Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

It's all about community!

May, 2008

  • Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

    Sneak Peak ...


    I'm not sure Kleefy had the first part right ...

    IMAG0040 IMAG0041

  • Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

    Starting the conversation at Tech.Ed



    The three themes of Tech.Ed this year are Learn, Explore and Connect. For me, at least, much of the value of attending a technical conference is to get to meet and interact with like-minded geeks and subject matter experts. I was having a chat with Dr Neil this afternoon and we were chucking around ideas to make this connect thing a reality. Neil had a suggestion that I've really taken to and I'd like some feedback from you folks too. What if we were to make the first session after the keynote on Wednesday a panel discussion and "track kick-off" (one for each track). We'd have most of the speakers from that track on the podium and a moderator. The agenda would look something like this:

    10 min: Introduction from the track owner - what's this track about, what will we cover, where are there cross-over sessions with other tracks etc.
    20 min: 2 minutes (max) from each speaker on what they're presenting on, what else they're passionate about, why you should come to their session(s) and where they'll be hanging out during Tech.Ed
    30 min: Moderated discussion with the panel and audience on a topic/topics relevant to the track

    Of course, this wouldn't be the only opportunity to initiate and continue the conversation. There'll be a discussion board on CommNet, a connect tool to help you to find those like-minded geeks, lounges in the expo hall, round tables for meals, an Ask the Experts evening, speaker 1:1s and lots more.

    What do you think?

  • Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

    MS Press Online Store now open in Australia with discounts for UG members until the end of May


    I got this note from Tania Netterfield, our partner manager for CPLS and the local MS Press representative.

    Hello all,

    I’m delighted to advise you that our press distributor Woodslane in conjunction with MS has developed an Microsoft Online Press Store which is now LIVE!

    To help us launch the Store during the month of May we’ve created a special User Group Members offer of 50% discount on all books on the site. We’d love your help to promote the store to your community by blogging about the site and including the URL in your newsletters and other communication to your User Group Members.

    Some of the great advantages of include:

    • Express delivery
    • Competitive pricing
    • Easy Keyword Search facility
    • Latest titles and Books of the Month
    • Large inventory
    • Newsletter sign-up

    And until the end of May on

    • All User Group Members will receive a 50% discount by using this Code at Checkout <purged>
    • Plus go in the draw for a chance to win an XBOX by providing feedback on the site

    We are planning to keep improving the site in the future and I’ll keep you updated as these improvements are made.

    Thank you for your support

    If you want to know the code I <purged> above, you'll have to get along to your local User Group (or contact your User Group leader)

  • Andrew Coates ::: MSFT



    dgii Just trying out a new look. After my plan comes to fruition, I should be ready to subsume the brand.

  • Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

    Get twice as certified and help win your User Group $3000 worth of prizes


    As some of you know, I'm a big fan of the certification system. Well, there are only 11 days left of MS Learning's great offer to give you a free exam voucher for each MCP/MCTS credential you get before 31 May. You'll need to prove you passed by sharing your MCP transcript. Here's the skinny (for all the details, check out the TechNet site):

    You get certified, we will provide you with a FREE Microsoft Exam Voucher worth AUD$180.00.

    This offer is limited to the first 100 User Group members to pass their Microsoft exam and get their Microsoft Certified Technology Specialists (MCTS) or Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credentials by May 31, 2008.*

    Winners will be notified on June 20, 2008.

    How do I qualify for the “You get certified, receive a FREE exam voucher” program?

    • Pass any Microsoft Certification Exams and get your credentials as MCTS or MCP between Feb 1, 2008 to May 31, 2008.
    • To submit your exam results, please provide your MCP ID – in addition to your Transcript ID and Access Code to EARTH9 as soon as you qualify. All submissions must be made by June 10, 2008.
    • On the submission site, remember to select “I am now a Microsoft Certified Professional” radio button.
    • You will receive an online acknowledgement of successful submission.

    * Terms & Conditions apply

    The other part of this deal is that the User Group with the most members getting MCTS or MCP credentials during the period will win a hamper with about $3000-worth of goodies. Again, details are on the TechNet site.

    Finally, we're also offering heavily discounted exams to delegates who take the exams onsite during TechEd.

  • Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

    US Tech.Ed Session Catalogues Live


    As I said, I'm off to Tech.Ed Developers in Orlando at the beginning of next month (and our event manager, Fran Barlow, is off to Tech.Ed IT Professionals the following week). I also noted that the track owners for Tech.Ed New Zealand and Australia are in the process of sorting out sessions for this year's events down under.

    The US have introduced a sensational new session rating technology allowing you to rate each of the session abstracts before the event to help with capacity planning and tweaking the content. We're hoping to use the same system for our events later in the year, but for now, check out the

    Have a browse through the sessions, rate them if you like and if you see one or more you think we simply have to have down under, contact the appropriate track owner and let him/her know.

  • Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

    Visual Studio 2008 certifications demystified


    Still catching up on my blogging, so this one's a little old. The irrepressible Trika blogged about the VS2008 series of certifications and included a bunch of different paths through the tracks based on your current certification status. There's also a link to a Live Meeting webcast about all this stuff. Check it out. Of course, if you can wait, you'll be able to take these certifications at TechEd in September at a significant discount.

  • Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

    Office Object Model References on MSDN


    Sample Object Model Map

    On an internal alias, I recently got asked a question that had come from a customer:

    "I wouldn't have harassed you like this, except that I've done heaps of searching and can't locate what I need.
    My company has a new CIO, a consequence of which is the need to now embrace all things Microsoft.  We are currently doing some investigation on .NET stuff and Office 2007, but I'm having difficulty finding some concise documentation on Object Models.  I've trawled through MSDN and managed to find a few things out, but what I was really wondering was if there are any one or two page Object Model posters, similar to the ones you use to get in Notes?  I can't see anything useful on MSDN and was wondering if you had access to anything."

    I wasn't able to find any posters, but there is a great set of hyperlinked object model diagrams available. Here are a few:

    In general, I started at the Office Developer Centre and clicked on the Library tab. I navigated using the treeview to get to the 2007 Microsoft Office System node and then chose the various products, the Developer Reference and then the Object Model reference.

  • Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

    Community is where you make it


    As my blog tag says, it's all about community. Just before I went dark to go on the Wave Launch tour, I got a note from Daniel Vaughan to say he was doing a presentation to a User Group inside the firewall at his work (btw, Daniel's blogged about the presentation - Model Driven Development: An introduction to Windows Workflow Foundation and posted the deck he used). I love this concept of user groups in an organisation with a bunch of developers, and it's something I've been trying to facilitate in a number of companies. If you're interested in starting up a group in your company, please drop me a note and we can talk.


    There are some real advantages to companies who instigate and support a user group/community of practice/centre of excellence, call it what you will.

    Staff Development

    User Group meetings become a regular training session for all developers in the organisation – introduction to and discussion of current and emergent technologies and techniques

    Emergence of Experts

    Presenters on a particular topic become in-house experts, which encourages their development of that expertise. A virtuous cycle.


    Discussion of what’s going on in one group often leads to transfer of skill or knowledge to another group that is doing similar things.

    Candid discussion inside the firewall

    Because all of the attendees are internal, current projects and candid disclosure are fair game


    Developers have an opportunity to learn and to demonstrate their skills/knowledge – two significant drivers of developer morale. In fact, when I'm talking to a CxO about this idea, I go so far as to say that for developers especially, three of their major virtues are sloth*, pride** and a thirst for knowledge. This forum allows the expression of the last two of these.


    Of course, a group like this doesn't just happen, there are a few things that you need to have in place to make it a lasting success

    Exec Sponsor is Key

    The first requirement is sponsorship at a senior executive level, preferably CIO/CTO. There must be an acceptance of the concept and a willingness to mandate that developers get are allowed to make the group a priority. It's all too easy to say "we're too busy, we'll can the meeting for this month", but for the group to survive, let alone prosper, it needs to happen on a regular, predictable basis. The sponsor must buy into vision of COE and be prepared to fight at highest level to keep budget and time allocations available. There may be a need to incorporate COE meetings into utilisation targets. There needs to be a decree from on high that developers are to be released to attend. There should be a succession plan in case the Executive Sponsor moves on. You might also engage with Training Coordinator

    User Group Leader

    This is the same kind of person you have running Community User Groups outside the firewall. They are an enthusiastic advocate of development tools, technologies and processes. Often, this person isn't a manager but an experienced Individual Contributor. It's a great position for someone who wants to be noticed doing an important job by people at a high level, but that should never be the only reason to give that person the job. Of course, the work this person does needs to be recognised in their goals for this role. You also need a succession plan in case the Group Leader moves on, and in some cases an assistant or co-leader is a good idea.

    Location and Timing

    This needs to be immovable and recurring. This means that it goes into people’s diaries as a “do not miss” event and they get there almost on remote control. COE must be a habit.


    A key driver of satisfaction with COE is quality content well delivered. Having 6 months content at the start means that the Group Leader can work with the content delivery people to make sure their content is spot-on. 3 months lead time is generally sufficient once the habit is established. This is the main task of the GL.

    We (MS) can help by providing content to the GL for redelivery within the org (e.g. TechEd DVDs with pptx decks and recordings of the sessions for the presenters to learn from). A meeting might look something like this:

    Time Topic Presenter
    2:00-2:15 Welcome, Q&A Group Leader
    2:15-3:15 Technical Presentation
    (e.g. "Using Windows Communication Foundation to Interface with SAP")
    Developer/Architect from within organisation
    3:15-3:30 Break All
    3:30-4:00 Project Presentation
    (e.g. "Project Blackcombe: Challenges, Solutions and Status")
    Project Blackcombe lead developer
    4:00-5:00 Drinks/Networking All

    Optional Extras

    I love the idea of giving people in your organisation incentives for contributing to the group. I'd recommend catering the meeting (lunch or end of day generally works well, although I've known breakfast to be a winner too in some organisations). It's also worth considering providing speakers with a small gift. A shirt works well (company logo, a user group logo etc) as does some kind of geek gadget.


    Setting up and running a group like this is not expensive, in fact for about $6.50 a meeting plus a time contribution you get a lot of return. Here's how I arrived at that number:

    Item Cost
    Speaker Shirts - 25@ $20 ea (2/meeting + 3 spare)> $500.00
    Catering - $5/attendee (11 meetings, 30 attendees) $1,650.00
    Total $2,150.00

    That's $6.50/mo/attendee. In addition, you should allow 3 hr/mo/attendee, 10 hr/mo speaker prep, 8 hr/mo group leader prep.

    How can we help?

    We've got some resources available to help make your group a success. Firstly, I (or someone like me) am available to present this to a potential executive sponsor. Next, there's a MOSS template that was developed by some of the US evangelism team to help you run the group. We've got a bunch of content available (for example the TechEd DVDs for the past few years) with PowerPoint decks and videos of the sessions being delivered and finally, we can organise the occasional guest speaker from Microsoft to present at your group.

    If this is something you'd like to make work in your organisation, then drop me a note.

    * Sloth - the kind of laziness that would rather spend 4 hours writing a generic text import module than 1 hour re-keying data.

    ** Pride - but only showing off to other geeks professionals who actually understand what they're talking about.

  • Andrew Coates ::: MSFT

    Content when you need it - Great training kits available


    I went to see the clever folk at Vivid Group yesterday. Being clever, they've already established an internal user group of sorts, but they're often looking for compelling content to deliver. Fortunately, I was able to point them to some great resources.

    VS2008 and .NET Framework 3.5 Training Kit

    The various Visual Studio Training Kits provide content in the form of presentations, demo code and scripts and labs. There are three flavours available at this stage:

    By the way, that link to the VPC is for one that expires on December 31 2008. will always link to the most recent version of our VPC’s for download.

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