A few weekends ago Phil and I attended the 2007 Webmaster Jam Session here in Dallas.  The conference was targeted at web developers, designers and webmasters from various technological backgrounds to get everyone together to talk about web design and development.  There were several hundred people in attendance and from what I could tell, everyone had a fantastic time!  I finally got a chance to meet Molly in person, met a few new friends from local Dallas businesses, and was able to reconnect with some folks I had not seen in a while. 

Many people, interestingly enough, were surprised to see Microsoft there with any sort of a presence.  I got asked a few times "why is Microsoft here?"  Although Chris Bernard, our Central Region UX Evangelist gave a few sessions on UX and Design, Microsoft did not have a big presence in the session tracks, and we were not there pushing our technologies at people.   People were, apparantly, not used to that ...

Our approach was basically to go to the conference and just hang out!  We brought our Digital Lifestyle Experience Booth, including a large plasma TV,  some living room furniture, an Xbox 360 Elite with a couple of cool games (including Guitar Hero 2) and our Showstopper Demo PC filled with Halo 3, XNA Game Studio and Robotics Studio demo films.  We set up our wares in a room near the registration booth, turned everything on, and spent time just talking with people.  People would wander in and out of our room to see what we were up to, play a little Xbox, and chat with us on various technical (and often non-technical) topics.  As people were interested, we'd have discussions with around some of our coolest technologies Silverlight, XNA Game Studio, Robotics Studio (thanks Phil for bringing your LEGO Mindstorms kit!) and even IIS 7.0.  The casual atmosphere was a contrast to the way I've seen Microsoft participating in events like this before where we'd try to play a major, public role in running the event and stacking the deck with our own speakers.

We've gotten a lot of really nice comments about our approach, our message, and even our technologies, including this one captured as a blog post.  I think that going forward, it will be important for us to spend more time listening to our development community than preaching to them, but being ready to discuss the issues that matter to them and connect with them on a more personable level.  This event, our recent Halo 3 Pre-launch Party (more about that later) and the upcoming ALT.NET conference are great ways for us to do that.

If you were there - leave me some comments so that I can reconnect with you.  I really enjoyed attending the conference, and look forward to more events just like this one...