PDC2008: A Day in the Life #2

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Here we are…one month later with the second post in a series about the PDC2008 Content Owner role. If you don’t know what a Content Owner does, I’d recommend reading PDC2008: A Day in the Life #1 for context. As mentioned in the prior post, one of my responsibilities is to coordinate and drive two meetings each week with many representatives from across Microsoft. The members of this team are critical thinkers who help define, create, and shape the content we’ll present at PDC2008 in October. But how do we select our content? How do we know which sessions make sense and which ones don’t?

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that many Microsoft employees have an engineering mind-set, and we tend to want everything defined in terms of an algorithm (yes, I’m guilty too). But when it comes to content, though we do have many measures and metrics, a bunch of smart people talking and arguing about what makes the most sense provides the secret ingredient. And that’s okay! That’s why we spend so much time in meetings. Embrace the power of the human brain, I say!

For a big event like PDC, a lot of our product teams want to present sessions on their latest technology. As a matter of fact, I receive e-mail almost daily asking how to integrate “these 10 sessions,” or asking “how do we get our own track?” If we accepted every suggestion, we’d probably end up with over 500 sessions, and we have neither the space nor the time to deliver that many (not to mention the feedback we receive from attendees that tells us to keep the session count reasonable).

Here are some of the filters we use to vet our topics:

  • Does the topic relate to the overall theme of the event?
    If not, it likely won’t help us tell a strategic and coherent story, and it may even be confusing. According to our surveys, attendees use the PDC to help set the future direction of their own products and technologies, and as a result, we owe it to you to stay on-theme.

  • Does the topic provide guidance?
    If the content of a session is simply a tour of an API without any guidance, we’ll weed it out. Likewise, if the content could be found in the documentation or in a SDK, it doesn’t make sense at the conference. Many times, the only place to get PDC content is actually at the event or by watching one of the session recordings.

  • Is the topic germane to leading-edge developers and architects?
    PDC is the Professional Developers Conference, after all, and the content must be useful to our primary audiences. Otherwise, we delete it.

  • When does the topic’s related technology release?
    Because we’re a strategic conference, we optimize for the future. As a result, we don’t spend as much time on shipping products or technologies. When we do, it’s a deep dive (like Silverlight Graphics Pipelines) or an all-day pre-conference session. We like to say that we deliver this kind of content PDC Style.

  • How deeply can we cover the topic?
    PDC is known for its deep content, and we have many sessions that can only be delivered by the actual Microsoft architects or developers. Other than keynotes and a handful of 200-level sessions to set context, we prefer 300-level, scenario-focused sessions and select 400-level deep dives.

  • Does the topic make more sense at another event?
    Or in other words, does it only make sense at PDC? If a session could be presented more effectively at another event like MIX or Tech·Ed, we won’t include it at PDC.

There are other filters, but these are the most important. Also, PDC is frequently used to announce new products and technologies, and for those topics, we tend to allocate more sessions simply because the content is brand new.

As you can imagine, with a “budget” that limits the total sessions we can deliver, this really becomes an exercise in weeding out inappropriate content, prioritizing the best content, and often times combining two or more sessions into one. This last tactic has a desirable outcome, because it generally forces multiple topics or technologies to come together and provide clear guidance, rationalization, or differentiation.

Okay…here’s where you come in. While we could easily fill all of our session slots with topics suggested by internal teams, I’d like to ask which specific topics you’d like us to cover. To set expectations appropriately, I can’t promise that just because a topic is suggested here that it will be represented at PDC2008, but I can promise that every suggestion that is added to feedback will be reviewed and considered by someone on our content team. While we’re at it, are there any Microsoft speakers you’d really like to hear from? If you have other colleagues or friends who may have input, please send them our way.

Thanks in advance for your participation!

Comments (18)
  1. Oran says:

    I like it!  Hopefully these criteria can also be applied to some of the keynote presentations.  My one negative memory of PDC05 was of the overcaffeinated leprechaun Steven Translusinofsky going on and on at breakneck pace covering a huge breadth of eye-glazing features like “Excel on the web.”

    Topics: Mesh, of course.  “D”, “Emacs.NET”, and related goo.  New language features (C#, VB, Ruby?).  Parallel multi-core stuff.  Volta.  The continued commoditization of BizTalk features.  The long-term future of WPF, if any, especially in relation to Silverlight.  Anything new in WCF related to queuing / durable RM?  Synchronizing the sync story.  Where’s CardSpace?  What’s the identity story?

    Speakers I’d like to hear from: Steve Swartz, Abolade Gbadegesin, Anders Hejlsberg, Matt Warren, Erik Meijer, Pat Helland, Clemens Vasters, Vittorio Bertocci, John Gossman, Nicholas Allen, Joe Duffy.

  2. sod0783 says:

    I’d like to see some sessions around WiX and MSI.  Now that WiX is being included in Rosario this is a perfect time to get more developers on board and walk through some of the basic and advanced topics that WiX users struggle with.

    Speakers could include but are not limited to in no particular order Peter Marcu, Rob Mensching, Bob Arnson, Jason Ginchereau, and Aaron Stebner.  It would also be nice to hear from the VS and Office teams about their experience and best practices using WiX to create their installers.

  3. Per says:

    Great filters you have there, exactly what I would expect from a PDC.

    Some interesting topics I would like to see:

    – Everything about Microsoft.NET 4.0

    – SharePoint next generation

    – Entity Framework v2

    – Windows 7

    – Rosario


    – Webdev/Ajax futures

  4. Art says:

    Many of us have developed applications that we must ensure will continue to run on future versions of Windows.  Along with giving us information on the new functionality in Windows7, please also give us information about the things we need to be aware of to keep our existing applications running on the new OS.  Vista introduced a lot of new security enhancements, for which we had to make “adjustments”.  What new things should we be aware of when we try to move our apps to Windows7?  I think there would be a lot of interest in this!

  5. Ilya Mirman says:

    How about the multicore software challenge?

    An irreversible shift towards multicore x86 processors is underway. Building multicore processors delivers on the promise of Moore’s Law, but it creates an enormous problem for developers. Multicore processors are parallel computers, and parallel computers are notoriously difficult to program.

    Therefore, to deliver competitive application performance on these new processors, many applications must be written, or rewritten, as parallel or multithreaded applications. This multithreaded development is difficult, expensive, time-consuming, and error-prone; and requires new programming skill sets.

  6. Wictor says:

    Hi Mike,

    I’d really would like to see what’s happening to next generation of Office products (server + clients) and it’s relation to standards. Such as web standards in SharePoint and document standards in SharePoint and Office clients.

  7. Marc says:

    I’d like to hear about how large-scale line-of-business applications using WPF are intended to be developed. Acropolis is dead, something else is under development – I’m expecting that Microsoft is presenting some kind of vision of the things to come.

    And on a different note: I think we all agree that .NET source code contains a lot of long words (names for classes, interfaces, methods, etc.). PLEASE consider using proportional fonts for source code presented in the talks. Long words in monospaced fonts are terribly hard to read in larger font sizes (which are required for presentations).

  8. art_scott@msn.com says:

    F#, PFX TPL, XAML, Expression, Threads NOT (Edward Lee at UC Berkeley), …

  9. Peruri says:

    SharePoint vNext

    SilverLight vNext

    WCF vNext

    Ajax/ASP.NET vNext

  10. Nick says:

    Personally, I would love to see a presentation on the work being done to support multi-core development in C++, and/or what the future support for this will be in VS. I’m also interested in what OS services will continue to be available in Windows 7, and how the services model will be structured, especially wrt the componentization of the OS. Those are my primary areas of interest.

  11. mswanson says:

    Thanks, everyone, for the feedback! Please keep it coming. We’re definitely listening. 🙂

  12. Eric Hill says:

    Being able to access the GPU, create pixel shaders, etc., in WPF is all neat whiz-bang stuff, but WPF will not be practical for me until my users have a way to paste WPF graphics into Office applications.  So I hope the WPF Futures talk will include a solution to this problem.

    Generalizing that theme, it would be nice to have a WPF talk (or part thereof) that addresses what’s still not done in WPF that would make somebody still need to use GDI/GDI+.  Maybe with the WriteableBitmap improvements, along with being able to paste graphics into Office apps, there’s nothing left, but it would be nice to hear that. Having two APIs (GDI/+ and WPF) with disjoint feature sets is difficult for developers.



  13. I propose a session on Entity Framework v2 that describes the extent to which and how POCO, persistence ignorance, and n-tier architecture will be supported in the next version.


  14. Haichih Hwa says:

    I would like to see following in this year’s PDC:

    Windows 7 of course!

    Upcoming Office v13 and SharePoint

    Next version of Visual Studio (VB.Net & C#)

    Windows Mobile 7



  15. Oran says:

    One more thought, and it may not fit your criteria “Does the topic make more sense at another event?”

    If Microsoft has _anything_ in the pipeline to compete with iPhone development, I think you need to start getting developer mindshare _now_ rather than waiting for Mix.

    Even if this ends up being part of the larger Mesh story, I think it’s also worth emphasizing it independently as an end-to-end mobile story that could stand on its own.

    The motivation for bringing this up is because despite being a hardcore .NET dev, I’m seriously considering the iPhone dark side.  The only thing holding me back is the hope of a better mobile story from Microsoft in the near future, and no the current Windows Mobile doesn’t even come close.  Silverlight plus a Mesh app deployment model might do the trick.

  16. Nigel Page says:

    I’d like to hear what plans there are to address the ever widening gap between development within SQL Server and development outside SQL Server. There’ve been great advances in language and constructs outside SQL Server, whilst SQL remains very much an 80’s language. The gap is widening and causing increasing issues for developers as they have to translate between the two worlds. OR mapping layers are an attempt to plaster over the cracks, but the real problem is the lack of comparable evolution of SQL. What is happenning to address this problem?

  17. TomF says:

    NModel & Spec# sure look like the next "big thing" in the building software business. Any insights would be cool.

  18. Aaron says:

    A few ideas I posted a while back for better presentations at technical conferences. I was at Tech Ed this year and amazed by the number of presentations that could be improved by a few simple steps.


    One idea I had…

    I’ve seen far too many “readers” and too many that spend 2 or 3 minutes on walking through the agenda for a 1 hour presentation.

    I’d like to propose that in conference scenarios the presentation agenda and session title are put up on the screen prior to the session starting. Then, just jump right into the content when the session starts.  

    (Most of us know what the presentation is going to be about – you might as well educate people so that they have a chance to get to another session if they’ve made a mistake rather than waiting 5 minutes into a session …)

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