May 16, 2003 spout

My First Talk As A Microsoft Employee

On Wednesday, I gave my first talk as a Microsoft employee. I was told that the talk was for a bunch of UK folks that needed to be put on the .NET path and could I do 90 minutes on intro to WinForms in a conference room on campus? I can do intro to WinForms material for hours without preparation, so I didn’t do any. Instead, I showed up with my laptop and plugged it into the overhead, where I then spent 10 minutes wrestling to get it out of suspend mode (the world needs faster hard drives!).

While my HD woke up (apparently jet-lagged from the trip between building 5 and building 43), I started warming up the crowd with questions How many of you are C++ programmers? How many VB programmers?” The room was split pretty evenly between C++ and VB, taking half of my jokes away (I’m happy to make fun of either C++ or VB programmers equally, but it’s less fun when only half the room laughs). Plus, these guys were *way* jet lagged, so getting them to even keep their eyes open in the afternoon after they’d arrived was a challenge, let alone getting them to laugh or even engage.

And then, because my HD was still shaking off the dust, I asked Did you hear anything good today?” Predictable, they said that they’d like the story of web services (Don had been there earlier in the morning) and that caused me to launch into my rendition of how WinForms + Web Services provided a wonderful way to keep all of the UI logic on a single machine, as opposed to web applications, where the UI is split between the client and the server. They weren’t biting.

Plus, after diving into some WinForms intro material and having it fall flat (anchoring and docking normally wows em), I did a bit of deeper digging into my audience. It turns out that most of them were old hands at WinForms, throwing my planned material right out the window. Luckily, I did find a topic that they’re weren’t familiar with: href-exes. So, I did my normal href-exe shtick for about 60 minutes, getting them to wake up, ask questions and even laugh a bit at my witty repartee.

Thinking I was in the clear, I opened the floor for questions. Of course, the first question they asked was the same question I’d have asked if I were in their shoes (as I so often was until about a month ago), What’s new in WinForms 2.0?” And that’s where things got shaky again. I had some ideas of where WinForms 2.0 was going in the next release of .NET, but nothing concrete (I’ve been buried in Longhorn and a whole new culture too deep to dig into WinForms futures yet). Plus, even the things that I did know, I had no idea what I could say. Where these guys under NDA? What could I say to them if they were? What can I say to them if they’re not? Even if I’m not supposed to say anything, I want them to like me (every speaker’s guiding principle) and I wanted to say something besides I know, but I’m not going to tell you. <bpffffft>!”

So, I stammered out what I knew to be some WinForms desires without making any promises on their behalf and hoping no one would ever know (except my closest friends reading this spout entry : ). It wasn’t a happy experience. I should have talked with the WinForms guys before my talk so I knew what I could say about the future. Rookie mistake #1.

Rookie mistake #2: In an effort to stay open to these guys, I wrote my alias on the flipchart and then, while I filled in the domain, kept answering questions. When I looked back at the flipchart, I discovered that I’d written”. Doh! Since it was a flipchart and not a whiteboard, I couldn’t even erase it. <sigh>

All in all, I think I got them jazzed about href-exes, but it was definitely not my finest talk. Luckily, it was internal and to a small group; I would have been mortified to have given that performance at a larger venue. Plus, making fun of VB programmers isn’t fun anymore. I mean, they’re customers, too. Looks like I’m going to need some new material…