Microsoft Web Developer Summit 2009 Wrap Up

PHPElephantOnCampus Last week, I had the privilege of helping to organize and participate at the Microsoft PHP Web Developer Summit in Redmond, Wa.  As part of my role as a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft, this is one of the events that gets me most excited about my job. 

I often speak at and deliver technical presentations at both Microsoft & community led events. Most of the time, these are to customers and partners who are already using Microsoft technologies.  They are usually interested in learning about the latest developer technologies the company has to offer.  (At least this is what I tell myself when folks show up voluntarily to hear me speak :))

However, I view “evangelism” as an essential part of the job of a Developer Evangelist.  Evangelism means reaching out to, and speaking with, folks who do not currently use the technologies my company offers, with the goal of getting them to consider adopting these technologies. It’s as simple as that.  No hidden agendas.  Some have claimed this is evil.  I disagree.  Strongly!

If I feel there is value in a technology my company offers, I hope to be able to lead folks to it.  And if there isn’t value, I try to understand why, and channel feedback back to the product teams as to how value can be added.  Corny as it may sound, I feel happiness when the connection between a technology and its value has been made for a potential customer. Especially ones that aren’t already using the technology!  It’s why I happily get up and go to work Monday mornings.  That, and the fact that it puts food on my family’s table. 🙂  (See Scott Hanselman’s Venn diagram of happiness as a reference.)

Over the past couple of years, Microsoft has been becoming more engaged in the PHP community. I’m proud to have been a part of those efforts. 

“WHAT?!” you say.  “Peter, PHP is okay and all that… but I thought you’re supposed to be evangelizing ASP.NET as it’s THE best web development platform in the world!  In the WORLD!” 

Umm…  yeah.  And I do that.  However, the title of my organization at Microsoft is “Developer & Platform Evangelism”.  A key word there is “platform”.  That platform is Windows.  ASP.NET and all of the developer technologies that go along with it are a part of it, and a huge attraction to the Windows platform.  (Lend me your ear in person, and I’ll tell you all about it!)

But, there is a developer ecosystem that exists beyond Windows. One popular technology used by developers is PHP.  If folks have made a decision to use PHP as their development tool, it’s in Microsoft’s interest for them to run it on the Windows platform.  And thus, explains why Microsoft as a whole has been engaging with the PHP community.

PHP runs great on Windows today. That wasn’t always the case historically. By working with the community, adding features to Windows like FastCGI support in IIS 7 and the Web Platform Installer, Microsoft has improved the lot of PHP developers on the Windows platform.  Things are not perfect, but they’re a lot better than 2-3 years ago!  

One way Microsoft has worked with the PHP community has been to host a Web Developer Summit in Redmond each fall the past few years.  This is an invite-only event where we invite about 25 folks from the core PHP and PHP application communities for a few days of tech briefings and feedback discussions with the product teams.  This was my 3rd year participating in the event.

So what happened at the summit?  On the first day, one of the attendees joked with me that they were on a ‘kool-aid drinking’ junket. Tech briefings can have that effect I suppose.  Over the course of the summit, the attendees got to hear tech briefings on the latest versions of products such as IIS, IE, the WebPI, Azure, ASP.NET AJAX, and Powershell. The sessions were good.  Water and sugar were mixed.  Kool-aid was dispensed. 

However, the best parts of the summit (IMHO) were the parts when the product teams weren’t the ones doing the talking. Thankfully, that seemed to happen a lot more during this year’s WDS than in previous years!  During, and in between the sessions, the attendees shared their thoughts on the direction Microsoft has been going, as well as where they think the company needs to go in order to provide a better value for PHP developers.

The goal of the summit was not to be a brain-wash camp.  It was to help make a connection between Microsoft’s technologies and their value to PHP developers.  Attendees did not go home as a member of the borg. But the chips were implanted—er, the seeds of interest were sparked.  Relationships were started.  New friends were made.  Notes were taken, and some of the product teams are already taking them back to the bat cave to act upon.  Based on the conversations I had with several of the attendees, the event was a success from their point of view.

Don’t take my word for it.  Read what some of them had to say:

If you want to read along for a detailed list of what was discussed, check out Ben Ramsey’s most excellent notes from the summit!

The conversation doesn’t end with the Web Developer Summit.  To my new (and old) friends in the PHP community, let’s keep the conduit open!  Myself and my peer evangelists (linked US only) around the world are available whenever you want to connect with Microsoft.

Comments (1)
  1. snipe says:

    Great write-up, Peter. I think a big part of the progress that gets made every year is the fact that we, as members of the PHP community, trust the evangelists – as much as we can trust an kool-aid dispensing conglomerate. 😉

    But seriously – this ways my first year at the summit. I hope to get invited back, assuming I contributed enough (and wasn’t too horribly offensive) – ultimately, what we as a community want to see is progress. Help us see that this isn’t a big, expensive handjob to the PHP community, and our trust will grow, and we will be even more willing to work you Microsoft.

    As I said on my own blog, our job as techies is to make smart decisions based on the best available technology. For a long time, MSFT wasn’t it – at least not for our needs and our client needs. But everyone in that room groks that when and if the technology meets our needs, we’re there. We want to help you get there, and summits like what happened last week will help us all get there. Competition leads to innovation – everybody wins by us working together.

    Also, thanks for keeping me company in the airport 🙂

    Also also – MSDN sucks my cornhole for making me register to be notified for new comments. #justsayin

    You, Dave Bost, Josh, Will, and the other evangelists are a huge boon to MSFT. I thought it was a bullshit position when I first heard about it, but collectively you folks have helped changed my perception, and therefore my willingness to even consider, MSFT as a company.

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