Yet Another TechEd posting from a Microsoftie

Yeah, I know everyone is blogging about TechEd right now, but I feel I need to get my comments in before it gets completely stale.  This year, Microsoft decided to hold it in San Diego, a great city and was a wonderful choice to hold TechEd 2004.  Of course, that doesn't count the hotel's inability to handle the demand for internet access (the connections were slower than dialup--when you could even get an IP address!).  It's been a couple of days since I returned and I am still exhausted from the week gone by.  My once-clean Inbox is a mere memory as I am way behind on mail.  As for the conference, I barely got to attend any sessions as I was knee-deep in patterns & practices business.   Tuesday was particularly insane as I was juggling 6-7 meetings while still trying to man the booth.  It got so bad that I double-booked meetings at 2pm because they were both named Michelle.  Oops.  Fortunately, everything during TechEd went well (we won't talk about the missed flight on the way there and all the delays trying to get home). 


We were well represented in San Diego.  It started with the GAPP (Guidance about patterns & practices) pre-con on Sunday.  Despite some technical glitches, it went off really well.  A lot of people were commenting on how they were very impressed with the content and said it was the highlight of their week (and these people had a good time during the week).  As for the core patterns & practices team from Redmond, we had a great crew down in San Diego.  We had great content presented by Wojtek Kozaczynski, Tom Hollander, Ron Jacobs, and Jim Newkirk.  Jim was Mr. Versatility for us.  Jim presented as part of the GAPP, presented as part of the VS Team System presentation, worked extra hours at the booth, worked the cabana, and even did a great job folding shirts for us, undoubtedly prompting many onlookers to ask "Isn't that the father of NUnit?  Why does he look like he's working at Old Navy?"  If Jim has a big ego, he does a phenomenal job hiding it.  Mike Kropp (the patterns & practices GM and my boss) gained a lot of respect from me for getting in the "trenches" and working in the booth for several hours again (he was at PDC as well).  At lot of executives think they are too good to deal with the masses, but the truth is clear--you can never get too big to hear directly from customers and be willing to accept the feedback (good and bad).  It's the only way to improve.  Steve Ballmer is my favorite example of that--he may not booths, but he answers e-mail and encourages people to connect with him.  I feel better with the company in Steve's hands and the group in Mike's.  Larry Brader, a tester in our group, was making his p&p debut and was outstanding in his thirst to talk to customers and share his enthusiasm for patterns & practices.  Where most of us would be a little passive and have attendees come up and ask us questions, Larry would seek people out draw the questions out of them.  It was a blast to watch.  And, of course, Jen Quinn was the Logistics Queen, making sure everything went smoothly and letting me focus on working with customers & partners--you can't put a price on that. 


Most of my time was spent at the booth.  The booth was ground central and it was consistently packed with people.  Most everyone had a lot of opinions about everything we've been doing and it was really good to hear it.   As a small promotion, we brought 1000 T-Shirts and mini-CDs to give away assuming that would be plenty since we were asking people to fill out a survey.  That would surely turn people off, right?  Well, we ran out by early Thursday afternoon.  Wow!


Of course, there was definitely life beyond the booth.  Some of my observations:


  • Visual Studio Team System was finally announced and looks like it addresses a lot of what people felt was missing from Visual Source Safe.  Project management should get a whole lot easier and Visual Studio really feels like it is growing up as a product.

  • WSE 2 is officially released (the Logging App Block is now whole!) and that's great news for web services developers.  I was entertained by Steve Ballmer calling it "wussy".  It's anything but...

  • Office Information Bridge seems like an impressive work to extend the concept started by the Office Web Services Toolkit and I am excited to tinker with it.  I found the previous toolkit a little challenging at times and I am opimistic about what will be in the new release.

  • The "Caller ID" method of reducing spam could be a great breakthrough.  If you didn't hear about it, I suggest you go to the TechEd site and look at Andy Lees' presentation.  Very good stuff.

  • It was a great feeling to see the application block session attendance overflowing.  The official count was 483 but that doesn't count the people that were outside the room that were peeking though the open doors.

  • It was a much-needed opportunity to put the faces to the names.  Plenty of celebrities at TechEd, some I had met before and others that were new.  TechEd can often be more of a social gathering than an informative conference. 

  • It was gratifying to meet a lot of customers who had either watched the webcasts or read my blog (yes, I know you are out there).  It's always nice to know that we aren't just our words aren't just lost in thin air.  I got a lot of compliments and two people even wanted to know if I wanted a job.  Thanks guys, but I am pretty happy in Redmond. 🙂

  • Good to hear the positive feedback on the new site layout and navigation.  I've seen some blogs about it (many thanks Anil and Jay!) and the feedback off the posts has been great.  If you have any additional comments, please feel free to e-mail or post feedback to this site.  Kathleen Bystrom, who works with me, did an amazing job driving a lot of customer feedback into the design and deserves most of the credit.  I deserve the credit for staying out of her way except when she needed me.  Sometimes, the best part of management in getting the heck out of the way and letting the more talented people do their thing.

  • I got lots of offers and requests for training on patterns & practices material.  It's amazing how many people want to base their training offerings on our material.  I think we have a great opportunity in the next year to really make big strides in this area, both in helping trainers create the content and helping get the word out the customers who need it.  We've already helped sponsor the p&p Summits, but there is more we can do.  To be continued...

  • One personal thrill was to meet Chris De Herrera, the founder of, a site I have been a big fan of for many years.  As a customer of Windows CE devices for many years, I used to find it interesting that a random guy could come up with a site more compelling that Microsoft themselves.   But after getting to Microsoft, I realized how important that is.  The enthusiasm of Microsoft's customers can be even more powerful than our own enthusiasm. 


On Thursday, Ron Jacobs and I did a webcast with Chris Kinsman and Deborah Kurata as part of the “patterns & practices Live“ session.  That turned out to be a lot of fun and closed out the event in style for us.  I won't be heading to TechEd EMEA as it looks right now, so I am done for a while with the possible exception of VS Live in NYC (yes Paul, you may have convinced me despite your painful jabs at my still-maturing Baltimore Orioles baseball team :->).  Thanks to everyone who made TechEd such a pleasurable experience.  BTW, my next blog will probably be a response to a lot of mail and blog feedback (a grab bag), so if you are waiting for an answer for me on something, stay tuned.  Now, back to my mountianous Inbox...


{Dave Matthews Band - Busted Stuff}


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