On a more personal note, I had a couple of intense experiences during the week that have given me pause for thought (and no, I don’t mean my headache the morning after the Heineken brewery – sorry about dragging you back out Jessica).
Firstly was spending a whole week in Amsterdam. Its been over ten years since I lived in the city and a week is the longest I’ve spent back there since. I found myself utterly loving the place all over again; I was very surprised just how strong the feeling of belonging was. Amsterdam is simply the best mix of big-city opportunity and small-town friendly that I’ve come across. Mind you, I found that the bar underneath my old apartment has been turned into a fish shop which was a bit of a shock. Now I’m causing domestic agitation by suggesting that maybe we should live there again one day.
Secondly, these talks were the first major audience presentations I’ve done in several years now – certainly the biggest since I gave up consultancy and retreated into my office/cave to do the product development that I enjoy so much. Well folks, it’s a lot harder than I remember – I got dinged a bit in my feedback for presentation skills and I think fairly. (although pretty high marks in every other category – thank you). I simply hadn’t realised how much this skill atrophies if you don’t use it. It’s something I used to be very confident at and I didn’t like the feeling of not excelling one little bit. However, the reality is that a full-time developer at Microsoft doesn’t generally spend a lot of time standing on a podium holding forth. Do I want to allow what skills I have remaining in that area to melt away? Should I be pushing to spend more time communicating our message? Should I forget it and concentrate on being the best back-room dev that I can be? I need to give this topic some thought, but I feel some hard choices creeping up on me. Maybe if I work hard at it, Beat and Vin will invite me back for another try next year.
One thing I know for certain, when I was a paying punter at conferences like TechEd and the PDC, I was always overjoyed when a developer took to the stage. I was getting the real skinny from the guy who built the stuff. (Sometimes the presentation skills were a bit painful I admit). And I could go queue up and get my question answered by someone who likely really knew the answer. In those days, that mattered, because access to developers didn’t happen all that often. Maybe in these days of blogs and easier access to the teams it’s not so important. Perhaps the important thing is to have a quality communicator up on stage and just have them hand out the email address of the developer? What do you think?