I’m going to OSCON and I now need a bio and a presentation! Help!

So it seems official, Microsoft is sending me to OSCON 2004.  In fact, it looks like I'm probably going to have to get up and talk about the Windows Installer XML toolset.  Fortunately, I know a little bit about the WiX toolset so that should be pretty easy to do.  However, apparently O'Reilly wants a short one to two paragraph bio about me and I have no idea what to write, so I'm looking for help with two things:

1.  What would you say about "Rob Mensching" in one to two paragraphs?  Miguel de Icaza (who I have a lot of respect for even though I've never actually met they guy) has this bio and Esther Dyson has this bio (she's obviously more important than Miguel and me; she got six paragraphs for her bio).  I'm looking for help here because all these bios seem to be written in the third person and Rob isn't too good at referring to himself.  I also figured that since this is an Open Source Convention I'm attending, I could try to create my bio with help from the small community that reads my blog.

2.  What would you like to see in a 45 minute presentation from "Rob Mensching"?  I have a whole slew of things I can present about the Windows Installer XML toolset.  Considering the amount of free time I have between now and then, it is highly likely I'll be presenting one or two of those things in the WiX toolset.  However, I'm always open to other ideas.  So if you have something you think would be interesting, please let me know.  Even if I don't present it at OSCON 2004, I'll keep the good suggestions in the back of my mind and look for a way to present them later.

As always, you can leave a comment in the feedback on my blog or drop me a private comment.

Comments (8)

  1. Terry Denham says:


    I’d like to see some examples of not so much how to partition an application into fragments, modules and products but a pratical application of one. For example, we’re all familar with Word, or VS.NET, how would you partition big applications or application with multiple features into fragments, modules and products.

    I’d like to see some examples on CustomActions. In looking at writing the installer for the ASP.NET Forums code after the 2.0 release I’m going to write it using WiX and will need to provide a GUI for it. Since we run a bunch of stuff to SQL Server and configure IIS, we will need to create some dialogs for these options which I think I can figure out but some of these will require connecting to SQL Server for instance and running code, or maybe FTP files to a server or doing some IIS configuration. Some of these might be able to work without CustomActions but some of them I think will require custom actions, such as getting a list of SQL Servers on the network.

    There are other things but they are more dealing with the internals of WiX or how it works and will probably be too detailed or involved for a presentation and I’ll just look forward to reading your blog or your posts on the listserv.

  2. Iain says:

    I think that since it’s a convention about open source, it would be worth talking about WiX as an open source project, especially how it lived like an open source project within the company. Of course, it’s entirely possible that that’s not why you’d be speaking and I’m missing the point completely.

    Your main competitor, from the perspective of building installers for open source projects on windows, is NSIS (I’m fairly sure it’s used by almost everyone who doesn’t just throw out a zip file). If you can, a comparison might be worthwhile.

    As to bio, I think you need three stanzas: pre-corporate, career, wix as open source. pre-corporate stanza I’m leaving until last, but I think I remember reading that you started at microsoft as an intern doing installer stuff, so you might consider something like this:

    "Rob started at Microsoft as an installer-wrangling intern. He’s not an intern any more, but they haven’t kicked him out yet and he still seems to be wrangling installers."

    As for wix as open source, you might try something like this:

    "After working on WiX as a semi-private project for some time, he finally released it to the world on sourceforge, wowing the denizens of slashdot with his MS-style open source skills and giving the media a good shock – you can tell, they reported it."

    So, pre-corporate. This is hard. I think this should have some priority because I hate the notion of people as primarily extensions of their employers, but that’s what’s really easy to do – especially for people who blog as employees 🙂

    The basic idea I have is that by mentioning non-corporate stuff first, you change the tone of the whole thing. Here’s some ideas:

    "After graduating from high school in the normal way, Rob went on to spend X years and get himself an alma mater (he thinks there may have been a degree involved, too.)"

    I’ve got no idea if that’s useful or not. Hopefully it gives you a mental image that you can serialize to words, or at least makes it easy to work out what you don’t like. Feel free to cannibalize as much (or as little) as you like from this post.

  3. Jim says:

    Rob – in 45 minutes, dont’ try to teach ’em how to build a watch – you barely have enough to tell them what time it is…

    As a fellow devotee of "installation is part of the software design & development process", I’d stress that philosophy and add a few examples / war stories.

  4. Terry Denham says:

    Oops, I didn’t see that you only had 45 minutes for your presentation. Throw my suggestion away or take it as a suggestion for the book or blog topics :D.

  5. Terry – I have quite a few examples of how to use custom actions on my blog [1]. I think both modulisation and customactions are topics where more info is need, but agree a 45 minute presenation is the right forum.

    Will the presenation be made available on-line afterward, for those of us who aren’t going to OSCON?

    [1] http://strangelights.com/blog/category/7.aspx

  6. orcmid says:

    Well, the first thing you want is the bio, to get that off your back and to get rid of that "not available at this time" filler. Shorter is better. There are tons on the list of presenters for the conference, http://conferences.oreillynet.com/pub/w/29/speakers.html. Keep it simple. Refine with practice. (Ewww, mine is two years old, http://Nuovodoc.com/info/deh-sketch.htm.)

    On the presentation, start with the one key idea that you want people to be left with, even if they only get that. Provide context, tell them, then show them, tell them again, leave lots of room for Q&A, where to find more, etc. You blog like that already. I should learn from you.

  7. Steve Hicks says:

    Hi Rob,

    Will everyone there know why you created the WIX toolset??

    For those who dont you could fill a bit of time explaining that with a few real world examples.

    You know how you can think you know about something, and you do (really), but then things take on a different level of clarity when the expert/creator of something explains it? Thats a nice experience everyone can share – whether they know anything about WIX or not.

    Hope it goes well 🙂


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