TechEd 2008 Orlando

This is my second post to Illusory Follies, and I wanted to extend my thanks to Andrew for allowing me to post on his blog, Thank you Andrew.

This year TechEd was again in Orlando, FL. For the first time they split it up into two weeks; the first for developers and the second for IT Professionals. This was my third TechEd (I went to San Diego in 2004, and Boston in 2006. I guess I only hit even years).

The keynote was interesting. It was delivered by the man himself; Bill Gates, and was his last one as he retires July 1st. There was a funny video they put together called “Bill’s last day” that was rife with cameos of everyone from Jay-Z to George Clooney to Steven Spielberg and a workout session with Matthew McConaughey. The rest of the keynote talked about Internet Explorer 8 (due in August), Silverlight Beta 2 (releasing this week at TechEd), VS2008 extensions for SharePoint, to name a few. This link has video of the keynote if you want to watch it, and several other blogs have details of the keynote, so I won’t repeat them here.

One other new thing they did this TechEd was not to provide bottled water. Apparently Microsoft is going green and as a result of thousands of empty water bottles going into the landfills in previous TechEds they decided this year to give everyone a nice refillable bottle to carry around with them, and provided water dispensers throughout the convention center. There was no shortage of water available, and they still had soft drinks and juice. At first I was apprehensive as I love my bottled water, but after a few refills I adapted to the idea, and rather enjoyed being able to refill anytime I wanted. Green is a good thing after all.

Another thing I noticed was the lack of snacks. In past TechEds there were tables throughout filled with fruit, granola bars, chips, etc., things to boost your energy throughout the day. This year, not so much. Around 3 PM or so they started rolling out some popcorn and a few snacks, and some fresh baked cookies (they baked them right at the table in little easy bake ovens at around 6 at a time). Of course there were 200 people waiting in line for their shot at chocolate chippy goodness (I happened to walk by a table just as they put some out and snagged one, they were warm, chewy, and indeed delicious).

Breakfast and lunch were decent as they usually are. They had their selection of fresh items, cereal, yogurt, eggs, bacon, bagels, etc. For lunches they had salads, and the prerequisite starches, vegies, and meats. The convention center employees took their jobs way too seriously though. Their job was to usher the TechEdies around like cattle, and they did it well. They stood shoulder to shoulder in lines to make sure no stray geeks escape the herd, imaginary tasers in hand just hoping for the lone non-conformant to decide they want to get their food from “this” table instead of “all the way to the end”, as though they were told if anyone allowed a nerd to wander, they would be docked a day’s pay. On two occasions my colleague and I defied them and stood in a line we were walking by, they weren’t quite sure what to do, so they frantically yelled to everyone else, “All the way to the end!” in hopes others wouldn’t revolt as well. Most were compliant.

At the keynote Bill commented that the developer week was more successful than they had anticipated. They estimated around 3000-4000 would register, but instead it was more than 6000. Yet, without the additional IT people around, it seemed more like the last day of a traditional TechEd, where most people have jumped on their planes home, and the remaining stragglers are wandering around searching for scraps of techie treasures left behind. There just weren’t as many people as I am used to. Also, to me, it just seemed like there was not a lot of excitement this year (maybe it’s the missing IT people, I don’t know, maybe it’s just me), it just seemed like something was missing this year. Although, the last couple days did seem to pick up in the energy level a bit. I guess it makes sense though, as traditionally developers are more low key, and IT people are more intense.

The breakout sessions I have gone to were mostly full, as I obviously picked the same topics everyone else did, and every room I have been in was extremely warm. A couple of the sessions that were so full they were standing room only, however, the over zealous room monitors would not allow anyone to stand this year, as the fire marshal may pop in any time and shut down the convention as a fire hazard. I was tossed out of one room as there were no more seats available, and I wasn’t allowed to stand in the back. As a result, I spent a fair amount of time in the Hands On Labs this year, and happy I did, I learned a lot about Silverlight and Windows Presentation Foundation as a result. I must say, the HOL were my favorite part. Other than a fairly slow network (at one point it took 20 minutes to restore a saved session), the labs were done very well. And there were no shortage of helpers around to assist and train. Well done on the labs MS.

A couple years ago I tried my hand at Windows Presentation Foundation development using XAML, and while it was interesting, everything was manual (i.e. you had to edit the XAML files directly). In VS2008 however they have built a XAML designer, and it’s pretty nice (except you can’t sort properties yet). In addition, XAML has Intellisense! If that wasn’t enough, they have added Intellisense to Javascript for Silverlight 1.0. Also, they added Ruby to the .NET family, and it also has Intellisense (see here)

Silverlight 2.0 beta now has the ability to use the .NET code, so you can develop in C# or any other .NET language, which is pretty cool. I went to a couple sessions about Silverlight 2.0 and media, and it looks like it will be pretty easy to create very robust web sites with great controls and media capabilities.

Other areas of focus for many have been on the new Visual Studio 2008 extensions to SharePoint, Microsoft has created a web site here that gives details.

So, was it a good TechEd? I think it was actually. While it felt more empty without the IT people, it was a pleasant change not having to compete with so many people. I like the Orange County Convention Center (MS must too as they did it two years in a row here). It was laid out just right, easy to get around, Breakout Sessions were all grouped together (unlike San Diego in 2004, where everything was on opposite ends of the center from each other), and the ambiance was very nice. TechEd 2009 will be in Los Angeles.

Also, with the time I spent in the labs, I really have a new appreciation for Silverlight. I came in not really knowing much about it, and now am excited about creating a few Silverlight projects. Also, I met some great people this time as well. With all developers this week, there were more like minded people to interact with, and isn’t that what it’s all about, finding like minded people to connect to?


  1. #1 by KB on June 10, 2008 - 3:56 pm

    Actually, there wasn’t any juice (besides water and coffee, just carbonated beverages in the coolers) until the very last day, due to building complaints by attendees. They really skimped, hopefully the IT people will have it better this week if they have had a chance to improve based on some of the suggestions from last week.

  2. #2 by CoderGuy on June 10, 2008 - 4:42 pm

    Right, in the coolers. The juice was available during breakfast in the ice filled bins. I actually heard from a colleague that stayed for IT week and he said there are over 12,000 people there, and that the energy levels are way up from last week.

  3. #3 by KnifeGuy on June 13, 2008 - 11:29 pm

    1. I can’t wait for IE#8. Or IE#9. Or IE#10.

    2. Billy may take away my bottled water, but he won’t take away my bottled beer.

    The Knife

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