OK. SO you might be wondering ... what on earth has James been doing for the last few weeks? Why no updates for so long? Well, the last few weeks of conference preparation are CRAZY! Here's some of the highlights :
Driving the Breakout Sessions To Completion
Each deck goes through a draft review, a dry run and then a final drop. There are 113 breakout sessions alone which means a lot of chasing of speakers and content owners to get things done. I'm pleased to report right now I have nearly 100 of those decks final and sat on a share waiting to be copied off to the folk who go through and make sure the slides are formatted properly, have the right TMs and Rs.
Finishing Up The Code Room
If you're registered, you'll know that one of our highlights is the excusive premier of the second episode of The Code Room. The Code Room is MSDNs reality TV show about developers. We filmed the new episode a few weeks back and have been going through edits to get 10s of hours of footage down to a tidy 30 minutes. I think all the effort was worth it. Things got pretty heated in there for a while and caused the normally mild mannered Jim Wilson to use the F word on a number of occasions. Needless to say that now got beeped.
Thanks to everyone at MS Studios and MSDN for helping us pull it together. Marc, Chris, Paul, Rory, Jessi, Neil, Mike, Jon, Anil and the production crew have done an amazing job.
The premier is at 9pm on Tuesday night after the exhibit hall opening. Tickets for the premier are limited. You can pick them up in sessions for asking great questions. There will also be secret spotters throughout the day who will be giving them out. If you can track me down, I might just have a few too :)
Ah the keynote. A disproportionate amount of work goes into the keynote given it's an hour and fifteen minutes in length. But then again, when you have your Chairman and Chief Software Architect delivering it things need to go well. I was running through the deck with our PR team yesterday and it's looking pretty good. My principle responsibility is the demo content. The demo team and I have been working on the demos for about 2 months now trying to make sure we've got all the avenues covered, that we're highlighting the key features and that we'll leave everyone psyched. We hope so. The real challenge has been deciding what not to cover. When you have a limited time budget it's hard to figure out what to put in as there's so much to talk about. I hope everyone enjoys it. It's been a lot of fun. I can tell you we (currently) have 5 demos planned. I say currently ... Mike Hall's voice was flaking on Friday so I hope we don't have to remove a demo! You can expect to see devices, tools, code and robots ... does there need to be anything else?
One important part of my role is making sure that everyone knows and understands what's going on during the event. That means a LOT of internal briefing sessions. Lots of questions to answer and I feel like I know this event better than anyone but I guess that's my job. This last week or so, I've briefed all the speakers as a group and then everyone from Microsoft who is coming to the event as another group. These meetings are important because, although I've been working on this for some time, it turns out most people aren't telepathic and hence can't read what's in my mind. Mostly I'm trying to help them help you the attendee have a great conference. It seems like pretty basic stuff but it's important everyone knows where things are, where they're supposed to be and when, who to contact if they can't answer a question etc etc We also gave them the exclusive first MEDC World Tour T-shirts. Something attendees will receive as a thank you for filling out your conference eval at the end of the conference!
The Core Slides
You know those slides that the speaker always says : My marketing team made me put these in? Yup, those are the core slides and this year, I'm the monkey responsible. Now when I put them together for MDC last year I think I went a little crazy and there where, maybe 7 or 8. Who wants to see the same slides 7 or 8 times? This year I've been a little more circumspect and have only created 4. The first slide is just a representation of all the technology on show at the conference so the speaker can orient the audience around what they're talking about. What was interesting about that slide was it made me realize the true breadth and depth of the technology we have in this space. From IT management tools to robust data stores to runtimes to tools to a set of GREAT development platforms. This also created a challenge in that there's a LOT to put on one slide! The other three slides are tail slides for reminding speakers to remind you to fill out evals. Evals are important because they're the only way our speakers get better. Be frank and honest. It is appreciated and listened to. As an attendee you can win instant prizes by filling out evals too through this new system we have this year. Other tail slides provide helpful resources to investigate after the show. Let me know after the conference how you feel about those 4 slides and what you think we should do with them next year.
Last Minute STUFF
You can never underestimate the number of questions you get in the last couple of weeks. Speakers, sponsors, staff and partners all have questions that it had never occurred to me to answer so I've spent a LOT of time plowing through those. I spent Friday rebuilding a couple of laptops with VS 2005 Beta 2 while I did some other stuff just in case a speaker needed one at the last minute. You've got to have thought of everything!
All the work has paid off I hope. I'm feeling good about the conference and can't wait for the halls to be filled with developers, it managers and business people!
See you in Vegas.