Software Architect / Developer / Microsoft MVP (AI)

Architecture, Blogging, Bot Framework, C#, Cognitive Services, Instagram Graph API

A Recap of Projects and Tech in 2019

It’s the time of year to recap the last 12 months.

These went in QUICK!

I can’t believe it’s 2020  tomorrow, it sounds like the year from a sci-fi movie!

Chatbots

Most of my time was spent migrating chatbots from V3 to V4 of the Bot Framework and integrating updates that shipped with each release. There was some learning curve involved and the rate of change has been quite something.

Composer

Continuing from and related to chatbots is Composer.

Building chatbots often involves coding up multiple dialogues.  These contain the conversational logic you need your bot to support.

Typically, a developer will be responsible for this but with the introduction of Composer, this task can now be handed off to the business.  Through the MVP Program, I was lucky enough to get access to Composer before it hit the community and got to grips with this cool tool.

Using Composer, I built a chatbot with little to no code from the ground up.  From the designer canvas, I was able to create dialogues that integrated web services that contained complex business logic from existing applications.

I then used the data returned from web services to orchestrate the flow of conversation within Composer created dialogues.

The end result was a chatbot that can answer queries from the general public and from a technical perspective, a business user can update conversational logic without developer intervention.

Social Opinion

I completely migrated Social Opinion to Azure.  This tool has its origins in a research project, and API I developed which first got me into machine learning back in 2013.

I ran it through a series of tests and found issues around performance and scalability with the database when tracking Microsoft Ignite. By using Azure SQL, I was able to remedy this by upping some of the resources and using the built-in recommendations.  You can read about this here.

Top 3 Blog Posts of 2019

I had a look at my Google Analytics, these were top 3 popular blog posts from this site in 2019, I was surprised to see one of the older architectural posts there:

1. Simplify your architecture using the Orchestrator Pattern

In this blog post, I cover a pattern I’ve used in applications that’s helped me organise and leverage legacy code in new software projects. Why you might want to use it and so in. It’s a little dated now but some of the concepts are relevant and it received thousands of views.

2. Instagram Graph API – Part 1: Introducing the Instagram Graph API and how do you connect to it?

This is part 1 of a 4-part mini-series.  Here I introduce the Instagram Graph API, how you can connect to it and the required steps you need to go through.

3. Instagram Graph API – Part 2: Fetching data with the Insights API

In this blog, I introduce how you can connect to the Instagram Graph API Insights endpoint and how you can use that to extract key analytics values such as # of Likes, Comments and more.

Community Activities

There were other initiatives throughout 2019 that I used personal holiday and my spare time (not to mention some early rises and late nights), these include:

Awards

Writing

  • 24 blogs posts
  • a mini-series that shows developers how to consume Instagram Graph API in C#
  • co-authoring a book with 16 MVPs from around the world that show how Microsoft AI can be used in the real world

Speaking and Workshops

Volunteering

  • becoming a STEM Ambassador
  • registering as a Code Club volunteer

Video

  • creating a YouTube Channel to house developer tutorials
  • learning about Camtasia and video editing
  • creating content with Gregor Suttie and Richard Hooper for the Azure Advent Calendar

It’s been a packed year and I have some other things in the pipeline which brings me onto 2020.

What’s in store for 2020

Most of my time was spent developing chatbots and working with AI APIs last year and this will be another common theme throughout next year.  There are some other initiatives that have been in the background as well.

Chatbots and AI

My bread and butter – chatbots and artificial intelligence! This will continue to make up the bulk of activities moving into 2020 as will continuing to work with the Bot Framework, Composer and Cognitive Services.

Pluralsight

An MVP and Microsoft Regional Director connected me with Pluralsight (thank you!) and in the first few months of 2020, I’ll be submitting an audition to Pluralsight with a view to creating developer tutorials.  The weekly blogging will most likely take a hit if this develops further.  I’m stretching out my comfort zone with this one.

Instagram Miniseries eBook

The Instagram Graph API miniseries are proving to be popular. I’ll convert these articles into an eBook in 2020 and distribute them.  Part 4 of this will be completed early in 2020.  Thank you, Gabriela, for offering to proofread this when I complete it!

MVP Summit

One of my main trips next year will be going to the MVP Summit in Seattle.  This will be a first for me and it will be great to see and hear what’s in the pipeline, meet the product teams and other MVPs. I’m sworn to secrecy however so I won’t be able to write about any of it here!

That’s about it for early 2020, who knows what else is around the corner.

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Resources

Finally, here are some useful resources in the form of books, podcasts, tools and other services I’ve used throughout the year.

Full disclaimer here– the audiobooks and books are attached to an affiliate id, any purchases made via those links will result in the donation of a few pennies to the running of this blog.

Audio Books

When I’m out driving, at the gym or doing mundane tasks I’ll play an audiobook.  These are the ones I’ve listened to this year:

I had 5 Audible credits left at the time of writing and just bought these others based on the what some people were saying on Twitter:

  • Permanent Record by Edward Snowden – a story of the spy turned whistle-blower
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – a brief history of humankind
  • The Dip by Seth Godin – knowing when to quit or sticking it out
  • The Four by Professor Scott Galloway – The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google
  • The Unicorn Project by Gene Kim – Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data

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Books

I haven’t read so many physical books this year due to time.  It’s looking like I get through a book every 3 months.  These are the main books that stuck in my mind:

  • Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin – an account of the start-up world by SEO legend
  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin – creating products that people want to share
  • The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene – business and strategy
  • Tribes by Seth Godin – ideas on community building

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Mobile Apps

  • Audible – consuming books when I’m on the go
  • AWeber Stats – checking my blog stats
  • Clear Scanner – handy for scanning documents
  • Microsoft Teams – for keeping in touch
  • Nord VPN – IP management
  • One Drive – has saved my bacon on regular trips abroad when I need access to docs
  • Stitcher – Podcasts
  • WhatsApp – keeping in touch with family

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Podcasts

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Services

  • Azure – everything I build is there
  • LinkedIn – keeping up to date with news, networking and sharing content
  • Twitter – community engagement, research, keeping updated with tech news & more
  • YouTube Professional – uninterrupted music whilst coding.

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Tooling

  • Bot Framework Composer – quickly creating chatbot conversations
  • Bot Framework Emulator – debugging and testing chatbots
  • Notepad ++ – eyeballing code without loading a full-blown IDE
  • TechSmith Camtasia – recording tutorials
  • TechSmith SnagIt – taking and editing screenshots for use in training material
  • Visual Studio – cutting code!

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Thank you

Finally, a lot of what I’ve done wouldn’t be possible without the support and guidance of others that have helped me along the way, so a massive thank-you to everyone out there who reads, shares and engages the content I’ve created.

Thanks to:

  • Ben  at Microsoft – for all his support with Composer
  • Claire at Microsoft – for everything she does with the MVP Community
  • Fellow MVPs and RD’s – for helping me learn about new technology, their support and sharing ideas
  • Gary  at Microsoft – for his support for all things chatbot and community related
  • Nigel Frank International – for adding me to their influencer list this year
  • Simon at Microsoft – for his guidance and supporting of my community work

It’s all very much appreciated.

Jamie.

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