It’s my first real chance to meet the leaders of the Microsoft developer community this afternoon at Microsoft head offices in Reading. It’s a pretty relaxed affair with 33 Community leaders and 15 Microsoft people getting together to snaffle sarnies, maintain their coffee intake and partake in a couple of sessions to share the ups and downs of running user groups and how Microsoft partners with user group leaders to provide support.

Tech Days Update

Mark Johnston, who’s the Audience Marketing Manager at Microsoft, gave an update on Tech Days, an event billed as the techie version of London Fashion Week for Developers and IT Pros running in London from 12 – 16 April.

User groups are held all over the country, so there was a lively discussion around the fact the event will be in London only – similar events held previously were like road-shows and held in a number of locations across the UK.

How to run a non-Microsoft hosted DDD – Simon Sabin and Guy Smith-Ferrier

For anyone who wants to run a DDD event and hasn’t done it yet, Simon and Guy took everyone through the highs and lows of trying to pull off an event from raising sponsorship to setting up a quick and easy registration process. Tops tips were:

1. Divvy up the management of the event into chunks and farm out tasks  - don’t try and do it all yourself

2. Pair up  - have two people looking after the venue so if one person is unavailable the other one can jump in

3. Choose your venue wisely. Universities might cost much less than conference venues, but they won’t necessarily be on hand to help you sort out catering or AV

4. As sponsorship alone may not fund your event, consider charging for week days (the assumption is people attending during the week will be funded by their employer), or offering training by roping in a Microsoft Evangelist who will provide that training for free

5. Cut down on catering costs by holding a sponsored brown bag session over lunch rather than forking out for a full buffet

6. Connect with local colleges and universities – you might be able to negotiate venue fees by offering a separate dedicated track for students

7. Get people to give you feedback on your event by holding off giving them any swag until they’ve completed the feedback



Azure 101 and 7 things that may surprise you – Eric Nelson, Microsoft Ltd Developer Evangelist


If you didn’t catch these on the MSDN newsletter (check), here’s Eric’s ‘7 things that might surprise you’ about Azure:

1. Azure is not just about “the next twitter”

2. You can use C++, Java, Ruby, PHP, MySQL etc.

3. It is still free to try

4. There are hundreds of great tools (possible not statistically correct but there’s lots)

5. SQL Azure works with

- Integration Services

- Reporting Services

- Analysis Services

6. Data is replicated many times

7. You can store up to 100TB of data

Although Azure has been free, from 1 February you’ll be charged (otherwise we’ll switch it off). That means any code you’ve saved will be deleted and storage will be read only. Go to Eric’s blog for all the details on pricing and how to sign up.

If you’re interested in Azure and want to share your experiences of using it then Eric’s also set up a new online community: You can also tell us about the features you’d like to see that are missing by voting on This feedback goes straight to the Azure product group so what you say won’t just disappear into the ether.

You can also send feedback to Eric via his blog – what are you hearing, what do you think about pricing, comparisons to Amazon et al, where are we missing a trick?

Jimmy Skowronski from Symantec summed up the day. “I’m new to the community and this is the first time I’ve met everyone. I’m still learning so today was very helpful and I’d like to see meetings like this more often. It would be brilliant to have everyone get together every quarter.”


Right, as it’s Friday night, mine’s a pint…