Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

It's all about community!

TechEd 2007 Thinking Part 1

TechEd 2007 Thinking Part 1

  • Comments 9

TechEd 2007 is happening in Australia (on the Gold Coast) August 8-10 and in New Zealand (in Auckland) August 13-15. As Chuck said some weeks ago, I'm the guy on point for content in Australia and have been thinking about content and delivery for the last few weeks. Here are some initial thoughts about which comments are sought, but please note that there's a good chance that 0 or more of these will end up on the cutting room floor.

My Vision

TechEd Spans a Year

TechEd becomes an event that spans not just the 3 days of sessions, but an entire year. This means building up the community as people register (and perhaps allows non-attendees some level of access, maybe even at a free and a subscription level), and providing resources well after the event. It could incorporate something along the lines of New Zealand's TechEd Live, but also include a wiki for each session, recordings, presentations, contact with speakers/attendees, podcasts from before, during and after the event etc.

Question: Would you use TechEd resources outside the event itself?

Tags

TechEd means different things to different people. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it means something different to every person involved (not just each delegate, but speakers, partners, exhibitors, marketing folk and so on). One way to make it accessible and successful for all of these folk is through tagging. Every session, hands-on-lab, certification, partner exhibit, cabana session, showcase, party, after-hours event, promotion, etc has many tags. The more tags the more value there is. But that's not all. Every member of the TechEd community (attendee or not) tags themselves as well. This means that finding things at TechEd is possible from all sorts of angles. Want a hands-on-lab that covers a session you just saw? No problem, the tag cloud will allow you to click through to the other resources that share the tag. Want to find a partner that can help you implement something you just tried out in a hands-on-lab. Again, no problem, the tag cloud will make that a cinch. Want to find someone else who's implemented the thing you need to talk to the partner about so you can get a second opinion on that technique? Again, no worries. I think that this is the single most useful thing we can do at TechEd (as long as we can come up with an interface to make it easy to navigate).

Question: What kind of tags would you find useful?

Shorter Sessions

Sessions are just one of the deliverables that we'll be concentrating on (see also hands-on-labs, certification, expo hall, party, ask the experts, speaker 1:1s and more), but they are the place where I am looking at the most radical change. I'm mooting the reduction of session duration from 75 minutes down to 35 minutes. This has some advantages and some disadvantages. I'd be very keen to hear your comments:

Cons

  • Logistics is harder - instead of 180 sessions, we could, potentially, have 360 sessions making planning and scheduling a lot harder from an event organisation point of view. Would it also make it harder for attendees? Potentially.
  • Moving between sessions is harder as there is necessarily less of a break (otherwise we lose too much time in breaks)
  • We either need more speakers, or speakers present more sessions on average. Although the total amount of time presenting is the same, it's probably more work to prepare four 35 minute sessions than it is to prepare two. 75 minute sessions.
  • Re-using US TechEd content is harder - those sessions are still going to be 75 minutes, so speakers who have already prepared that content for delivery in Orlando will have to either rework their session or deliver their US session as two sessions back-to-back.

Pros

  • This comes closer to the length/aim of the developer cabana sessions we had so much great feedback on in Sydney in 2006.
  • There's more choice. Instead of just 5 or 6 sessions possible in the day, an attendee can go to up to 12, or perhaps just go to 8 and have 4 more slots for Hands On Labs, networking, certification, expo hall or whatever.
  • If you do happen to go to a session that you don't find as interesting as you thought, you haven't lost as much time.
  • There's an opportunity for local speakers to talk in detail about a specific topic they're expert in without having to prepare a whole hour of content
  • We can be a little more flexible in session type. One great suggestion I've had is to have a formal session followed immediately by a session of open Q&A on that topic.

Question: How does this strike you? What kind of sessions would you like to see?

Everyone and Everything has a Site

What if everything that happened at TechEd had a site? What if everyone at TechEd had a site too? The possibilities using MOSS2007 are pretty impressive. Every person has a MySite and every session/HOL/party/other thing at TechEd has a Team Site. This automatically enables some really interesting capabilities.

  • Subscribe to alerts about a session (changes to location, times etc)
  • Calendars for individuals, tracks and overall that appear in your outlook
  • A blog, a wiki and a discussion forum for each session
  • People finder capabilities, including anonymous broking of introductions based on tags
  • A repository for each attendee allowing sharing of materials
  • A repository for each session allowing  upload and indexing of a wide variety of resources including external links. Want to find an external website (maybe a blog) that Angus was talking about in one of the SharePoint sessions? No problem, he's included it as a resource on that session's Team Site and the content's all been indexed. Search will find it for you.

This also means that my vision of TechEd spanning a year becomes even more viable as the content owner for a particular session is the person who cares about it the most.

Angus and I had a brainstorming session the other day about what the architecture of the MOSS implementation might look like. This is what we came up with (don't forget that there's a reasonable chance that none of this will end up happening):

TechEd MOSS2007 Thinking

Question: Would such infrastructure be useful?

Comments, suggestions, reactions?

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  • I would prefer longer rather than shorter sessions. If you have a 75 minute session split over 2 x 35 minute sessions, you will have to spend 10 minutes in the second session explaining what you covered in the previous session. Assuming the first 5 minutes of any session is just waiting anyhow, you just went from 70 to 50 minutes to content in the best case scenario.

    Also, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE have paper based feedback forms.

  • Hi Andrew,

    I like the idea of shorter sessions and I think I could present some content in 35 minutes that would be of value.

    BUT...

    I often find that a 75 minute session doesn't provide enough time to drill down into the details of a topic.

    I propose that you look at some combination of short and long sessions.

    I also propose that shorter sessions must provide references to other places within TechEd to get more information on the topic, e.g. HOLs, cabana sessions, ask the experts, chalk talks, etc...

    Good luck and keep us posted with plans as they emerge.

  • As an MCT Proctor for the Hands-On-Labs, the biggest problem I had was that the speakers did not promote the HOL that related to what they were talking about.  We ended up with a lot less people than we expected (in my opinion).  

    Also you might want to include some 'facilitated' HOL's similar to the Deep Dive stuff on various topics and have them included on the schedule.  It could be kind of like a hands on cabana session.

  • Thanks for posting this Andrew, I'd say personally I like the detail of the longer sessions.

    Tags?  Totally!

    Everyone and Everything has a Site?  How about an alternative "Everything has a Site, and Everyone who wants one can have one too" ?  

    take care :)

  • I beleive the tags should be broken into 3 tag-clouds:

    1) Technologies - eg. Sharepoint, WCF, WF..

    2) Solution Areas eg. Enterprise Content Management, Compliance,

    3) Verticals eg. Health, Mortgage Broking

    ....

    and then entering the 4th dimension:

    4)Silly Buzz words eg. Enterprise 2.0 ;)

  • Session times:

    My personal view is that 35 minutes isn't enough time to cover enough information, or to a depth that provides enough value to the attendees.  Although 75 minutes is a strange duration. An even a touch long.  

    if shorter is the answer, then how about 50 minute sessions with 10 minutes between session? It even makes the scheduling come out nice and even. :-)

  • Not just tags for sessions, but for people.  At tech ed 2006 you had the option to write down what interested you.  That appeared on your badge.  Some people put down technical stuff (sql server 2005 etc.).  Some put down personal stuff (sailing etc.)

    One thing I found was that I was alone in a big city with no one I knew.  I would really like to be able to advertise my interests to other conference particiapnts, so that I could easily connect with people who had similar interests, so we could actually get together.  E.g., I like fishing.  Maybe there was another conference participant who would have been willing to split a boat charter.  I am having trouble with a COM application.  Maybe there is someone who I could chat with?  

    Some sort of system to advertise interests and facilitate networking would be REALLY useful to me.  To me, networking is one of the real advantages of tech ed.

  • I just read Michael Still's blog post " That's one way of doing it... " and i have to agree with him

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