TechEd Nxt…It’s the Hive!


I’ve been thinking about next years TechEd, and I’ve had an idea rattling around about how I would love to see TechEd Nxt look!

So my idea starts with a slightly different taxonomy than the standard “track” system. It actually involves a more comprehensive system of identifying attendees, and works off the following “attributes”:

  • What am I called? {Architect, Developer, IT Pro, Project Manager, Tester, …}
  • What projects do I work on? {Web, Desktop, Server, Infrastructure, Security, …}
  • What kind of organization do I work for? {Independent Software Vendor, Services Consulting, Enterprise, Government, Small to Medium Enterprise, …}
  • What tools do I use? {Visual Studio, SQL Server, SharePoint, Project, Oracle, Apache, PHP, …}

So the above is just a start, but the main purpose is to understand the different attributes that make up someone’s role, personality and interests. For me, I’m a Developer who works on Web and Desktop projects for an Software Development company who uses Visual Studio, SQL Server and BizTalk most of the time. There would be other categories such as the fact that I my main communication tool is e-mail and blogs, and that I spend most of my time disconnected from my team and travel quite a bit.

The next step is to change the format of the sessions to not just be part of a “track”, that is, developer, security, connected systems, etc, and change it to be more about having attributes, so when someone submits a paper to speak at TechEd Nxt, they must select a set of markers that their presentation is targeted to, for example, a session on “When I grow up I want to be an Architect”, which discusses ways to move from being a developer to an architect would be marked as [Developers, Web\Desktop\Server, ISV\Enterprise, All].

So when I, as an attendee, enters my profile, I can have a shaped set of sessions listed that appeal to my interests. I can always select other sessions, but by knowing about what and who they are aimed at, I have a greater chance of picking a winner!

The other thing is I wish the sessions were shorter, and more pointy! I want a session that only runs for 30 minutes, contains really pointy, interesting, unique, and insightful ideas on how to solve problems, not just how to use a function or press a button! I want the focus on how I use this stuff to solve problems that I won’t find in an online lab or a blog post. I want the presenter to have felt the pain, worked out a solution, and then tell me straight about it. And I want it lean and mean, not have them waffle on for an hour before I realize it’s a waste of time!

I’m calling this concept the hive, because I see the venue being setup like a big hive, with small rooms where short, sharp sessions are being delivered, and being captured and immediately posted as podcasts for attendees to download onto Zune devices (maybe free with registration…hmmm) at later stages. And people just buzzing around, talking to other people, capturing ideas, moving from session to session, getting little bits of honey (the bee kind!!!) then moving on!

And also, I want some more variety! I want to know about best practices on everything from the Software Development Lifecycle to project management, and things like launching a micro-corporation or how to evangelize to new markets. I want more breadth and I want new ideas to move me from where I am now to where I want to be!

And finally, I want more opportunity to get my problems solved! I want more open panels, chalk-talk and problem solving sessions with experts, I’d love to see an area where instead of the cabanas being used for mini-breakouts, we set them up as group consulting sessions, where a topic is set such as web services security, and people can lob up problems to a panel of experts who will provide an as-is solution on the spot, in a few minutes. You could go to the SQL Server fire-fighting session, or the C# fire-fighting session, and get exactly that, a quick set of responses to point you in the right (or different) direction from a bunch of experts (I use that word cautiously, they would just be people who are most likely to have a good answer or pointer).

I have many more ideas, including the layout of the venue, mobile pod-casting booths, inflatable sumo suits, shoulder massage stations, and fairy floss… but I will keep those for later posts!

What do people think!? Is it time for the next evolution of TechEd?


Comments (13)

  1. Alex says:

    I agree, Tech Ed is way too developer focussed or at least it has that reputation. I personally would like to see more PM related content (as I am a PM), things like:

    * Why should I use TFS on my project?

    * Bug metrics – how to use them to monitor your project health

    * MSF

    * Suggested ways of running BI vs Custom vs Product based development projects

    As well as getting across all the cool new stuff coming up that we need to be aware of for our projects. Nothing upsets a dev more than a PM who knows more than them. 馃檪

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  3. supercujo says:

    As someone who attended last years Tech.Ed for the first time, I find your post to be right on the money and addresses most of the shortcomings I noted with Tech.Ed.

    As it is currently constructed, Tech.Ed turns into a semi-university type environment where people come and go from the presentations in a student manner… And when you see the same people in all the same presentations, I seem to think the tracks are way too general because not everyone works in the same environment with similar requirements.

    The tracks either need to be more specific or use a solution based approach similar to the one you put forward above. Your idea would be the easier one to implement I believe.

  4. Sorry about the title, I’m just jumping on the stupid Web 2.0 band wagon 馃檪 Dave Lemphers posted recently

  5. David Mackie says:

    These sounds VERY interesting tell us more. I’d be keen to be involved in smaller shorter sessions. I think it will organisationally difficult to build but look forward to seeing what you come up with.

    Do you keep stats of session choices by attendee because you might find that much of this happens already?

    I really liked the idea of business sessions thrown in, in fact some of the folk I spoke to said they would gladly trade in their Partner Conference Ticket for a TechED one (me included) but to get the Partner Group on board maybe some partner focus mini sessions would be cool.

  6. We are all getting together to do a debrief on TechEd.  I’ve been scouring the blogosphere and have found…

  7. If you plan on going to TechEd in 2007 here on the Gold Coast and have views/requests for what the content

  8. Chuck has reported that Coastsey is the Man for TechEd 2007, taking charge of the event’s planning and