That was a great couple of days. Lots of good information was exchanged. Lots of interesting people were met.
What was most interesting was that the audience, being made up of highly skilled experts, were much more on the ball and asked much more in depth questions of the speakers. I think that if I’m going to present at an MVP open day I’d have to prepare a level 400 talk rather than the usual plethora of level 100 and 200 talks (with an occasional 300) that happens at more open conferences like Developer! Developer! Developer!
What was also interesting was that for the first time I was communicating with other people in the audience as well as those outside with Twitter.
The event kicked off with a round table discussion about upcoming stuff. It was then followed by a dinner in the Novotel. The dinner was extremely nice and some what esoteric. It started off with Gazpacho soup, which I wouldn’t recommend for late October as it is really a summer dish. Followed by fillet steak on a bed of cabbage and a scoop of ice cream (although the waiter was insistent it was sorbet). Then for dessert (yes, the ice cream was on the plate with the steak) was some sort of small cake thing. I don’t remember much about the pudding because it was so uninteresting compared with the rest of the meal.
The next morning we got up bright and early. Well, others did. As I never managed to get any sleep (insomnia) I just rolled out of bed when the alarm went off. We got a free bus from Reading station to TVP (Thames Valley Park) where the Microsoft Campus is located. FREE public transport! What a great idea!
The morning sessions were by Microsoft DPEs. Mike Taulty and Mike Ormond showed us Silverlight, the Daniel Moth showed us all the new goodness in VS2008. I have to say that I would have liked to have spent more time on Silverlight and got much more in depth with it, but there wasn’t the time.
After lunch it was the turn of the MVPs to present to their
piers peers. First up I had agreed to be Dave and Rich‘s victim guinea pig for a session on podcasting. It was actually quite intimidating because they had set up a chair that I was to sit in then they both stood over me and fired questions at me. I felt that I was looking up at two overbearing teachers like a naughty schoolchild. Apart from that it was good fun. The funniest part was that Craig and I were running a bit late and arrived at Everest (the room where their session was being held) and we were the only two people there. Luckily the room filled up about 2 minutes later when the official escort (the room is in a restricted area) arrived with a stream of delegates.
Oliver Sturm was up next on dynamic languages. It was quite interesting and even featured emacs (I’ve not seen that in years). It reminded me of a dynamic language I used to use called Magik which was loosely based on Smalltalk. I was sitting next to Barry Dorrans for this session and jeez-o can he
heckle ask energetic questions. I thought Oliver responded very well to the barrage of questioning. However, it did mean the session went over a little bit. And for Gary Short’s benefit: Oliver didn’t describe Smalltalk as a functional language.
Guy Smith-Ferrier was up next but he only had 2 minutes to set up as Oliver had over run so much. However, the audience had other ideas. Although we took a shortened break Guy didn’t start until 10 minutes after his session was due to start. Guy gave a condensed talk on Astoria which I had already seen before as he delivered it to Scottish Developers earlier in the month.
Finally there was a session about upcoming changes to the MVP programme. Then we went back to the Novotel for dinner.
Once again the Novotel gave us an interesting dinner. This time the soup was hot. It was cream of mushroom but they’d put a froth of milk in the middle of the dish and it looked like someone had spat in it. However, it tasted okay. The main course was pork on a bed of lightly fried potatoes but no ice cream this evening. The dessert was, once again, unremarkable compared to the rest of the meal.
During the night the Novotel sent a message to everyone’s television about the meeting later that morning. It was accompanied by a loud beeping alarm that woke everyone up. Naturally the next morning everyone was complaining about it. The hotel were very apologetic and everyone’s bar bill was erased in compensation.
The morning’s meetings consisted of two sessions. The first was hosted by Craig Murphy, Phil Winstanley and Richard Costall and it was all about community. One of the things I got out of this was the idea of recording short ~10 minute grok talks, nuggets or micro-presentations as a way of engaging more with the community. I think the ITPro community got the most out of it as they don’t have many user groups and it was suggested to them that they should.
In the second session Barry Dorrans got a bit riled up. He was arguing strenuously against the poor MVP leads who are not technical folk and kept falling into making statements that he ardently disagreed with on architecture grounds. They couldn’t respond to these comments. I’m wondering if Microsoft really know what they’ve let them selves in for with Barry. He knows his stuff and isn’t afraid to use it – that much is certain.
Afterwards a few of us (Craig Murphy, Dave Sussman, Phil Winstanley, Oliver Sturm, Barry Dorrans and myself) went off to Wagamamas for lunch. It was a very geeky lunch as I’m sure the conversation and the jokes would have been completely unintelligible to anyone without a thorough grounding in software development, tcp/ip, and various Microsoft products. Finally, a much appreciated thank you to Dave who was kind enough to give me a lift to Heathrow airport.