After PDC 2005 and TechEd 2005 I can say conventions are a lot harder than I had imagined.
The best and the worst thing are that customers that know my technology come up to me and tell me what's wrong with it. This is great because I know people care about what I do and how it affects their lives. What's rough is that I've failed to some degree to deliver the value I aspire to provide. A couple of times after a long explanation of how we failed to provide that value, customers have said they think what the technology has done is great, it could just be so much better.
I suppose this is the curse of potential. Somewhere I heard that some educators have been encouraged to discontinue their use of "potential" based phrases as they construct expectations that their wards may not be able to fulfill. I don't recall the distinct social theory but I believe it has to do with the angst that occurs with unrealized potential in addition to the inevitable bias that occurs in attributing potential. Funny thing about the angst of potential is that it has a very close cousin in the angst of advertising. In both cases, I think one is looking for an elixir of motivation.
Software is the eternal bastion of potential. The ever present drum beat of Moore's Law generates more and more potential in the hardware with each 18 months. Now that one can buy memory that exceeds the size of the hard drives of just a few years prior, the time barriers of disk seek time are fading. And yet, all that silicon real estate remains under utilized because software does not evolve at the same rate.
Software customers are unhappy but it's less about what they do have from what they feel they should have. I had the privilege of talking to a customer who'd been in the industry for 30 years and counted his first computer as a PDP-8. Wow! He even worked 10 years at digital and told me a few stories of the computing ancestor to the PC. He gave Microsoft tremendous props for having the vision to survive where DEC faded into footnotes. Still he wanted more.
A common thread between he and I were that our wives were both nurses who look to their engineer husbands to sooth their frayed experience. This DEC alumni observed that the engineering discipline to flail at their computers is lost on the care giving, nurturing providers. Neither computers nor engineers provide a soothing experience at the frayed edges of computing. Meeting customers at conventions can present the same quandary: how to provide a soothing experience at the frayed edges of computing?
As an engineer by training, I'm less of a nurturer than those that have trained in the humanities or health care. I find myself providing root cause analysis for a particular short coming where I wonder if customers wanted something else. While the capacity to explain why there's still the angst of potential. Some will give up and proclaim calibrate today's experience to good enough while others stubbornly evolve with us as we advance the platform. Conventions are filled with the latter customers who want more and are happy to tell you about it.
Gathering customer feedback is a great experience but four 18 hour days of customer angst is tougher than I thought two conventions ago.