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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.
This is the first in what will hopefully be a series where I ask NINE Questions of various Interesting People in the Technical Industry.  My first victim is Andy Dunn of www.thezbuffer.com.

headshot200x225 1. Where are you from?
I’m from a town called Halesowen, just outside Birmingham in the UK. I’ve lived in the USA for almost 12 years.

2. Who do you work for? Give me the 10 second pitch on them. Why would I want to buy their product?
I work for myself. I have no products besides my own abilities. You are buying almost 20 years of software development experience. I like to say I was writing .Net code before there was a .Net – we just used to call it Visual Basic. Useful libraries? GUI editors? Easy database connections? I’ve been doing it since 1993!

3. What brought you to your current employer?
I used to work for Microsoft. It was and still is a great place to work for anyone who loves technology. I worked in the IT department building web and client apps that help run Microsoft’s day to day business. It was great. But as I progressed to more senior roles I found I was not coding and I *love* coding. I looked around and decided that the game industry would be fun. I talked to some folk at Microsoft and realizing I didn’t have the knowledge I took a class at the University of Washington. But still this wasn’t enough. I spent all of my time writing and looking at managed code and the game industry just wasn’t interested. Since I couldn’t find the time to become a solid C++ developer I looked at taking an entry level position in the game industry. While checking my finances I realize that if I could afford to take an 80% pay cut I may as well go the whole way and take a 100% pay cut. The plan was to work on my website, develop some new skills and then find a way back into the game industry. That’s when Microsoft launched the XNA framework and I realized I didn’t have to switch to C++. I got contracts doing starter kits for XNA Game Studio (Spacewar and Marblets) and since then I’ve worked several interesting jobs some with XNA and some without. If the money ever runs out I would be more than happy to go back to Microsoft if anyone would have me.

4. I've known you as The ZMan for years, but that's just one side of you. What's something the world doesn't know about you?
I like to run crazy races…. I ran the Goofy Challenge at Disney World this year – that’s a half marathon on Saturday followed by a full marathon on Sunday and I ran a 50k trail run a couple of months ago.

5. You went to TechEd2008 (Developers) this year. Was it your first time, and what did you think? Worth going back again?
It was my 1st time to a US Tech*Ed – I attended a couple in Europe in the mid 90s. The US ones are more intense – far more Microsoft and well known speakers. This was my first time as a speaker and I spent most of the time worrying about and tweaking my sessions so I don’t think I had time to make an informed decision about how good it was. In general though Tech*Ed is outside my area of industry so it’s probably not worth me going unless someone else is paying.

6. Lots of folks find equal or greater value in the networking, rather than the sessions. Would you agree?  Did you have a favorite session or event?
I enjoy and get a lot out of the networking at all the conferences I go to but I would never say that’s what I am paying for. I always see conferences as forced training that you never have time for the rest of the year. As you become more expert on technologies your opportunities for training in new technology get less and less. Your boss expects you to somehow learn through osmosis from the browser and MSDN. When you go to Tech*ed or PDC you get a week of just listening to people talk about stuff. I always come home with a huge list of cool things to do most of which are STILL on post-it notes on my desk 3 years later ;-)

7. I followed a lot of folks on Twitter during TechEd, and it seems like the way to go when out of town. What's your take on Twitter?
I wonder if I am too old for the social stuff ;-) Twitter is something I feel obliged to be on but I spend 50% of the time being annoyed by the trivia that some people think is important to tell the world. It’s like YouTube – separating the wheat from the chaff is almost impossible and I wonder how many million hours are wasted with this stuff.

8. Any non-technical hobbies? What are they and why?
See 4 – I don’t have time for hobbies between XNA and running. Does sex count as a hobby?

9. Last of all, any tattoos?
I am 100% ink free. Maybe a tramp stamp that says “XNA” would be appropriate should I ever make my millions from the technology! Posted on Monday, June 9, 2008 7:09 PM Game Development , General Interest , NINE Questions | Back to top


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