TechEd Middle East 2011



Earlier this month, I presented in Dubai at the second annual TechEd Middle East. TechEd was held under the patronage of the Crown Prince of Dubai, who also visited on-site. There were 20 primary countries represented, and it was an important event for the region. Microsoft Senior Vice President S. Somasegar gave the opening keynote, and made several exciting announcements including VS 2010 SP1, TFS-Project Server Feature Pack, and Load Test Feature Pack. The keynote also featured developer demos by Polita Paulus on Windows Phone 7, and Jay Schmelzer on LightSwitch & Hosted TFS. There were 2,000+ people in attendance, including 80 speakers and 200+ sessions across Dev & IT Pro. My talks did very well, including “The Future of C#” (#4 Dev session) and “VS 2010 Tips & Tricks” (#3 Dev session), and I scored as #2 Dev speaker. Congrats also to Vishal Joshi, who gave several Web talks and scored #1 Dev speaker. Together with Scott Hunter, Brian Keller, and Shy Cohen, we led a Meet The Team session, which yielded great interaction with attendees. I also presented on a Women in Technology panel, which was new in the region and received considerable press. Overall, it was a great experience.

Keynote: A New Era of Opportunity

The keynote emphasized new opportunities arising with Microsoft software in the cloud and devices space. Here were the announcements Soma made:

  • Visual Studio 2010 SP1, TFS-Project Server Integration Feature Pack, Visual Studio 2010 Load Test Feature Pack
  • SQL Azure and Windows Azure targeting in LightSwitch Beta 2, coming soon (JasonZ later announced availability 3/15 at the VSIP Summit)
  • Yalla apps, immediate availability in 69 countries
  • Windows SDK for Kinect, coming this spring
  • Broad availability of Windows Azure for production in UAE, coming in the first half of 2012

Polita Paulus demoed Windows Phone 7 development, using interesting local applications. Jay Schmelzer demoed LightSwitch, as well as TFS on Windows Azure. Bryon Surface showed the process of building & managing private clouds, and Ayman Sadek showed Lync Server 2010.

The Future of C#

This talk covered both asynchronous programming in Visual Studio vNext as well as project codename “Roslyn”. It was held in the main keynote room, so it was a great stage with plenty of space. I showed how to make the Netflix sample app run asynchronously using previous programming models and then using Async in vNext. I also did a similar demo with a Music Player app, but this time I challenged the audience to call out the changes for me. This was a lot of fun, and the crowd did in fact rise to the challenge! Both demos were using the Async CTP. I closed with a section on “Roslyn” and demoed a Paste As VB tool.

Here are the session materials:

Here is the feedback I received:

  • Few people in the audience had used Tasks in .NET 4
  • There were lots of web developers at the event, and interest in web scenarios.
  • Unit testing was raised as an important scenario to influence the feature design.
  • There was a question about Script# support.
  • Request for a refactoring to make code use the new async pattern.
  • There were a couple of current pain points raised, that are out of scope for the vNext Async feature: 1) cancellation in async COM operations; 2) computationally intensive operations that overwhelm the .NET Thread Pool (these should be scheduled on  separate thread).
  • For Async, the most popular questions were about how it works behind the scenes, and when other threads are sometimes used (from the Thread Pool or the kernel OS).
  • For Roslyn, I received a few questions about how the project will benefit “me” as an end user developer. End user scenarios include the REPL, rich IDE features in the product itself, as well as from third parties.


Visual Studio 2010 Tips & Tricks

This talk covered tips & tricks across the languages, IDE, ALM and .NET framework. This includes features like DGML graphs, IntelliTrace, WPF drag & drop data binding, TPL, PLINQ, DLR interop with IronPython, Start Page customizations, Extension Manager & extensions, Pro Power Tools, Navigate To, Call Hierarchy, VB language (statement lambdas, auto prop, line continuation), C# language & COM (indexed properties, optional parameters), and No PIA. It’s a whirlwind tour while building a fun Twitter trends applications. It gives attendees a sense of the breadth of improvements in VS 2010, and they usually leave with a handful of tips they can try out back at the office.

Here are the session materials:

I received a couple of feature requests after the session:

  • One was for printable documentation of user-authored libraries. I pointed the attendee to SandCastle as the best current solution for this.
  • The other was for additional formatting options of specific code elements. For this, you can customize formatting in Tools->Options.

Other Comments:

  • “At @lisafeig’s session, VS tips and tricks. Shortcuts galore! #techedme”
  • “I loved the session, with a continuous smile all the time. An event that i will come yearly too. Thanks”


Geek Girls Panel

There were 160 women in attendance at the first ever Middle East Geek Girls event, which was a great success. I spoke on the panel, which included women from both inside and outside Microsoft, as well as a variety of ages. Top questions were around successful career strategies and work/life balance. There were a huge range of cultures represented, so it was inspiring to see how we could all relate to the issues and tips on a common level. All shared a passion for technology, and wanted success in both their personal lives and careers. I made some great contacts at this event, and exchanged ideas about how to think about these issues. Tips for career included knowing & sharing with others what you want to do, building a network, and finding great mentors. Tips for work/life balance included making sure your work is something you enjoy, and also scheduling firm personal time. One interesting framework that many found helpful was the idea that we all want to be supermen & superwomen in all aspects in our life at all times, but sometimes we may need to pick & choose which aspect we want to prioritize at various life stages. Another interesting distinction was that whereas in the US, there is an emphasis to get more women involved in math & science in both school and work, in the UAE it seems like there are much higher numbers in schools, but that the drop off happens with work.


Meet the Microsoft Visual Studio Team

Speakers: Brian Keller, Lisa Feigenbaum, Scott Hunter, Shy Cohen, Vishal Joshi

We held this session as a big round circle discussion, to better integrate with the attendees. We had about 50 people by the end, and kept widening the circle during the session. 🙂 Many attendees were doing web development; many were also working in various government offices. Here were some of the topics discussed:

  • One big topic was the rate of Microsoft releases. Some wanted more frequent releases, so Microsoft could keep up with competitors and release features faster. Others wanted less frequent releases, due to the time to upgrade, as well as the task of convincing their management. Similarly, some wanted more features, while others wanted more time to catch up and learn existing features. Finally, others compared Microsoft’s investments in technologies, based on the frequency they release. (Another wanted more frequent releases but was still using VS 2005!) As you can see, it was a very lively discussion with a lot of attendee participation and a lot of fun for us on the team. 🙂
    2-3 years is the appropriate cadence we’ve determined to release the .NET Framework, so that companies can get new runtime features at a reasonable pace but don’t need to spend all their time upgrading. On the tooling side, we have more flexibility to release on a more frequent cadence. Examples of this are the Pro Power Tools, Feature Packs, and tools for Microsoft plaftorms (Azure, Office, etc.). Vishal Joshi and Scott Hunter represented the Web team, and explained that the team is equally invested in Webforms and MVC, and that the cadence of these two is different because of the ship vehicles.
  • Another major topic was Webforms vs. MVC and LINQ to SQL vs. Entity Framework. In this case we clarified the roadmap for each example. We will continue to support LINQ to SQL, but future investments will be in Entity Framework. However, the Web team is equally investing in Webforms and MVC. Vishal and Scott listed recent enhancements in each, and are also redesigning their website to improve this messaging. There were strong advocates of each model in the audience, so we explained that we need both Webforms and MVC in order to accommodate both groups of users.

Other Comments (including some entertaining ones):

  • “Bring more of those people, and more of this kind of sessions/meetings it was really amazing”
  • “It was a good experience meeting the team - 'who makes the developers life hell with new versions all the time.' All the guys & yes the gal too, were cool with the answers. Shy Cohen was a lookalike of Vin Diesel:) & really cool.”

At the end, we stayed for about 10min while attendees could rotate in and take pictures with the team.

Ask The Experts

I staffed the Development Practices table at Ask The Experts, along with local developer evangelists and MVPs. This was the first year that they held Ask The Experts, and I hope it will continue to grow in future years.

Overall, it was a great event! I really enjoyed meeting all the attendees and talking about the development they are doing, as well as the latest Microsoft releases.


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