen they were really impressive and fun to see.


March 2012
something that we all think and talk about incessantly.
We focused on three areas:

1. Getting clients
2. Keeping / dealing with clients
3. Contract and payment issues


January 2012
Topic: Supporting and Working with Remote Teams

This topic generated a huge turnout! We listened to Peter Sevcik, John Rabasa and Diane and Larry Korte speak about their experiences being on and running remote teams. Lots of members piped in with their own stories. It was a very informative meeting!


November 2011
Topic: Is Online Privacy Dead?
Speaker: John Feminella

We live in an age of shifting social norms about what is and isn’t private. But we also live in an age where third parties would love to get deeper, richer access to the data we generate through our online activities. The opposing interests generate a friction that is becoming increasingly noticeable, and your online privacy is what is caught in the crossfire.

So, is there any privacy left to be had? What control do we actually have over our data? Or, should we all take the advice of ex-Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, who in 1999 declared, “You have no privacy. Get over it.”? This talk aimed to provide some insights to those questions.


September 2011
Topic: Databases vs Spreadsheets
Speaker: Rich Gregory

When it comes to dealing with data, what’s the most efficient way to store it, use it, or make sense of it? Is it the spreadsheet or the database? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Rich Gregory showed us some real-world applications while discussing the pros and cons of both applications.


August 2011
Topic: What I Learned this Summer

We have such a breadth of experience in our group it’s always fascinating to hear what folks are working on. We asked the group: Is there something interesting you’ve learned lately? A new technique? A new approach? Have you come across some technology that’s changing the way you think about or do something?

It can be something either professional or personal. Let’s share! Everyone is encouraged to participate. If you’d like to do something a little more formal, like a 5-minute presentation, a projector and internet access will be available as well.


June 2011
Neon Guild Semi-Annual Cookout

Burgers, dogs, veggie burgers, all the sides plus beer and beverages. Fun! And Free!


April 2011

Topic: Consultant Slam
Speaker: Your name here

The Neon Guild is all about supporting each other. The breadth of knowledge and talent in our group is a source of constant amazement.

We opened the list up to asking specific question, and then folks who could answer put together 5-minute presentations. That was the premise. It didn’t quite work out that way, but we had a fascinating discussion nonetheless.


February 2011

Topic: A Wrench in the Machine
Speaker: Debra Weiss

Our lives seem to be online now. We bank. We shop. We research things that interest us. We share our thoughts, photos and videos with the world. We manage it all pretty seamlessly with a myriad of accounts and passwords, many of which we use daily.

What happens to all that stuff when something happens to us?

This talk presented some solutions, but the goal was to get us thinking about our digital lives and what sharing really means. It was a real eye-opener and a fascinating conversation.


January 2011

Topic: Innumeracy
Speaker: John Feminella

Our intuition is often strikingly wrong when we make estimates, particularly about probabilities and other abstract mathematical concepts. Decades of sub-par mathematics and science education are ruining our ability to make critically important evaluations of the world around us. This has potentially disastrous consequences on a range of topics, whether it’s about estimating our risk of being in a terrorist attack or how long a trip will take.

In this talk, John identified some of the most common mental traps and how we can avoid them and thus be better equipped to make your own
estimates in the future.


November 2010

Topic: Buying/Selling : Online / Offline
Speaker: Jack Smith, ArrowNewMedia
Special Guests: Pat Powell and Robin Stafford from Harlowe-Powell Auction Gallery

With the economy floundering, we’re all looking for ways to increase income and save money. Selling or buying items at auction is a fun and easy way to get rid of your unwanted items or get things you want at a great price.

Neon Guild founder Jack Smith has been ridiculously successful buying/selling items at auction for decades. He spoke about both buying and selling techniques at estate sales, consignment houses, auctions and eBay.

To bring the subject to life, we made arrangements with the awesome folks at Harlowe-Powell Auction Gallery to come and help us with our own version of Antiques Roadshow!


October 2010

Topic: The Art of Technical Presentation
Speaker: John Peterson, Inova Solutions

Why is it that so many great technical visions don’t get presented well? How can you effectively explain complex technical topics to a non-technical audience? John Peterson examined some common pitfalls, cool tools, and key ingredients that make for presentation power.

Get the handout (PDF)


September 2010

Topic: Technical Debt
Speaker: Richard Brewster

You have a piece of functionality that you need to add to your system. You see two ways to do it, one is quick to do but is messy - you are sure that it will make further changes harder in the future. The other results in a cleaner design, but will take longer to put in place.

Technical Debt is a wonderful metaphor developed by Ward Cunningham to help us think about this problem. Like a financial debt, the technical debt incurs interest payments, which come in the form of the extra effort that we have to do in future development because of the quick and dirty design choice.

We centered the discussion regarding this topic on software development issues, but it also has meaning with project management and other types of choices we make every day.


May 2010

Topic: What? There’s something other than Google? - Alternative Search Engines
Speaker: Charles Knight

For the past three years, Charles Knight, Search Editor for The Next Web at has been searching for every alternative (i.e. not Google) search engine in the world, resulting in over 4,000 blog posts. This presentation will display the most interesting, unusual, and innovative search engines that you’ve never seen. We will cover as many as time allows. For everyone who attends, Charles will share the link to his all-time Top 100 favorites which you can explore on your own.


March 2010
Topic: State of the Hack
Speaker: Rob Lee is, Director, MANDIANT

This “straight from the battlefield” presentation provided case studies that describe in detail the most recent computer security incidents that Mandiant (Rob Lee is Director) has responded to on behalf of the organizations. The three or four anonymous in-depth case studies about the recent complex hacks against commercial and financial organizations were covered.


February 2010
Topic: Fatherhood, Multi-Tasking and Notions of Success in the Modern World
Speaker: Mark Cave

In carpool line the other day, Mark Cave counted seven out of ten cars with a Dad in it. What’s going on here? This presentation took a fascinating look at the modern father/male, how he juggles parenting and career, how he integrates technology into his life, and how society views this bizarre phenomenon.


November 2009
Topic: Life Audit

Back in February, Neon Guildmaster Debra Weiss was whining that she suspected she was paying too much for telephone, internet access and cable TV, and that there must be a better solution for communication, especially if home is also office. Many suggestions were offered at that meeting, and that set her off on what she’s calling a Life Audit, where all expenses are looked at with a fresh eye. What she found surprised her. Debra revealed how she has saved more than $500 per month so far, and she’s not finished!


October 2009
Topic: Mobile Development - The Gold Rush is ON!

Michael J. Prichard of WillowTree Consulting Group, Inc. talked about the mobile development market and the players in the next generation smartphone arena. He will take you through the ways to make applications for the iPhone and how to distribute them on the App Store. He also talked about the business of the iPhone and the realities and, more likely, the chances you will be the next millionaire app developer.


May 2009
Topic: Promoting, Building & Retaining Online Communities

Speaker: Jack Smith,

One of the reasons the Neon Guild is still going strong after over 15 years is that it succeeds as a community. Members share knowledge, information and conversation with others and in turn get value back. The same principles that made the Neon Guild community a success can be used with your own personal and professional communities, from getting (and keeping) clients to finding (or keeping) a job, to getting solid professional advice, or just having fun


March 2009
Topic: Entrepreneurs / Freelancers — Tools of the Trade
Presenter: Duane Gran

Our presenter, Duane Gran, shared examples of tools that work (and some that don’t) from his 10 years of experience doing web application development. Come prepared to share what tools you like best for invoicing, contact management, communication and the like.


February 2009
Topic: Home / Home Office Telephone/Internet Solutions

With so many choices out there, what’s a good choice for telephone/internet
solutions at home, particularly if your home is also your office?


December 2008
Topic: Creating Opportunity through Social Media
Presenter: Ryan Adams, Vivus Software

Social Media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are changing the way people interact. But how do we use them to produce revenue building opportunities and relationships?


October 2008
Topic: How Functional Programming Could Have Saved Us $700 Billion
Presenter: John Feminella, Perrin Quarles Associates

Greed and corruption on Wall Street were the exacerbating factors that of led to the necessity of the financial bailout earlier this month. Or so our politicians tell us. But what if (gasp!) software and the people who wrote it were partially to blame, too?


September 2008

Topic: High Tech Cville
Presenter: Eric Pugh, Open Source Connections attempts aggregate existing information from multiple place about people, organizations, events, and companies working in the field of hi-tech in Cville.

It’s Eric’s Pugh’s research project into understanding the semantic web, indexing disparate data sources and building communities of interest while having fun with the latest Ruby on Rails plugins.


May 2008
Topic: Hiring and Working On Demand: Getting Work and Workers
Presenter: Jack Smith, Arrow New Media

Jack talked about his experience with regarding hiring technology professionals from all over the world. He also be talked about what it’s like to get work from places like this.


March 2008
Topic: Presenting Audio and Video on the Web
Presenters: Cameron Beers, Mike Stevenson, Debra Weiss

Links to resources mentioned during the meeting:

Riva FLV Encoder - Transcode your existing video files to the advanced Flash Video (FLV) format with this free Riva FLV Encoder.

SlideShowPro - A complete photo and video publishing solution.

JW FLV Media Player - Free player for audio, images and video.


January 2008
Topic: Audio/Video Conferencing over TCI/IP
Presenter: Rich Gregory, Computer Systems Engineer, UVA

Everyone seems to be looking for videoconferencing solutions, and there are a lot of options out there. Which one is best for your organization?

Links to resources mentioned:

Access Grid - - Group to Group interactions across the grid - free software - full featured - not a quick install.

Agora - - part of Sakai ( desktop and audio sharing - free - uses a Java Tomcat server as the “bridge” Will be installed and available at UVa Real Soon Now.

Polycom - AV conferencing - - peer to peer and multicast conferencing - Full range of hardware and software products.

Aethra - AV conferencing - the Engineering School as a Vega X5 which does video and data “dual stream” transmissions.

Elluminate at - desktop and audio sharing - Very professional and full featured for live remote classroom sessions. UVA’s SCPS has a site license.

Camtasia - Windows application that records a screen or a PPT presentation with audio. It has very good editing capability and can publish in AVI, WMV, MOV and Flash format. Publishing takes 2-3 times as long as the run time. You make a 30 minute movie in 70-90 minutes.

Skype - video and Voice Over IP - free live communications

The School of Continuing and Professional Studies is the main resource at UVa for AV topics.


October 2007
Jewels of J-MRL
Presenter: Jackie Lichtman, JMRL

If you thought your dusty old library card was good for just taking out books, you would have been delighted know there’s A LOT more you can do with it, and much of it can done without ever leaving the hou8se! More info on


September 2007
What I Learned This Summer

A series of short presentations about some fun and useful geeky tech things that our members explored over the summer break.


June 2007
Semi-Annual Neon Guild Cookout

Purely a social event, we provided burgers, dogs, veggie burgers, sides and beverages. Nearly 100 people showed up!


April 2007
Project Management - SCRUM
Presenter: Jeff Sutherland, SCRUM Co-Founder

Scrum is an iterative, incremental process for developing any product or managing any work. It produces a potentially shippable set of functionality at the end of every iteration.

More info:


March 2007
Project Management - Avoiding the Nightmare:
Keys to Success/Best Practices

Whether you work in a group, or work by yourself with your clients, we all have our horror stories of projects that have gone terribly awry. Dave presented some his own, and everyone attended was welcome to contribute their stories. The real value here came from our interaction.

Presenter:Dave Portfield