A couple of us (Jeff Sandquist, Jeremy Mazner, Michael Lehman, and me) recorded a show for .NET Rocks on Friday, with PDC05 as the topic. It'll be available on Monday, 6/20. We had fun with this show.

Someone (Carl?) asked us what the "vision" for PDC05 is... we more or less answered / rambled about that PDC is guided by "vision" on several levels:

  • Platform strategy
  • Content strategy / plan
  • Community aspirations

"Platform" strategy: as seen at the PDC, mostly comes about as you might expect: top-down, from our senior executives. However, there's obviously a pretty strong influence as well from innovation at the individual / product team level... sometimes those people might see the forest (as opposed to the trees) better or differently from our execs. At the confluence of these two forces it can get pretty interesting at times.

As part of the "Platform" part of PDC05 planning, we sat down this week with a couple of VPs we happened to find around :-) and reviewed many aspects of PDC05, some in more detail than others.For instance, we lightly touched on aspects of our overall creative style for the PDC (you may have noticed it, we call it "string theory" :-) and the latest Community plans, including the 2 contests. We spent most of the meeting discussing how we'll communicate our strategy for the "Longhorn Wave" of the platform, and which topics should get covered in which keynotes. I'm not going to get into the details of that keynote planning... not only because we want it to be a surprise :-) but also because things will undoubtedly change & be refined in the coming months.

A goal for the "platform" strategy is to yield a framework that can be used to guide the content process. We want everyone involved to be able to answer the question, "What is this PDC about?" and "Where is the platform going"?

(A note here about how to prepare for a VP-level review... it's a 5-step process:

  1. In the week leading up to the review, you should attempt to anticipate alll possible questions and prepare answers in advance 
  2. The day before the review, you should frantically look for notes from the last review because you seem to remember a really important follow-up with someone who, you just found out, is, like, on vacation for 5 weeks without access to email
  3. The night before the review, you should mistakenly overwrite the latest version of the powerpoint deck with one from the previous week, when all you had going for you was a nice template
  4. The morning of the review, you should find the notes from the last review and realize that you got it all wrong
  5. The hour before the review, every printer in the building (and perhaps the entire campus) will have run out of paper, ink, be jammed, or be in the middle of yearly servicing.

If you don't follow these steps, you just won't be in the right frame of mind when you sit down with your VPs. And remember, it's imperative that you follow these steps in the stated order)

 

"Content" strategy or plan: Jeremy has blogged a bit about how, among other things, we're "rededicating" this PDC to deep drill-downs and strategic "inspections" that could only be delivered at the PDC. This thinking came about by reviewing feedback from previous PDCs, and by conducting not a few interviews with people around the company, people who've been around for a while and know the "heritage" of the PDC. The thinking here has evolved a bit since January, as the Track Advisors / Owners have internalized it in the face of hard decisions about sessions and topic coverage. One line of thinking has the track owners being very consciencious about how many sessions should be dedicated to "Longhorn Wave" technologies, and how many should be focused on stuff beyond that (answer: very heavily weighted towards the Longhorn Wave stuff). Another line of thinking has the trackowners thinking hard about having too many "onesie" sessions, where we try to cover an entire technology / product is a single breakout session... we're worried that it's hard to go deep or otherwise do the product / technology justice in a single session.

Compared to PDC03, when I was content owner, it's clear to me that for this PDC the thinking and process is a bit sharper. While I think we did a pretty good job in '03 :-) I'm thinking that attendees will benefit from the extra focus this time around.

 

Community aspirations: I'm using the word "aspirations" here because I think one should be careful when using the word "strategy" when it comes to the Community. I think Channel 9 can maybe be thought of as being strategic in its influence, but it really was an experiment when it launched. At PDC03, we tried out a number of Community-oriented things that were new at the time, but with 2 years distance now, they seem quite natural (or even quaint :-). For '05 we will try to incrementally improve on these things; I say "incremental" because "Community" has a life of its own... we want to be respectful of that. Jeff and the Channel 9 team have engineered a new PDC-focused area on Channel 9, and plan videos, podcasts, forums, and some fun contests. Those guys have some add'l things planned, but we're not sure of our ability to pull 'em off, so we're not ready to share yet.  :-)

 

For the first time in a while - I think - we also had what amounts to a top-down vision for "Demand Generation" (term used to describe the marketing activities focused on PDC registration) and for the "Creative Style". The "String Theory" creative style, for instance, was inspired by the abstract notion of how developers "see things differently" than other people, and the power of Community when developers interact with each other. Thus the "Developer Powered" tagline. 

 

Obviously the key reason for executing well on the Platform, Content, and Community vision-things is that we think it'll result in a more useful & valuable PDC for attendees. When it comes to the demand generation and creative style work... well, we've been having fun with all this and we hope you enjoy it and that the PDC is a more fun experience as a result.