After a bit of time to recover from my back-to-back conferences (TechEd 2008 in Orlando and the 2008 HealthVault Solutions Conference in Bellevue), I have a few thoughts to share.
I haven't been to TechEd for a few years, but TechEd is still TechEd. The developer division, however, has seen a lot of turnover, and I was surprised to find how few Microsoft people that I knew were in attendence. I did two "lunch talks", which is code for "we don't know what track to put you in...". You only get 45 minutes for your talk (after which they come in and tell you to get off the stage), but on the plus side, you don't have to go through any slide review process. I did a HealthVault introduction that went relatively well, and a "write lots of code" talk that went well except for some demo slowness (more on that later). There were about 50 attendees in each session, which is pretty good for a lunch session because of the hassle of attending them.
I'm disappointed that TechEd no longer devotes a night to "ask the experts". Instead, the MS people have to do "booth duty", which means you stand at your designated section for hours and hope that somebody will come by to talk to you. From watching and talking with a few MS people, that meant a lot of hours where you just stand around, and even when people come by to talk, the MS person who is best equipped to answer the question may not be there.
I talked with developers at all the meals, and had some good conversations. I ran into 3 developers who worked in the Health area but had never heard of HealthVault. It means we have some work to do to find out why those developers don't know about us, but it also means that we have some nice opportunities to reach a new audience.
Splitting the conference into two sections (dev for 4 days, IT for 4 days) was a positive move for the people I talked to, and made it a bit more intimate (if you can properly apply that term in a conference that big).
Two things I suggest not doing at a conference:
First, don't try to write a presentation for a second conference while you are at a conference. It's really hard to do well.
Second, don't check your bag at the conference center, unless you want to spend 35 minutes to do what will take you 5 minutes at the airport. The shuttles to the airport were nice, however.
After the week at TechEd, I headed back for the
HealthVault Solutions Conference
Which was held Mon/Tue of the next week in picturesque downtown Bellevue (come see our construction) at the Hyatt Hotel. This was a great conference - everybody was uniformly friendly, and because of the partner approach the conference is as much about partner <-> partner interaction as it is about Microsoft <-> partner interaction. Monday featured a keynote and then a very complex demo involving live code from lots of different partners working together, put on by my team (but with very little effort on my part). The demo was nearly flawless, and if anything, they made it look a little too effortless. It was very compelling.
Tuesday started with a keynote by Dr. Oz, a cardiac surgeon and gifted speaker. After a product roadmap talk (that I skipped to get set up for our technical track), we had the following talks:
An architecture talk by Bert and Sean
A data type talk by Tim and Eric
A development talk (same talk I did at TechEd) by Eric
A third-party-library and other topics talk by Chris
A Patient Connect talk by Kalpita
The talks all went well, with the exception of Eric's. Apparently he forgot to modify his proxy settings to be used outside the firewall, so everytime he made a request it had to time out finding the proxy server before it completed. He is disappointed that he didn't figure this out before the talk, and apologizes to all those who put up with the slowness.
Our goal is to re-use the slides and get them on MSDN in some form. I'm probably going to take the development talk about make a tutorial out of it.