You honestly would not believe the amount of effort and organisation that goes into putting on an event like tech.days. The team have been planning since December. Every Wednesday, 14 or so of us would have an hour long meeting to discuss the logistics, content and video production.
My involvement consisted of turning up for the meetings, briefing the agency that were designing the event website, creating the build scripts for putting the site on Azure and sorting out the content for the web day.
The website was pretty much a walk in the park. I’d not run a major site on Azure before, it took a few days to get a process together and create an msbuild script that automated it. I always recommend creating build scripts, it was a habit I developed in my previous job at Systemax before joining Microsoft. Not only did it save me time it also provided a sort of documentation to the guy that had to take over the role when I left. My rule of thumb: on the second time of doing anything, automate it.
Deciding on the web day content was much harder. I mean, Microsoft and the web, can mean so many different things: Webforms, MVC, Silverlight, IE, HTML5… a day which covers them all could look disjointed. In January myself and Mark Quirk decided to focus on IE9 and MVC.
Since starting as an Evangelist at MS I have tried to avoid producing content that focuses just on our own technologies but instead takes a wider industry view on technology. So when it came to thinking about IE9 speakers I approached Bruce Lawson from Opera to talk about HTML5 (via Chris Mills another great Opera Evangelist) and Rachel Andrew to talk about CSS3. Both of these speakers are industry heavyweights who have years of experience. I practically skipped around the room when they both confirmed. I will be eternally grateful to them both, neither had to do it and they asked for nothing in return… they are just the sort of people that are willing to share and truly believe in creating a better web.
For the other talks I looked closer to home. We are blessed in the UK to have Steve Sanderson who works for the Microsoft Developer Division living just down the road. He is an incredibly captivating speaker, funny but to the point. I meet him for the first time last year over lunch and so cheekily asked him to speak about MVC over email. He agreed the same day, again I was ecstatic to get such a high calibre speaker.
The rest of the sessions fell into place. The UK expert on site pinning is Stephen Kennedy and since we worked on the Gorillaz project earlier in the year together, I called him up and sure enough he agreed on the spot. No arm twisting or bribery required.
The keynote and the WebMatrix sessions were taken care of by my ubelly.com colleagues Dr Andrew Spooner and Sir Andy Robb who can always be relied upon to deliver great talks.
Come the end of the Web day I was absolutely shattered. I was so nervous the night before I hardly slept, I was running on just two hours sleep. I relied heavily on coffee and 4 red bulls to get me through (thanks @alexball for pushing the red bull). As the final session came to an end and the cinema emptied. I looked up to the 400 hundred or so empty seats, now cloaked in darkness, and thought to myself… I have the best job ever!