November 3, 2003 spout

My First PDC as a Microsoftie

After all the preparation, planning and sheer work, it’s a letdown for the PDC to actually be over. It was an amazing experience for me to be back stage” at a PDC, the only conference I’d spent my own money on for years (although as a speaker, they let me in gratis this year : ).

Things I Heard:

As a Microsoft employee, my job is to listen and take feedback home. Here’s what I heard:

  • Longhorn, Avalon/XAML, Indigo, WinFS, ClickOnce: good
  • Improvements in VS.NET and ASP.NET: good
  • Indigo and ClickOnce on existing versions of Windows: good
  • Avalon not available on existing versions of Windows: not so good
    (Avalon changes things all the way to the device driver level, so retrofitting it to existing versions of Windows is impractical)
  • Not being able to download the PDC Longhorn and VS.NET Whidbey bits: not so good
    (MSDN subscribers can request the CDs to be sent to them)
  • Developers that didn’t go to the PDC and don’t have MSDN subscriptions not getting PDC bits: not so good
    (the public beta in the summer of 2004 will open this up considerably)
  • The Longhorn Developer Center features and content: good
    (whew : )
  • Having all kinds of Microsofties at the PDC and on the newsgroups and mailing lists to answer questions and take feedback: good
  • Publicly contributed annotations on the Longhorn SDK content: good
  • Longhorn bits running under Virtual PC: good
  • Longhorn bits amazingly functional and stable: good
  • Longhorn bits not especially speedy: not so good
    (these are the earliest OS bits we’ve ever given to folks — Longhorn will have years to improve in this and every other regard)
  • Availability of PDC network, both wired and wireless: not so good
    (don’t know why this happened)
  • Stacking up outside the rooms of overflowing sessions: not so good
    (although MS attendees were very good about giving up their seats to paying customers)
  • Microsoft’s commitment to pushing managed code so far into the OS: good
  • Lots of folks interested in contributing to the Longhorn developer community: good
    (if you’re planning something, please let me know)

Things I Got To Do:

Also, as a first timer backstage at the PDC (and a long-time member of the Windows developer community), I got to do all kinds of fun things:

  • Give a pre-conference tutorial on WinForms with Rocky Lhotka, a fellow giant Minnesotan with whom I’d never before had a chance to work
  • Prepare Sunday night to do the keynote demo in Chris Anderson’s place on Monday morning with Don Box and Jim Allchin in case Chris couldn’t make it past the fires in time
  • Hang out on the PDC keynote stage late at night, soaking up the Chairman of the Board and Sr. VPs doing their last minute preparations (and inadvertently making career-limiting statements : )
  • Watch Don and Chris and Jim pull off an amazing all-code keynote that will go down in history as one of the PDCs best
  • Hang out at the Ask The Experts session, coding up repros and solutions to WinForms questions alongside Mark Mr. WinForms” Boulter
  • Wandering the streets of downtown LA with Frank Redmond looking for Tim Ewald’s surprise birthday party
  • Answer questions instead of ask them at the MSDN booth
  • Being interviewed by Jon Box of Sys-Con Radio and an old ATL student who blames me for his career choices
  • Spent a lot of time telling people about MSDN Developer Centers, where my friends at MSDN work very hard to pull information out of the vast MSDN library and organize it for particular audiences, e.g. C#, VB.NET, ASP.NET, Security, VS.NET, the .NET Framework, Architecture, etc.
  • Shake hands and sign autographs and have my picture taken with all kinds of old friends and ex-students and readers and conference attendees
  • Gush like a fan-boy at Tim O’Reilly
  • Watch a block full of cars all go backwards one night getting back into first positions” (it was California, after all : )
  • See the 4′ high by 20′ long WinFS schema and realize just how much work the WinFS guys are actually doing to capture “Everyday Information”
  • Send out the official welcome to the WinFX newsgroups
  • Make tweaks to several potential keynote demos at the last possible moment
  • Do an interview with .NET Developer Journal that let me tell my side of all kinds of stories
  • Get all kinds of feedback from internal and external folks saying nice things about the project that has consumed me for the last 6 months: the Longhorn Developer Center
  • Go to a 1am show of The Metal Shop heavy metal mock n’ roll” band at the Viper Room on the strip in Hollywood with John Shewchuk and Matt Pietrek and screaming my voice raw to the lyrics
  • Meet Sunny Day live and in person
  • Hang out with Matt Pietrek, one of my personal heroes, along with Tim and Sarah and most of my closest friends (where was Craig?!?)
  • Shake my tail feathers to yet another amazing Band on the Runtime gig
  • Attend all kinds of technical sessions on the technologies of Longhorn so that I can continue to live the Longhorn life for those developers that aren’t yet able to
  • Start the collection of items for a Longhorn Developer FAQ which I’ll post when it reaches critical mass
  • Hang out with architects from two of the three main pillars of Longhorn (Don Box, Indigo and Chris Anderson, Avalon) at the The Kettle in Hermosa Beach
  • Share a room with the 19-year old .NET wunderkind, Ryan Dawson

At this PDC, I definitely got to see how the sausage was made, but that still didn’t take away from the deep, rich flavor. Recommend.