One of the great things that goes on here at TechEd is the concept of Birds of a Feather sessions, where people with similar interests can get together and discuss a topic. Last night I went along to BOF55 (yes, there are over 50 such sessions, one of my favourites is titled "Geeks with ADD: It's an Advantage!").
The format of the session was a panel-led discussion with representatives from INETA and CULMINUS, as well as our very own Regional Director (and highly relevant author), Greg Low. There was some great discussion around marketing, sponsors and venues, re-energising committees and more, but the thing that seemed to be closest to home for me was the question of starting a new user group.
This is something I get asked a lot. Greg led the discussion on this topic and shared his (very successful) formula for new leaders - personal contact. It's much more likely that people will come and, more importantly, come back if they feel like they're part of a community. Take time to learn peoples' names, assign members of the community to be door greeters to take new attendees under their wing and introduce them to others. Reply individually to RSVP emails. All of these things build a sense of belonging and identity and mean that your group has a much higher chance of success.
In addition to this very important ingredient, I'd add my own 3 key factors at the beginning of a group:
We'll be running this session some time during TechEd on the Gold Coast in August, so if you're there, be sure to keep an eye out for it.
Roger and I sat in the overflow room to watch the keynote. I took stream of consciousness notes and have annotated them to some extent. My overall impression was that the demos were slick and well rehearsed, but that the keynote was more of a formality than a necessity. You can view the recording of the keynote on the Virtual TechEd site.
Bob Muglia (Senior VP, Server and Tools) opened with a cool Back to the Future sketch with Christopher Lloyd.
Started talking about the optimization models. Recognizing where your org is in the standard models helps you know what to do next to become more effective.
The models tie into initiatives
Case Study - Energizer
Used to be 2 years in arrears in IT as a policy - going towards dynamic lets them concentrate on solving the business problems.
Tom Bittman - Gartner
Connections becoming pervasive
Response time expectations are shrinking
Relationships are online and short-lived - so Windows of opportunity are getting smaller - more frequent and smaller
Agility means that some are able to take advantage of this and other not
Agility requires us to take technology and apply it to itself
Agility is balance between speed and operational efficiency - Sense and respond to change
Agility needs to be system-wide including the interfaces
Need a variable cost model - S+S? Certainly pay-per-use, not up-front investment.
Focus on process, technology and organization.
Windows Server 2008 Demo
Virtual Machine Manager
Add Microsoft System Centre for a great fit
SML - industry agreement on modelling
Domain specific models now being developed
Cool Outlook extension from Brian Goldfarb
Roadmap and Summary
Mention as many product names as possible, including VS2008, Windows Server 2008 (both shipping this year) and SQL Server 2008 (shipping next year)
On Sunday, I attended Jeff Prosise's ASP.NET Ajax pre-conference session. I love watching people like Jeff present. Even in the introductory bits, his depth of knowledge burbles up to the surface. (BTW, I said the same thing about Dan Green and Joel Pobar's sessions at CodeCampOz this year).
<aside type="rant" subject="power">
What is it about big conference centres which means they don't understand about attendees, especially techie attendees? There are about 200 people in this session and about 30% of us have laptops out. I manages to snaffle one of the 3 (yes, count 'em, 3) power points around the outside wall (well away from where the chairs are set up). About 15 people have wafted past, obviously looking for power. There's got to be a way to get more power in every room.
Jeff did a great job explaining the workings of ASP.NET Ajax, but I would have loved some hands on time.
After 24-odd hours cramped inside aluminum cylinders, I made it to Orlando. I spent yesterday at a couple of the local theme parks and then this morning jumped on the (branded) shuttle bus to the Convention Centre. I'm really looking forward to today's Deep Dive on ASP.NET AJAX, but my first order of business was to get THE BAG.
After revealing our bag design already, I was surprised to see the conversations surrounding the US bag up on TechEdBloggers.
Well, here are some photos:
It's a hybrid backpack/shoulder bag with plenty of pockets. Last year's dominant sound in TechEd was not the Vista Startup sound, but the clinking of metal on metal from the bag's clips. None of that this year. All zips and plastic clips.
There's the usual mixture of useful content and marketing bumpf inside, although for each person, the items that meet those descriptions will be different.
I'm not currently planning on swapping it for my MEDC2007 backpack, but it's a lot better than last year's.