Say your piece…or chut up!

Before joining Microsoft, I worked predominantly in the consulting space for organisations such as Dimension Data and EY. I never got along to User Groups, I had never been to Tech.Ed (this year will be my first year ever), and I thought the Scobleizer was a Unix based fruit juicer!

Joining Frank’s family provided me with some invaluable experience on the other side of the registration desk, however after attending a few of the UG’s and road shows, I found the same issues that had kept me away from alot of the community events and networking functions over the past 8 years were still prevalent today. Recently I caught up with a couple of developers who I would classify as “Critical Path” developers, and they shared some really interesting opinions with me, that I felt compelled to blog about. Why do I call them Critical Path developers? Because everytime I ask them to come to an UG, or attend a free event, their response is, “Can’t come, I’m on the critical path this week”. Seems like every week is a critical path week.

Their biggest issue was around the way we time and host events. They all agreed that the late night timeslots where hard to make, due to work and family commitments. The next issue was around content; most of them found the content to be lightweight or were frustrated when presenters used the opportunity to present as a chance to spruik themselves or their companies wares/capabilities. The last issue was around the concept of community; they were off the opinion that Microsoft had fostered a community of quirky geeks who loved to get technically deep and eat pizza. And that there wasn’t any love for developers who worked 14 hours a day on delivering Microsoft based solutions week in, week out.

So why post this? Because I want to know how we can become more effective. I would love to know what kind of events would fit into everyones calendar, and what kind of content would compel people to attend our events. More importantly, I want to be able to reach everyone, not just one segment of the community. It frustrates me when people tell me our events are crap, or that we just don’t get developers. I’m not going to know toilet paper is stuck to the back of my pants less someone tells me! Am I? So give me some feedback developers, if you think we are doing something well, then call it out. If you think we should be doing something else, say your piece! Or else, Chut Up!

Comments (3)
  1. Sam says:

    I belong to the busy programmers who never found the time to visit an event for programmers.

    Usually I just don’t see any gain for me, so why should I waste time, effort and money on it?

    I honestly got no idea what attending an event might be good for – I want to attend one just to give it a chance, though never made the time, since it aint important enough.

    Since I don’t believe I get anything out of it (other than some chat and pizza, both I can get at a lot more convenient places).

    So what you need to do is get these ‘critical path’ programmers and find something they would come for, something important enough for them they make room in theyr schedule (believe me, there aint any room, so it will need to be more important than a lot of other work).

    And most probably you will end up with something so highly specialised no other programmer will be interested 🙂

    You would need to convince me there is some gain from the event. And what might that be?

    Gaining knowledge? Way too inefficient – you can search for stuff on the net, read it up, ask in newsgroups, I think you can get any information faster on the net then in some event with random programmers.

    Creating contacts? Hey, I am not in marketing or sales – Contacts eat up a lot of time I rather spend programming.

    Meeting like-minded folk? har, if they are minded like me they won’t be there, so chances are low to meet them on a event, arent they?

    I am running out of ideas – since I never had time for an event I got not much ideas what it might be good for. So, why do you attend events? What do you gain from them?


  2. Timmy says:

    I feel its down to knowing your audience and targeting the content for a specific group,


    – Who should attend.

    – and why they should attend

    are often glossed over with a generic blurb on the MS events site.

    If they were written better it will help qualify attendees better.

    With my consultant/developer hat on I’m looking to see new technologies solving real world business problems with tools I use.

    I want to come away with the knowledge of seeing a solution developed from end to end and even walk away with the sourcecode!!!

    I feel that you are on the right track here Dave with your seminars, as you work with the Dev community and know what we want and have the knowledge to deliver it.

    Team system is difficult to present it to such a mixed audience of interested people. It would be good to see role specific seminars nearer to the release date.

    I’ve been to a few rediness seminars and have found them to be a joke. The content is poor and sales orientated, the presenters have limited knowledge outside this and all in all i should have done my research and never go to those types of events again, they’re purely for sales people.

    – lesson learnt (but not before I lost time).

    In summing up, know your audience, plan and organise well and have the knowledge to answer

    questions outside the scope of your content.

    If I knew that was what I was going to get then I’d make time to go as I’d be getting something out of it.


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