I've been thinking about next years TechEd, and I've had an idea rattling around about how I would love to see TechEd Nxt look!

So my idea starts with a slightly different taxonomy than the standard "track" system. It actually involves a more comprehensive system of identifying attendees, and works off the following "attributes":

  • What am I called? {Architect, Developer, IT Pro, Project Manager, Tester, ...}
  • What projects do I work on? {Web, Desktop, Server, Infrastructure, Security, ...}
  • What kind of organization do I work for? {Independent Software Vendor, Services Consulting, Enterprise, Government, Small to Medium Enterprise, ...}
  • What tools do I use? {Visual Studio, SQL Server, SharePoint, Project, Oracle, Apache, PHP, ...}

So the above is just a start, but the main purpose is to understand the different attributes that make up someone's role, personality and interests. For me, I'm a Developer who works on Web and Desktop projects for an Software Development company who uses Visual Studio, SQL Server and BizTalk most of the time. There would be other categories such as the fact that I my main communication tool is e-mail and blogs, and that I spend most of my time disconnected from my team and travel quite a bit.

The next step is to change the format of the sessions to not just be part of a "track", that is, developer, security, connected systems, etc, and change it to be more about having attributes, so when someone submits a paper to speak at TechEd Nxt, they must select a set of markers that their presentation is targeted to, for example, a session on "When I grow up I want to be an Architect", which discusses ways to move from being a developer to an architect would be marked as [Developers, Web\Desktop\Server, ISV\Enterprise, All].

So when I, as an attendee, enters my profile, I can have a shaped set of sessions listed that appeal to my interests. I can always select other sessions, but by knowing about what and who they are aimed at, I have a greater chance of picking a winner!

The other thing is I wish the sessions were shorter, and more pointy! I want a session that only runs for 30 minutes, contains really pointy, interesting, unique, and insightful ideas on how to solve problems, not just how to use a function or press a button! I want the focus on how I use this stuff to solve problems that I won't find in an online lab or a blog post. I want the presenter to have felt the pain, worked out a solution, and then tell me straight about it. And I want it lean and mean, not have them waffle on for an hour before I realize it's a waste of time!

I'm calling this concept the hive, because I see the venue being setup like a big hive, with small rooms where short, sharp sessions are being delivered, and being captured and immediately posted as podcasts for attendees to download onto Zune devices (maybe free with registration...hmmm) at later stages. And people just buzzing around, talking to other people, capturing ideas, moving from session to session, getting little bits of honey (the bee kind!!!) then moving on!

And also, I want some more variety! I want to know about best practices on everything from the Software Development Lifecycle to project management, and things like launching a micro-corporation or how to evangelize to new markets. I want more breadth and I want new ideas to move me from where I am now to where I want to be!

And finally, I want more opportunity to get my problems solved! I want more open panels, chalk-talk and problem solving sessions with experts, I'd love to see an area where instead of the cabanas being used for mini-breakouts, we set them up as group consulting sessions, where a topic is set such as web services security, and people can lob up problems to a panel of experts who will provide an as-is solution on the spot, in a few minutes. You could go to the SQL Server fire-fighting session, or the C# fire-fighting session, and get exactly that, a quick set of responses to point you in the right (or different) direction from a bunch of experts (I use that word cautiously, they would just be people who are most likely to have a good answer or pointer).

I have many more ideas, including the layout of the venue, mobile pod-casting booths, inflatable sumo suits, shoulder massage stations, and fairy floss... but I will keep those for later posts!

What do people think!? Is it time for the next evolution of TechEd?