Last year around this time, I was posting a daily blog with photos and thoughts on the Microsoft Tech-Ed 2007 conference. This year, I'm at my last day of the Microsoft Tech-Ed Developers 2008 conference. I was so exhausted last year, that I skipped the daily blogging this year and took things easy in the evenings. However, I thought I would put up at least one post containing my thoughts on this year's extravaganza.
I'll start by saying that it wasn't the extravaganza that it has been in past years. They split the conference over two weeks, so there's only 6000 or so people here this week (versus 14,000 or so last year). That, perhaps combined with the general state of the economy, has lead to lots of very apparent cut-backs. Little things like the empty tables that used to be piled high with snacks and the lack of any drink choices beyond pop and coffee, while not the end of the world, were definitely noticeable. I also missed having the option of attending a couple of the IT Pro sessions to get a different perspective on things. There were only maybe 1/3 of the usual vendors on site, and none were giving away big prizes. Last year, there were thousands of dollars, a Ducati motorcycle, and more. The party at Universal Studios was OK, but it lacked the same spark as last year's event at Islands of Adventure. For one, Microsoft had only rented-out half of the park. Several rides, including The Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster (my favorite) were off-limits to us. On a side note, I have to point out that Universal calling the Simpsons ride "new" is quite an overstatement. They just put a paint job on the old Back To The Future ride, replaced the Deloreons with roller coaster cars, and changed the movie that plays on the screen. Other than that, it's the same ride. It would be like taking your car with 50,000 miles on it, painting it and installing a new exhaust, then telling everybody its a "new" car. But I digress... :)
That said, the real point of attending the conference was still of similar caliber to years gone by. There was a ton of stuff to learn and a bunch of really good (some not so much) sessions from which to choose. It still got me jazzed about all the latest Microsoft offerings just like it always does. If this had been my first Tech-Ed, I would have been overwhelmed and wowed just like I was several years ago when it WAS my first Tech-Ed. However, the feel just wasn't the same this year. All things considered, I'm sure I'll be back again. My guess is that the Developer week of the show will continue to grow in size and I will, once again, be wowed.
PS - I almost forgot to add my usual plea to Microsoft. I submit this same request as part of every evaluation for every session.... "Slides should be made available prior to presentations to facilitate note-taking particularly by folks with tablet PCs. I've been asking for this for years, and I just can't understand why it never happens. If the slides are required in advance of the conference, why can't they be made available before the sessions? If you're looking to sell tablet PCs and copies of OneNote or Office with OneNote, this would be a perfect way to advertise their functionality. Print the PowerPoint to OneNote and write your thoughts right on the slides as the presenter is talking. It gives your notes much more context when you go to review them after the conference."