Fixing TechEd

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Fixing TechEd

 

By Jonathan Goodyear

 

I attended TechEd again this year. It was held in my hometown of Orlando, Florida (as usual), so it makes for an easy conference for me to get to. This year was a bit different in that they spread the conference over two weeks; one dedicated to developers and one dedicated to systems engineers. I think this was a good idea, as it allowed Microsoft to focus on these two unique audiences better.

 

TechEd wasn t without its warts, though, and I have assembled a list of things (in no particular order) that I would like to see fixed/implemented for next year s event (note that I attended only developer week):

  • More introductory content. With all the new technologies Microsoft is releasing, it is very difficult for even experienced developers to keep up. I felt that too many of the sessions assumed we were already versed in the underlying technologies (e.g., WPF, WCF, WF, Silverlight, etc.) and jumped right in to advanced topics. In fact, there should even be a track dedicated to getting developers started on .NET. Microsoft should not forget that there are thousands of developers who still haven t had the need or opportunity to make the switch, and may be using TechEd as a jumping off point.
  • The abolishment of the session numbering system. Nobody knows (or pays attention to) the numbers associated with sessions. Instead, they get frustrated when they are a newbie who accidentally ends up in a 400-level expert session or an expert who ends up in a 200-level intermediate session. Why not clearly mark the sessions using the words Introductory , Intermediate , and Advanced ? Better yet, simply use a color coding system like red, yellow, and green. In any case, the abstract should list the skills required for one to understand the session.
  • Profile-based agendas. Not every developer who attends TechEd can be pigeon-holed into a profile, but it would be nice to have starter agendas that can be customized to suit. A couple of examples of starter agendas might be SharePoint: zero to expert and Moving to .NET solutions from Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP (LAMP) .
  • More concentration on here and now technologies. In my opinion, there was too much concentration on Silverlight. I realize that it is new and exciting (and has no Go Live restrictions), but it is still beta technology that most corporations won t be able to touch for many months; maybe even a year or more. Even my recent favorite Model View Controller Framework shouldn t really have been discussed all that much. TechEd is supposed to be about technologies that you can use as soon as you get home. Leave the Greek letters to the Professional Developers Conference (PDC).
  • More power, more seating. There were precious few power outlets on the show floor and in the session rooms. There also weren t any seats in the wireless lounge ; only stand-up tables. That was a pretty big oversight and the area was vacant every time I went by.
  • Better keynotes. They were boring, and didn t show real customers solving real problems with Microsoft technology. That would have gone over better, in my opinion.
  • Where were all the snacks? The snacks were very hard to find, which was a disappointment. It was probably a good thing for my waistline, though an unlimited supply of ice cream bars is a dangerous thing.
  • The attendee party needs to be somewhere OTHER than Universal Studios, where it has been for the last three years. It was also a big downer (and I m not sure if Microsoft controlled this) that half of the park was closed off.

 

It certainly wasn t all bad at TechEd. Here are a few examples of things that Microsoft did right:

  • Booths staffed by actual dev team members. This was a great opportunity to ask deep questions to people who actually have the answers.
  • Whiteboards everywhere. These were great for impromptu arguments, um, I mean discussions.
  • The interactive theaters were great for smaller sessions with more (you guessed it) interaction with the speakers.
  • The atmosphere seemed upbeat and was geared toward social interaction. That s a very good thing, as it gets the attendees talking to each other, as well as with the speakers and Microsoft staff.

 

All told, it was a pretty successful event, and I enjoyed it. There definitely weren t as many people there the week I attended, but that was because the system engineers all attended the following week. It also didn t sell out like it almost always does, but that is probably because many developers are holding off for PDC in October. I ll be there as well, and will surely have a lot to report here for those of you who are not able to be there. In the meantime, there is always room for improvement at TechEd; hopefully Microsoft will take these suggestions to heart and act on at least some of them for next year.

 

Jonathan Goodyear is president of ASPSOFT (http:// www.aspsoft.com), an Internet consulting firm based in Orlando, FL. Jonathan is Microsoft Regional Director for Florida, an ASP.NET MVP, a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD), and co-author of ASP.NET 2.0 MVP Hacks (Wrox). Jonathan also is a contributing editor for asp.netPRO. E-mail him at mailto: [email protected] or through his angryCoder eZine at http:// www.angryCoder.com.

 

 

 

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