So, that was TedchEd 2006..

Posted Tue, Aug 29 2006 2:03 by bill
Despite catching a cold from the moment I landed in Sydney, and a terrible tips and tricks presentation, TechEd 2006 was a lot of Fun.  First let's see how it went on the "reasons to TechEd" evaluator:
(1) the shirts :  Well all I saw was all cotton, so things are potentially looking good ;)   MS's forefront was nice minimalistic (not greatest quality though :o).  And of course Frank had his mambo shirt (V2), That must be a sign "long term" trends of  stability ;)
(2) office friendly projectiles : not bad at all.  I saw some nice softish mini football's with tail fins (or are they meant to be rockets ?)  The soccer balls on the other hand seemed a bit over the top for inside an office.  And although I saw pictures of the frisbees, I don't think I saw any in flight.  So all in all a mixed bag, some doing good, other's not quite getting it.
(3) booth babes :  *At* the venue itself, there didn't seem to be the gratuitous booth babes this year, instead there was a noticeable number of more beautiful smiley friendly faces everywhere, and the BIG change this year was those faces seemed to also be associated with brains capable of holding conversations !  Of course there had to be gratuitous women somewhere associated with the event and the party, and Darling Harbour nite life supplied that, from the XBox cheerleader girls, all the way to the girls kissing each other on the dance floor (yes that really did happen).  The interesting part of this was it seemed to validate my anthropological hypothesis that I put forward, that given a pretty girl you can sell *anything*, even OS2 to geeks.  Well the credit card were certainly flashing, and no-one really knew exactly what those girls kissing on the dance floor were selling, just that a lot of people wanted to buy <g> 
On a more serious note, it was great to see more women involved with TechEd.  The keynote was from Anne Kirah  ,and hopefully helped people to rethink how they think about the "user".   I didn't get a chance to see Anna Liu's presentation, but from what I heard it went over well, and like Anne's talk challenged the way we think about the "user" in solutions.  Probably just a co-incidence, but also a probability given the lack of presence of women presenters over the years there is most likely a large untapped reserve there that can help us see the bigger pictures.  Good news is there seems to be more women ready to present next year :)
So anyway, on (3), I think it is better than booth babes, and maybe it's this head cold I *still* have, but for some reason it seems kind of strange to see TechEd become more "real" world, while the real world around it (well Darling Harbour) becomes more bizarre.  But before you think we're getting all touchy-feely in touch with our feminine selves, you should be aware that TechEd 2007 is in the land of gratuitous meter maids :D
On other things …
It was great to see many of Australia's best software developers & architects there in one place.  Many people mentioned to me that the reason they come to TechEd is not for the presentations (which is kind of good cause mine & Geoff's presentation surely sucked), but rather to meet up with people, and the conversations, conversations about many things.
Some of the more interesting "technology" conversations seemed to be focused on the world of multi-processors, and asynchronous computing.  From Nick Weinholt's use of #pragma omp parallel for , to discussions about how it would fit into managed code, discussing functional languages with Joel Pobar (which Leon has taken the meme with), LINQ and multi processing, concepts of workflow and concurrency right through to the philosophical discussions of whether language alone can solve this, or whether it's language and tools that provide the real solutions, and the directions taken there.  It was also interesting to hear the general consensus that C# is loosing it's way in that it is becoming more complex like C/C++ from which it tried to simplify and purify.  
Probably one of the stranger discussions I think triggered by Andrew Parsons was Structures (value types) and Events.  Kind of strange as although you can have events in Structures, none of use could really come up with good reasons as to why you would, and in fact were generally shaking our heads over the potential issues due to copy in// copy out behaviour ;) Perhaps that's a feature that should have compiler warnings on it.
And of course it was great to see some of the new cool hardware some of the folks had, Frank's motion tablet, Nick (Baa means NO) Randolph's ultra portable device (forgotten what they are called, a hybrid between a PDA and tablet PC with touch-screen goodness :D ).
One other thing I noticed was there were a LOT of questions about VB6 to VB.NET still, as well as questions about VB6 in Vista etc.   That being said, the ask the experts night seemed relatively quiet.
I did a double double double up Cabana session (4) with Paul Stovell which went pretty well. Very relaxed small groups which allowed for lots of discussion.  I think we got across some key points about using tools for generating code, benefits of WPF binding etc.
My presentation with Geoff didn't go so good.  Actually we sucked :(   I'd have to disagree with Geoff on two counts. He didn't let me down, and no we were NOT prepared enough.  Let me take the last point first.  No matter how familiar we were with the content, we weren't well rehearsed.  As a team we failed, and given I was the one with more experience, it really was up to me to lead the way. So what went wrong ?  Well it was a combination of factors.   Having a head cold didn't help. I wasn't at the stage of letting the Trojan's park their horse inside, but I didn't respond as needed when things went bad.  Instead of dealing with the problems when they arose, I dismissed them, thinking we could move on.  And we probably could have if it was just once, but it wasn't, so it really ended up as egg on face kind of experience.  That kind of left me stumbling, feeling kind of naked without the keyboard, and not really in control of the situation, and loosing my reference point when things got broken.
I discussed the session with a few people who were there, and the general feeling was we weren't rehearsed, and I think they're generally right.   Our familiarity with the material and our knowledge of VB was our only saving points.  So how did we get to that ?  I think a lot of it was the wrong mix and match of code/slides.  A major part of the presentation was based on a previous presentation I did at Ballarat which I think went reasonably well. That was a complete code walk-through based presentation … IDE centric.  In this case we kind of went the same way, but decided to pre-prepare some of the code (yes we were over prepared in one sense yet under rehearsed in another).  Doing so made the audience feel less connected with the code I think, and so when bugs happen, it just makes the pre baked code look half baked.  The problems with the code slipped past when we prepared, mainly because my machine went a little flakey, or more to the point the project did.  As we did a final walk through a couple of hours before the presentation we found the Data Sources window failed to work for us. We ended up trying a few things, eventually splitting the solution into tiers, but in doing so we lost valuable time, and didn't re-test everything, we only tested the basics and that the Data Sources window was now stably working (FWIW: we presumed it was the inclusion of the beta LINQ bits into the solution that caused those issues).
Still, when things went bad, I think the big problem was I lost my keys into where we were, my synchronisation points.  As I was playing a key role as the main presenter (something we hadn't really discussed), it was up to me to orchestrate things, not stand there somewhat dumb founded.
Oh well, the good news is that some people did get stuff out of the presentation. I saw them jotting down notes, and they were also asking for links to the snippet editor and exception helper, as well as at least one grasped the issues around BindingSource.  I'm not quite sure how well we demonstrated the extensibility of My, or the ease of which an end to end forms over data app can be written in 2.0, but don't think we totally failed there either.
I do hope for Geoff the experience wasn't too bad.  The good news there is he can probably catch some training with Mitch at Readify now, knowing that he's lived through the worst  ;) 
Seriously though, there's very few opportunities for speakers in Australia compared to the US, and it's important, IMO, that we encourage and help foster Aussie talent there as it all adds to our resource pool.
Oh, and hopefully next year (if they'll still have me), when I email back saying I want to do speaker training, they'll make sure it happens not slip through the cracks ;)
So some lessons learnt, and hopefully we'll improve and build from it.
But wait, there's still more …..
Captain Nemo organised "The Ron Jacobs" to do an Arcast with me.  I was just one of many that Ron interviewed, and I haven't heard it yet.  The head cold was just starting to kick in ;)
I must say though Ron is a really nice guy and a GREAT interviewer.  If he was a dentist he would be the kind you'd recommend to all your friends and family as the painless doctor. Very professional, very good. 
Kind of reminds me of those business interviews you hear on United sometimes, which I always like.  But maybe that's just his SW accent <g>  
Anyway, I'm sure it will be fun to listen to one way or the other ;) 
Oh, and of course there's lots lots more, but hey if I told you it all, there'd be no point in you going to TechEd.  Looking forward to TE 2007 already :D
See you there (I hope)
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