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Paul LabergeWeb Platform AdvisorMicrosoft Canada
There are so many great resources on WPF/Silverlight and Expression Studio available after MIX. It's time to do a part II of the resource listing continuing on the previous WPF and Expression Resource post.
Please let us know if you discover a great resource link that's not in the list.
One of the demos that really sticks in my mind from the whirlwind that has been MIX07 was Silverlight Airlines. It was a demo that Scott Guthrie presented in the Day 1 keynote, showing how to integrate the .NET Common Language Runtime with Silverlight. The premise of the demo was to improve on the typical experience of booking a flight, using Silverlight to dynamically show various routes between your starting point and destination.
It was the perfect demo showing the power of integrating Silverlight with CLR technology, and now the demo and the associated code is available to you! Check out Delay's blog post on it at http://blogs.msdn.com/delay/archive/2007/05/01/the-web-just-got-even-better-silverlight-announced-at-mix07.aspx.
Earlier this week, I asked some Canadian attendees for feedback about MIX07 for the people who are interested but weren’t able to attend. I hope this post can give you some insights about the conference from a variety of backgrounds (design, development, business, etc.)
1. What is your role? What did you want to get out of MIX (or your expectations of MIX) before attending?
Ben Skelton: I’m the Practice Leader, Websites and eCommerce for Habanero. For a little more information on my role it would be good to check out this post.I must say that I didn’t have many expectations before deciding to go to MIX. As Habanero is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner it is essential that we completely understand the Microsoft product stack. My practice is the most platform agnostic, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about how Microsoft (and its products) can help me deliver kick-ass large-scale transactional websites. Once I started to dig into the variety of sessions and speakers the week before the event (and build my schedule) I became impressed by the quality of the program Microsoft had put together.I ended up wearing the “Business” wrist band at the conference, which I noticed very few people wore by itself, often they paired it with one other. It was kind of funny because when I started chatting with people they seemed surprised that I actually understood the technology.
Dave Shen: I'm the Sr. Architect/Manager for IT - Mobile & Interactive at Carlson Maketing. I wanted to hear real-world experiences of the challenges and solutions of existing development team processes as well as learning new technologies that focus on RIA, Web 2.0, and SOA.
Bryce Johnson:I am the Director of User Experience at Navantis, a premier Microsoft partner located in Toronto and Columbo. I come to Mix to see the latest Microsoft Interface technologies so I can keep our solutions up to date.
Malcolm Van Raalte: My title is “Dev Group Manager” at Geosign. Basically I manage 4 team leads and 15 or so developers. My expectations for MIX were fairly high in that my VP (Lance Mohring) was saying that last year’s MIX was a great conference. What I was looking to get out of it was to learn about new technologies that MS would be introducing in the future – in particular development technologies and tools (like Orcas).
Albert Lai: My role is a scout for new technology and ideas for both myself, and the companies that I work with (i.e. bubbleshare). I wanted to see what MS's strategy was looking like a year after mix06 and the introduce of WPF.
2. There are many announcements about Silverlight and Expression Studio during the Keynote on first day. Is there any announcement or new product that gets you most excited?
Ben: As a Mac user I have to say the Silverlight announcement was exciting because Silverlight enables organizations like Netflix and the BBC to deliver rich, protected media to users on both a Mac and a PC. Traditionally Mac users have been locked out of this type of protected media as it has been tied to the Windows Media ecosystem. This is personally really exciting!From a business point of view I am blown away by the capabilities of WPF, especially for Line of Business (LoB) applications. The Dynamics applications that were demoed were exceptional and I can’t wait for Habanero to develop our first large-scale WPF application. The experience we are now able to provide for business applications is going to really surprise our clients.
Dave: Silverlight (1st) / Expression Studio (2nd)
Albert: the thing that got me most excited was obviously silverlight, to see a flex competitor on the market is quite cool... i dig the fact that there is a strong framework ,and workflow tools with silverlight. however, the lack of market traction/install base is an obvious risk, as is the fact that the platform has not been open sourced the way flex has.
3. What are some best sessions you attended during MIX07? Why?
Ben: I liked the WPF sessions as they showed beautiful, functional, usable business applications. This is a huge leap forward from the old ugly-grey business applications from the past. Scott’s keynote was excellent as well. There is nothing better than someone who completely understands the technology and is passionate about it. Folks like him are definitely the future of MS! Check out Ben's blog.
Dave: Anything related to improving the user experience on the web (e.g. Silverlight) -- existing Web experience primarily acting as a thin-client (limited functionality)
Bryce: I really liked Bill Scott's sessions on RIA best practices. It is great to get a mountain of information from someone with so much experience. Check out Bryce's blog.
Malcolm: I didn’t attend many of the Silverlight sessions since I don’t really need the details about how it works. The sessions that I attended that I thought were good: IIS 7.0, DLRs on Silverlight, Keyword Services Platform (I want in on the private beta), Silverlight in the Browser. Why did I like them? Mainly from the point of view of giving me ideas of what is possible (or more easily possible) with the new technologies.
Albert: I enjoyed the keynotes most... and also the session about the use of Silverlight in next generation online/e-comics (and the rapid development cycle of the product).
4. What sorts of content you wish to see at next year’s MIX? Any comment on how can we make MIX better?
Ben: You guys did a wonderful job at the conference and there is really very little to complain about :) A few of the sessions may have come off a little too “marketing” focused and the demos felt very scripted (with too much marketing jargon). It would have been great if audience members could ask some questions after each keynote. Perhaps they could have had 30 minutes reserved for audience questions with some open microphones? Overall it was a great conference — kudos to the whole team as it was a real treat!
Dave: More on Silverlight, more on improving the design/developer process (maybe Scrum discussion)?
Bryce: While a applaud the great leaps Microsoft has taken to embrace the designer community. I know (better then most) that developers and coding are the heritage of Microsoft development but if you are going to have a session labeled for designers instead of developers you may want to try to trim down the live coding demonstrations. Snippets are fine for designers we don't need to see someone live coding something when we don't really get it. It's too fast to learn what is being coded and too slow to not be boring. :-)
Malcolm: Myself, I’d like to continue to see a lot of info about what new technologies are upcoming and what problems they are supposed to solve (the “what”). The tech conferences like TechEd, VSLive, etc are for learning how to apply the technologies (the “how”). MIX should continue to focus and clearly state the “what”.
Albert: I'm not sure what I'm looking for next year... perhaps more applications and samples built with Silverlight... and perhaps more non-MS vendors showcasing their work.
Thanks Ben, Dave, Bryce, Malcolm, and Albert for your feedback!
Last Thursday (May 17), University of Waterloo students put on the first Design Camp in the area. Design Camp seeks to draw out local and student digital designers to provide them with the opportunity to showcase their work and collaborate with fellow designers. The event was very successful and a great reflection of what design is about in my opinion: creatively solving problems. There were two parts to the design camp: designer presentations and design challenges. I'll talk about designer presentations in this post and design challenges in the following post.
Room Setup for Design Camp
I like how Design Camp organizers consider the creative and collaborative nature of the event and chose the Student Life Center at UW as the location for the event.
Designer Presentations encouraged designers to inspire and be inspired by other designers. There were a total of six short presentations from various design backgrounds presented by students and local UX professionals. Most of these presentations illustrated how design or design method can solve practical problems. Just to highlight a few:
Bob Barlow-Busch presented a case study that shows the up-front work(e.g. user research) designers can do to change the strategy of a company. The case study he presented was an excellent example of how important it is to research your target users. As designers or product managers, you may think you know your users (e.g. their behaviors and mental models), but you'll be surprised. p.s. Bob and Navid Sadikali from Agfa started a UX group in Waterloo. Their next meeting in on June 14 at the Accelerator Center on UW campus.
See Barnaby's and Allison's photos sets for more Design Camp pictures.
My CNMA overall experience: it felt like the Oscar award show for new media design, and I was very excited to be a first time attendee. You can find the detailed award category and winners here. I'll focus on the Award show experience in this post.
Experience #1: fun. One of Canada's fastest rising stand-up talents, Debra DiGiovanni, hosted the award. She made the award full of laughers and a very enjoyable experience.
Experience #2: honor. Top new media celebrities are selected as presenters for each award category. All the finalists in each category were introduced on the big screen. Winners were given the Glass "Pixel" Awards, which were hand-formed from molten glass. Each "Pixel award is created from 15 pounds of clear glass that is hot-sculpted and cast into a flame-like form. Although I'm just a first time attendee,I can feel the heat when the finalists were announced and the great honor the winners must feel when receiving the awards.
Experience #3: creative. From room setup, snack display, to raffle ticket, you can experience the creative design everywhere.
Colorful laser lights were used in the ceiling and walls to transform a normal conference room lobby to a engaging award party room.
People all loved the idea of putting candy in a Chinese takeout box. Something about the design makes you feel these candies are tastier, and you want to have more of them (possibly to-go). The creative organizers used pins as raffle tickets. Each pin has a unique word on it. For example, the pin shown below has the word "LuckyMan."
This is a sweet app.
Check it out!
Silverlight was announced both at NAB (National Association of Broadcasting Conference) and MIX. There have been quite a few announcements around the technology. Is it a platform, browser plug-in, media player, and more? With many blog posts on the subject, it still can be hard to get a clear picture of the technology and how it applies to you. I reviewed some reliable resources on the weekend and summarized Silverlight as follows based on my understanding. Hope this will help you better understand the "Star" of MIX.
Silverlight is a couple of different things:
Silverlight Streaming Service (announced during MIX Keynote)
Tools for Silverlight (with target users in parenthesis)
The Microsoft Office Interactive Developer Map is a Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) application that helps developers visualize the different programs, servers, services, and tools that will help them build solutions. It allows them to drill down to each product and technology and learn about new features, objects, Web services, namespaces, and schemas required to extend Microsoft Office and build custom Office Business Applications (OBAs).
As promised in the Vancouver stop of the Web 2.0 Innovations Briefings we are doing across the country, we have (finally!) provided a link to the slide content.
You can find the material here: http://www.canitpro.ca/canux/slides/RIABriefing.ppt
I want to thank everyone who has attended these briefings to-date. Hopefully you found them interesting and informative. I know that Jamie and I have enjoyed presenting it to you!
If you have any questions about the technologies we talked about, give us a shout. Also, if you are currently building a solution on these technologies or you are thinking of doing so, we would definitely like to hear from you. As you saw, there are even opportunities to showcase your solution on the websites we showed you (ajax.asp.net, www.silverlight.net, etc.), so definitely give it some thought.
Following Part I of Design Camp, I'll talk about the design challenge in the post.
The challenge was to redesign the user interface for New Venture Pathways system (NVP) presented by ACE Waterloo president Ivan Lukianchuk. NVP is an online system that connects students with entrepreneurial activities in the community ranging from organization membership to conferences to entrepreneurial co-op. Current system suffers from data overloading (i.e. too much data on the limited screen) and displaying irrelevant information.
The goal is to design a simple, attractive, and efficient to use UI for NVP. Participants were grouped into three teams. They have a total of 45 minutes to work on paper prototype design and presented to the judges.
The Winning Design
All three groups demonstrated design solutions that provided great improvements on the current UI. However, Team 2 stood out with their solution really tackling current problems. A big winning point for me from the usability point of view was that they considered accessibility in their design. For example, they described how the design would optimize the screen reader for users with disability and how their design could be ported to mobile devices. They used tabs to organize activities into meaningful categories and apply color coding for each tabbed page. They reduced the complex information associated with each activity with only displaying the key information up front and by allowing users to expand an activity to see more detailed information. Finally, they used the e-bay like shopping cart design metaphor to let users easily select an activity and added to their venture pathways. Congratulations Team 2!
We thank the Design Camp organization team for all the hard work they've put in for the past two months!
See Barnaby's and Allison's photos sets for more Design Camp pictures.
One of the things we talked about in our Innovation Briefing on RIA was Sidebar Gadgets. In that discussion, I explained some of the reasons why you would want to create a Sidebar Gadget, but now I have another reason: Microsoft Canada has created a contest for building Sidebar Gadgets and one of the prizes is an XBOX 360 Pro! The other prizes are a 40" Samsung Widescreen LCD HD TV and a Dell UltraSharp 24-inch Flat Panel LCD Monitor.
All the rules and information can be found here.
Enjoy and good luck!
One of the biggest community events hosted by Microsoft Canada is EnergizeIT. It's a day dedicated to IT communities. Whether you are an IT professional, developer, designer, student or simply a geek at heart, you'll find something interesting.
I'm especially excited about this year's event because we'll have a designer's track in the afternoon. Both Paul and I will be presenting. We'll repeat each design session once to provide more flexibility for attendees.
Designer Track Session Abstracts:
Session #1: Thoughts from a designer within – introducing Microsoft-based UX platform and Expression StudioThis presentation will provide a perspective Microsoft-based UX platform from a designer’s point of view. We will show how the platform enhances user experience in Office, Windows Vista, Silverlight, and ASP. NET AJAX. In this digital age where technologies are constantly changing, what new opportunities will open up for designers to create simple, elegant, and engaging UX? How can we create designs more efficiently and better work with developers?
Session #2: Bringing Designers and Developers Together to Build Rich Interactive ApplicationsThis session will expand on the concept of workflow between Designers and Developers and will show some of the new technologies that Microsoft has released helps this workflow. Also discussed is how you can leverage new technologies such as Silverlight, Expression Studio and Visual Studio to create compelling, richly interactive user experiences, regardless of the platform you are targeting.
Date: Saturday June 16, 2007 Location: Metro Toronto Convention Center - Toronto, Ontario MAP ITTime: 9:30 am – 4:30pm. Registration opens at 9:00amCost: Free of charge. Come and enjoy the day! Register Now.
We hope to see you there!
Robbie Bach, the President of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices group (yes, that includes the XBox 360 and Zune!) is currently keynoting at MIX. Check it out at http://www.visitmix.com/Blogs/News/robbie-bach-mix07-keynote-begins-at-430-pm-pst/
Should be a great talk - I'm looking forward to it!
Popfly is the fun and easy way to build and share mash-ups, gadgets and Web pages using pre-built “Blocks” that connect to online services.
In this video, you can see Popfly in action. For example, how to create a Twittler, Virtual Earth, and GeoName mash-up visually with no coding at all. Parts of Popfly application was built using Silverlight.
For more information on Popfly, check out:
It looks like a lot of the breakout sessions from MIX07 are being posted to http://sessions.visitmix.com.
(Special thanks to my colleague Jamie Wakeam for sending me this link as well as the Silverlight Airlines demo link in my previous post!)
How can we reach people in the digital age that's constantly changing? Robbie Bach, President of our Entertainment and Device Division, started his keynote by highlighting the concept of "Connected Entertainment." Communication services, gaming, video, and music are all parts of connected entertainment. He emphased on three important aspects of reaching customers using connected entertainment:
How do we use software and services to market a brand?
All the messages tie back to use software and services creating connected entertainment to reach people and market products.
p.s. MIX session recordings are available here.
Mark Relph, our team lead, found this nugget of wisdom on Hugh MacLeod's blog. I agree with him - it sums up our mission and why User Experience and Experience First applications are so very important!
I'm actually in the middle of a speaking tour across the country on Rich Interactive Applications (RIAs) and this is one of the key messages we're trying to bring across. It's all about the user - making him/her happy to use your application and making him/her more productive with the application. People are spending as much time building the right the experience for the software as they are on the functionality of the software. And that's a good turn of events.
It's been an eventful day-and-a-half of breakout sessions at MIX with a lot of great info. I encourage you to visit the MIX site to see if you can catch a few of the sessions - they will be worth your while! Two sessions this morning, "Building Silverlight Applications in .NET (Parts 1 & 2)" were amazing.
Some of the things I've learned that may interest you:
On to the next session!
Many of you probably already know that David Crow will be joining our community evangelism team as a senior User Experience Advisor at Microsoft Canada. He has done many great things for the Toronto technology community such as BarCamp, DemoCamp, and UXIrregulars to just name a few. I'm very excited to have him on board and so are the Developer, Platform Evangelism team! I'll be working with him closely to support the UX community in Canada.
Here are David's own words about the big change...