TechEd 2008: Double the Pleasure or Double the Hassle?

Was TechEd 2008 double the pleasure or half as good as previous TechEd shows? TechEd has long been considered by many to be "the" Microsoft show to attend. As you probably know, this year was the first that TechEd North America was split into two weeks. And if it were up to me, it would be the last year.

I understand why Microsoft chose to split TechEd North America into two weeks. Conceptually, it makes sense. The reasons boil down to size and logistics. Microsoft was having an increasingly hard time finding locations in which all the TechEd attendees could fit, and trying to cover all of its technologies in a single week was a somewhat Herculean task. The two-week format might work for other technologies, but I feel that it was a bit of a letdown for SQL Server professionals, regardless of whether you lean toward being an IT professional or developer.
The reality is that SQL Server DBAs need to learn about development topics, and developers need to learn about database administration topics. At TechEd, I spoke with a lot of attendees who identified themselves as SQL Server people. My informal and completely unscientific poll suggests that about 80 percent of them wish TechEd had remained a single event. Beyond the accessibility and availability of content, there were at least two other variables that affected how the shows felt to me, especially TechEd 2008 Developers, that I hadn’t anticipated. First, the two-week format kept many SQL Server-related vendors from attending the Developers show. I don’t want to pick on any particular vendor, but I was a bit surprised to see that some of the world's largest SQL Server ISVs had no presence of any kind at the Developers event. In my opinion, being exposed to the latest and greatest tools has always been one of the most valuable aspects of TechEd. I don’t have exact number, but I’m guessing that the expo area for TechEd 2008 IT Professionals had to be almost twice as large as the expo area for the Developers show.  Most of the vendors I spoke with each week said on—and off—the record that they would prefer TechEd to be a single week.

The other key factor that dramatically changed the dynamics of the events, at least in my opinion, was the unsurprising fact that most SQL Server folks (other than journalists, speakers, writers, etc. who make part of their living from being involved in events) couldn't afford to attend both weeks of TechEd and had to choose which TechEd show to attend. This led to a diminished number of SQL Server attendees during the Developers show, in particular. Most of the SQL Server-focused attendees that I chatted with at the Developers show expressed that they would attend TechEd IT Professionals next year. Most of the SQL Server-focused attendees I chatted with who attended both weeks said they would probably attend just TechEd IT Professionals next year. And most of the SQL Server-focused attendees that I chatted with who attended just TechEd 2008 IT Professionals expressed the sentiment that they picked the right week to attend but that the show would have been better if it hadn’t been split at all.
As you consider my comments, please keep in mind that I’m writing strictly from the perspective of a SQL Server professional. I can appreciate that attendees from technology areas that don’t overlap as much between developer and IT pro disciplines might have different opinions. But heck, I’m selfish and expect the world to revolve around the database. Don’t you?

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