Just kidding about the conquered part… but I figured this would get the blog read :-p.

Internally within Microsoft we usually send out these trip reports after we go to conferences (as I’m sure do most other corporations). Instead of writing the internal trip report and then eventually blogging about it (in a dehydrated form)… I decided to just blog about the trip and then point all the internal peeps to it. Basically my internal trip report mail will say: TechEd Trip report… read <insertBlogEntryLinkHere> for more details. So my apology if this is too lengthy for a blog post… I’m still adjusting. Any feedback is as always welcome…

TechEd 2004 Trip Report

Dan (DanMose@microsoft.com) and I went down to sunny San Diego on Sunday night. Unlike PDC 2003 the trip down to the conference was uneventful and aside from the fact that it wasn’t at all sunny (as a matter of fact even rainy Seattle was sunnier), the trip was fantastic. Our mission during the week was simple:

  • Host an MSBuild Cabana session on Monday: DevC26
  • Host an MSBuild Breakout session on Friday: Dev356
  • Monitor the MSBuild HOL throughout the week: HolDev356
  • Interact with as many customers / partners as we could during the rest of our time there
  • And if time allowed… convince all attendees that the OS kernel should really be written as an MSBuild task :-p

Host an MSBuild Cabana session on Monday: DevC26

Dan and I started by asking how many people had heard about, or used MSBuild in the past. Answer: 0 people

With that in mind we improv’ed MSBuild 101... what we are about, why we exist and why we think MSBuild will rock!! We advertised the Hands on Lab, our Friday breakout session and of course MSBuild@microsoft.com. There were about 40 people there, so this was interactive and we tried to field questions as we went. We went from there straight into ad hoc… question driven demo’s:

  • We went through the process of creating a simple project file from scratch and explained the key concepts as he went through it.
  • After that we took it from the other direction. What happens when you start from VS and want to extend it? We started from File-->new project… talked about our target files, wrote a simple task, registered it with MSBuild and *boom* you have fundamentally altered the Visual Studio build process
  • A lot of Q&A later, even stepping into a logger to show how easy things are to debug the session was over. It was supposed to be a 1 hour cabana session and it turned out to be a 1:45 cabana session. We were the last ones of the day so people just hung around asking more questions. This was an absolute fantastic experience!

A few customer stories:

  • A developer was sitting in the front seat and being very interactive. At the end they told us that they had written thousands of lines of code to do what we showed in just a few. I couldn't resist at this point and I said "well the theme of TechEd is *do more with less* muahahaha :)". Anyways they had some questions, which Dan and I answered. Why am I telling you this? Well they left still a bit incredulous, and went to try our Hands on labs. A few minutes later they come back and said "it works, it really really works" quickly followed by "Why haven't you shipped this two years ago, and does it support Visual Studio 2003" :-).
  • "I went to the Cabana Session last night and it was fantastic. I am going to see if I can do that hands on lab soon."
  • http://www.theserverside.net/news/thread.tss?thread_id=26153

Host an MSBuild Breakout session on Friday: Dev356

JoeN talked about his breakout session here. I love that format and will be doing the same thing for the MSBuild breakout session. Stay tuned.

Without detailing the session itself post will contain all that, here is what *you* thought about it:

  • Overall score: 7.46 / 9.00
  • Evals submitted: 30
  • Comments (in no particular order):
    • Technology overdrive - http://www.thespoke.net/MyBlog/Fai/MyBlog.aspx?entryid=21334
    • A little too much of a dog and pony show, I would have liked to learn more about the capabilities of MS build than doing several examples based on the same technology. The simple example would have been good enough, I felt you showed the smart phone for the sake of showing the smart phone..
    • After spending 35 minutes in this session I still don't have a clue on what this is all about. Instead of just hacking the configuration files of the MSBuild System, the key components of the system should be explaine
    • Did not care that you could type in the demo -- I think it was more important to show how easly and the very limited amount of code that was needed to do so
    • Don't worry about the missed demo. We (at least I) understand about how pre-beta code works
    • I liked your Win / ASP schema with pros and cons
    • It might pay to slow down a bit. Speed and broad coverage seemed less effective in this presentation
    • kudos on that build process went wrong but it sends out a SMS. cool
    • More about MSBuild in future conferences please
    • no one wants to watch people type xml.
    • You guys rocked! Very informative. I wish you were earlier in the week

There is clearly a ton of room for improvement, and based on this feedback some pretty major changes will happen before TechEd Europe. For those of you that filled surveys and left us your comments… THANK YOU. We appreciate the feedback and will do what we can to improve the MSBuild breakout session from it. Current set of changes we have in mind:

  • Bring back architecture slide(s) that position MSBuild within the FX stack and Visual Studio
  • Kill the demo1: file format in depth
  • Rework demo’s 2 and 3 into cohesive story with a beginning, middle and end, rather than completely decoupled demo’s
  • Talk about demo’s 2 and 3 in more detail now that demo 1 has been cut
  • Do a better job at showing how this affects *my* team -  show integration with the Visual Studio Team System: a rolling build server interfacing with Team System source control, work item tracking, unit testing, and so on.
  • S L O W D O W N

If you were there and have additional feedback… well you should have filled out an eval :-) j/k. Please send any additional feedback to: MSBuild@microsoft.com

Monitor the MSBuild HOL through the week: HolDev356

We did not have a chance to monitor this as much as we would have liked. From the information we were able to get this was a pretty good lab. Overall we scored high, comments were positive and people seemed happy with it. From my perspective we hit a home run with the HOL, and I certainly plan on re-using it pretty much as is in future conferences. If you have any feedback on our HOL… send feedback to: MSBuild@microsoft.com. We will work to incorporate that feedback by a conference near you.

Interact with as many customers / partners as we could during the rest of our time there

  • Mangia, mangia with customers (Monday) – Dan sat with several customers from an ISV, some developers, and one IT person responsible for the build process and configuration management (names removed to protect the innocent :-)). Conversation centered on how painful it was to a) integrate build with source control, b) diagnose builds, and most of all to c) replicate a build when (not if) it needed to be reproduced later. Right now those customers mostly use batch files and ad-hoc scripts. Dan described how MSBuild could help them: a) download community-developed tasks to integrate with SourceSafe, b) use loggers to audit the build process, and c) use the Team System "big build in a box" to help reproduce builds. The customers were very excited and demonstrated interest to play with MSBuild. Lunch was left with MSBuild@microsoft.com as *the* email to be used if any of them wanted to share feedback (good, bad or indifferent)!
  • Dinner with the To’s (Monday) – What a delightful part of my TechEd experience. Chris To was my intern last summer, and during that tour of duty he worked/owned many cool features of Whidbey including MSBuild VS Integration, Class View, Caller Callee and the Code Definition Window. He happens to be from near San Diego, so I had the pleasure to meet the parents :-). We had a lot to celebrate and catch up on!! After having been a really cool, top notch intern, Chris went back to school and on the side just that morning won 1st place in the imagine cup tournament. Now he gets to go to Brazil to represent the North America and I’m sure win the world-wide competition there (official press release can be found here). Dinner was a blast, and getting a chance to share that evening with Chris and his parents was both an honor and delight. Couldn’t be more proud of you Chris… and I’m sure you and your team will do wonders in Brazil later this month!
  • Meeting with Karin Becker (Tuesday) – This was our first experience with the "Rio" system. Karin works with Visual Studio Magazine and wanted to talk to us about upcoming publications of VS Magazine and how MSBuild could play a role in it. This meeting was definitely informative, and both Dan and I learnt a thing or two about how Articles are published etc.
  • Dinner with John Lam (Tuesday) – Again a very delightful dinner. I had interacted with John at length before TechEd. John published our first external white paper on MSBuild and has generally been a great supporter / enthusiast. With this said, I had never met John face to face. We aimed to rectify that at TechEd… and the mission methinks was very much accomplished (you can read John’s perspective of dinner here). Dinner consisted of chatting about an assorted selection of technologies, and overall we just had a wonderful time. I must say it is sooo much better to meet friends face to face.
  • Mangia, mangia with customers (Wednesday) – Dan sat with several customers and chatted about the Team System announcement. He answered loads of questions and talked about the fact that many of the tools were widely used internally, thus providing good scalable, proven and stable bits to start with. He said and I quote "I’m not just promoting it; I use many of these tools myself (really!)". The customers left energized and were now looking forward to going into Rick LaPlante’s session later that afternoon to find out more details.
  • Meeting with Stephen Slocum (Thursday) – This was our second experience with the "Rio" system. Doug Neumann, friend from Team System, hooked us up. Stephen had come to our Cabana session and we had a fantastic conversation. We talked about targeting VS 2003 with MSBuild, more details about our C++ support, as well as generally picking his brain about his current build process etc. Learnt how he uses BuildIt.Net, we talked about his pains there and migration path to MSBuild. That conversation alone and the lessons learned are enough for me to generate many blog entries (which overtime I will :-)). *Stephen* if you are reading this… let us (MSBuild@microsoft.com) know how your research with MSBuild is going. We’d love to hear more and interact with you and your team as you go through that process.

Closing thoughts / qualms about infrastructure stuff

  • Rio – Dan and I thought this was a great idea, but overall not well implemented. We would have loved nothing more than back to back Rio meetings for the entire event. Unfortunately if you walked by the Rio room it was mostly empty. We don’t know what went wrong, but either customers didn’t know about Rio, or it wasn’t approachable to them. Personally we think that it was a combination of both. I’m a customer from organization X and I want to speak with build experts. I don’t know who they are, I don’t know the trendy name for their technology, I just know that they must be around somewhere. I should be able to just place a request to speak about Build… and Commnet should do the rest. TechEd’s implementation had an attendee requesting a meeting with person X from Microsoft. Now let’s face it… how many attendees knew that a) Dan and I know anything about build, b) that MSBuild is anywhere related to what they are looking for and c) that we actually shower regularly and indeed would *love* nothing more than talk to customers at TechEd? I’d wager 2 people knew that… and one of them works with us at Microsoft :-). What’s your feedback on it? Not that we have any control over it but we would certainly forward the feedback if you have any :-)! We would have loved to have had a chance to hear 1:1 from more people solving build problems in the real world, as it was our schedule wasn’t as full as it could have been.
  • Cabana Sessions – Dan and I loved the Cabana session. It was great to interact with customers and do more of a Q&A session and some live demo’s to spice things up. I think the attendees also enjoyed this. The general constructive feedback from everyone (and we +2 that feedback) was: 1) it was really hard to hear since there was a ton of ambient noise and 2) it was really hard to see the plasma TVs due to lighting situation of that large room (too bright). I won’t rehash that feedback here, but we will say +2 to that. Great idea… lets just improve sound and video and this has the potential to be just great!

Wow, a bit larger than I had originally intended.  If you got this far... many thanks for putting up with me.  If you didn't... sorry about the long post.